It’s that time of year again! The only month where it’s socially acceptable to be a weird little horror fanatic and wear the wardrobe that Elvira would be jealous of. October is by far one of my favorite months. There are so many good memories surrounding the autumn. Going back to school, football games, crunchy leaves, that smell in the air that everyone loves but that nobody can pinpoint except to say “it smells like cold.”, Halloween, and scary books read in comfy sweaters with a hot cup of autumn spice cider scalding your fingers off.
My childhood autumns were filled with trips to the library, and it was the highlight of my day because I loved reading scary stories. Some of the most truly horrifying things I have ever experienced, that truly disturbed me, were from children’s scary stories. Let’s take a trip down memory lane as we delve back into our childhood nightmares. *Insert evil laughter here*
This one tops the list, right? Always. And what made these books truly terrifying? Those damn watercolor illustrations! My gosh! Those haunt me to this day in the best way possible. Among my favorite tales were the one with the scarecrow and the one where the bride gets locked inside the trunk in her attic and dies. That last one especially is just horrific, not just in the fictional sense, but in the fact that it was so realistic and believable. It could happen! And it’s such a sad thing to think of. That sad undertone mixed with the horror of the story was enough to give me chills.
This is one of my favorites, and I couldn’t figure out the title for the longest time. All I could remember from my childhood was that it was a book that follows a black cat into a creepy house, up some stairs, down a long hallway, and to a room where there’s an ending quite similar to the story In a Dark, Dark Room. And with a title so similar, all of my searches always led me to In a Dark, Dark Room. How frustrating! But finally I was able to hunt this one down. Again, the scariest part for me was the illustrations, all darkly colored and perfectly aimed at depicting a haunted house.
Buried Moon was a book far beyond its children readers. Although it was illustrated and marketed to children, the story told within is something so much darker than a child could ever understand. The details of this book were so unique one can only assume they were based on some archaic fairy tale. The ritual that the village folk need to follow in order to free the moon are so specific, and that is part of the reason this book is so haunting. There’s a sense that this isn’t just a work of fiction, but could in fact have been based on a real event in some ancient culture’s history. Once again, the appeal for me lay in the pictures. The Moon is so radiant and beautiful, and the creatures of the moors are truly nightmarish.
Another classic, right? Who didn’t love Goosebumps growing up? It was right up there along with Nick At Night. Oh, what simple times those were. I always reveled in the spooky covers, and although they weren’t as haunting as some of the darker books, they had a thrill all their own. Some of my favorite Goosebumps stories were A Night In Terror Tower, Night of The Living Dummy, Monster Blood, The Mummy That Needed Eyedrops, and Piano Lessons Can Be Murder. Whew, that was a lot to list, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind as classic Goosebumps. What are your favorite Goosebumps books?
Who could ever forget Jenny and her green ribbon? Certainly not me! Every single story in this anthology was terrifying. From the growing teeth, to the hitchhiker, to the fat woman watching corpses being brought into a cemetery, this book is filled with chills. I’m sure we all remember this one. It was one of my favorites to read during the autumn, and it still remains one of my favorites to this day. Modern spook books just don’t compare to the older stuff that managed to get under our skin at such a young age. Like that quote says, “We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory.” – Louise Glück
This one’s not as scary as it is just plain fun. I loved Clifford growing up, and I often got those books out of the library around Halloween. I loved sit in my living room in the light of the afternoon sun amidst the dust particles and read Clifford. These books never scared me, but they were a nice break from the truly horrifying tales. I still remember the illustrations for when he goes trick or treating dressed as a ghost. It’s amazing now that I’m writing this post how I didn’t realize that the illustrations were really what made children’s books memorable.
Miss Viola Swamp: The original Umbridge. As a child I couldn’t understand the emotion that I felt except to say it filled me with absolute dread reading these books. Miss Viola Swamp was on the same level as Dolores Umbridge and Trunchbull from Matilda. I hated her so much. SO MUCH. And even knowing that it was just their nice teacher dressed up as a meanie wasn’t enough to satiate the feeling of loathing I felt for Miss Swamp. I remember reading one of these books while loosing one of my teeth, and I would sit there and wiggle it back and forth in anxiety as I read about the horrible injustices bestowed upon the very naughty class that Miss Swamp was teaching a lesson to.
While I never owned this book, I would often hunt it down in the bookstore (Walden’s, I believe, before they took it out of the mall), and read through it while my family looked for their own adult books. I recently looked through the pictures for this again online and while it’s not as creepy as I remember it being (nothing ever is, really), it brought back a ton of memories of sitting in Walden’s hunting down the objects in each picture.
This is another classic for me, and like Buried Moon it’s the fact that the story is just as creepy as the pictures that really gets me. A headless horseman? YIKES! I love every version of this story you can possibly find. One of my favorite versions is an animated cartoon, and the thing that scared me the most was how the frogs croaked out “Ichabod, Ichabod” as he and his horse made their way through the dark forest, and the wind blew through the reeds in the most creepy way. I’m also a big fan of the movie with Johnny Depp (Although I’m not a fan of most of his movies). That’s one of my favorite depictions of witches in Hollywood. And no nightmare is as terrifying as the headless horseman.
Do you guys have any favorite childhood Halloween books or scary stories? Let us know in the comments! Or link to your own lists. I’d love to read your recommendations for nostalgic spooks!
Take care, and don’t forget to take your medication!