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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

What does Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark mean?

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a series of three books released in the 1980s and 1990s written by Alvin Schwartz and originally illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Though they were written and distributed as children’s books, because of their graphic descriptions and illustrations of violence, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has been the subject of controversy with parents and school systems for decades.

image of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Where does Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark come from?

Schwartz found inspiration for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark from folklore, sometimes through extensive reading and sometimes through word of mouth. His writing process, he said, involves just as much research as writing.

In 2016, Guillermo del Toro was confirmed as the developer and director of a forthcoming film adaptation of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The series, the controversy surrounding the books, and its impact on a generation of elementary school children is the subject of a documentary film.

The books have also inspired an exhibition in San Antonio, Texas, which featured art inspired by the book series.

A few things to note…

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has been at the center of controversy since the first book’s publication. According to the American Library Association, the series was the most challenged books series of the 1990s and the seventh-most in the 2000s. Parents are often quoted complaining about the series, citing their violent and supernatural content as inappropriate for the young children the stories are written for.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first book’s publication, in 2011, Harper Collins released a repackaged box set of all three. The repackaged books replaced the original illustrations with new ones by A Series of Unfortunate Events illustrator Brett Helquist, a move that sparked outrage among fans who argued that the original drawings better matched the gruesome qualities of the stories themselves.

For example…

“There are the scary stories that you tell around a campfire, or to keep little kids from talking to strangers. And then there are the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. As far as I can tell, the only point of those books was to give children elaborate, nausea-inducing nightmares.”

Charlotte Ahlin, “The 10 Scariest Stories from 'Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark',” Bustle (October 10, 2016)

“'Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (and other recent political events)' [2017]”

David Blue @DavidBlue Twitter (March 23, 2017)

“Introduced my son to Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark. It's a rite of passage for all kids to be traumatised by this book.”

@garrettelliott Twitter (March 31, 2017)

This is not a formal definition of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark that will help you expand your word mastery.