You’ll Love ‘Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark’ But Your Parents Will Hate It

Imagine a nightmarish version of Aesop’s Fables and you have Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book franchise is one of the most popular horror book series in the nation. For nearly 40 years, the series has entertained, enthralled, and terrified children and adults alike. In fact, everyone is likely to be familiar with at least one of the short spooky stories contained within the books. The series is beloved by children and hated by parents. And now, it has a film adaptation. 

André Øvredal and Guillermo del Toro
André Øvredal and Guillermo del Toro | Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images for CBS Films

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, famous for creating unique, yet horrifying fantasy worlds, wrote the screenplay for the film. So, now we know that the book series will definitely receive creative justice. So, what’s the deal with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and why is it so universally hated by adults but loved by children? 

The source material 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a collection of three horror books intended for children. The first was published in 1981 with its sequels More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones being released in 1984 and 1991, respectively. 

The series was created by writer Alvin Schwartz and originally illustrated by Stephen Gammell. In 2011, the book series was re-released with new illustrations by Brett Helquist, which stirred up a ton of controversy and dissatisfaction among fans. 

The first book recounts infamous urban legends, like the babysitter who finds a life-size clown doll that turns out to be more than what it seems or scary stories about sewer alligators lurking below us. The series is beloved by children despite the fact that it contains themes and tales that might seem a bit too mature or a bit too horrific. One story, for instance, revolves around a woman who wears a choker to avoid literally losing her head. Disturbing things, indeed. 

Children loved the series because it challenged them. The taboo nature of the series drew them in, entertaining and horrifying them with the same amount of fun as a haunted house. However, many adults have the opposite reaction. 

Austin Zajour, Natalie Ganzhorn, Gabriel Rush, Andre Ovredal, Austin Abrams, Guillermo del Toro, Michael Garza and Zoe Colletti
Austin Zajour, Natalie Ganzhorn, Gabriel Rush, Andre Ovredal, Austin Abrams, Guillermo del Toro, Michael Garza and Zoe Colletti | Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for CBS Films

Hated by teachers and parents alike 

For the most part, parents absolutely loathe this series. Either they grew up with the series and remember how terrifying it was or they’ve been an unfortunate witness to how the stories have affected their children with nightmares and sleepless nights. Parents aren’t the only ones to have an issue with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Teachers hate the series, too. The books were so universally hated, in fact, that efforts were made to ban the series from school libraries. The collection of books was in fact one of the most challenged and/or banned franchises in the 1990s. Parents would storm into schools demanding to know why such a terrifying series was made available to their children. Critics referred to the series as “repulsive” and “disgusting” due to its depiction of cannibalism, murder, and dismemberment. 

However, this effort made the series all the more alluring to young children. It felt like some sort of exciting taboo to read the books against the wishes of parents and the thrill was intensified by the creepy, crawly nature of the books. So, naturally, the popularity of the series grew more and more until Hollywood decided to take ahold of the stories and turn a literary nightmare into a visual horror show. 

Andre Ovredal, Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Austin Zajour, Austin Abrams, Gabriel Rush, Natalie Ganzhorn and Guillermo del Toro
Andre Ovredal, Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Austin Zajour, Austin Abrams, Gabriel Rush, Natalie Ganzhorn and Guillermo del Toro | Photo by Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for CBS Films

Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation 

In 2013, CBS Films received the rights to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and intended to turn the stories into a feature-length film. In 2016, del Toro was brought onto the scene to help turn this project into a reality, becoming a co-writer of the project two years later. Directed by André Øvredal, the film stars Michael Garza, Austin Abrams, Gabriel Rush, Austin Zajur, and Natalie Ganzhorn. 

The story begins when a group of teenagers discover the haunted home of a tormented woman named Sarah Bellows. Bellows turned her tortured existence into a series of short, scary stories that become a horrifying reality for anyone unlucky enough to discover them. A film of creepy, murderous scarecrows and singing decapitated heads holds the same magic and horror as the original book series. 

Despite the creepy nature of the stories, they have morals and lessons to offer children. After all, it was created to be a family-friendly haunted house experience for kids to see their beloved horror franchise come to life on screen. Whether or not parents will get on board remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark will absolutely terrify kids of all ages, and most likely some grownups too. 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is currently showing in theaters.