As the decadent 1980’s drew to a close, many speculated what the 1990’s might be like. The decade was one of highs, lows, and marked a sharp change in attitude and outlook. Although we’re currently riding a wave of nostalgia for that particular time period, I look back at those years with some very mixed emotions. My personal feelings aside, 1991 would mark the release of the third and final installment in the Scary Stories trilogy. The last volume, Scary Stories 3: More Tales To Chill Your Bones is somewhat of a mixed bag of young adult horror fiction. It still manages to capture the essence of the two previous entries, all the while being unique.
As with the previous entries, author Alvin Schwartz utilized the work of illustrator Stephen Gammell. Once again, his artwork made these tales spring to life whenever we flipped through the pages. Much like the stories they accompany, the art is a wide variety of images, merging the grotesque with the utterly ridiculous. Many stories in this volume thrived on having a short duration, and a few still utilized the jump scare technique, although not as much as in the first book. There were more journeys to take with our imagination, and new worlds to explore. They focused on superstition, occurrences based on real life events, urban legends, and of course, the often-bizarre world of the supernatural.
Carrying on with the comical side of horror were stories such as Strangers, The Hog, and It’s Him! The first two involved a light-hearted run in with an apparition, the former about a husband returning from the grave, in quite an interesting way. These were more akin to the traditional ghost story, much like the ones you were told before being tucked in at night. In keeping up with the musical aspect, there was even a re-vamped version of The Hearse Song, entitled You May Be The Next.
Some of the shorter stories found within the book, the ones that only lasted a page or so, were some of the most memorable, and would form a lasting impression. No Thanks, loosely based on a real life story dealt with the fear of being alone in a parking lot late at night. The Appointment examined a confrontation with Death, definitely one of the more colorful (or lack there of) characters from mythology. The Red Spot would give anyone a fear of spiders, as well as their capabilities of laying eggs in the most unlikely of places.
If this book had a high water mark—it would definitely be the chapter entitled On The Edge. The stories found in this particular section are without a doubt the best in the book, and some of the VERY best in the series. Harold, the story of a scarecrow coming to life to take revenge on his creators has the best artwork in the book. The Dead Hand, a foray into the world of old legends, tells the tale of the skeptic young man, colliding with a local superstition. Which is what the spirit of these books embody—our modern skeptical mind forcing to examine all of the wonders of the dark, and what they might be hiding. Horror exists in many forms, and these stories confront every single one.
The concluding story of the chapter in question, Such Things Happen, is the perfect representation of my previous statement. The story is about an ordinary man who wages supernatural warfare with the towns’ local witch. Old tales of witches placing curses on those who have wronged them are certainly nothing new, but when its set in the modern age, it provides an interesting twist. The stories closing line of “People like us don’t believe in the sort of thing, do we?” is a perfect conclusion, and makes us question our own belief system. Ask any fan of the genre, some of the best stories in horror involve a clash between reality and superstition. Maybe You Will Remember explored the fears of what might happen when travelling abroad. This was the only story in the collection to have the answer to the mystery in a supplement at the back of the book. The conclusion is actually more intriguing than the story itself, and had many prowling the index several times, trying to unearth more clues about what they had just read.
Speaking of reality—one story comes to mind that explored the world in which we live in: The Trouble. Based on a case file that took place in 1958, it tells the story of a family dealing with an alleged poltergeist. The longest entry Schwartz adapted for the anthology, it’s also one that’s the most believable. For anyone familiar with the stories regarding spirits summoned from teenage energy, this tale provides an expose into the paranormal.
All good things have to come to an end. For what’s it worth, this was the perfect conclusion. It’s hard to imagine what might have come next in the series, or where else they would have gone. Perhaps it’s fitting that everything came to an end when it did. For those of us who grew up with these books, we’ll always remember them. For future generations, they’ll always be here. As you travel down that dark road late at night, take a moment to smile. Your imagination will always be grateful for the gift these books gave it.