I remember I was in middle school when my Mom brought this home from somewhere... the book was great with all kinds of spooky illustrations for each story but it was the enclosed cassette tape of Alvin Schwartz's retelling of the stories that really struck my curiosity. I was under the impression that this was going to be a lame bunch of stories for elementary school kids and the retelling was going to be humorous at best.
I popped the tape into my boombox moments after tearing it open that late summer afternoon and sat down to give it a listen. Moments later I surmised that Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark was fantastic! It was genuinely scary and Alvin Schwartz's storytelling abilities were astounding... how could a bunch of stories spelled out in a book and retold exactly as printed be so effective? Immediately my favorite Scary Story was "Mi Ti Dough-ty Walker" and it was one of those things that stuck in the back of my brain without even realizing at had done so.
So fast forward about 25 years... I was in the car one day last October with my son who was 5 at the time and my daughter who had just turned 4. We were deeply involved in our daily conversation about Halloween; what I want to be this year, the plan of attack for trick or treating, would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf, etc. The kids were chattering away when I suddenly sang out...
"Mi Ti Dough-ty Walker." Suddenly the noise in the backseat came to a screeching halt. There was this look of astonishment on my son's face.
"What is that Dad?" he asked.
I didn't give him an answer.
I simply replied with "Lynchee kinchy colly molly dingo dingo." More looks of bewilderment. Had the morning commute to school suddenly driven Dad over the edge and was he now speaking in tongues?
"What is that?" they both replied in unison.
Okay, it looked like the gig was up and I had to spill... I told them it was a scary story I remember from when I was a kid. They immediately pleaded with me to tell them the story and I hesitated. I knew it probably wasn't the most appropriate story to tell two small children but I could edit around the scary parts and keep it relatively tame. Besides, it was the middle of the afternoon, the sun was in the sky and the autumn chill had yet to dig its claws into the warm breeze flapping through the open car windows. So I told them the story of "Mi Ti Dough-ty Walker" and they seemed pleased.
My daughter got a kick out of the talking dog and my son went on to question the viability of a bloody head falling down a chimney but the tale was told and it was time for their drop-off at school. Ian, my son, told me as a parting word, that Mi Ti Dough-ty Walker was a ridiculous and goofy story. And to be honest, I was kind of hurt that he didn't at least give me credit for my oratory abilities.
I got a phone call at work that night from their mother and judging by the abrupt and angry tone in her voice she wasn't pleased about something.
"What story did you tell the kids today?" she asked.
"Uh, this story I heard when I was a kid called "Mi Ti Dough-ty Walker."
"Ian is crying and saying that he's afraid to go to sleep because he thinks a head is going to roll out of the attic and into his room! Do you think it's appropriate to be telling kids stories about chopped off heads?"
"Obviously not," was all I could answer.
There were a couple rough nights that followed but Ian got over the story, or so I thought.
Ian didn't have school last Monday but my daughter did and we got to spend the afternoon together just father and son. We stopped by one of the pop-up Halloween superstores and picked up accessories for his costume (he's going as the Grim Reaper, a decision he made entirely on his own) and afterwards we stopped at Burger King for lunch before I had to drop him off to his Grandmother's before heading to work.
In between a bite of his chicken tenders and apple slices Ian asked, "Hey Dad, how was the head able to talk?"
Mi Ti Dough-ty Walker lives on for another generation!
I have the MP3 of Alvin Schwartz's tale but while I was looking for an easy way to host it here on Blogger without requiring a download I came across this...
Fantastic! Back to the Spooktacular tomorrow!