“It’s just a story.”

By: Jessica Jung

I was eight years old when I came across In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories sitting on my bookshelf. With absolutely no recollection of purchasing or receiving this book, I asked my mom if she’d bought it for me. She claimed she’d never seen it before. I figured my brother must’ve brought it home with him from school and our weekly house cleaners must’ve accidentally put it on my bookshelf instead of his. Curious about its contents, I began reading these stories that were supposedly “scary.” I’d beg to differ. I skimmed the book, growing less and less patient with each page. Where was the real frightening content? The stories that would stick with me for years and haunt me in my sleep?

I flipped back to the table of contents and decided to give this book one more chance to impress me. “The Green Ribbon” caught my eye. It’s an extremely quick read, which you can listen to here, accompanied by the illustrations from the actual book. What appeared to be a simple love story went sour so quickly. Essentially, a young girl meets a boy who constantly questions why she wears a green ribbon around her neck. She never gives him an answer. They grow old together, and on her deathbed, she finally reveals why. Spoiler alert: once she unties the ribbon, her head falls to the floor.

This was the most frightening story I’d ever read in my eight years. Something about the idea of a dainty ribbon keeping this girl’s head attached to her body was too much for me to handle. There was an odd realness to the story that haunted me, as if this could happen to anyone. But it was the illustration of the girl’s head on the floor that struck me the hardest.

Never wanting to see this book again, I shoved it in the far corner of my bookshelf, behind dozens of other, happier novels. I avoided my bookshelf for weeks, until the story no longer filled my thoughts. Finally free from the horror, I revisited my bookshelf. When I sat down in front of it, I noticed that In a Dark, Dark Room was perched at eye level, front and center. I know for a fact I’d buried behind all of my other books. I asked my mom if anyone had been in my room. She said no, and that the cleaning people hadn’t been in the house for weeks either because they were on vacation. I decided maybe I was mistaken, and I really hadn’t hidden the book, so I took it and shoved it in one of my desk drawers so there would be no mistakes this time around.

A few days later, it appeared again—on my bookshelf, at eye level, front and center.

Never in my life have I read a story or watched a movie that has haunted me for so long. To this day, I remember the girl with the green ribbon as though I read the story yesterday. When people ask me what story has been the most successful at scaring me, this is the one I tell them about. It’s not because the story itself is actually that frightening (unless you’re eight years old); it’s scary because of how it’s been able to haunt me in subtle ways for over a decade. I see the book now and laugh to myself at how ridiculous the entire thing is, but each chuckle is also accompanied with slight fear. To this day, I haven’t touched the book. It just remains on my bookshelf, at eye level, front and center.

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7 thoughts on ““It’s just a story.”

  1. Wow — I remember hearing this story when I was younger and also freaking out. What makes this even scarier is the fact that the book kept on resurfacing when you clearly buried it away! Did your brother ever confirm that it was his book? This story reminds me so much of another scary story I heard when I was younger that was grouped along with this one. It has a few different names, but it goes by “Humans can lick too” “Dogs aren’t the only animal that lick” and “The licked hand” to name a few. I think if this story gave you the heebie-jeebies, you should definitely give this other one a look!

  2. I know what you mean about stories that haunt you for years, just because you read them as a child! There was a story I read in a magazine when I was around that age – essentially, a girl at a museum is told not to touch anything, but she figures it’s fine if she just rips off a small piece of a mummy’s bandages. Every night after that, a mummy shows up in her room and takes a single strand of her hair until she eventually goes insane. It’s not actually a scary story (and the moral is way too heavy-handed, to be honest), but something about it has stuck with me for years, and for some reason I still shudder when I think about it. So I can relate, though the fact that the book kept reappearing is way creepier than my story!

    Also, Olivia – I’ve read that story! Very creepy! It reminds me of a similar one, I think it’s usually called “Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t Turn On the Lights?”

  3. Oh wow, I can totally see why this story terrified you so much! That last image of her head on the floor is haunting, not only for a child but even me (who read your post while sitting on my laptop in the darkness of my bedroom). I think the most horrifying part about your post is the fact that the book kept showing up on your bookshelf. Yikes! You should try moving the book again the next time you go home and let us know what happens. The scariest book I remember reading when I was a kid was, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” This is another one of those books where the illustrations are just as, if not more terrifying than the actual story itself. Look up the cover of this book on google images and see for yourself. Are you familiar with the book?

  4. Wow, I literally read the title of your blog post and thought “I wonder if she had that same weird book about ‘scary stories’ with the green ribbon short story” because I must’ve read that story when I was 7 years old and I STILL remember it to this day, even down to the illustrations. It freaked me out in the same way, for no obvious reason but that it was a girl that looked like me, was my age, and was decapitated. It’s funny how some stories stick around for no reason at all and others go in one ear and out the other.

  5. I remember reading this story when I was younger, and I can definitely relate to your fear of it! I remember picking it up off of our classroom bookshelf during quiet reading time in the 5th grade. It only took me 20 minutes to read and I’ve only read it once, but it was so creepy that I still remember it to this day. I recall looking up from the book after reading it and scanning around my classroom at everyone else still reading their books. I was looking to see if any of my friends had a necklace on, just in case they were in danger of having their heads fall off! Crazy, I know!

  6. I remember this story and it always creeped me out. It’s funny though, I always thought that these stories were creepy. Do you ever think you will touch the book again?

  7. OMG, this is beyond ironic…I honestly wouldn’t have guessed the story went in that direction/ that the ribbon held the little girls head on her body. But, yesterday a friend of mine decided to throw a christmas party and everyone came in with santa hats or reindeer ears on. One girl showed up with a thick green ribbon around her neck and nothing else christmas themed. I thought it was very odd but ignored it. When I began reading your post I thought it was ironic but then I read the “spoiler alert” and half laughed at myself because I don’t think the situations are that similar after all LOL. pretty sure her head was on just fine. But i cant believe the book ended up in the front of your book shelf TWICE! Do you have any siblings? That is for sure something my older brother would do to me if he knew it would make me scared!

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