The 15 Most Disturbing Illustrations From “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark”

Oh man. I am going to hate myself so much for doing this. But not right away. I’m going to hate myself while I’m lying in bed tonight trying and failing to fall asleep.

You see, Halloween is just around the corner so I figured I would do some kind of Halloween special, or at least the Internet blog equivalent of one. The question was what I was actually going to do. I’ve already done a post about the scariest songs in my collection, and since I’m doing my Top 5 lists in the same order in which they appeared on my show, the Top 5 Songs To Scare Trick-Or-Treaters Away From Your House is still a long way off.

And then it hit me: Do a post about the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark series.



When I was a kid, the Scary Stories books were responsible for more sleepless nights than just about anything else I’ve ever encountered. But it wasn’t the stories themselves that creeped me out. To his credit Alvin Schwartz tells these stories right, using simple language without excessive detail and short, punchy paragraphs so the stories are easy to follow and when the scary stuff hits it hits fast and hard. Some of the stories Schwartz collected for the books are genuinely disturbing. Others are funny – the stories in the last chapters in each book are usually meant to “make you laugh, not scream.” Some are actually tragic and sad – basically, any story about a guy falling in love with a woman who turns out to be a ghost, and there are several. And a few of them have been told so many times they have no effect on you. Ever hear the one about the babysitter getting threatening phone calls from inside the house? Of course you have.

But let’s face it, people… the real reason you remember these books, and why they kept me up at night, isn’t the stories themselves. Oh no. It’s the illustrations. And I’m not talking about the new ones in the latest editions of the books. I’ve got nothing against the new artist, but the books don’t pack the same punch. The new pictures are not why we’re here today. No, no, no… I’m talking about THESE.



I don’t know what the hell inspired Stephen Gammell to create these images, and frankly I’m not sure if I even want to know. His grotesque black-and-white imagery is arguably scarier than anything in any of the stories. Even the way the drips of black ink run from some of the objects he draws makes all of them look like they’re bleeding. Guys, there’s a reason these books were re-released with new illustrations. It’s because Gammell’s pictures have scared the crap out of thousands of kids. The Scary Stories books were actually the American Library Association’s most challenged book series of the ‘90s, and the 7th-most challenged of the Double-0s. To put that in perspective, the last book came out in 1991, and the other two are older than I am. Truly, Gammell’s illustrations are masterpieces of horror imagery that continue to stand the test of time.

So the way I see it is, what better way to celebrate the coming of All Hallows’ Eve than by traumatizing my readers the same way I myself have been scarred for life? I’ve delayed the inevitable long enough. These are the Top 15 Most Disturbing Illustrations from Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. Sweet dreams, everyone. If it makes you feel any better, I won’t be getting much sleep tonight either.

[EDIT: NEW STUFF! I’ve added an honorable mention section, and when you click on the illustrations you’ll be taken to YouTube videos with audiobook recordings of the stories. Couldn’t find one for #2 though.]

15. “Cold As Clay” (Scary Stories)


You see that? Someday, that’s going to be you. And me. And everyone else. Ever since I first grasped the concept of death, I have feared it. Dreaded it. The fact that it’s inevitable, that we all become the man in this picture, is perhaps the scariest thing of all. And the Scary Stories series makes no effort to sugarcoat that either. Then again, how could you?

14. “Rings On Her Fingers” (More Scary Stories)


This picture isn’t all that creepy until you have the context of the story to go along with it. “Rings On Her Fingers” is about a comatose woman who is pronounced dead and buried, only to wake up when a grave robber digs her up and tries to cut her fingers off so he can take her rings. So here she is, walking back home to a house full of people who still think she’s dead. And it’s unclear whether she’s a zombie or if she was buried alive because the doctor made a horrible mistake. I’m not sure which is worse. Oh, and what you don’t see in this picture is the thief lying in her grave, bleeding to death after falling on his own knife.

