The 4 Most Terrifying Episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark

first_imgStay on target 11 Other Old-School Nick Shows That Should Get Netflix MoviesWatch These Movies Before ‘Dora and the Lost City of Gold’ Growing up in the late eighties and early nineties in America, a cable channel devoted to kids was right up my ally. I enjoyed Halloween and all things spooky a bit too much, but my parents were not about to show me R-Rated horror just yet. Luckily Nickelodeon answered the call to all the creepy kids out there and aired some of the best Halloween specials I’d ever seen. From the “Zeke the Plumber” episode of Salute Your Shorts; to the (then) banned Ren & Stimpy episode entitled “Haunted House.” But once Halloween was over, the channel went right back to its normal programming. Luckily the Canadian television station YTV was pitching its “kids only spooky campfire anthology series” to networks in other countries including America, thus Are You Afraid of the Dark? was born!The series aired from 1990 to 2000 and went through quite a few stories and different Midnight Society members. The series even made a come back in 2014 bringing back story teller Tucker and eventually his brother Gary to round out the series.I revisit the series every so often. Especially now that it’s available to purchase/rent both on DVD and digitally. Here are my picks for the most hair-raising episodes…seriously they still give me chills.THE TALE OF THE DEAD MANS FLOATVol. 1, Episode 7This is one of those tales that struck fear in a lot of adolescence hearts when it aired. The fear of swimming is something that lurks deep within a lot of us. Luckily for our water fearing hero Zeke, he manages to gain a little help from Clorice, the swim team captain who is lousy at Chemistry. The two make a pact to help each other out. Zeke takes Clorice to a forgotten pool on the school campus, not knowing about the burial ground the pool was built on. Because of course! In this episode, we get to see one of the most terrifying creatures in the series. A red skeleton of sorts with hair and skin hanging from his body. It was a vision I could not get out of my head for some time. This episode echoes the final scene of the original Friday the 13th where Jason pulls Alice into Camp Crystal Lake. Zeke in the beginning was petrified of being splashed. Now he’s being pulled into the pool by an undead spirit (this kid is never getting back in the water!) With quick thinking and the power of science, Clorice and Zeke defeat the ghoul, and all is right with the school. I’d just like to know who has been keeping up with the maintenance all these years? That pool looked immaculate for being abandoned decades.Midnight Society Bookend: Tucker tries to get his friend into The Midnight Society. After telling the pretty decent Dead Mans Float tale, TMS deny his request due to being greasy and overweight. What a bunch of purists!Purchase the episode here.THE TALE OF LAUGHING IN THE DARKVol. 1, Episode 1A common Are You Afraid of the Dark trope is redheads are pegged to be asses. From the start of this episode, we are already trained to hate our lead, Josh. He is not afraid of anything! Give him any challenge, and he will sail through. But since Josh is the jerky kid that he is, he always has a bet to wager. In this tale, it’s going to an amusement park’s haunted house and stealing the red nose off a dummy clown named Zeebo.Side Note: I’d just like to take this moment and point out that this haunted house includes a dragon that blows fire across the hallway. This is an afterthought in the episode, but it completely baffles me that we’re supposed to be afraid of Zeebo the dummy clown when there is a legit safety hazard.With the clown nose in hand, Josh now makes his friend wear the stolen item the next day at school to prove he lost the bet. Before the hazing occurs, Josh is called late at night and on the other end the faint words “Give it baaaack….Give it baaack” are echoed. You see, Zeebo used the old haunted house to hide out in after robbing the carnival. The clumsy clown ended up burning himself alive with a lit cigar. Needless to say, the red clown nose Josh stole is indeed haunted by Zeebo. Josh gets the clown nose back to its owner, and he is safe for another day.Midnight Society Bookend: Kristen is deathly afraid of clowns. The second Zeebo is mentioned she is OUT! But is quickly persuaded to stay and listen to the tale. She makes it all the way through before David (who has a crush on her) breaks out a clown mask and makes her run for the hills screaming. Why ya gotta be so mean David?Purchase the episode here.THE TALE OF THE NIGHT SHIFTVol. 2, Episode 7There are a few vampire tales within the decade of the show’s existence. Night Shift definitely sticks out as one of the more spooky vampiric episodes. The story follows Amanda, an honors student who is looking to get all the credits she can before going off to college. She decides to help out at the local hospital and gets stuck working the graveyard shift. Her co-worker Felix, who is on maintenance duties, sadly is lured away by an attractive woman in the basement only to be quickly turned into a vamp himself along with most of the night staff. Meanwhile, a candy corn obsessed classmate of Amanda’s checked himself into the hospital to get his tonsils looked at. But really he just wants to hang with Amanda, (not creepy at all.)The two later stumble across the head vampire. Who by the way, is beyond frightening looking! Most head vampires resemble Vlad the Impaler or Dracula. This head vampires wet green skin, stark white hair and blood red eyes are indeed nightmare fuel for any child under the age of twelve watching.The two teens discover the vampire’s coffin and learn that if destroyed, everyone in the hospital will go back to normal. In a chase that leads to the hospital roof the head vampire holds Amanda over the roof and proclaims “I should drop you and lick up what’s left!” This stuck with me for years, making vampires truly haunting in my opinion. In classic AYAotD fashion, the young teens reign triumphant by burning the coffin and saving Amanda.Midnight Society Bookend: Gary finally made some moves and has a possible date. Good for you Gary!Purchase the episode here.THE TALE OF THE GHASTLY GRINNERVol. 4, Episode 5This is easily my favorite episode of the series. The story follows Ethan, a young aspiring comic artist. He sends his work out to all the major publishers, only to receive nothing but rejection letters. I found this pretty impressive due to Ethan only being in middle school. Within his pile of rejection letters, he finds an invite to a new comic book store opening in his area. He attends and meets a woman named Frankie. She reveals to Ethan that her father is Sylvester Unkus, a famed comic artist who created one of the creepiest comic characters of all time, The Ghastly Grinner. Only one issue was ever made after the creator (Frankie’s father) disappeared shortly after its release. Anyone watching this episode today can tell that The Ghastly Grinner is easily a knock-off of DC Comics The Joker. He renders his victims powerless by having them laugh uncontrollably until their ultimate demise. Still, a pretty creepy horror villain if you ask me. The ill-fated Unkus’s art resembles Ethan’s; this is why Frankie contacts him in the first place and wants him to check out the issue.This episode is like lightning in a bottle for 90’s comic book fans. Walking through the store is like a trip down memory lane. We see past AYAotD cut outs, Superman next to Wolverine before copyright laws. To me, this episode holds something special. I don’t want to go too much into the episode, but we are introduced to Ethan’s classmate, Hooper Picalarro (think Tina from Bob’s Burgers.) The two teens try and work together in defeating the Ghastly Grinner and freeing Sylvester Unkus. Spookiness is afoot all over this episode, especially the scene involving a bus that resembles Nightmare on Elm Street II with a little Exorcist thrown in. The Ghastly Grinner is a formidable foe and one for the books.Midnight Society Bookend: Betty Ann sees comics as “Guide books to other dimensions”… She’s not wrong.Purchase the episode here.I hope you enjoyed these four entries of spine tingling terror and this look back at one of Nickelodeon’s most ambitious ventures into scaring children into…well and adults still. The series has many duds, but these four are strong entries for a dark and stormy night. I promise you’ll have a great time with them. Unpleasant dreams.last_img