You don’t mess with a classic!

changed art

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Alvin Schwartz, Brett Helquist (Illustrator)
HarperCollins, 2010 (first published 1981)

scary stories1I’m not giving any stars here, only a warning: beware which edition of this collection you choose, for if you choose unwisely, you will be sorely ripped off in more ways than one.

I chose unwisely. My edition is the 2010 “updated” version published by HarperCollins with new illustrations by Brett Helquist. To say that it’s been sanitized for safe consumption is an understatement. The reason the original 1981 edition became an instant classic and a frequently challenged book in schools and libraries was for Stephen Gammell’s ghoulish and nightmarish artwork.


I cry foul and bullshit. You don’t mess with perfection and genius. Without Gammell’s drawings, this collection loses its bloody, beating heart and is barely worth the paper it’s printed on. Who thought this was a good idea? I’m incensed, especially for all the kids who might pick up this book expecting to have the bejeebers scared out of them and wind up merely bored or slightly amused. Unforgivable!

I was going to rant here about our ill-conceived, often hypocritical efforts to “protect” our children and censor their reading materials, but I’ll save that for another day. Perhaps for when I write a real review for the real version of this book, the only one that counts, the only one that should be bought and gifted to any young person seeking his or her gateway drug into the realm of the macabre.

Leave a comment


  1. nick

     /  August 17, 2013

    Agreed! I still have and treasure my Gammell-illustrated originals. Helquist is a great illustrator, but his work is not appropriately matched to these books. The Gammell images had a huge impact on me and my career in the arts. Oh, and besides the creepy illustrations, the other thing that blew my mind was reading about Alvin Schwartz’s sources, at the back of the books. I’d never thought about “collecting” or the study of folklore before that. Thanks for the post! The masses need to know! ; )

  2. Gary

     /  September 4, 2013

    What a damned shame. I didn’t even realize that a “filtered” edition had been released.
    The original, and it’s truly gruesome illustrations, had a lot to do with setting my tastes in fiction over the last…oi, it has to have been 27 or 28 years since I read it as a kid. What a waste.
    By the way, love the blog! Your writing is wonderful.

  3. I think Helquist style is great. If it was his work that started in the original, people would be up in arms about having Gammell’s. It’s nostalgia people! Get over it. There was probably some licencing problem and/or this retarded new era that everything might turn little Jimmy into the next sho… well you know.

  1. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz Download (read online) free eBook (PDF ePub Kindle) – eBooks Free

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