As the host Johnny Misfit, I tried to share a bit of background, to give a history to the works as an intro to the night. Let’s say I never shut up. But I did mention the fact that in 2011 for the book’s 30th anniversary, the old illustrations where replaced with new renditions. I showed some examples. This brought forth some boos from the crowd. Then I read a selection, about baseball because the playoff wildcard game was on and I found it fitting.
When I finally did shut up, the invited readers started off the night. I have to note at this time, I began a slideshow of images featuring the creepy and grotesque black and white illustrations from the books. That set the tone, supplementing the text and performances that followed.
Jim Joyce took it old school Scooby Doo style reading a story about a boy dared to spend a night in haunted house. Jim read with his trademark wit beginning his reading by sharing some Amazon reviews of the Scary Stories books. It ended with Jim performing a decapitation on a stuffed dog from which goldfish flew out of the stuffed body.
Hillary Stone brought some laughs as she read two stories. One in particular elicited some help from the Batman’s villain Bane who, as we all know, was born in the dark (probably told some scary stories in his time).
More than half of the audience took to the stage to read their favorites.
- Mike and Evan, two Members of the band Exit Ghost, each read selections that dealt with eating human beings.
- Lindsey from the band the Cellphones gave us goosebumps reading about Harold the scarecrow come to life.
- Comics artist Alex Nall sung and danced to the Hearse Song. He also drew another kick ass collection of drawings at the reading.
- Other guests included Piper Pennigan aka Michelle Guimon, Allison Klein (DJ AllisonWunderland and CHIRP personality) and zinester Collin Brennan.
- Dan the Hungry Brain’s bartender added to the festivities by retrieving an electronic skeleton head that lit up, had moving eyes and posed the question, “Do I Know You? Come a little closer.” Pretty good stuff.
Big thanks to Sarah W for bringing Halloween Oreos and those little orange and black wrapped peanut butter nuggets. And Jill S (my partner) for letting me use her laptop to project all the scary images.
Thanks to everyone who came out. Hope you all had a nostalgic time and that your sleep was full of nightmares.
And for those interested, here is the intro I wrote that I didn’t even follow. My actual reading of it was more a spastic version of Cliff Notes. Read the text below.
Tonight, Two Cookie takes a departure from the regular schedule of having readers share their work. This reading will bring us back to that time, when we flipped through our Weekly Readers, licking our fingers to pull apart the thin color newsprint. Book covers for Ralph S. Mouse or Ramona the Pest sparked attention. But we will focus on those book covers that have become grade school memories tuned bad dreams. Welcome to Scary Stories to Tell at Two Cookie.
Hopefully you are familiar with the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. It first appeared in 1981 with the publication of Alvin Schawrtz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. The work includes about 30 pieces of folk lore, legend, oral telling and old wife’s tales all retold and written by Schwartz. These are stories told over the years to scare the wits out of kids. Such examples like the man with a hook chasing a teenage couple or like the Jersey Devil, a person living in the woods like an animal. This was before a time when the media and internet were ever present at debunking such stories. Unsolved Mysteries scared us with Robert Stacks’ creepy stare. When Twin Peaks was the weirdest thing you’d ever seen on network television. And how America’s Most Wanted led us to fear criminals that might be on the loose. But then cable tv and social media entered the game and Amber Alert texts and Myth Busters took the reality of a situation and presented logic taking the fun out of it all. Movies like the Blair Witch Project spawned doubt. Entertainment became too violent or disturbing for the sake of being disturbing. We moved away from the things that could really scare us and replaced them with images that temporarily scared us but left us knowing things would still be okay.
Yet we cannot forget the part of human nature that longs for the obscure and the paranormal. That part of us is touched in these books. This is conveyed not simply in the stories, but by the accompanying images created by Stephan Gammel. Those black and white illustrations leaped off the page and into our nightmares. Each book in the collection includes these eerie drawings, which were incorporated more as the series was published. In the second book More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (released in 1984) the artwork enhanced the chapter heading. By the time the series closed with Scary Stories 3, More Tales to Chill Your Bones (release in 1991, closer to when we may have first began reading these books), the illustrations were littered throughout the book in new places likes the credits and citations pages. They imagery got more abstract. Looking at the cover to book 3, we see 3 conjoined heads, leering and smiling, tethered together by elastic bands made of who knows what. The cover images did not correlate to any story, rather successfully scared readers before even opening the book.
This series was listed by the American Library Association as #1 in their most challenged series of books from 1990–1999 and seventh most challenged from 2000-2009.
That could possibly account for the changes seen in Schloasitc’s 2011 re-release that celebrated the books' 30th anniversary. For those that have already seen or heard, the books now include new illustrations from Brett Helquist, the illustrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. For purists a move like this is outrageous. Those new to these books are unaware that the preceding art shaped the book as much as its text. It seems more of a disservice to read these books with only half the content intact. Gammal’s images help shape these books in the memorable artifacts we remember and love.
Two Cookie will celebrate these words and images tonight. Feel free to come up and read a favorite selection.