I’m not one to search out horror. I don’t read horror, I don’t watch horror movies, and I only go to haunted houses because I think they’re funny. (And I used to work in one. So yes, I go to judge.) And Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark gave me nightmares as a kid. So I can’t really say why I picked this up.
Our general story is that a famous horror writer is having a contest for kids in his old hometown. Kids submit a story, and five winners get to spend the night with the author in a reportedly haunted house overnight, telling the spookiest of stories. The one with the best story, or the last one standing, wins a book deal. Sounds pretty good, right? We get ten stories in all, the five entries plus some the author shares as well as some more. Some of the stories are pretty scary, and some are surprising, and some are variations on other tales. The whole thing does have a Ten Little Indians vibe though.
Our five finalists are Wade, Chelsea, Demarius, Kara, and Chris. Wade is our protagonist, and he gets really bad panic attacks. Chelsea dresses like a goth, Demarius is super into horror books and movies, Kara is nervous and doesn’t want to be there, and Chris is the popular jock. Ian Tremblin is our author. Things start going awry as soon as they enter the house, but the kids play it off as theatrics. There are 10 candles lit, the only source of light in the house, and after each story one will be extinguished. Tremblin starts off with a story that takes place, appropriately, in a haunted house, much like the one they are in. “The House on Butcher Ridge” is a tale of a house that doesn’t take kindly to visitors. Demarius tells the next tale, “The Field Trip.” For the first part of the story, I feel for the main character – she’s a bus driver trying to gain control over her new charges. Her method of doing so is not the best, but it is effective! Kara’s entry, “Too Much TV,” is actually a poem, and is not really all that scary. It’s disturbing, but not scary, although that is addressed. Chelsea’s story, “The Babysitter (Revisited)” takes place in an internet chat room, and although it is based on a classic horror tale, it gives it a modern twist of online predators. Chris tells his story, “Ride the Black Wind,” which involves a serial killer and malfunctioning equipment. Wade’s story, “A Countdown to Infestation” is especially disturbing if you don’t like spiders. These stories are spooky, to be sure, but it’s after the last one is read that things start to go wrong. Those first six stories were just words on paper, but things start to become real, or at least real to them. It’s like that scene in Willy Wonka in the tunnel, only there’s no escape to a bright candy land, and there’s no factory. It’s just the tunnel, but kids are still disappearing in disturbing ways.
Some of the stories that are told are very good, and I’m considering reading them for a “Scary Storytime” event in October (for middle school and up, NOT my little kids!) There were some things I was not expecting, and the last part of the book flew by as the action got faster. It is not a book I suggest reading right before bed, as I did!
This fulfills the CBR11 Bingo Square of “Not My Wheelhouse”