13. “The Red Spot” (Scary Stories 3)



Spiders are creepy. I don’t know anyone who likes them. I’m not as arachnophobic as other people are (though bigger ones really freak me out), but even if they don’t scare you at all “The Red Spot” is pretty disturbing. Unless you’re okay with having dozens of spiders suddenly BURST OUT OF YOUR FACE.

12. “Wonderful Sausage” (More Scary Stories)



Everything you need to know about how gruesome this story is can be found in this picture. “Wonderful Sausage” is about a butcher who turns just about any living thing he comes across – cats, dogs, men, women, children, you name it – into sausage meat. So now we have a piece of Soylent Green sausage with a human hand holding a fork like it’s feeding itself to you. (Or possibly even trying to eat itself because it just tastes so damn good.) Which means not only was this person still alive while going through the meat grinder, but he/she is still alive as a sausage and will still be alive when you eat it. That’s it. I’m becoming a vegetarian.

11. “Bess” (More Scary Stories)


I may not be an expert on horses, but I am least 95% sure their skeletons don’t look like that. The skull seems right. The rest of the bones look more like lightning bolts. And come to think of it, where are the hind legs? It looks like this horse had all four legs in the front part of its body. Once you get past where the knees were probably supposed to be, things get even stranger. Each of the legs seem to be split into multiple feet that are all joined at the same knee. This horse is anatomically impossible. Couple that with the backdrop, where everything has drops of ink trickling down in that “bleeding ink” style I mentioned earlier, and you’ve got one seriously unsettling image.

10. “Sam’s New Pet” (Scary Stories 3)



“Sam’s New Pet” is a story about a family that somehow mistakes a rabid sewer rat for a small Mexican dog. The story itself isn’t very scary – I think it’s kind of funny, actually; I mean, how do you not know the difference between rats and dogs? But look at that… um… uh… I don’t even know what the hell that is. Honestly, I’m not sure if it makes the story funnier or more unsettling. It certainly isn’t a dog, but it doesn’t look like any rat I’ve ever seen either. It is a creature that only exists in Stephen Gammell’s twisted imagination. And suddenly the veterinarian telling the family it’s a rabid sewer rat sounds less like a punch line and more like his way of covering up the fact that he has no idea what this thing is either.

9. “No Thanks” (Scary Stories 3)



This is kind of similar to the illustration for “The Thing” in the sense that you’d run the hell away from anyone who looked like the guy in the picture. But “No Thanks” earns a spot on the list because of how horribly wrong this man looks. His skull has a bizarre and inhuman shape, his eyes are looking in two different directions, he only seems to have one ear, and there are rays of light shooting out of a gaping hole in his stomach. Oh, and when you read the story you realize this guy is trying to sell you a “nice sharp knife.”

8. Title Page (Scary Stories 3)



One of the most grotesque landscape images I’ve ever seen. Why does that tree have a face? For that matter, why does the ground have a face? In fact, why does the ground have multiple faces? Where is that arm coming from? What the hell is that bloated thing lying on the ground in the lower left-hand corner? And what’s with the disembodied eyeball floating in the sky staring right at me? How is it that the sky is the only thing in this picture that doesn’t have a face, and yet is somehow also the only thing with eyes?

7. “Harold” (Scary Stories 3)



This is one of those images where the “bleeding ink” effect seems to work most powerfully. It’s like Gammell is giving you a clue that the scarecrow is alive. He looks like a real guy who got tied to a scarecrow pole by mistake. But you want to know the real reason this picture makes the list? Look into Harold’s eyes. He is pissed off. And he’s planning to skin you alive and stretch your flesh out across the rooftop of the nearest farmhouse. And he will carry it out.

6. “Oh Susannah!” (More Scary Stories)


No, this story doesn’t have anything in common with the illustration at all. But between the weird thing on that person’s leash and that hellish demon bursting out of the sky at the top of the page, maybe that’s a good thing. And this is a story that ends with the main character realizing that somebody cut her friend’s head off and whoever did it is very close by. Can you imagine what a story that actually matches that illustration would be like?

