I know it's not technically Halloween season, and I also know I don't give a shit, because it's been a terrible summer in practically every way other than the weather in New York being a couple degrees below insufferable.
I'm starting Halloween season now, and I hope you will agree that we, fellow humans, deserve as much. And besides, the Duane Reade on my corner already has Halloween junk marked 50 percent off, so if anything, we're late to the world's greatest, tackiest party.
The books were a highlight of Scholastic book fairs
So, I'd like to spend some small portion the next few weeks dropping Halloween-inspired treats into the proverbial Trick-or-Treat bucket of your mind. My efforts begin today with a PSA for those unlucky ghouls who haven't read the most formative work of spooky stories for countless millennials.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is the first book in a collection of haunted folklore, "retold by Alvin Schwartz" and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. It's followed by More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3, More Tales to Chill Your Bones. Published between 1981 and 1991, the books were a highlight of Scholastic book fairs at the elementary schools of my childhood — and possibly yours.
Reading the collection as an adult, I discovered that many of the campfire stories I remember from autumn retreats were lifted and paraphrased from these pages. The gory chimney. The enlivened scarecrows. The evil that exists in the shadows simply because evil exists.
You can purchase an entire used collection in hardback for a dollar, plus $3.99 shipping. Or you can buy the first book on its own for a penny. You'll want to buy used, because the publisher reworked the art in 2011. While the update is fine, it's not nearly as gritty as the original. Here's a side-by-side comparison, created by my nemesis Ross Miller.
Evil exists simply because evil exists
If you enjoy the series, be sure to read Schwartz's other children's book In a Dark, Dark Room, best known for its story, "The Green Ribbon," which I won't spoil, but is a must read because it's referenced widely across pop culture, despite most people not knowing or remembering what the gag is riffing on. It's $2.79 new, and shipping's free for Prime members.
All together, you can nab four of the best collections of spooky stories in time for Halloween for less than a couple bags of candy corn. And even better, you can enjoy them with anyone in your family, despite the fact that the text and drawings are absolutely horrifying.
Now, I'm curious: What other books do people read for Halloween? With the season extending before us, we have plenty of time to curl up next to a favorite pumpkin and freak ourselves out.