Did I get your attention?
Alvin Schwartz gave me nightmares at ten years old, and at 23, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark still makes me want my mommy. The illustrations – done by Stephen Gammell – are even enough to make one sleep with the light on. I recently discovered the boyfriend’s 25th Anniversary Edition when he said he finally, “remembered to bring my book of scary stories we used to read when I was a kid!” during our trip to the Poconos. Turns out, it’s the same book I used to read (and listen to on tape) with friends, curled up in a corner of the library during recess or after school.
The Hearse Song was our favorite – and we memorized every line, of course – but nowadays, the book (and its 2 sequels) probably wouldn’t go over well with most parents, with lines like:
“A big green worm with rolling eyes
Crawls in your stomach and out your eyes.
Your stomach turns a slimy green,
And pus pours out like whipping cream.”
I probably shouldn’t have eaten before writing this post.
“Hey kids! Who wants to sing about decomposition?”
“Oooooh! Me! Me!”
How about the story of a slightly deformed young boy with a bent shovel, who discovers the toe of a man that was apparently buried in their garden, then gives the toe to his mother who puts in in their soup for supper? Now while I might read something like this to my child before bedtime, with some hot chocolate and a nightlight, most parents probably wouldn’t.
One of my favorites was always “Me Tie Dough-ty Walker”, the story of a boy and his dog who spend a night in a haunted house, where every night it was said that a bloody head fell down the chimney (not too scary, right?). I think I was more terrified by the fact that the dog could talk.
“For a while nothing happened. But a little after midnight he heard someone singing softly and sadly off in the woods. The singing sounded something like this:
‘Me tie dough-ty walker!’
‘It’s just somebody singing,’ the boy told himself, but he was frightened.
Then his dog answered the song! Softly and sadly, it sang:
‘Lynchee kinchy colly molly dingo dingo!'”
My God, never mind the fact that a bloody head is about to fall down the chimney, or what lynchee kinchy wolly molly dingo wingo means…THAT DOG JUST TALKED!
And as terrifying as these stories are, they are a sentimental part of my childhood (and the illustrations would make some amazing tattoos). I suggest picking up a copy of this book and reading it (not necessarily to your children) around a bonfire or in the dark with a flashlight and a bottle of booze.
And with that, I leave you with The Hearse Song. Memorize. Enjoy. Sing it to the kids who won’t get off your lawn.