Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this article "The top 20 scariest episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?"
Are You Afraid of the Dark? was a horror anthology series that aired on Nickelodeon during the 1990s on their Saturday night SNICK lineup. Each episode started out with a group of kids known as 'The Midnight Society' sitting around a campfire with each member sharing a tale of terror.
To this day, Are You Afraid of the Dark? is in my opinion one of the most underrated series to ever air on Nickelodeon, which makes it my all time favorite. Each episode was creative for its time, having to be suitable for children, but still had the creepy factor. It was also very well written for a children's show. Although some of the acting was sub-par, the costumes, makeup and props were amazing.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? was and still is widely compared to the popular Goosebumps series which also aired in the 1990s. I watched both, but Are You Afraid of the Dark? had a more serious side, while Goosebumps had more humor with the stories. Are You Afraid of the Dark? was more memorable and still gives me chills watching it at age 26.
The intro alone was enough to send you hiding under your covers. That heartbeat pulsating in the background as the camera shows some of the most terrifying images and scenes that scare children.
Here it is, if you've forgotten.
The series spanned a total of seven seasons with 91 total episodes and a 3 part movie.
Here are my choices for the top 20 scariest episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?
20. The Tale of the Quiet Librarian
Season 4 Episode 4 (1994)
The Tale of the Quiet Librarian was told by Kiki and involves 2 kids getting locked in the library after hours where they find out that the library is haunted by a former librarian who believes that "silence is golden," and she punishes children with a mysterious box that takes away all noise.
Now I didn't really care for this episode as a kid, but it grew on me as I got older. The thought of being locked in an old library after hours, but having your voice taken away and having nothing but silence just makes this episode even more terrifying.
19. The Tale of Locker 22
Season 2 Episode 3 (1993)
The Tale of Locker 22 was told by Kristen and focuses on the idea that if you don't learn from the past, you're doomed to repeat it. A new student in high school who is given a locker in an area of the school that hasn't been used in years, is being haunted by the ghost of a girl named Candy who died in a freak chemistry accident back in the 1960s.
This episode in my opinion was kind of cool because it does bring up the importance of repeating the past if you're not careful. The episode takes a horrible situation where the girl Candy dies and they solve the issue and it drastically alters the present/future for the best.
18. The Tale of the Hatching
Season 2 Episode 12 (1993)
The Tale of the Hatching was told by David and revolves around a brother and sister who are left at a boarding school while their parents are away. There, they notice that there are some strange rules and routines that go on. Only low tone bells are projected over the loud speaker compared to traditional high pitched bells found in other schools. Also, after every meal, the students are given 'Spunge' to eat, which looks like grits. The people who run the school are a species of century old reptiles that are using the children to harvest eggs in the basement of the school.
The Tale of the Hatching was one of those episodes that I remember bits and pieces of it, until I saw the entire episode for the first time since my childhood, back in 2007. The thought of being left alone at a strange new school is scary enough, but seeing your friends and classmates hypnotized and caring for a bunch of huge unknown eggs in pools is a whole new level of scary. The episode kinda reminds me of Perfect School from Goosebumps where a character gets sent to a boarding school where the school holds a strange secret.
17. The Tale of the Doll Maker
Season 3 Episode 5 (1994)
The Tale of the Doll Maker was told by Betty Ann and is about a young girl who visits her aunt and uncle in the countryside. She befriends the neighbor girl Susan who has mysteriously disappeared before her latest visit. A dollhouse in the neighbor's former house is responsible for the disappearance. Inside she finds Susan, but she is slowly turning into a doll.
I know many people consider this episode to be one of the scariest episodes of the entire series, which I agree that it's pretty creepy to be trapped in a dollhouse and be transformed into a doll, but I found there to be scarier episodes. However, this episode was very creative and well written.
16. The Tale of the Captured Souls
Season 1 Episode 7 (1992)
The Tale of the Captured Souls was told by Kiki. A young girl named Danny and her family travel to a house on the lake for vacation. There, a boy named Peter is taking care of the house while his parents are away. However, Danny finds that Peter isn't who he says he is and that he is using mirrors to suck the life out of Danny's parents to make himself stay young forever.
I believe this episode was one of the more underrated episodes of season one. More people remember episodes like The Tale of Laughing in the Dark or The Tale of the Lonely Ghost, but this was one of my favorite episodes of the season. Just the concept of someone watching you in your most vulnerable times and stealing the life right out you, eventually killing you was why I thought this was one of the scariest episodes.
15. The Tale of Station 109.1
Season 5 Episode 3 (1995)
The Tale of Station 109.1 was told by Stig, who would become a member of the Midnight Society by telling this story. Chris is obsessed with death and his brother tries to get him to snap out of it by locking him in a hearse. While inside the hearse, the radio tunes into station 109.1 which is targeted for people who have died. When Chris travels to the radio station where he is mistaken for a dead man and is being sent to the afterlife.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? definitely covered topics that many children shows were afraid to do, such as death. This episode pushes the limits by having a kid almost be sent to his death. I always liked this episode probably because it showcased some big named actors such as Ryan Gosling and Gilbert Gotfried and there is something terrifying in Gilbert Gotfried's voice that made this episode scary.