5. “The Dream” (Scary Stories 3)



Man, Stephen Gammell really stepped his game up for Scary Stories 3. It’s like he knew this would be the last book in the series so he pulled out all the stops. Some people actually consider this the scariest image in the series. And if I saw someone who looked like this in my dreams, I’d probably try to stay awake for the rest of my life. Especially when she starts blinking and moving. Why in God’s name did someone think it was a good idea to animate this picture? (Note: I AM NOT LINKING TO THAT ANIMATED GIF. It creeps me out way too much.)

4. “T-H-U-P-P-P-P-P-P-P!” (Scary Stories 3)


Believe it or not, this is actually supposed to be one of the funny stories. It ends with the ghost blowing a raspberry, for God’s sake. But look at that picture. Look at that hideously misshapen thing materializing out of nowhere over that bedroom furniture that could easily be yours. Even if the ghost turns out to be a harmless prankster, good luck sleeping again after that.

3. “Is Something Wrong?” (Scary Stories 3)


Hell yes there is something wrong! You are a 20-foot-tall God-Knows-What with a giant head and six legs and a tail! AND YOUR EYES ARE MELTING OUT OF YOUR SKULL!

2. “The Haunted House” (Scary Stories)



I know it sounds crazy, but there is actually one image that freaks me out more than this. What’s even crazier is that she isn’t nearly as scary in the story, even though the illustration is based on the story’s description of her appearance. All she wants is for the man who killed her to be brought to justice. And who could argue with a face like that? Miss, I’ll do anything you want as long as you don’t kill me and eat my brains.

[EDIT: NEW STUFF!] And now, before we get to numero uno (yeah, yeah, just delaying the inevitable, I know), let’s take a look at a few that almost made this list.


“The Bride” (More Scary Stories)


Such a shame. She used to be a total hottie, shark fangs and all. And then she had to go and lock herself in that trunk. But don’t feel too sorry for her — I hear she’s still getting married to Johnny Depp.

Hey, I wonder if she’s related to that girl from “The Haunted House.” That would be one mighty unlucky family if they were, wouldn’t it?

Cover Art (Scary Stories)


You want to know the worst thing about this one? It doesn’t come with a story. This head is growing out of the ground for absolutely no reason. Bonus points if you’re afraid of clowns!

Whatever the hell THIS is


I don’t remember which book this guy was in. If I remember correctly, he appeared in the appendix section in one of them. It’s a nice little surprise for all you readers who thought you could read Alvin Schwartz’s notes and references without some freaky-looking whatchamacallit STARING INTO YOUR VERY SOUL.

And one of his eyes is overinflated while the other appears to have just popped open — wait a minute, is that another eye staring at me from that otherwise empty socket? So this guy has another set of eyes behind his eyes? Or do they just keep growing until they pop and then regenerate and start the whole process over?

Seriously, how did Stephen Gammell come up with this stuff? Jeez…

Okay, if I keep thinking of any more I might as well just rank the whole damn series.

1. “The Dead Hand” (Scary Stories 3)

And now, brace yourselves. It’s time to show you my choice for the #1 most disturbing Scary Stories illustration of all time. It accompanies a story called “The Dead Hand.” And I’m pretty sure there is an actual picture of a dead (and disembodied) hand dangling from a wire somewhere in this story. Or maybe I’m thinking of “The Dead Man’s Hand” from More Scary Stories. Either way, that’s not the picture at #1.

Sometimes things that disturb you stay with you. No matter how old I was, no matter how many times I borrowed one of these books from the Garrettford Elementary library as a kid, I almost always skipped “The Dead Hand.” And whenever I was reading through the books and I had a feeling I was getting close to “The Dead Hand,” I would double-check the table of contents just to be sure of where it was so I could skip it. And if I did read the story, I would do everything I could to keep my eyes focused on the text and nothing but the text, like sticking a full-size 8×11 sheet of blank paper at that page just to block the illustration.

Why did I do this? Why did I go to all this trouble? Because I knew what was coming, and I didn’t want to come face-to-face with THIS.





