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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark facts for kids

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark cover.jpg
First edition
Author Alvin Schwartz
Illustrator Stephen Gammell
Brett Helquist (2011 edition)
Cover artist Stephen Gammell
Brett Helquist (2011 edition)
Country United States
Language English
Genre Horror, Children's literature, Folklore
Publisher Harper & Row
Publication date

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a series of three collections of short horror stories for children, written by Alvin Schwartz and originally illustrated by Stephen Gammell. In 2011, HarperCollins published editions featuring new art by Brett Helquist, stirring some controversy among fans. Subsequent printings have restored the original Gammell art. 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).

The three books each feature numerous short stories in the horror genre. Author 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. Acknowledged influences include Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Mark Twain, Joel Chandler Harris, Bennett Cerf and Jan Harold Brunvand. 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.

As of 2017, the books had collectively sold more than seven million copies, and appeared on numerous children's best-seller lists. They have collectively been hailed as a "cultural touchstone for a generation," with the original charcoal and ink artwork by Gammell often singled out for praise. They have also frequently been the subject of criticism from parents and social groups who consider them inappropriate for children.

A film adaptation of the same name was released on August 9, 2019 to generally favorable reviews from critics.


# Title Original published date Pages ISBN
1 Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark October 14, 1981 128 ISBN: 978-0-397-31927-5
The first book contains 29 stories, including "The Big Toe", "The Walk", "What Do You Come For?", "Me Tie Dough-ty Walker!", "A Man Who Lived in Leeds", "Old Woman All Skin and Bone", "The Thing", "Cold as Clay", "The White Wolf", "The Haunted House", "The Guests", "The Hearse Song", "The Girl Who Stood on a Grave", "A New Horse", "Alligators", "Room for One More", "The Wendigo", "The Dead Man's Brains", "May I Carry Your Basket?", "The Hook", "The White Satin Evening Gown", "High Beams", "The Babysitter", "The Viper", "The Attic", "The Slithery-Dee", "Aaron Kelly's Bones", "Wait till Martin Comes", and "The Ghost with the Bloody Fingers".
2 More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark October 31, 1984 112 ISBN: 978-0-8124-4914-3
The second book contains 28 stories, including "Something was Wrong", "The Wreck", "One Sunday Morning", "Sounds", "A Weird Blue Light", "Somebody Fell from Aloft", "The Little Black Dog", "Clinkity-Clink", "The Bride", "Rings on Her Fingers", "The Drum", "The Window", "Wonderful Sausage", "The Cat's Paw", "The Voice", "Oh, Susannah!", "The Man in the Middle", "The Cat in a Shopping Bag", "The Bed by the Window", "The Dead Man's Hand", "A Ghost in the Mirror", "The Curse", "The Church", "The Bad News", "Cemetery Soup", "The Brown Suit", "BA-ROOOM!", and "Thumpity-Thump".
3 Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones September 1, 1991 128 ISBN: 978-0-7607-3418-6
The third and final book contains 25 stories, including "The Appointment", "The Bus Stop", "Faster and Faster", "Just Delicious", "Hello, Kate!", "The Black Dog", "Footsteps", "Like Cat's Eyes", "Bess", "Harold", "The Dead Hand", "Such Things Happen", "The Wolf Girl", "The Dream", "Sam's New Pet", "Maybe You Will Remember", "The Red Spot", "No, Thanks", "The Trouble", "Strangers", "The Hog", "Is Something Wrong?", "It's Him!", "T-H-U-P-P-P-P-P-P-P!", and "You May Be the Next...".
Compilation The Scary Stories Treasury July 25, 2004 368 ISBN: 978-0-760-76273-8
A compilation of all three books.
Compilation Scary Stories: The Complete 3-Book Collection July 25, 2017 368 ISBN: 978-0062682895
A box set of all three books with the original illustrations from Stephen Gammell.


To celebrate the books' 30th anniversary in 2011, HarperCollins re-released the books with new illustrations from Brett Helquist. The new illustrations were generally regarded as kid-friendly and not as disturbing as their previous illustrations, resulting in widespread criticism from fans of the original. In 2017, the books were re-issued with the original artwork.

Film adaptation

In 2013, CBS Films acquired the rights to the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books from 1212 Entertainment who initially optioned the material, with the intent of producing the material as a potential feature film. It was announced in 2014 that writer John August was set to pen the film.

On January 14, 2016, it was reported that Guillermo del Toro would develop the project for CBS Films, and would also potentially direct. On February 24, 2016, CBS Films hired screenwriting brothers duo Dan and Kevin Hageman to polish the draft written by August, and the script was ultimately credited to the Hagemans, with Del Toro, Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton receiving a "story by" credit.

Del Toro produced the film along with Sean Daniel, Jason Brown, and Elizabeth Grave, with Roberto Grande and Joshua Long executive producing. In August 2018, Michael Garza, Austin Abrams, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur and Natalie Ganzhorn were cast, with André Øvredal directing.

The film was released on August 9, 2019, by Lionsgate and CBS Films.

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