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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a series of three children's horror books written by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. The titles of the books are Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981), More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1984), and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones (1991).

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark cover.jpg
AuthorAlvin Schwartz
Original titleScary Stories to Tell in the Dark
IllustratorStephen Gammell
Cover artistStephen Gammell
CountryUnited States
GenreHorror, children's
PublisherHarper & Row
Publication date



Schwartz drew heavily from folklore and urban legends as the topic of his stories, researching extensively and spending more than a year on writing each book.[1][2] The first volume was published in 1981, and the books have subsequently been collected in both a box set and a single volume. There is also an audiobook version of each book, read by George S. Irving. The audiobooks are presented in unabridged format with the exception of a handful of missing stories from the first book.

This series is listed as being the most challenged series of books from 1990–1999[3] and seventh most challenged from 2000–2009[4] by the American Library Association for its violence.[2] The surreal, nightmarish illustrations contained within are also a frequently challenged component of the original books.

To celebrate the books' 30th anniversary in 2011, Harper Collins re-released the books with new illustrations from Brett Helquist, the illustrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. This was not well received from fans of Gammell's illustrations, citing that they are not as effective or as scary as the originals. To further elaborate, critics note the remade drawings are not only in fact insulting to horror, art, but also both Stephen Gammell and Alvin Schwartz themselves, new and old fans alike, and that the original messages and themes are lost when not paired with the drawings made for them. A counterpoint often made to people against the original drawings is that if a child can not handle the disturbing images, they won't be able to handle the disturbing stories.[5]


# Title Original published date Pages ISBN
1Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkOctober 14, 1981128ISBN 978-0-397-31927-5
The first book contains 29 stories, including "The Big Toe", "The Thing", "The Haunted House", "The Hearse Song", "The Dead Man's Brains", "The Hook", "High Beams", "The Babysitter", "The Viper", and "The Ghost with the Bloody Fingers". 
2More Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkOctober 31, 1984112ISBN 978-0-8124-4914-3
The second book contains 28 stories, including "Something was Wrong", "One Sunday Morning", "The Little Black Dog", "The Bride", "The Drum", "Oh, Susannah!", "The Bed by the Window", "The Church", "Cemetery Soup", and "Thumpity-Thump". 
3Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your BonesSeptember 1, 1991128ISBN 978-0-7607-3418-6
The third and final book contains 25 stories, including "The Appointment", "Harold", "The Dead Hand", "The Dream", "Sam's New Pet", "The Red Spot", "No, Thanks", "Is Something Wrong?", "T-H-U-P-P-P-P-P-P-P!", and "You May Be Next...". 
CompilationThe Scary Stories TreasuryJuly 25, 2004128ISBN 978-0-760-76273-8
A compilation of all three books. 
CompilationScary Stories: The Complete 3-Book CollectionJuly 25, 2017368ISBN 978-0062682895
A box set of all three books with the original illustrations from Stephen Gammell. 

Film adaptationEdit

In 2013, CBS Films acquired the rights to the Alvin Schwartz's children's book series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, with the intent of producing it as a potential feature film.[6] It was announced in 2014 that writer John August will pen the film for CBS Films.[7] On January 14, 2016, it was announced that Guillermo del Toro would develop the project for CBS Films and potentially attached to direct, while he would also produce the film along with Sean Daniel, Jason Brown, and Elizabeth Grave.[8] On February 24, 2016, CBS Films hired screenwriting brothers duo Dan and Kevin Hageman to polish the draft written by August, and before him the script was written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton.[9] On April 29th 2018, Guilermo Del Toro was announced as co writer of the film. In August 2018, Michael Garza, Austin Abrams, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur and Natalie Ganzhorn joined the cast with André Øvredal directing.[10] The film is set to be released on August 9, 2019, by Lionsgate and CBS Films.[11]


A documentary about the book series titled Scary Stories was produced, which involved the family of Alvin Schwartz and features the controversial nature of the books as well as the folklore and the art that inspired many over the years. It features R.L. Stine and several other authors of 1980s and 1990s children's horror. It debuted at Panic Fest in Kansas City.[12][13]

Tribute anthologyEdit

The Horror Writers Association announced on February 9, 2018 that they would be compiling a new tribute anthology entitled New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, to be edited by Jonathan Maberry, and featuring submissions from HWA members.[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Schwartz, Alvin; Vardell, Sylvia (1987). "Profile: Alvin Schwartz". Language Arts. 64 (4): 426–432.
  2. ^ a b Monahan, Maureen (22 October 2015). "14 Terrifying Facts About 'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark'". Mental Floss. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  3. ^ "100 most frequently challenged books: 1990–1999 |". Retrieved 2013-09-23.
  4. ^ "Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009 |". Retrieved 2013-09-23.
  5. ^ "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: Gammell vs. Helquist". 2011-12-18. Retrieved 2013-09-23.
  6. ^ "CBS Films Nabs 'Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark' Pitch From 'Saw' Scribes". Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  7. ^ "'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark' Will Get Rewritten by 'Frankenweenie' Writer John August". Retrieved 2014-11-18.
  8. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (January 14, 2016). "Guillermo Del Toro Warms To 'Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark'". Deadline. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  9. ^ Kroll, Justin (February 24, 2016). "Guillermo del Toro's 'Scary Stories' Lands 'Lego Movie' Writers". Variety. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  10. ^ McNary, Dave (August 27, 2018). "Guillermo del Toro's Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Movie Sets Cast". Variety. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  11. ^ McNary, Dave (December 14, 2018). "Guillermo del Toro's 'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark' Set for August Release". Variety. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  12. ^ "PANIC FEST: 'Scary Stories' (Documentary)". Downright Creepy. 2018-01-29. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  13. ^ Olcese, Abby (2018-01-28). "Panic Fest Review: SCARY STORIES Is A Spooky Trip Down Memory Lane". Birth.Movies.Death. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  14. ^ Morton, Lisa (February 9, 2018). "HWA announces its next members-only anthology". Horror Writers Association. Retrieved December 16, 2018.