Thursday, August 27, 2009

The art that scared me just right, the fifth part.

The grandfather clock tolls a late hour.

Sounds like the wind is picking up out there, too. I'm glad we're in here, warm and mellow.

The firelight is dying, but not yet dead. Still enough light to peruse one more little tribute.

I think I've saved the best for last...

1981 saw the publication of the first of a droll and creepy series of books about urban legends and classic ghost and campfire stories. Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark was an immediate hit for younger readers, and not just for the creepy tales to be found there.
You see, it was dripping with some of the most twisted, tantalizing and disturbing illustrations to ever haunt the pages of any book, let alone one geared toward a youthful readership.
Feast your eyes on the singular, stunning and bizarre world of the art of Stephen Gammell (1943 -- ).
The Scary Stories series is perpetually among the most popular adolescent books, which tells me we've got a Hallowe'en-healthy couple of generations in this country. The series has also perpetually been in the top 100 Most-Challenged Books List for school and public libraries since its first publication.
All the more reason to love it.
I have decided to forego descriptions or captions for the following imagery. It's best to just soak in the weird. Just bear in mind, while you gaze on these nightmares:

Gammell is self-taught.

Oh, I did want to briefly discuss this last image (from The Haunted House).
First, holy craaaaaaaaaaaappp!
Second, for a few years I was certain that this was the spectre I'd encounter in the hallway when I needed the bathroom at 3 am.
Or she'd be in the mirror, lit only by our dim nightlight from below, before I had the chance to turn on the overhead light.
And so very very cool!

A lot of Gammell's work can be found online; the most cursory search will garner you hours of creepy viewing. Yet even with a Caldecott Medal and nearly three decades of delighted, creeped-out fans, Stephen Gammell is not a household name, not even among many people who loved those books when they were kids.

He probably likes it that way. A little shadowed, a little seen.

Well! I am so glad everyone was here (and stayed awake!) for my little discussion of these dark artists.
I do hear the wind picking up, as I suspected earlier. Please be safe as you make your way back to your cozy homes.
Stick to the road.
Don't linger in the dark too long. Don't go looking for the source of any strange noises you may hear -- the wind can confound our ears.
And if you do run into anything... odd... we can talk about it tomorrow night.

That's why the ol' Skull & Pumpkin's here.

Cheers, and pleasant dreams.


  1. I really need to stop dropping by in the late night hours, while waiting for the rest of the house to settle into sleep. You did save the best for last, but now I'm not sure I can walk from the living room to my bedroom.

  2. His stuff is remarkable in that it's so terrifying on an adult level, yet it's completely devoured and accepted by kids... INTENDED for them in fact. Brilliant.
    And just plain creepy.

  3. Those are seriously creepy! I love 'em. Mr Gammell is self taught? Sheer genius.

    Thanks for the tour. You are a great guide.