Like a lot of people who are my age, who are also into horror, one of the staples of my childhood were the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books.
Why? Because the stories were actually scary.
I think that people truly do underestimate the ways that children like to be frightened. Ghost stories and other media help to teach children how to process emotion like fear-and how to deal with the difference between ‘real’ fears and imaginary spooks. And frankly, they like it-as long as it’s appropriate to each child (I mean, the Scary Stories series was about my speed. I could have lived without my accidental brush with Magic). In my case, I was one of those kids that found stories that ended with ‘and it was just the neighbor in a sheet!’ to be both boring and dismissive-like I was too stupid to figure out that it was the neighborhood bully in a sheet the entire time.
Based on traditional folklore and urban legends, the Scary Stories books were freaky. One of my earliest horror memories was about a week before Christmas, sleeping on the couch with the light on because the books had scared me too much to sleep upstairs in the dark. And I ate it up-which seems to be a common theme with a lot of people that I’ve talked to about the books. We LIKED being scared, we WANTED to be scared. Being scared was exciting-especially because we knew that in the end, all we had to do was close the book, turn the light on and go back to normal life where stuff like this didn’t happen.
The whole point was that the books were creepy as hell, and at an age too young for Stephen King or even Ray Bradbury Scary Stories were a great way to start learning how to work our way through our fears. Because, in part, that’s the whole point.
[Don’t get me started on the new art. I hate it. Part of what made the books great was the art and I don’t think anyone was deeply scarred from it. Every book has to be filtered for every kid, and if a child isn’t ready for the art then they shouldn’t read it-but that doesn’t mean the entire series needs to be reworked either. What’s next, the cover art of the Goosebumps books?]