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.