There must be something magical in the water in Des Moines, Iowa.
Not only has that town produced one of teen Gothic Flamingo's favourite bands in Slipknot, it has also gifted us with one of my favourite illustrators - the artistic genius that is Stephen Gammell.
In a career spanning more than 40 years, Gammell has illustrated over 50 titles, including Leo Possessed by Dilys Owen, Halloween Poems selected by Myra Cohn Livingston and The Ghost of Tillie Jean Cassaway by Ellen Harvey. While I love all of his works, my favourites are the gloriously macabre images he created for the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark series.
Gammell's illustrations were the stuff of nightmares for many children in the 1980s and 90s. For a set of spooky tales aimed at ages 9 and up, it is surprising that the publishers would select such terrifyingly ghoulish illustrations. Evidently, the 30 years of backlash and bans from schools and parents had an effect - in 2010, the books were re-released sans Gammell's images, replaced with sanitised versions by Brett Helquist.
Yet Gammell's artwork is the reason the original 1981 edition became an instant and enduring classic. Replacing his pieces has been considered blasphemy to the series, and it is sad to think that the only way to see these wonderful works now is to strike it very lucky in a second-hand bookstore. The three original books are therefore highly prized collector's items nowadays, and I am grateful to list myself amongst the collectors.
Surreal, haunting, mesmerising, masterpieces of horror imagery - I could go on, but I will let the illustrations speak for themselves.
|Rings On Her Fingers|
|Maybe You Will Remember|
|The Black Dog|
|The Dead Hand|
|The Ghost With The Bloody Fingers|
|"What Do You Come For?"|
The Haunted House
Thank you Des Moines - I think I need to visit one day and try out your creativity-charged water for myself.