Slightly Scary Stories to Tell in the Afternoon
For readers who frighten easily
I technically wasn’t allowed to read the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books (written by Alvin Schwartz). I was the sort of kid who would see a picture of a scary dinosaur and refuse to sleep for twenty nights in a row, because I knew a T-Rex was going to break into my bedroom and eat me. My parents were not in the mood to deal with that level of drama on a regular basis, so they tried to keep me away from scary things.
This, of course, did not work.
Because everyone was reading the Scary Story books. All my friends were shivering at the weird illustrations by Stephen Gammell and wondering when a cluster of spiders was going to break through the bump on their cheeks.
I wasn’t going to miss out on that kind of excitement! Even if it meant I had to survive a few sleepless nights praying my teddy bear would keep me safe and being too afraid to walk down the dark hallway to the bathroom. I got really good at holding my pee in.
I got even better about worrying whether it was healthy for me to hold my pee in.
So, yeah, I totally broke the rules. I totally read the books. And they totally scared me. And I both loved and hated the experience.
Now that the movie is out, I’ve started wondering what could have made things easier on my weird ass brain. What might have helped is if there had been a stair-step version of the Scary Story books. Something I could have dipped my toe into, instead of being fully dunked into the Sea of Terror.
That’s why I suggest, for kids (and adults, if you like) who are scaredy brats, a few Slightly Scary Stories to Tell in the Afternoon.
They’re just a little scary! But not too much!
The Medium-Sized Dog
Horace left his house with his lunch pail and his big yellow raincoat on a Tuesday.
Horace was afraid of dogs.
There was a medium-sized dog who lived on his street.
The dog’s name was Buddy.
On Tuesday, Buddy hadn’t been fed yet, because his owner was a walking bag of dicks and purchased a dog without carefully considering the responsibilities of being a pet owner and that it isn’t fair to own a dog you don’t really care for.
So Buddy was hungry.
Through no fault of his own.
And Horace looked like a bit of a snack.
Through no fault of his own.
Buddy got out of his yard.
Buddy ran toward Horace.
The bark meant, “I am very hungry and you look tasty as hell.”
Somehow Horace knew this, even though he didn’t speak dog.
So Horace threw his lunchbox at Buddy and it opened and inside was a ham sandwich with mustard and a red apple and a chocolate chip cookie.
Buddy ate the food.
Horace went to school.
He was hungry when lunchtime rolled around, but he did not die.
The Creak in the Hallway
There was a creak in the hallway on the second floor of the old house.
Gertrude lived in the old house.
She heard the creak.
She didn’t think about how old houses creak a lot, especially at night when temperatures cool because atoms grow smaller when air is cold, causing materials like wood to contract and take up less space, which means everything shifts slightly and can cause creaking noises.
No, Gertrude was pretty sure there was a demon making the hallway creak.
She drew the demon and showed it to her mother.
And her mother said, “Gertrude, there isn’t a demon in our house. Could you maybe draw something nice like a plant or a horse?”
But Gertrude liked drawing demons.
She drew another one.
It was blue.
Then she drew a yellow demon.
She kept drawing demons until she got a scholarship to art school and now she lives in New York and makes a lot of money and her drawings are hanging in the MOMA.
The Ghost in the Theater
There was a ghost living in the theater who liked to watch the plays and make the lights flicker after everyone went home.
He was a real, actual ghost, not a memory or a wish or a symbol for the fear of death.
But he wasn’t scary.
One day a theater technician saw him standing in the corner wearing a faded robe.
“I did not know this theater was haunted,” said the theater technician.
“Surprise. It is,” said the ghost.
“Who are you?” asked the theater technician.
“I played Henry the Tenth. I played Godot. I played Norman Bates’s mother in the theatrical adaptation of Psycho. I am the best actor to ever tread these boards,” said the ghost.
“Cool,” said the theater technician.
After that, whenever there was a play at the theater, on opening night the cast left out a glass of wine for the ghost.
He did not drink any of them, because he was a recovering alcoholic.
So, there we go! A few Slightly Scary Stories for all the cowards in the world. The world needs cowards! I respect and value all of you. Hopefully these stories were not too scary. If they were, please let me know which parts frightened you and I will consider making adjustments.