Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark: All References And What They Looked Like In The Books

If these didn't give you nightmares as a kid, you're lying.

Lionsgate/Harper & Row

With the Del Toro-produced, Øvredal-directed horror adaptation of a series of urban legends tied together by some of the most horrific art ever seen in a children's book, audiences got some fantastically chilling visuals and stories to enjoy on the big screen. But not all stories were made equal in this film, and not all references to the book were clearly defined as stories, except to the avid fan of the tales.

In the film, some monsters were transplanted from other stories, while some were an amalgam of multiple stories and elements, inspired by Gammell's illustrations, which were a horror story all their own. One of the best things the film did was to preserve the imagery that made the books so memorable, but as with any adaptation, some things had to be changed from page to screen.

Here's a list of the references to the books made in the film and how they were originally portrayed in the books.

9. The Big Toe

Harper & Row

Though the "toeless corpse" made for one of the most memorable and terrifying figures in the film, the corpse woman that freaked out millions in the film was not, in fact, associated with the Big Toe short story that was being referenced (more on her later).

The actual story had tamer art than the nightmare-inducing figures of other tales, but it still had that off, wispy quality that made Stephen Gammell's works so memorable. There's something distorted and off-putting about the child in the illustration, and the toe itself is enormous and misshapen, and about as disgusting as you'd expect from a single unearthed human toe.

More disturbing is what happens in the story. Instead of having the normal human reaction of being terrified, shocked, and disturbed by a mutilated body part, the boy brings it back to his family and his mother is proud of him for finding it, and they cut it into pieces to eat it.

Like the events of the film, this disgusting supper is followed by the angry creature/ghost/corpse coming to take its toe back. It ends, as most of the scary stories do, with a fun little storyteller jumpscare.


Writer, artist, animator, video editor. Indie comics creator, looking to bring LGBTQ+ characters and Filipino culture into mainstream Western media. @MotzieD on Twitter. Originally from Quezon City, The Philippines. Currently based in Ontario, Canada. Independent writer/artist with multiple comics, a novel, etc. Works listed over at