In my mind, no writer and illustrator were better paired than Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell. Go ahead, ask a Gen X’er: “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and its sequels were more terrifying than “Nightmare on Elm Street” or even some of the creepiest “Little House on the Prairie” episodes. (You’ll have to believe me on that one.)
Many of the stories came from folktales that Schwartz had collected after publishing his first book, “A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Play and Recreation,” which was not at all scary though I’d love to get my hands on one. It was nearly 20 years until “Scary Stories” was published, with tales like “The Hearse Song,” which was popular during WWI; “The Hook,” which inspired “I Know What You Did Last Summer”; and “The Babysitter,” which is a story that freaked me out as a teenager when I was a babysitter and the baby monitor was picking up a signal from another house. At that moment I wished I’d never laid eyes on “Scary Stories” because it did, indeed, nearly scare me to death. (The baby was fine, though.)
Guillermo del Toro is directing a film version of the stories; while I think del Toro is probably a really nice guy, there hasn’t been a single movie of his that I’ve liked. So I’m scared to see what he’ll do with this beloved book. Hopefully Schwartz won’t be turning in his grave.