Can I tell you something "Scary"?
In the past I've talked a lot about how i got into horror movies by watching the original "A Nightmare on Elm Street" on VHS when I was 5 years old. One thing I haven't talked about is how I got into reading horror, but it's time to shed some light on that shadowy part of my past.
I've always been a reader for as long as I can remember. It all started with my mandatory reading for school and reading at nights at home, but none of that was memorable. If I'm being honest, I have a horrible spatial memory when I'm reading. What I mean by that is I don't typically remember where I was or often times even when I read it.
However, the first book I have a clear memory of reading was back when I was in second grade during a Scholastic book fair. It was a fairly skinny book, with a white cover and a scratchy drawing of a clown head growing out of the ground smoking a corncob pipe. For some, you may know exactly what book I'm talking about it. For those of you not in the know, "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" by Alvin Schawrtz, was the very first book I remember buying and reading. And of course it was a horror book, like flies to shit I'm drawn to the darker elements of 'entertainment' which many people shy away from.
I remember this book, and I don't just mean the process of the reading, but how the stories printed on a stock of paper that you don't find often used anymore, that gave off a smell unlike anything else produced in the world. A smell that, even though I've lost that particular sense many years ago, I can still remember. The feeling of the rough paper between my fingers, that I'm sure was used because it was cost efficient, but against the gloss and refined pages currently used there's a uniqueness that just feels fitting to the grittiness of the horror contained within.
But beyond all that, there was something else that stood out, and anyone who's read the book knows what I'm talking about. Each story was accompanied by an illustration, and these weren't your typical children's book material. What we have on these pages are images that some adults would even find disturbing, and above all else, they were the major selling point of the books. These pictures, along with the captivating cover, were all drawn by Stephen Gammell
Of course, leave it to uptight parents to take issue with this, and actually have the original books banned (by this point there were three in the series, but more on that in a bit). Scholastic republished the books with different illustration, these watered down mockeries were the bane of many a childhood, until Scholastic released the originals to much fanfare.
As I mentioned earlier, "Scary Stories to tell in the Dark" spawned two sequels, with equally horrifying drawings, and it was my life's goal as a child to get them all. And I failed at that mission, even worse yet, somewhere between moving to different towns, and having the memory retention of a spastic kid, I even ended up losing possession of my original book. It took me many years, but I was finally able to track down a set of the original printings of the books, with the twisted illustrations that I remembered so vividly. Granted, I know that in today's world, such things are easily attainable on sites like Amazon, but the utter joy of finding this piece of my childhood in a used bookstore in Chicago, is unparalleled anywhere else in my reading world.
It's been 26 years since the final book was published, and I think it's time Scholastic (if they're still around) brings the property back. As for myself? I just may turn to these books for inspiration of my next piece.