Old Favorites…or not

Today was supposed to be the last Scary Old Favorite for October, in honor of Halloween.

The plan had been to talk about Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz.  Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and the two sequels–More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones–are three of the best collections of creepy, funny, and just plain frightening ghost stories. They’re absolutely perfect to read under your covers with a flashlight at night.  The stories were collected from all over the world, and I’m sure everyone who has been to camp and sat around a campfire listening to (or telling!) ghost stories knows  and has been scared by at least one of them.  You probably have read the easy reader adaptation In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories, a classic in the I Can Read series, which is still one of our most popular books, especially around this time of year.

The original Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book was published in 1981, and was  reprinted just this summer with new illustrations.  I loved the original Stephen Gammell illustrations, but Brett Helquist’s new pictures are wonderful too.

But “Why”, do you ask,  am I not reviewing them now?  Because they’re all checked out!  I can remember only one story clearly–Bloody Fingers, and I’m pretty sure The Golden Arm was in one of the later volumes. But without the books in front of me, it’s impossible to say more than “read any of the Scary Stories books, and you’ll be scared.”

Not really very descriptive.  But do read one  of these titles. You may be up all night shivering, but you won’t forget the experience!

* * *

With my first choice unavailable, I thought I’d pick a YA book that scared me…Blackbriar, by William Sleator.  It’s the story of Danny, a teenage boy who moves to the English countryside with his guardian. The house she bought is in the middle of nowhere, and right from the beginning, Danny is creeped out by the place. At night, it gets worse, with the sounds of people screaming in the basement, and mysterious figures running around in the gardens. Danny thinks he can handle it, but once they find out where he’s living, no one at school will even look at him, let alone talk to him.

Danny does make friends with one girl, Lark, who says she’s not afraid of the house.  She does tell him that it used to be a plague house, where people suffering from the Black Death were quarantined until they died. But Lark knows something else about that house, something more recent, that Danny doesn’t. And if she doesn’t tell him, he may not survive to see his next birthday.

Blackbriar was originally written in 1972, and I probably read it in 7th grade. It scared me out of my wits, especially when I found out exactly what was going on in that lonely cottage, isolated from town.  But in order to give a better review, I need to reread the book and have it in front of me…and the library’s copy is lost. I have reordered it, but in the meantime, no book to refer to.  *sigh*

* * *

So then I thought maybe I’ll write about  Prisoner of Vampires, by Nancy Garden.  It’s checked out.  Okay, so  The Silver Crown by Robert C. O’Brien. Also checked out. Fingers by William Sleator.  I couldn’t find it. The writer who really creeped me out–Stephen King–is probably a little too old for this blog.

Ack!  Are you sensing a trend here?  Every “Old Favorite” creepy story I  wanted to talk about is either out, missing or in some way unavailable!  I guess that’s what happens when October rolls around.


So anyway, if you want another scary old favorite,  try one of the books listed in this entry (even if they weren’t the best write-ups)  or go back to either the Haunted House or  Ghosts! Booklists  posted earlier this year for more current suggestions if you’d like to find something spooky to read on Halloween weekend. Just remember after reading to lock your windows and put a clove of garlic by the bed, just in case…



2 thoughts on “Old Favorites…or not

    • Really? What did you read differently?

      My review was mostly from memory. As I said in the post, I first read it in the mid-70s and I’ve re-read it several times since then, but the last time I read through it completely was a couple years ago. I didn’t have the book in front of me then, but I do now, and I leafed through it quickly to verify names and events.

      Some parts of a book stick with you more than others, and what sticks with me from Blackbriar how Danny has to uncover clues to figure out what is going on in his community, and the emotions he goes through as he discovers the history of Blackbriar. That, and the identity of the villain and the very creepy ending! But to put too much information in what is less of a full review and more of a teaser (basically a commercial for someone to pick up the book and read it) would have given away too much and ruined the suspense. It’s better to figure out the mystery with Danny as it unfolds. Sometimes, with some books, it’s a fine line between describing the book and giving too much away. With Blackbriar, I didn’t want to spoil it for readers.

      Did you enjoy the book?


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