Friday, April 3, 2009

SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK AND OTHER HORRORS OF MY CHILDHOOD


Yesterday I shared a story of my experiences of my old Ouija board and mentioned my childhood obsession of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz.  For those of you out there who haven't ever had the luxury to read these wonderful collections, Alvin Schwartz has put together an ensemble of campfire tales, urban legends, American folklore, and classic ghost stories.  When I was younger however, it wasn't the stories that gave me the creeps, it was the mind-boggling illustrations of Stephen Gammell.  Everything looked as if he drew the picture, and then wiped his tears away with it.  Everything ran, in the most perfect way possible.  The books were always on our higher grade level readings not because the stories were difficult to read, but the images scared the kids so badly that parents began complaining.  These books are also on the top 10 list of the most "Challenged Books on Library Shelves" by the American Library Association.  The ALA feels the books are too violent and disturbing for their target audiences.  One of my readers, Becky, commented that she too loves the series and it completely inspired today's post.  I'm going to bring up some of my favorite childhood terror tales or basically, anything in the horror genre that is geared towards children, giving me the ability to raise my future children [in about 7 years] with some aspects of horror thrown in.

I absolutely OBSESSED over the Bailey School Kids books when I was a kid. These books are centered around the adventures of Eddie, Howie, Liza, and Melody who always suspect that some member of their town are a member of some sort of universal monster, fairy-tale, or folklore characters.  The first one I ever read was Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots.  Which was about their teacher being suspected as a vampire...but she can't be a vampire, because vampires don't wear polka dots!  All the books pertained with the supposed creature...NOT being able to do something. (or in their JR. series, DO). Some of the characters included Frankenstein, Aliens, Genies, Pirates, Witches, Skeletons, Cupid, Gremlins, Monsters, Zombies, Dracula, Elves, Mermaids, Wolfmen, Martians, Gargoyles, Wizards, Mummies, Cyclops, Angels, Dragons, Bigfoot, Bogeymen, Unicorns, Knights, Hercules, Ghouls, Phantoms, and Giants just to name a few...plus, their teacher's name is Mrs. Jeepers....how awesome is that?!

Another new found book love of mine is Franny K. Stein: Mad Scientist.  Every little girl has once dreamed of being a mad scientist hell-bent on creating morbid little creatures and world domination.  She's a gifted scientist and an avid creator of creeps!  She prefers poison ivy to daisies and piranha to goldfish.


However, these books are farther from scary and horror, and more like science-fiction parody.  Franny's name obviously is a play off of Frankenstein and she is also a mad inventor.  Jim Benton's stories explore Franny's adventures with a lot of other classic characters.  The Invisible Fran, The Attack of the 50 Foot Cupid, and The Fran That Time Forgot.  This gives the little tykes of the future a little sneak peek into the past and helps keep the classics alive!  




Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm are three adolescent monsters in training on Nickelodeon's cartoon Aaah!!! Real Monsters.  The show focused around these three monsters, how they went around scaring us mortals, and their domineering, high heeled wearing teacher The Gromble.  Their school is within a city sewer and they are taught how to scare the humans walking right above them.  Ickis has the ability to grow as big as he wants, but because of his huge ears, is often confused as a bunny.  Krumm's eyeballs are not connected to his body so he's normally holding them.  He's terrified of heights and has the weapon of super stench from his armpits.  Oblina resembles a candy cane, can shape shift, and remove her internal organs. She can also give someone a 'wet willy' while their sleeping and it induces nightmares in the victim.  After The Rugrats Movie success, they made plans to make a movie around these little characters, but sadly was never green lit because the story line was "too dark".

So ending this entry with another Nickelodeon classic of the 1990's, my generation managed to weasel out Are You Afraid of the Dark?  Now, I will give you a bit of semi-embarrassing information about me that goes along with this series. This is my first year on a college campus and I discovered another girl on campus who also shares the love of Are You Afraid of the Dark.  We decided to invest in EVERY EPISODE of the show and we began watching every episode avidly.  While she "sort of" remembered what went down in the episodes, I would see one character and begin quoting lines from it and explaining what happens.  Lo and behold, I was correct on EVERY single episode.  Sad, possibly, impressive, very.  I was a little embarrassed that I knew every episode, but I was more shocked that I could recall all of this information from maybe 10 years ago.  This show seriously impacted me as a child, and it definitely showed if I could remember everything about it. 

6 comment(s):

B-Sol said...

No shame in the game. Embrace your horror obsession! I know I'm gonna be doing a post on Don't Be Afraid of the Dark and how it warped me as a good, very soon.

musingcontinuum said...

I loved Ahhh Real Monsters, I had a stuffed toy Krumm, who had velcro detachable eyeballs! Oblina was delightful and I think I blame The Gromble for my obsession with red high heels!

www.musingcontinuum.wordpress.com

Alana said...

BJ-C,

My kid loves Scary Stories, has all three. He used to ask me to read them to him, but lately he wants to know if he can read them to me. He's getting better and better at pausing in the gith places and changing his voice to create atmosphere. I love it.

Peace,
A

BJ-C said...

That's so exciting! I know that my kids will be little drama fiends if they come out of me. I can't wait.

Becky said...

For future reference, I got a pretty big thrill out of inspiring this post. Major ego boost, yay! Did anyone else ever read the Fear Street Series by R.L. Stine? They were more grown-up Goosebumps and so dramatic. I ate them up like candy. Or how about Christopher Pike? Or the Remember Me Series? Or was I just a crazy child who read too many horror books?

C.H.P. said...

Hi BJ! I know it's awfully late, but just wanted to clarify, the illustrations in Scary Stories are by Stephen Gammell, while George Irving read the audio versions. Gotta give credit where credit's due. I was terrified of the illustrations, and even if the stories weren't all that scary, they were amped way up by the images.
first time I ever read this stuff I was staying with an uncle who (for all intents and purposes) lived alone in a mansion and was away for the day. It was kinda difficult to do anything with the lights out for that week.

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