The Stealing Art (Or, The Straw That Broke the Gammell’s Back)


If you’re anything like me, the years of your adolescence were spent nervously flipping through Sears catalogs the pages of Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark anthologies. While the words were frightening on their own, it was the surreal illustrations of Stephen Gammell that solidified the series as a rite of passage for young horror fans. From living scarecrows to whatever this awfulness is, Gammell’s twisted, dripping forms have a way of hiding away in the mind’s attic, descending at random throughout the years to coat everyday occurrences (pimples, for example) with dread.

You know what else fills me with dread? Checking out a new music recommendation and finding a brazen copy-paste job of one of Gammell’s most haunting images (from the story “The Appointment,” included in the final installment of the Scary Stories trilogy in 1991) adorning the cover. Let’s take a look at the original:

Did you ever think as the Truck-Nuts go by, that they may be the next to die?

A couple of details to keep in mind: the hint of a left foot in the mist, four tall stalks of white grass (one of which passes across the bottom of the scythe), and the infamous Gammell drip falling from the end of the blade. Image seared into your mind? Great! Here’s the artwork for Possessor‘s new album, Gravelands, created by Astrogiant (per the credits on their Bandcamp page):


These two images seem deathly similar to me. Sure, the top half with the flying truck has been cropped out, and an Exorcist pea-soup green filter has been applied, but the DNA remains unchanged.

Editor’s Note: At the request of Possessor, I have removed the DM correspondence between Rolderathis, the band, and the artist. Astrogiant offered up what he said would be a tribute to Gammell’s illustration. Somehow, the original Gammell artwork ended up on the final product. -Joe

I’m no expert on copyright law or public domain, but a quick internet search is enough to know that in general, works published after 1977 will not fall into the public domain until 70 years after the death of the author. Stephen Gammell is still alive, by the way.

After this failure to claim responsibility from both sides, we’re left with an album that is pressed and poised to hit the shelves, ready to make a buck through imagery lifted directly from the rightful owner. Bands, do your research. Hack “artists,” you’re not fooling anybody. BE BETTER.

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