Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stephen Gammell, scarrer of my childhood

Anybody remember the "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" books?

When I was in elementary school, there was a waiting list five deep to check these things out of the library. Creepy, horrible little stories that I still remember, and still find scary....but the best/worst part was the illustrations!

As much as they freaked me out, I was obsessed with these books, bought them, and studied the drawings, trying to reproduce their creepiness with my own pencil. Even now I tend to draw filament-hair tendrils on things. Thanks Stephen Gammell, for not only giving me terrifying dreams as a kid, but fueling my young artistic need to make things look as disturbing as possible, on paper.

And I'm still amazed we were allowed to read these things, I was in third and fourth grade when these were all the rage at my school!

Hats off to you, Mr. Gammell, you influenced me in a big way.


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  1. Wow! I'd never heard of those books, but they are SO my thing! I would love to put out books like that - but I suppose I need to learn how to draw first (I think I've got the writing down pat!).

    Thanks for introducing them to me!

  2. you're most welcome, I'm sure you can find them at any library. There's a fair amount of cheese in them, too (they are targeted to kids, after all) but a lot of the stories and themes are genuinely gross/disturbing/morbid/scary. They were a pretty hot topic back then, as far as what was considered appropriate for kids to read....and I can see why!

  3. Hey thanks for posting these pics i was looking all over for references.

    Have you heard of beksenki? If you like stephen gammell you'll love him. he takes this stuff to a whole new level.


  4. oh man i grew up with these books
    yeah his drawings just made the stories scarier.

    he was great at creepy drawings. can't exactly pinpoint it.

    i also remember a preacher telling me i would go to hell for reading this

  5. AnonymousJune 07, 2009

    I owned all of the books as a kid, and I never tired of looking at the art. It was horrifying, but still beautiful. Each drawing was like a looking glass into someplace disturbing and malevolent.

    And I was also just at this moment wondering how in the world this passed as a "children's book" back in the day. I'm so glad that it did, though. Amazing artwork.

  6. Firs time here, came up on this blog while looking these books up again.

    The stuff you wrote was uncanny, as that was exactly what I was thinking. I think I'm going to buy the full set off amazon if they have them.

    As you said, even though these scared the crap out of me, I had to buy ever single one.

  7. AnonymousJune 24, 2009

    I can remember picking up one of those Scary Stories books in 5th grade and turning the page to find that one illustration of the eyeless banshee...let's just say my manhood went flying out the window when my eyes met those empty sockets. Now, I can see how talented Gammell is. Talented and disturbing. Some of those illustrations are truly the stuff of nightmares. They make horror films look like Sesame Street. They're so detailed and smooth and creepy.

  8. yeah, when i was like six i read these all the time. they gave scary fucking nightmares, like seriously. 0_o

  9. I thought I was the only one!