Don’t even try to tell me it’s human. I know it isn’t. I don’t even think that thing used to be human. I think it’s an Eldritch abomination from hell that ripped off most of someone’s face and put it on like it’s supposed to be a mask. Or to distract you from the nightmare fuel that is the rest of whatever it is. It’s like some kind of shapeless black mass that has dozens of tendrils and tentacles extending from its body.

I mean, look at this thing. This came from the mind of a human being. He conjured it, decided it was a good idea for a scary stories collection for kids, and then sat down with some ink and paper and put it on the page. When I’m lying in bed tonight, I am going to see this thing every time I close my eyes. And it’s all your fault, Stephen Gammell. Damn your wonderfully vivid and horrifying and brilliant imagination! Now my readers will have no choice but to hide under a blanket and cower in the corner until all the monsters go away…

Just like I’ve been doing this entire time.

59 responses

  1. Emalie

    I used to read these stories all the time, and I read the ones with the freaky illustrations. I use to memorize the stories and tell them when my friends and I went camping, but they would never be as scary without the illustrations…

    January 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

  2. Daniela

    hello there, i was a big fan of scary stories when i was younger as well, i still have all the books! lol! i used to love reading them so much and i enjoyed going to the library a lot just to go get them. I always looked forward to reading them because i am a big fan of horror movies and just scary stuff and the paranormal, that’s exactly why i love it because it’s the unknown, it keeps me wondering and wanting to figure out what’s really going on in this world and what’s out there! i like the rush of not knowing but i hope one day i get to see something not human or a ghost or something so that i can be more satisfied lol anyways, yes! i agree with you 100% about the drawings! i am too also traumatized but at the same time the drawings are pretty dope and very haunting. they are very disturbing i agree, they make me cringe even now, the funny thing is they scare me more now then when i was little! lol. yes i have had sleepless nights after i would read the books, even noises i would hear would FREAK ME OUT. like right now just seeing the drawings make me feel uneasy! but yes just thought i’d share. i’ll never forget scary stories! i will always love them!!


    March 20, 2012 at 12:45 am

  3. Jemimahjafferdeen

    Wow,really disturbing

    April 19, 2012 at 5:47 pm

  4. Jemimahjafferdeen

    But the stories are nice

    April 19, 2012 at 5:48 pm

  5. Jemimahjafferdeen

    But the stories are nice and interesting to read

    April 19, 2012 at 5:49 pm

  6. commentator

    No, no this list is all wrong! You don’t give enough credit to the second book, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark! I remember that one being the absolute worst. “Somebody Fell from Aloft” had that picture of the dead man laughing that was so unnerving. And the story about the cat woman, with her face! But the third book did have some pretty bad (good) pictures. I mean, you forgot “The Black Dog”! It was that shadowy staircase with the shadowy dog with two white eyes. But the scariest part was, subtly, the shadow looked like the devil!

    July 17, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    • E L

      The cat woman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I remember slamming the book shut and throwing it across the room the first time I turned the page and saw that nightmare!

      July 6, 2017 at 10:43 am

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    September 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm

  9. Goldie

    I love the way you right!!! Lol!!! And yes thanks to you and Mr. Gammell, I got the blankets pulled up tight!

    September 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm

  10. John

    I felt the same way about the dream as you felt about the dead hand. I almost always skipped the dream. By the way, in No thanks, that gaping hole in the mans stomach is actually the “nice sharp knife”

    October 13, 2012 at 8:26 am

  11. jeff

    I completely agree with everything on this list and the same order and everything. I did the same exact thing with the dead hand as well.

    October 16, 2012 at 11:54 pm

  12. Loved these stories, and yes, the drawings and stories were scary as shit! The bride locked in the trunk, the head falling down the chimney (me-ti-do-de-walker!) And the glass eye thing! Ahh… it’s so bizarre to have fond memories of something that creeped me out so bad.

    October 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm

  13. Hello just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures
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    October 27, 2012 at 11:21 pm

  14. SofiDub20

    you’re welcome! >:) couldn’t help it.
    Really, not that scary.

