We All Float Down Here: Three Creepy Reads for Halloween

As Halloween is just around the corner, we thought we’d dedicate this week’s topic to the first books that ever scared us, in the hopes that they might scare you too.

I believe the first horror stories I ever read were the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Series by Alvin Schwartz. I’ve no idea where I got a hold of these, but I remember hiding them under my nightstand so my Mom wouldn’t confiscate them. I also remember spending minutes at a time staring at Stephen Gammell’s illustrations, transfixed by the creepiness. I couldn’t look away, because then they might FLAIL THE SKIN FROM MY BONES AND LAY EGGS IN MY FACE.

Hello, Nightmare Fuel!

The books were reprinted this year and the publisher replaced Gammell’s drawings with that of another illustrator. io9 has the scoop — it’s all so misguided. But certainly the old prints are still floating around out there (and becoming more valuable by the minute).

A few years after Scary Stories, when I was twelve and had already consumed every atrocious early 80’s SF/F paperback my teensy local library had to offer, I, wanting something “adult”, sidled sideways into the Horror section and picked up the thickest, most gigantic tome on the shelf. I cracked it open, and there, mentioned casually on the second page, was a drowning victim who’d had his eyes, fingers, and penis eaten by fish.


Not only was the scandalous “p” word right there (this was pre-internet, back when the genitals of the opposite sex might actually be somewhat mysterious to a preteen), but also the “p” word was not there — the forbidden and unknown destroyed, devoured by nature. I had to read it. Or, I should say, I had to read IT.

For weeks after, I slept with the closet light on and was especially terrified of drains: cleansing of the body was done fleetly and fearfully, eyes locked on the dark hole at my feet. It was awful. And I needed more.

On my next visit to the library I checked out every Stephen King book I could get my hands on, searching for the next scare. Though I’ve had a lot of fun since then, nothing since has ever consumed my sanity the way IT did.

This Halloween I decided to celebrate the season with a classic I have always intended to read but somehow haven’t yet: Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

I’ll let you know how it ends (I’m guessing not well).