As a young’un I was obsessed with horror books. I started relatively early (somewhere around the ripe old age of 7) in my facination with reading all things horror, and I scared myself silly in the process. One of my favorite scary books was Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1981), as well as it’s two sequels, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (1984), and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones (1991). These books explored urban legends and folklore, and were collected and retold by Alvin Schwartz. The books were also filled with extremely creepy drawings illustrated by Stephen Gammell. I would say that the drawings were even scarier than the stories, for the most part. These were black and white drawings that were creepily surreal, and nightmarish, filled with strange creatures, animal and human, and eerie settings. Two items in particular scared the living daylights out of me.
The first was a story called “The Red Spot”, which was in the third book in the series. It is about a girl who notices a strange red spot on her face one day (the day after a spider crawls across her face while she is sleeping). Her parents tell her not to worry about it, but the red spot turns into a boil, and keeps growing. Her mother decides that she should see a doctor as it could be an infection, and makes an appointment for her daughter. The night before the appointment, the daughter is taking a nice relaxing, hot bath, when all of a sudden the boil on her face bursts, and out scurry thousands of baby spiders. Now, I was already afraid of spiders, so the thought that a spider could climb onto your face, and lay eggs in your skin, was the most terrifying thing I had ever heard.
The second item that scared the living daylights out of me, and still does for that matter, was one specific drawing. It was of a dead girl, mostly skeleton, but with some remaining flesh. It shows her face, and the upper part of her torso, with her empty eye sockets, stringy hair, rotting lips and protruding teeth. It is on the cover of one of these books now (or was a short while ago), and whenever I see it in a store I cannot help but avert my eyes. I believe that picture accompanies a story called “The Haunted House” which appears in the first collection.
Do you want to see the illustration??? I know you do. For those brave enough, click here!