    October 31, 2012 at 8:48 pm

  15. Justin

    Nice list. Love these books. You and I have some different ideas about which illustrations should make the top 15, but I think we can agree that Gammell is an evil genius.

    October 31, 2012 at 9:22 pm

  16. lacey

    I use to check these books out when i was younger…man they scared the hell outta me! Very creepy and haunting!

    November 9, 2012 at 5:21 pm

  17. M.L. Mitchell

    Gammell’s illustrations were quintessential gothic horror. It’s a shame they have been taken from the books. Each of these books were such fine combinations of effective prose, incredible artwork, folkloric history, and dramatic oral storytelling. Not one element should have ever been changed.

    November 12, 2012 at 4:19 am

  18. Andrew

    I agree with M.L. Mitchell, Gammell’s artwork was what truly made these books frightening and enjoyable, and it’s a shame all his work was removed in these reprints.

    December 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm

  19. casey

    I’ve read this book and I loved it I’m a twelve year old girl I was eleven when I read it ,it was absolutely amazing . You see I love scary things and that was awesome .

    December 22, 2012 at 2:27 am

  20. Jamie Scandal

    Cool observations. Grateful I stumbled across this. Thank you for sharing your spot on thoughts! Just had one observation. In #9, you said that the light is shooting out of a mysterious hole in his stomach, but if you really look at it, the light is actually being reflected off the knife he is brandishing, if in a somewhat blurry way. This makes the illustration even Scarier…since you said it was about him trying to sell us A Very Sharp Knife!! Cool, right? That is all:)

    January 5, 2013 at 6:50 pm

  21. colfrat

    In all the years I’ve read the books and seen the picture at #9, I must admit I never once noticed that the guy was holding the knife until John and Jamie pointed it out in this thread.

    It gets kind of blurry down there, so I always thought his hands were in his pockets and that light was coming from a hole in his gut that he presumably gave himself with that knife just to show people how sharp it is. Cuts so nice that it doesn’t leave a mess…

    January 6, 2013 at 10:20 am

  22. jamesbhouston

    “The Red Spot” is definitely my #1. And 98% of the horror has nothing to do with the spiders, just her face and hair and head shape.

    It’s the only one in the series that I literally couldn’t look at for more than two seconds before slamming the book closed at age 9. I used to read the story with one hand covering the drawing.

    It’s even hard to look at now.

    February 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm

  23. Quiddity

    Mine would be:

    15. Bess
    14. The Voice
    13. Alligators
    12. The Red Spot
    11. Oh Susannah!
    10. No Thanks
    9. Sam’s New Pet
    8. Harold
    7. Me Tie Dough Tie Walker
    6. The Cat’s Paw
    5. The Dead Hand
    4. Is Something Wrong?
    3. The Bride
    2. The Haunted House
    1. The Dream

    February 9, 2013 at 9:54 pm

  24. Jacey

    Please do not you the h word. It can be offensive and btw those pics were not scary!

    February 28, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    • Jacey

      I meant use in stead of you

      February 28, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      • I don’t get it ~(・・?))

        March 1, 2013 at 9:42 pm

  25. These illustrations are fantastic! Stephen has really stepped his game up. But the woman scares he living daylights out of me. I don’t want to wake up and see THAT ((((;゚Д゚)))))))! I would be all like !(◎_◎;)

    March 1, 2013 at 9:37 pm

  26. Cam

    I cannot believe they redid the pictures. I read and reread these books as a kid all the time, and frankly one of the main reason was the fucking TERRIFYING pictures. Without the pictures, I don’t know if I’d’ve even opened the books in the first place, since they would have looked really boring to me.

    March 23, 2013 at 4:42 am

  27. Edwin Turcios

    I remember reading all 3 books everyday in elementary school and the teacher sent a note home to my parents saying that I should stop reading these books.

