Alvin Schwartz is best known for traumatizing children with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. However, one of Schwartz’s most terrifying tales for kids is from a different book, In a Dark, Dark Room and other Scary Stories. The story The Green Ribbon frightened an entire generation of schoolchildren with a narrative about a woman who wore a green ribbon around her neck every single day of her life… because it was keeping her head on.
Schwartz was a folklorist, and his stories all had antecedents in other works or in oral tradition. The Green Ribbon dates back to at least 1824, with Washington Irving’s short story The Adventure of the German Student. Several other versions of the story exist, all of which feature a ribbon-wearing woman whose head only stays on because of a thin layer of fabric.