Alvin Schwartz terrified all of us grade school kids with his Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark books, but apparently he wasn’t satisfied with that. Mr. Schwartz also wanted to terrify the kids in kindergarten, and so he released this little tome: In A Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. In A Dark, Dark Room is an “I Can Read” book, if you can believe that, and it has seven subtly scary stories, including “In The Graveyard” (which seems like a variation on “There Was An Old Woman All Skin and Bones” to me) and “The Green Ribbon”, which is a story about a wife with a neck problem which I’m sure we’ve all heard. It has illustrations by Dirk Zimmer, and while those illustrations are not nearly as terrifying as the ones by Stephen Gammell in Scary Stories, they are still somewhat disturbing. I still remember and fear the white monster from the cover to this day.
Most of us have probably advanced beyond “I Can Read” books by now, but if you’re looking for some good Halloween material, and you’ve already been scarred by Scary Stories, you might want to check out.
The Retroist has shared quite a few embarrassing stories from his childhood with us in the podcast, and I thought it was time for me to do the same. When I was in grade school (maybe 3rd grade?), I did a magic act for our school talent show. I went on stage and performed a few tricks. I had no costume, no repartee with the crowd, and no real talent, and I accordingly got no applause. Not from my fellow students. Not even from the teachers. The auditorium was deathly silent as I stumbled my way through my act and even more silent as I took my bow and sat down. It remains one of my greatest shames to date. What possessed me to do such a foolhardy thing? Spooky Tricks by Rose Wyler and Gerald Ames.
Spooky Tricks was a book I had somehow gotten my hands on in those young days. It blended two things I was quite fond of: magic and ghosts. The book not only instructed you how to perform some simple tricks, but it illustrated these instructions with some very evocative pictures of specters and other spooky things.
I recently acquired a copy of this book. I hadn’t remembered that it was “An I CAN READ Book” (and I was really surprised when I discovered it was), but I had remembered just about everything in it. I found memories on every page. There are things from this book I still do today, such as put a tube to one eye so I can see “holes” in my hand. There are too many pages I remembered to show here, but this is a small sampling.
There was also a ghost helper called Willie who featured in several of the tricks, and a two-headed ghost who popped up in the beginning and end. They were more charming than scary, and I stared at their pictures for long amounts of time.
Looking at Spooky Tricks today, I think it is a strange thing to give kids. Even though it isn’t dripping with evil, it is still a little off in its talk of spooks and death (there is one trick in which you “stop” your pulse), and I probably wouldn’t give it to my daughter. I’m glad nobody stopped me from getting it back then, though. I’m glad I had it. I just wish it hadn’t convinced me to do that magic act.
Find a lot more great scans from Spooky Trickshere.