For kids growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, just mention Alvin Schwartz’s “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and see their reaction. You’ll probably get something along the lines of:
“Of course I had those books!” or “I haven’t thought about that in years!” or, most likely, “Those drawings were so creepy!”
Since it’s the Halloween season, let’s look back on the creepiest books that elementary school kids could ever hope to get their hands on (before we were old enough to read Stephen King, and years before the Goosebumps series came out). We all had a copy of the book (or at least knew someone who got it from the Scholastic book fair).
And our parents freaked. Especially in Enfield.
In 1995, the school board of Enfield actually had to hold serious discussions on whether the books were appropriate for children. Despite what they read, it was never so much about the stories themselves – which were, admittedly, fairly gruesome but mostly based on existing folklore stories – it was about that artwork. Stephen Gammell’s artwork would always creep people out the most.
And when they reprinted the book in 2011 for the 30th anniversary – with new art from a new artist – people freaked again. Because it wasn’t the original.
Now the entire story of “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is being made into a new documentary feature:
As for Enfield, I’m sure it’s largely been forgotten about and kids can probably get the book at the library without any issues, but back in 1995 it was a big deal. So much so that the school board did ultimately vote and did not allow younger students from reading the books. It wasn’t outright banned, but they did vote 6-2 to limit it to fourth graders and up.