14. The Tale of the Carved Stone
Season 3 Episode 7
The Tale of the Carved Stone was told by Gary. Allison moves to a new town and has no friends. She buys a carved stone from Sardo's Magic Mansion and finds out that she can travel back in time through the mirror in her bedroom. She befriends a boy from 100 years ago and they must work together to beat a horrible man that is after the stone.
I really loved this episode as a kid and one that I remember seeing. I don't know why I liked it, but probably because it was one of many episodes that had Gary's original character Sardo and the Magic Mansion. Also, the concept of time travel is pretty cool and something that I wish truly existed. Brother Septimus was also one of the scariest characters in my opinion because his eyes were enough to give you nightmares.
13. The Tale of the Super Specs
Season 1 Episode 6
The Tale of the Super Specs was told by Gary. The episode is about a boy named Weeds who buys a pair of Super Specs from Sardo's Magic Mansion. Before he buys them, he recites a spell for second sight, which actually works. His girlfriend Marybeth soon begins to see black figures every time she puts on the glasses.
I thought The Tale of the Super Specs was scary because of the powers that Sardo claimed to have, but he was in fact a fake, and he ended up losing a battle with the other dimension with the black figures. I really liked how the writers and director made the camera view look like the Super Specs so we could see what Marybeth could see.
12. The Tale of the Renegade Virus
Season 4 Episode 1 (1994)
The Tale of the Renegade Virus was told by Gary. Simon and Evan are best friends who are always playing pranks on each other. Simon's latest prank makes Evan late for school. To get back at Simon, Evan plants a computer virus in a new virtual reality game that Simon is the first to test out. However, the virus takes over and tries to implant itself inside Simon's brain.
Just the makeup and costume of the renegade virus is spectacular for a children's show on Nickelodeon. The way the virus's head resembled a brain always scared me as a kid as well as his voice. Also, back then technology and computers weren't as common as they are today, so not much was known about viruses and the potential harm they could do. This episode if created today would probably be a lot scarier since technology is used for almost anything so having an uncontrollable virus try to implant itself into the greatest computers, the human brain, would be one of the scariest things imaginable.
11. The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner
Season 4 Episode 9 (1994)
The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner was told by Betty Ann. Ethan is an aspiring comic book artist. However, he is constantly being rejected by publishers, but one afternoon he received an invitation to the grand opening of a comic book store in town. There, he is given the only copy of "The Ghastly Grinner," a Jester who has the power to turn his victims in drooling, giggling idiots. Ethan accidentally brings him into his world and it's up to him to send him back.
This was one of three episodes that had a clown as the main villain. Clowns are one of those characters that are hated by many because they're just naturally creepy. So the clown alone was enough to make any kid scared, but add his victims drooling blue slime out of their mouths and a possessed bus driver that snaps his neck backwards was enough to scare me...as an adult.
10. The Tale of the Frozen Ghost
Season 2 Episode 7 (1993)
The Tale of the Frozen Ghost was told by Kristen. A kid and his babysitter Daphne go to his aunt's house in the middle of nowhere. There, they come across the ghost of a boy who always says "I'm Cold." They are able to reunite the boy with his lost jacket and his spirit no longer haunts the residence.
This was one of the many episodes that had someone famous star in it. Melissa Joan Hart (Clarissa Explains It All, Sabrina the Teenage Witch) played Daphne. I thought this episode was scary just because it focused on the typical house being haunted by a ghost story, but it was also sad too because of how the boy froze to death. That's pretty gruesome even for a kid's show.
9. The Tale of the Thirteenth Floor
Season 2 Episode 4 (1993)
The Tale of the Thirteenth Floor was told by Betty Ann. Billy and his adopted sister Karen use the thirteenth floor of their apartment building for their own recreational space until a new tenant moves in. Soon after, Karen receives an invitation to the Toy Factory that has opened up on the thirteenth floor of their building. Billy finds it odd, but Karen only agrees to go if Billy goes too. At the factory, they find out that not only are the toys they make are "out of this world," but so are the owners.
This was one of my all time favorite episodes as a kid because I thought the toys they made and the way the factory looked with all the colors was quite cool. This episode had that spooky X-Files alien invasion vibe to it.
8. The Tale of the Whispering Walls
Season 2 Episode 21 (1993)
A babysitter and the two kids she's watching get lost on the way home from the carnival. Their car breaks down in front of an old Victorian style house and babysitter goes inside to call for help When she doesn't return the kids go searching for her and soon realize that the house holds many secrets. It's up to a compassionate female ghost inside the house to save them from Master Raymond.
This is my personal favorite episode. I always remember the scene where they go to the old abandon tavern where Master Raymond is first there and when the kids go back the second time without their babysitter, the place is bustling with people from different eras. Then, when they forget to ask to use their phone and go back inside, the place is empty. I always thought Master Raymond was so creepy with his attire and pale face.
