What Children's Story Did You Later Realize Was Awfully Dark and Scary? - Atlas Obscura

What Children’s Story Did You Later Realize Was Awfully Dark and Scary?

Help us compile a list of the world’s most delightfully disturbing kids’ books.

Struwwelpeter teaches lessons about hygiene... and fear.
Struwwelpeter teaches lessons about hygiene… and fear. Infinite Ache/CC BY-SA 2.0

The German author Heinrich Hoffman pretty much set the gold standard for nightmare-inducing children’s stories with his most famous creation, Struwwelpeter, or “Shockheaded Peter.” The title character of Hoffman’s 1845 collection is all insane hair and grotesque fingernails (the story concerns the grisly fate of a young boy who refuses to bathe, trim his nails, or comb his hair), but the book also includes such gems as “The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb.” In that tale, a child who won’t quit sucking his thumb gets his digits snipped off by the Scissorman, a terrifying character that would go on to inspire Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. The book is… a lot. But it’s not alone.

Hoffman’s morality tales successfully freaked out German kids in the late 1800s, in the best possible way. And in fact, many of the world’s greatest children’s stories are so frightening (intentionally or not) that they’ve left readers with a host of unsettling memories. What are the most delightfully disturbing children’s books and stories from your part of the world? We want to hear about them.

Fill out the form below to tell us about a creepy children’s story that you still think about as an adult. We’ll collect some of our favorite submissions in an upcoming article!