In the spirit of the Scary Stories to tell in the Dark movie, I decided to take a look back on the controversial book trilogy that had many readers fighting over whether it was appropriate for kids or not.
Scary Stories to tell in the Dark was a book trilogy collection of short horror stories and illustrations aimed at children ages eight to twelve. The stories were written by Alvin Schwartz and the illustrations were done by Stephen Gammell. It was both popular and unpopular due to the graphic descriptions of the stories and the depictions of the illustrations. Certain groups, such as the Concerned Women of America, have tried to ban the books in libraries, saying that murder, cannibalism, and torture, which are the subjects of many stories in the books, are sick, repulsive, and not deemed appropriate for children. In 2011, the books were re-released with new illustrations done by Brett Helquist. These illustrations were regarded to be more kid-friendly, but they came under fire from die-hard fans of the originals. In 2017, the books were re-released again with the original artwork.
STORIES DEEMED TOO VIOLENT FOR KIDS TODAY
Back in the day, violence in children’s books, cartoons, and video games weren’t as regulated as they are today. It was making money and children were loving them. What little kid didn’t want to see Itchy and Scratchy of The Simpsons beat each other to death after school? How many hours did children spend in their bedrooms shooting their enemies to get the golden gun in Goldeneye 007, and what little reader didn’t want to be scared out of their shoes while reading their favorite horror book?
However, the crude humor and violent actions did not go unnoticed. Parents as well as active groups were protesting the awful way their kids were getting entertained. Nowadays the regulations are a lot stricter. They’re making producers and designers think twice about what to subject to younger audiences.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark of course had its fair share of violent stories. The release of the movie only put in the more mellow of the stories, such as The Red Spot and Harold. Here is a list of stories from the trilogy I feel were too inappropriate, possibly churning the safe PG-13 rating to R.
All stories are listed in order of appearance.
1. THE THING-Any story about death I feel is pushing the envelope for a children’s horror story. The Thing is about a boy who gets bitten by an assuming dead person and then later his skin starts to decay, causing him to eventually die. I know I still get traumatized by it, so how would a child feel?
2. THE WHITE WOLF-The White Wolf is about a butcher who kills nearly all the wolves that have been eating all the farmers sheep and cattle, until they’re nearly extinct. Years go by and then a white wolf comes around and starts killing all the sheep and cattle. It can’t be killed, and when the wolf kills the butcher’s pet cow, he tries to kill it but then eventually gets killed by the wolf himself. As you can tell, there’s a lot of killing in this story.
3. ROOM FOR ONE MORE-This story starts out as rather harmless, a man is visited by a hearse driver and is basically inviting him to ride in the hearse. This sounds like an omen for his appending death, and at the end of the story the man does die. However, it’s how the story describes his death. He’s riding an elevator that crashes and kills everyone inside. There is a lot of death in the trilogy, but some of the descriptions are just too violent for younger brains to take in.
4. THE SLITHERY-DEE-This is a mild poem about some kind of snake or something coming out of the ocean and gobbling up everyone in sight. The snake-monster eventually eats the narrator. As a kid, I was always terror-stricken by a monster eating someone, especially a child. I can’t speak for every child, but I think it’s safe to say that the majority wouldn’t feel too good about being eaten alive.
5. SOUNDS-Based on a true story about a house in Mobile, Alabama, it’s about three fisherman who start seeking shelter from the rain in a supposedly haunted house. They suddenly hear footsteps on the second floor, they hear screams from a woman, and see blood dripping from the ceiling. Then, they hear the footsteps again and hear something thud right after them. Did the fisherman just encounter a murder?
6. THE LITTLE BLACK DOG-Right at the beginning of the story, a boy murders another boy, and then his dog. Throughout the story the boy turns into an old man and starts seeing the ghost of the black dog he had shot. At the end of the story, the old man is dead and the townspeople only see little black dog hairs around the body.
7. THE BRIDE-A married couple play hide-and-seek and the bride hides in a trunk in the attic. The truck locks and she’s trapped in there. No one is able to find her, and eventually she dies. This one might not be that big of a deal, but I think the concept of suffocation and/or starvation would be enough to scar children for a lifetime.
8. RINGS ON HER FINGERS-This is another story that starts out mellow and then ends with graphic violence. A woman dies with rings on her fingers and a grave robber tries to steal them. The woman comes alive and scares the Hell out of the grave robber. She scares him so bad that he falls onto a freakin’ knife and bleeds to death.
9. THE WINDOW-A woman keeps hearing noises outside her window. Eventually she discovers it’s a shrunken head and it ends up killing her. Her family then tries to seek out this vampire-like creature and discovers a burial tomb where there are thousands of mangled bones. In the end, they burn the tomb.
10. WONDERFUL SAUSAGE-As anyone who’s ever read the books, they know this story should not be aimed toward children. A butcher starts turning other people into sausage and then eats them, including children. Yeah, that’s a great story for kids. Imagine them watching it on the big screen.
11. BA-ROOOM!-It’s a song about two dead people lying in the same bed.
12. JUST DELICIOUS-It’s another story about cannibalism. A woman takes the liver out of a dead woman because she ate the regular liver her husband brought home. Later that night, the dead woman comes alive and seeks out the person who stole her liver. The woman accuses her husband and the dead woman kills him.
13. THE BLACK DOG-This story starts out pretty mild, with the black ghost dog just running around a man’s house. Towards the end, however, it rips the man’s pet dog’s throat and kills him. I personally was surprised by the unexpected ending. You just never know where these stories will go.
14. THE DEAD HAND-It’s about a village with an urban legend. The legend is that a monster roams a bog at night, and whoever goes there will be killed. A boy decides to try it out and eventually gets his hand cut off. The story tells it in a great description, but it’s not really good for children. Besides, if the story didn’t disturb you, the illustration sure will.
These were the stories I thought were too inappropriate for children to watch. If there were other stories you thought needed to be addressed, please feel free to comment!