    March 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm

  28. SandyDoor

    Why isn’t The Red Spot in the top 10 that pic scared the shit out of me

    April 1, 2013 at 10:44 am

  29. hardcandy

    You should have given the synopsis for the other stories as well. Other than that, great post! I just learned about the book this day and I wish I could find an authentic copy.

    April 15, 2013 at 7:26 pm

  30. ChildhoodMemories

    When I was little, I had found this book series at a thrift shop. At the time, I was into “scary stuff” (the Goosebumps book series, scooby-doo, and that kind of stuff). I picked up More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, not knowing at the time that I was in way over my head. Those books became a bit of a guilty pleasure. I would read the stories right before I went to sleep but then dreamed horrific nightmares. I read all of the books, then continued to write my own; coming up with the most sad excuses for scary stories.

    I both love and hate those books now. I couldn’t seem to stop reading them yet some stories, (like “Oh Susannah”, and “The Wonderful Sausage”) I wish I could unread because for long after that, I found myself scared to sleep on bunk beds, and I became a vegetarian.

    These are great books, and definitely a must-read for anyone who likes scary stories but please, keep them away from your six and seven-year-old kids

    May 7, 2013 at 11:49 am

  31. Kayla

    Believe it or not, I read this in 1st grade. I LOVED it.

    June 9, 2013 at 9:37 am

  32. James Donaldson

    Thanks for the nightmares.

    July 4, 2013 at 12:13 pm

  33. My brother was born in 1982 and had owned a copy of “More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” I don’t know how old he was when he read it. More than a decade later, I found the book in my brother’s room long after he’d left for college. I was a a bored five year old and it was just lying around. I picked it up, read it, and since then I’ve never been able to shake the thought of death off of my mind.

    But it’s a GREAT read!

    July 20, 2013 at 7:54 am

  34. bob

    I love all the artwork he does and I love the drippy pait effect

    September 8, 2013 at 3:12 am

  35. Alejandra

    I swear I have read the last two books of “Scary stories to tell in the dark” and they freaked me out. For some weird reason When I started fourth grade and saw they have the last 2 books of “Scary stories to tell in the dark” I actually freaked out…Excitedly. O.0 I guess I’m a big fan of “Scary stories to tell in the dark”,I’m actually thinking about buying all the books of “Scary stories to tell in the dark” someday….

    September 14, 2013 at 11:49 am

  36. camron

    the pictures scared the hell out of me back when i was ten years old, i had nigtmares that the ghosts creatures and corpses were in my house and where after me and i hardly read the stories.

    September 21, 2013 at 5:13 am

  37. camron

    i mean were

    September 21, 2013 at 5:16 am

  38. No honorable mention for “Like Cat’s Eyes”? Despite the brevity of the story, I found both the story and the illustration rather spooky.

    October 3, 2013 at 11:53 am

  39. MrsDrVal

    I was absolutely crippled with fear and had terrible panic attacks whenever I saw The Cat’s Paw picture. Every time I made a new friend I would ask them if they had the book it was in and made them promise me to not ever show the picture to me, even though some went back on their promise. Twenty years later I’m glad I can laugh about this, but those pictures were horrifying…I hated The Bride as well. I wonder how many kids had to shit their pants in fear before the pictures were removed, not that I think they should have been.

    October 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm

  40. Ellehcim

    I must have been 5 or 6 or 7 when I became engrossed in these books for the first time. I’ve always loved and eaten up scary stuff–Goosebumps, Fear Street, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Tales From the Crypt & Darkside, Hitchcock, horror movies in general, etc. These books’ imagery creates a sort of trainwreck-effect; gruesomely horrifying, yet you’re compelled to keep looking again and again. Even if it’s just for a few seconds ’til you shudder and flip the page quickly. Since those early years, I have printed out small pics of the illustrations to scatter amongst the Halloween candy in our “Please take one” buckets (hey, why not spread the horror? Oh, kiddies…!!) I also found the delightful readings by George S. Irving (that’s right–Heatmiser!), brought them home from a library, and proceeded to listen to them. In the basement. In the dark. By myself. (Don’t ask what I was thinking that night, because I really couldn’t say.)

