Chances are if you grew up in the 80s or 90s, you’ve read Alvin Schwartz’s notorious Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The first installment, published in 1981, was a compilation of scary short stories for kids. Each tale was accompanied by an eerie illustration by artist Stephen Gammell.
Schwartz’s collection of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was so successful that he, along with Gammell, went on to publish two more installments in the series, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. Each collection was so scary and creepy, that the American Library Association has declared that the series has been continuously challenged by parents for over two decades.
So…naturally, they are considered some of the best horror books for children around. In fact, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is so beloved, that Guillermo del Toro, director of beautiful films such as Pan’s Labyrinth and Crimson Peak, has announced that he is now working on a movie adaptation. The process is still in the early stages, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from asking one very important question: which of the haunting scary stories will he include in the film?
After rereading this beloved series, we have compiled five of the most chilling tales that we hope will grace the silver screen.
1. “The Red Spot” – You’ll Never Look at Spiders the Same Way Again
This short story comes from the third book in the series. Despite the fact that The Red Spot is less than two hundred words, many children find it to be one of the most chilling. The story is of a little girl named Ruth who inadvertently gets bitten by a spider on her face. The wound, a bright red spot, grows steadily bigger and more painful over the course of a few days.
The final scene is of Ruth as she is taking a bath. With a final twinge of pain, the red spot bursts open. A flurry of baby spiders scurry out of the wound and begin to crawl all over Ruth’s face.
2. “High Beams” – Possibly One of the True Scary Stories
Many children found this tale from the first book to be especially shudder-inducing, as it is based around a popular urban legend. The main character is a young woman who is driving alone in her car late at night. The woman is halfway home when she notices that the driver in the truck behind her is acting very peculiar. Every few minutes he turns his brights on to signal her.
At first the young woman thinks that the driver is displeased with how slow she is going. She speeds up, but the mysterious truck driver continues to flash his high beams on. Growing weary, the young woman takes a few side roads, hoping the man won’t follow her. But the truck driver continues to follow her, flashing his brights every few minutes.
By the time she arrives home, the young woman is a nervous wreck. She is ready to flee from the car when she stops and realizes that the truck driver has already exited his vehicle and has a gun pointed towards her.
With horror, the young woman realizes that the truck driver wasn’t after her at all—he was after the murderer who was hiding in her backseat! Every time the man in the truck saw the murderer attempt to harm the young woman, he would flash his high beams, attempting to expose the killer.
3. “The Wreck” – A Chilling First Crush
The Wreck is considered one of the most creepy short stories from the second book. The tale is of a boy in high school. While attending a Christmas dance he meets a beautiful girl who immediately catches his fancy. The boy is delighted when, after the dance is over, the girl allows him to drive her home.
Eager to spend more time with the girl, the boy takes her home via the scenic route. It is only after they arrive at her house that the boy learns that the girl is, in fact, dead. She died in a car crash on the way to the dance.
4. “Something Was Wrong” – Waking From a Nightmare
This one page tale is the first story in the second book. The main character is a man named John Sullivan. From the start, John feels confused and a little disoriented. John is in a public place and yet he can’t seem to remember how he got there!
Out of sorts, John walks up to a couple of passerby, asking them for the time. He becomes even more confused when some of the people he approaches ignores him—and others full out scream.
John finally decides to locate a phone and call his wife to ask her for a ride. It is only then that he discovers that his wife is too busy… She is attending John’s funeral!
5. “May I Carry Your Basket?” – The Helpless Woman
This grotesque short story comes from the first book in the series. The story centers around a boy named Sam, who, by all accounts, is a very friendly, nice sort of young man. One day Sam is walking about town when he notices an older woman walking around. The woman is carrying a basket that seems much too heavy for her. Without hesitation, Sam walks up to her and offers to carry her basket for her.
But upon closer inspection Sam realizes he has made a horrible mistake. The woman wordlessly hands the basket over and Sam discovers that she has been carrying around her own severed head. Horribly frightened, Sam attempts to flee, but the body and the severed head both begin to chase after him. Sam cannot outrun the head, and as it catches up with him, it chews on his legs for several seconds before vanishing into thin air.
Final Words on Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark
Overall, it’s not hard to fathom why Schwartz’s collections are considered some of the most scary books for kids. All of the Scary Stories tales are deliciously creepy in their own right, and many people eagerly await to see how Guillermo del Toro will adapt these short scary stories to the big screen.