Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's Fright Night! Gather 'round for some Halloween stories!

Happy Halloween everyone! Are you up for a few ghost stories?

I thought it would be fun to tell you a few spooky stories. I chose stories that either scared or fascinated me when I was a child. Just press play on the video below to travel back down memory lane! Story time lasts about 15 minutes.

You won't see anything in this video, but I posted a virtual campfire you can watch while listening to me tell a few tales:

Did you remember a few of these spooky stories or urban legends? They really stuck with me! Credit goes to Alvin Schwartz, the author of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. I chose to read the versions of "The Hook" and "The Golden Hand" that were retold by S. E. Schlosser. There are so many variations on "The Golden Hand", but I preferred the one that's closest to how I heard it when I was young. The man in the story has to be wicked and the ghost has to exact her revenge, otherwise it's just boring!

If you're around my age or older, you'll be familiar with the original illustrations that accompanied some of these stories.  They were drawn by Stephen Gammell. The books have been redone with new less threatening illustrations. I find this strange, because I could handle those drawings as a kid! That one with the zit exploding with spiders traumatized me a bit, but only in the way where you enjoy being creeped out! Here are some of the original illustrations.

"The Hook" illustration with a nice bit of dripping blood, hair, and skin fragments:

"The Red Spot" illustration that really got to me! She's actually pretty icky looking even without stuff hatching out of her face.

Our little Vindow Viper, who is almost too cute for this book:

The Hearse and a bit of the music sheet that goes with "The Hearse Song":

I love all the shadows and drippiness in the artist's work.

Did I read any of your favorite old stories? Maybe you've heard them told differently. It's always interesting to hear the many different spins given to an urban legend or campfire tale. I always like hearing a new urban legend, so if you know any good ones, send them along! 

I hope you all have a scary night in the best of ways!


  1. Hope your Halloween night was wonderful:)

    1. Halloween Spirit ~ Thanks for the Halloween wishes! I hope you had a wonderful night too. It's raining around here so it was a movie night. I watched The Lost Boys and made some of these:

      Simple and delicious!

  2. Those books always scared the crap out of me as a kid (and really, which genius thought it would be a great idea to have those books in an elementary school library? I had nightmares for weeks after reading some of those stories!). I don't know if you ever read the articles at, but someone wrote a hilarious piece about those Scary Stories books a few years ago. I'll see if I can find the link for you.

    1. Marisa ~ Really? Oh man. OK, so maybe I was the only kid digging those stories... but it was a good kind of scared, right? :) I was always checking those books out of our library! We had kind of a badass grade school library looking back on it, didn't we? I remember checking some Poe books out too! I bet you wouldn't see this stuff in grade school libraries now - even with the new toned down illustrations!

      I had no idea that those stories gave you nightmares! Which stories gave you nightmares? Man, we know each other since Kindergarten and I find this out now. :)

      Yeah, look for that article. I take it that was written by someone who was traumatized by the stories as a youngster?

  3. Found it!

    Some of the stories I thought were very entertaining (I also liked being scared, which is why I kept coming back to them! lol), but some of them really freaked me out. There was one about a traveler who stopped at an empty house for a night, and upstairs he heard a woman screaming, a man laughing and blood began pouring down the walls. That one gave me nightmares!

    But yeah, I agree we had a pretty great library at Highland View. That article on cracked is actually really funny (especially when the author is talking about the pictures-some of those pictures were even worse than the stories!).

    1. Marisa ~ Thanks! Wow, this dude did some serious analyzing. I like this line in the article:

      "A good ghost story stops at the most horrifying point in the tale. Scary Stories stopped at the most horrifying point in the universe." Haha!

      I agree with this line about the changed illustrations:

      "These are scary stories; you don't defang a crocodile and then talk about how good it is with children."

      Yes, the pictures were more disturbing than the stories! I guess that's why someone decided they should be changed. The stories remain the same! Evidently, kids can read that kind of dark material but not see depictions of it? Well, not those depictions anyway. :) It's funny how stories and illustrations get watered down over time. Just think of the original Grimm's fairy tales. You don't get more gruesome than that! Now we all think of fairy tales in the way Disney presents them.

