Alvin Schwartz

Master of folklore and making children scream
April 30, 2007
Alvin Schwartz...when you hear this name what comes to mind? Maybe you think about folklore, or scary stories, or maybe you didn't realize that this is the name behind the best series of scary story books ever written. I can probably speak for everyone who has ever read one of his books when I say "I got the shit scared out of me." As a kid I was into ghosts and goblins and had read a lot of “scary stories.” This man changed my idea of a “scary story” forever.

My Introduction to Alvin Schwartz

My first encounter with Alvin Schwartz was in reading the book A Dark Dark Room. I was probably in the first or second grade when I first picked up this book. As I read through the stories I was very disturbed by one in particular, enters “The Green Ribbon.” **Plot Spoilers Begin** The story started off simple enough, boy plus girl equals love at first sight. The girl is frighteningly beautiful and always wears a green ribbon around her neck. The boy always asks her why she wears the ribbon; she says something to the effect of “all in good time.” Alvin shows the boy and girl getting married and fills in the story’s middle. Near the end the girl gets sick and is almost ready to die. She tells the boy that he can remove the ribbon and see why she always had to wear it in the first place. After the boy removes the ribbon her head falls off. **Plot Spoilers End** This story was quite disturbing, causing me to think that my head was going to fall off one day. However, as much as I never wanted to read that story again, I couldn’t stop reading it. After reading this I heard from a friend about another book written by the same author that was also an easy reader Ghosts! Ghostly Tales from Folklore. I also enjoyed this book with the same passion as A Dark Dark Room.

One New Years Eve my family went to a family friend’s house for a party and then spent the night there after word. There were four boys close to my age as well as my brother and I hanging out all night having a blast. By this time I was in the third grade. After the festivities we all went upstairs to get ready for bead. The parents left and we talked for a while in the room with the lights out. Eventually we started talking about scary stories when one of the other boys said “wait a minute.” He pulled out a flashlight and started looking under his bead for something. Eventually he found what he was looking for and pulled it out, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I saw the name Alvin Schwartz and realized it was the same guy. As we sat there reading the stories my love for the “Scary Stories Series” grew. Not only did the stories scare me out of my wits, but the pictures by Stephen Gammell were so disturbingly gruesome that I was afraid to look at the book. As many well know these violent stories with equally violent corresponding artwork raised quite a controversy, and even topped The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. (
/bbwlinks/100mostfrequently.htm) Which is no surprise since Where’s Waldo? is number 88.

I continued to read the stories in these books from the point of introduction until now. I still get more of a scare out of Alvin’s books then I will ever get from a lot of horror/scary movies. Even though Alvin passed into another place in 1992, I will always wish for a Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark 17; one thing is for sure I think that I will always be afraid of this image. And with that…keep reading and appreciating the folklore of Alvin Schwartz.
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