(Design & illustration by Robert Roxby)
By Courtney Summers, author of FALL FOR ANYTHING
When Nova invited me to participate in her Halloween guest blog extravaganza, there were two prompts to mine a potential entry from: What’s one of the creepiest books you’ve ever read? and What makes a story scary for you? I didn’t even have to think about it before I had my answer to the first question and, as luck would have it, it answered the second as well. Yay!
One of the creepiest books I’ve ever read is also one of the first creepiest book I ever read and I am pretty sure it lead to my interest in horror.
That book is this one:
I am serious.
So from the ages of nine to twelve, like lots of girls, I was obsessed with The Baby-Sitters Club. I mean obsessed. I joined the fan club uh, more than once. And before the official guide came out, I might have written my own. Okay, it was just the biographies of every sitter in a tiny notebook decorated by glitter glue but OH WELL. I was also on the cusp of becoming a massive horror movie fan. How fated that the BSC super mysteries (not your average mysteries!) were released around that time, pushing me into the realm of loving all things creepy and terrifying for the rest of my life? Thank you, Baby-sitters Club!
The plot to Baby-sitters Beware is right there in the tagline: Someone’s stalking the BSC! (Is it just me or does everything happen to those girls?) BUT WHO? AND WHY? I won’t spoil it because the reveal is not as interesting as the events leading up to it. And those events are pretty darn scary—especially when you consider this is a BSC book we’re talking about here.
Guys, this stalker wasn’t playing. The ways in which he terrorized the girls included but were not limited to: peering in their windows as they peered back, attaching threatening notes to the collars of their pets, hiding Stacey’s insulin, trying to run over Stacey with a car, trapping Stacey in a suspended ski-lift during a really horrible snowstorm—apparently the stalker really hated Stacey.
But anyway. The whole story blew my mind. It was just so crazy to me that the members of the effing Baby-sitters Club were not protected from the extreme crazies of the world. That is what I found deeply disturbing about the whole thing. What was going on in this book was well within the realm of possibility. People cross these kinds of lines all the time in real life! We are all capable of truly terrible stuff, which means that everything that is familiar and safe to you has the potential to become unfamiliar and dangerously terrifying at ANY GIVEN MOMENT. It gave me chills just to think about it. It still does.
Around this time, I also started reading the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. I actually think I had just come off the mind-blowingness that was Baby-sitters Beware when I picked up this book:
And while there is something terrifying about Slappy that I grow to appreciate more and more the older I get, then I just felt his whole story paled in comparison to Baby-sitters Beware because it was so preposterous. A talking dummy? R.L. Stine, what do you take me for? my nine-year-old self thought. I am not joking. (Did I mention I was not only on the cusp of becoming a massive horror movie fan but also a pretentious one as well?) I strongly believed that scariest things had to be the things that were most possible. A haunted ventriloquist dummy was JUST NOT POSSIBLE! Therefore, it could not be scary.
This led to fourth grade Courtney doing an entire book report based around this question: Which is scarier? Goosebumps or the Baby-sitters Club? Using Baby-sitters Beware and Night of the Living Dummy as my examples.
I am serious.
I made a case for realistic horror and polled my entire class and Goosebumps won. Consequently, I would look down on them for the rest of my elementary school career. Also I only got a B on my report because I decided to use magic markers and style my handwriting after various members of the BSC and apparently my teacher found i’s dotted with hearts hard to read but whatever.
I love creepy stories. Books, movies, television. There is nothing more satisfying than a good scare (and as Sheriff Brackett says, around Halloween, we’re all entitled to at least one). Baby-sitters Beware was the first truly creepy book I ever read and it shaped my idea of what I considered to be truly terrifying for years to come.
The older I’ve gotten (in case you can’t tell, I’m a 100 now), the more my definitions of what makes a story scary have expanded. My younger self would be totally disappointed to discover that I think Slappy is terrifying as hell and that I also enjoy being freaked out by the fantastical as well. But I will never turn down a creepy story based in a reality that doesn’t feel so far removed from my own because those are the ones that make me sleep with my lights on.
Thanks, Ann M. Martin!
And thanks for having me on your blog, Nova!
Courtney Summers lives and writes in Canada. She is the author of Cracked Up to Be, Some Girls Are, Fall for Anything, and This is Not a Test (June 2012).
Visit Courtney at courtneysummers.ca.
Follow @courtney_s on Twitter.