7. The Tale of the Lonely Ghost
Season 1 Episode 3 (1992)
The Tale of the Lonely Ghost was told by David. Amanda goes and stays with her cousin Beth for the summer. Beth tells Amanda that the only way that she can hang out with her and her friends that summer is to spend the night alone in the house next door, which is rumored to be haunted.
This episode is always towards the top of people's scariest episodes. The little girl not saying anything, but writing HELPME in different fonts and different ways all over the room brings out the scariness, as well as reminding me of Danny from "The Shining" writing REDRUM on the door.
6. The Tale of The Midnight Madness
Season 2 Episode 2
The Tale of the Midnight Madness was told by Frank. A old movie theater is on the verge of closing if something isn't done to bring in customers. Dr. Vink shows up with a copy of Nosferatu and a agreement to allow Vink's movies to be shown in the theater one night a week. When the manager refuses to show the movies, strange events start to happen.
This was one of a few episodes revolving around vampires. Once again the makeup was phenomenal for a children's show and made it extra scary. The thought of having the scariest horror movie villain being able to travel outside of the screen and wreck havoc on people is quite terrifying.
5. The Tale of The Night Shift
Season 5 Episode 12 (1996)
The Tale of the Night Shift was told by Sam. Amanda is a volunteer at the local hospital. A new volunteer starts and soon they discover that someone or something is feeding on patients and employees turning them into zombies.
My top 5 scariest episodes were very hard to pick because each episode was scary in its own way and The Tale of the Night Shift was definitely one of the scariest. I mean having a vampire feed on patients in a hospital and then dangle the girl over the edge of the building and then he bursts into flames is quite a lot for a show aimed at children. Only one more episode aired after this episode before the show was cancelled a first time. Maybe this episode was part of the reason the series was cancelled the first time?
4. The Tale of the Fire Ghost
Season 4 Episode 10 (1994)
The Tale of the Fire Ghost was told by Tucker. Jimmy and Roxanne are celebrating their father's birthday at the firehouse when they are left alone after a call sends out the firemen. They soon find out that there's a fire ghost lurking in the firehouse and is seeking revenge.
I owe this episode a lot of credit for scaring me as a kid because if I didn't have that image of the smoldering man indented in my brain, I would have never even remembered "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" When I was a freshman in high school back in 2005, I had the image of the fire ghost stuck in my head, but had no show name or anything to remember. Thank God for the internet because I searched fire ghost and Nickelodeon because let's face it, that was pretty much the only channel I watched as a kid, and "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" popped up. As I found more episodes and watched them, I began to remember things that I had stored away and forgot about regarding this show. So, thanks to this episode I was able to get back into this show.
3. The Tale of Laughing in the Dark
Season 1 Episode 2 (1992)
The Tale of Laughing in the Dark was told by Betty Ann. Josh, Weegee and Kathy all go to the local amusement park Playland. There, Josh is dared to go into the funhouse which is believed to be haunted by a clown named Zeebo. Josh doesn't believe it to be haunted so he accepts the challenge and agrees to bring the nose of the Zeebo clown dummy at the end of the funhouse. Soon after stealing the nose, Josh is being followed by Zeebo who wants his nose back.
The Tale of Laughing in the Dark is another episode that focuses on clowns and it's by far the scariest episode involving a clown. It's one thing to be afraid of clowns, but bring in the ghost of a clown and you have nightmares for months.
2. The Tale of the Quicksilver
Season 3 Episode 11 (1994)
The Tale of the Quicksilver was told by Kiki. Aaron and Doug move into a new house in a new town. Things begin to move around on their own and Doug develops a strange fever. Aaron meets a girl at school named Connie and has a dream about a hideous creature lurking in the wall and Connie trying to get rid of it. He soon finds out that the girl from his dream was Connie's twin sister Laura and she died trying to get rid of the creature in the house.
Every time I see the image of the demon from this episode, I'm traumatized. Not to mention I remember that scene was used in promos for "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" I had no problem choosing this episode as my 2nd scariest episode because the way the demon's eyes looked and his smile. That episode always scared me as a kid.
1. The Tale of the Dead Man's Float
Season 5 Episode 1 (1996)
The Tale of the Dead Man's Float was told by Stig. Zeke volunteers to help Clorice with chemistry and shows her the closed off pool that the school has, but doesn't use. Clorice gets the pool opened back up and she agrees to teach Zeke how to swim, but they soon discover the reason why the pool was closed off.
So, last but not least I picked The Tale of the Dead Man's Float as the scariest episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? ever. I've seen this episode top many people's lists as the scariest as well. The costume of the pool demon was crazy and very creepy. Also, having something being built over a old graveyard reminds me of the movie Poltergeist. It's scary to not know if someone is buried beneath something. To have that thing be a pool where one of the most horrible ways to die is by drowning probably scared a lot of kids when it came to swimming.
There you have it, my top 20 scariest episodes of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" Also, on November 13, 2017 it was announced that an "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" movie is in the works. I'm very excited to see my favorite childhood show get a movie, but I'm also a little nervous about what kind of direction that it could go. There's so many possibilities, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Until next time, pleasant dreams.
P.S. This was my first article I've written, so please be nice with comments.