      I think I remember the one with the traveler. Was that the "Room for One More" story? I might be thinking of a different old story. Naw, I don't remember any blood on the walls. How am I not remembering this? I'll have to do some googling...

      Nope, it wasn't "Room for One More". That story is totally different and not as exciting as what you described:

      Room for One More read aloud

      Oh, I did find this one about a head that falls out of a chimney in a scary house:

      Mi Ti Doughty Walker

      Oddly, I remembered that illustration of the head but not the story!

  4. Replies
    1. Mantan ~ You're welcome! Did all of these stories ring a bell with you?

  5. Is there a way I can get a copy of that? I would love to post that on my Halloween radio next year.

    1. Mark ~ How flattering! I'll see what I can figure out. This was my first effort recording myself and posting the recording online, so I'm still pretty new at this. Maybe there's a way I can send it to you. I put this together with Quicktime. Would you be able to work with a Quicktime file?

  6. Hope you had a great Halloween Justine! I remember these stories very well! Have to wonder just how old these stories are, I hear them when I was a little kid!

    1. Shingle Creek Manor ~ I did have a great Halloween, thanks! It was pretty low key because of the rain, but it made for a good night of watching spooky stuff on TV and doing some special cooking. Besides, I'd been doing Halloween stuff pretty much through October. I hope your Halloween was fun, despite all those weird last minute things going haywire!

      I think I picked a few classic stories. I'm pretty sure a lot of people have heard some variation of The Hook and The Golden Arm/Hand. I know my mom is familiar with The Hook from her childhood. From what I've read, that one has been around since the 1950s. That story has sort of a vintage feel with the drive-in or lover's lane part. I read The Golden Arm/Hand is an old English story from at least 200 years ago. The story actually has its own Wikipedia page:

      The Golden Arm Wiki Page

      I liked that part about how Mark Twain used to read the story on his reading tour! Sounds like he really had people jumping out of their seats at the end. I'd like to travel back in time and hear him tell this tale!

      As far as The Babysitter story, I'd say it was made up somewhere between people having multiple phones in the house and the invention of cell phones. It occurred to me while reading that one that modern kids wouldn't probably be as scared by that one. If everyone has their own cell phone, how could you tell they were calling from inside the house? Well, maybe the police could look at some cell phone tower records eventually, but there certainly wouldn't be any operator involved! Funny how urban legends change with the times.

      I just looked up The Hearse Song, and it started being sung by American and British soldiers during World War I. That seems pretty morbid given the circumstances, but it might be that morbid kind of humor that helps people get through trauma.

      As far as the rest of the stories, they appear to have been written for the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. I guess those could be called modern classics.

  7. If you would like to try to send it to me, you can email me at sloatbyte at comcast dot net if it doesn't work I will give you a link and you can upload it to my website instead. Thank you! If you have any more stories, I would love to get those too.

    1. Mark ~ Sounds good! I'll work on figuring this out today. I don't have any more stories at this time. I was thinking of trying another recording for Christmas. It would be fun to record some stories now and again!

  8. Justine, this was a great post!!! I LOVE the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series! I remember reading and re-reading them with all of my neighborhood friends as a kid! I also remember all of us staring at the creepy art work by Gammell :) It was like a train wreck! Scary as heck, but we couldn't look away :) I recently bought the whole set on Amazon, with the original illustrations, because I had heard that the new ones being published had the less frightening illustrations in them. I'm glad to see that you enjoy them too!!!

    1. Heidi ~ Thank you! :) Yes, those illustrations were like an artistic train wreck you couldn't look away from. They were captivating! It's weird that even if we thought what we were looking at was scary, we still kept staring at it. In looking up some of the old illustrations to share here, that happened to me again! Even now, my brain seemed to be working through the first illustration I posted. It's confrontational even though she doesn't have any eyes. The decapitated head from "Me Tie Dough-ty Walker" is another one that keeps my attention.

      I'm glad you got a hold of the books while you could still easily find some with the original illustrations. Did you read through all the books in the set you ordered? It's funny how some stories or poems still get to me a bit while others just seem silly. I guess some fears go away as we get older, but others are pretty much universal for people of any age!