    Thank goodness I have my 3 original copies which, according to the stickers on the backs, were bought from Toys ‘R’ Us, probably sometime in the early 90s. Back when that store, too, was far more awesome than it now is. It is an absolute CRIME against nature that they were reprinted without Gammell’s wonderfully chilling, macabre, ghastly & grotesque visual nightmare fuel. My mom, a perennial class mom, would bring them in for our elementary school Halloween parties and choose a few stories to read. She favored the “jump stories” to spring upon my poor unsuspecting little classmates (such as “It’s HIM!” Maybe she even let me read that one. I know she also used “The Dead Hand” and quite a few others.) Speaking of which, that floating disembodied head for “It’S HIM!” is another great illustration.
    “The Thing” would definitely go on my list…*shudder* I mean, really. That’s one of those things where, if you saw it in real life from any distance, you’d hope to hell your legs didn’t become paralyzed from sheer shock and terror, because you’d need to get as far the hell away from it as possible, as quickly as possible.
    This list is terrific. Other standouts for me: Somebody Fell From Aloft, One Sunday Morning, Clinkity-Clink, The Bride, The Bed By the Window, Thumpity-Thump (something about that lone chair…), “What Do You Come For?”, Footsteps, The Little Black Dog, The Voice, The Man in the Middle, A New Horse, The Attic, The Ghost With the Bloody Fingers, Aaron Kelly’s Bones, Me Tie Dough-Ty Walker, The White Satin Evening Gown, & The Brown Suit. Not to even mention the cover of Book 3, and all the “bonus” images from the intros, between-chapter pages, and appendices explaining the histories and variations of each tale. 😯

    Helquist’s illustrations are cool and creepy, sure–but they belong somewhere else. You cannot replace Gammell’s; that’s blasphemy. They’re integral to the books. They’re why everyone remembers the series, what makes it truly remarkable and unique.
    It’s such a shame…whose idea was it to get a new illustrator, anyway? They must have been pressured by parents of traumatized kids. Pfft. As if that were necessary. We allowed Gammell’s deranged artwork to petrify and haunt us, and look how we all turned out! ;p

    Poor gal in “Rings On Her Fingers” could’ve used a death horn (something I learned about via Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction–which, as many Scary Stories fans may know, is one of the greatest paranormal shows ever made…and contains several versions of stories included in the SSTTITD trilogy…and is produced by an Al Schwartz…go figure.)
    I actually DO love spiders. I think they’re adorable. However, by no means am I okay with the idea of dozens of them busting out of a huge, gnarly boil on my face, okay?!?
    I imagine Bess must have looked like one of Salvador Dali’s elephants or something when she was alive. O_o
    I found a photo of a frogfish in a book of mine that instantly reminded me of Sam’s rabid “sewer rat” creature–same shape and pose and everything.
    I don’t know whether I really WANT to find the gif that some twisted soul made from “The Dream,” since, as noted, that one is unnerving enough just being static.
    To me, the Dead Hand picture looks like a demented, possessed tree crossed with the Evil Queen’s poisoned apple from Snow White; it always reminded me of the potion dripping off the apple in the shape of a skull. Funnily enough, first time I saw that movie in the theater, I made my mom take me to the bathroom to avoid seeing the the huntsman cutting out Snowy’s heart and putting it in the box. *lol*

    WOW, I never realized that the shining hole in the middle of the “No, Thanks” guy was the nice sharp knife, either!! Duhurr. xD But I like Colfrat’s theory, too; that’s pretty much what I had thought. Then again, perhaps there’s no real right or wrong way to look at these; that’s part of their surrealistic beauty, n’est-ce pas?

    November 9, 2013 at 8:12 pm

  41. Darrin

    I too have loved these books since I was a kid…for the drawings of course! I just found out that Stephen Gammell has more books he illustrated, like Halloween Poems, so I started collecting them! Thanks for sharing this and keeping the scary-fun, childhood memories alive!

    April 30, 2014 at 6:56 am

  42. Arkane

    Man I sure wish i could see some of the illustrations he posted but they won’t work for me. Still these books were amazing and very disturbing, so your article hits home.

    May 30, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    • colfrat

      Just saw your comment. I’ve fixed the broken images and also added some new content and links. Thanks for the heads-up!

      May 31, 2014 at 10:56 am

      • Arkane

        Thanks a lot! I appreciate the updates.

        June 3, 2014 at 4:07 am

  43. My Favorites: 1. Harold, 2. The Thing, 3 The Babysitter, 4. Room for One More, 5. The Dead Hand, 6. The Red Spot, 7. The Big Toe, 8. Sounds, 9. The Haunted House, 10. One Sunday Morning

    August 19, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    • SusieQ

      Excellent choices all…horrifically excellent.
      I recently borrowed the book “Halloween Poems” from a library because it also features Gammell illustrations of a very similar nature. Definitely worth looking at!

      August 21, 2014 at 3:20 am

  44. me tie dough ti walker is the best story. I’m 30 and still remember that story word for word.

    October 7, 2015 at 1:19 pm

  45. Chris

    I am very surprised the thing is not one. I believe the illustration to be far more frightening then any of these. The eyes, the eyes of death staring into your soul. That was the page I wold always skip out of the three books. If I ever saw it in real life i would without a doubt die from heart failure.

    December 29, 2015 at 1:38 pm

  46. Samohtr Ace

    This is some majestic horror esthetic. I love it, and regret never getting to know the books by myself.

    “Rings On Her Fingers” –>…wait, i know this story. i read it from one of Maupassant’s (a french writer, kind of a more subdued Allan Poe) short stories.
    Well, somewhat. in that story, she WAS buried alive, and she managed to get to her father, who has a gesture of fear that he keeps having for the rest of his days(the story is called ”le tic” which roughly translate to ”the spasm”)

    Hopefully, the grim for childhood will live on despite this disappointing setback. i can think of a few tv cartoon that have their own take on the feeling (some episodes of steven U. come to mind), though i don’t imagine this kind of illustration being published quite right now.

    June 11, 2016 at 6:50 pm

  47. aaaaaaaaaaghhhh
    I love slash hate those images. Gammell’s got a pen like Chris Van Allsburg, but oh, he uses it to terrify. SO EFFING CREEPY. Why did they ever change the illustrations? There is no one better. The man could–and probably should–illustrate Stephen King.

    August 13, 2016 at 12:49 am

  48. Porkchop8209

    I always borrowed the Scary Stories books (as well as a gruesome history of medicine book) from the library when I was in elementary school in the 90s. I would stay home alone “sick” reading the books and scare the crap out of myself. Really, nothing can beat the horrifying illustrations of Stephen Gammel. I own all three of the books. I want to continue to freak myself out and my future children if I ever have them. Honestly, I’m home alone right now trying to go to sleep and I’m pretty creeped out. Especially after seeing the gif of The Dream lady. Damn it, I need to scrub my brain now.

    September 8, 2016 at 11:23 am

  49. Ellehcim

    Recently bought a tank top from RageOn with a collage of Scary Stories illustrations all over it…including several of these…oh, man, I can’t wait to grace people’s eyes with that baby. The day before Halloween, for sure, and random others…>;)

    September 9, 2016 at 6:43 pm

  50. I just recently bought the complete collection of this series and one of the images that scared me the most was the image of the half horse half human thing in “A New Horse” in the first Scary Stories book. It just looked so unnatural and I still cringe whenever I look at that image!

    September 30, 2016 at 5:34 pm

  51. 235

    I read this as a kid the pictures scared me more than the story behind it. I still see it and I’m 35

    July 1, 2017 at 7:38 pm

  52. Jill

    This article has me cracking up lol. I’m doing these for Halloween looks on @whoisjillblutt on insta

    October 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm

  53. Elizabeth Kelly

    Terrific article!

    October 30, 2019 at 7:07 pm

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