Telling stories around the campfire is a time honored tradition for as long as humankind has been able to tell stories. It is this story mechanic that the popular Nickelodeon anthology series ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ was founded on...
...Created by D.J. MacHale and Ned Kandel, the anthology series premiered in 1990 and revolved around a group of teens known as the Midnight Society. Every week, a different member of the group would tell a scary story around the campfire. The stories were full of thrills, chills and the occasional tear.
So with that in mind and in preparation for the new miniseries premiere on October 11, we are going to gather around the campfire once more and look back at the top ten episodes from the series that started it all.
Note: The following is in order by season.
The Tale of the Lonely Ghost (Season 1, Episode 2)
“A girl who desperately wants to be accepted by her snotty cousin and friends agrees to spend the night in the haunted house next door to become part of the group”
This episode is memorable not only because its your typical ghost story but because of its ending which is sure to shed some tears. It set the standards for the rest of the series and really showed that there was more to horror than a few scares.
The most memorable moment from the episode is the ending not only because of the emotional impact it carries but also it was fun to watch the antagonist Beth learn a lesson.
The Tale of the Dark Music (Season 1, Episode 11)
“Andy Carr moves to a new neighborhood where things don’t start out well until he figures out that there’s something hidden inside his basement”
What would you do to have it all? This episode very much akin to Little Shop of Horrors. It is an episode that will leave you with more questions than answers with the final moments sure to stick with you long after its over.
The most memorable moment from this episode is the image of a terrifying giant doll that Andy sees in the basement.
The Tale of the Midnight Madness (Season 2, Episode 2)
“Dr. Vink, helps an old movie theater in danger of closing by showing a special version of the vampire classic Nosferatu (1922)”
Recurring character Dr. Vink returns and as usual chaos ensues in the form of Nosferatu (played menacingly by Christopher Heyerdahl of Supernatural, Hell on Wheels, etc.). It's a fun reality bending episode especially for those that love the classics.
The moment when Nosferatu slips from the screen is one of many great moments of the episode.
The Tale of the Shiny Red Bicycle (Season 2, Episode 10)
“Mike Buckley is haunted by the ghost of Ricky Hagerty, his friend who drowned, and his old bike.”
Much akin to The Tale of the Lonely Ghost, this episode is an emotional one dealing with the subject of grief, forgiveness and second chances. Sometimes its not the creatures or things that go bump in the night that have an effect on us but the ghosts of our past.
While not overall scary, the moment when Mike finally confronts Ricky and gets to hear the words of forgiveness and friendship is a standout moment of the episode.
The Tale of the Dream Girl (Season 3, Episode 10)
“A young man finds a ring in his locker only to discover he is ignored by those around him except his sister and an unknown girl.”
Perhaps one of the series most well known episodes due to its similar themes/premise to the 1999 classic The Sixth Sense. This story is one of the best.
A memorable moment would be the ending not for its twist but because of the acting and its a moment that resonates with all of us that have lost someone we love and perhaps never had the chance to say goodbye to.
The Tale of the Quicksilver (Season 3, Episode 11)
“A girl was killed in a fire several years ago while trying to stop a ghost. In the present day, two boys move in and discover the secret of the house’s past.”
Classic tale of good vs evil, this ghost story is a fun episode with a memorable creature and an emotional ending. It’s a perfect medley of what makes the series fun to watch.
The opening sequence of the story is one that stands out and sets the story in motion. Watching the creature transition from shadow to physical was a moment I remember as a kid making me gasp aloud and watching it again years later still resonated with me.
The Tale of the Crimson Clown (Season 3, Episode 12)
“A little boy who gets away with everything gets taught a lesson of right and wrong.”
Everybody loves a good clown story, especially Are You Afraid of the Dark. While Zeebo the Clown from “The Tale of Laughing in the Dark” is an iconic character, it is the "Crimson Clown" that is a truly terrifying clown. Think Krampus but if Krampus wore a red nose and clown makeup.
Watching the Crimson Clown exact revenge on bratty Sam was the highlight of the entire episode with some subtle nods to the Poltergeist film.
The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner (Season 4, Episode 9)
“A young comic book fan/artist unleashes a villain from a rare comic book, who turns people into laughing zombies.”
If anyone could take on the frightening visage of the Joker it would be the Ghastly Grinner (played perfectly by Neil Kroestch). It’s a standout as one of many memorable creature designs and a definite must watch for fans of comic books.
Memorable moment would be when we first see the Ghastly Grinner for the first time in the flesh. It was a moment you won’t soon forget as the overall design and permanent grin plastered on his face makes it unnerving.
The Tale of the Unfinished Painting (Season 4, Episode 12)
“An aspiring young artist apprentice learns she's studying under the owner of a studio/gallery who is actually a witch that traps victims inside paintings.”
Whenever you meet a mysterious woman offering you things or places nine times out of ten they are a witch out to steal your soul or your youth or both, at least that’s the common thread seen in numerous episodes.
A standout moment from this episode is when our protagonist Cody reaches out and finds herself transported into the very painting she was looking at, a scene of things to come and really get the viewer wondering just what exactly is going on.
The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float (Season 5, Episode 1)
"Zeke and Clorice find an abandoned swimming pool at their school where a secret is contained.”
Often we fear the water because of the unknown of what lurks beneath the surface. In this thrilling tale we are greeted by the image of a truly terrifying monster (brought to life by the brilliant makeup department). If you have never watched an episode then this is one to absolutely watch.
Hands down best moment of the episode is when we get to meet the creature face to face and it’s one of the best reveals of the series.
The Tale of the Fire Ghost (Season 4, Episode 10)
“Two kids help the ghost of a firefighter”
Even when the fire is extinguished is it ever truly gone or like a ghost does it linger on with unfinished business? A haunting and suspenseful tale, this episode has many great moments and fire related special effects that just enhance the story.
Best moment of the episode was seeing the creature manifest in flame in effects that while dated by today’s standard are very fun and creepy.
The Tale of the Dark Dragon (Season 2, Episode 6)
“A teenager who was injured in a car crash buys a potion from a magic shop to become more popular”
Like any anthology series there’s always a fable or lesson to be learned and this episode is a perfect example of this. It’s an important tale especially for those at the age where you begin to question yourself.
As a lover of all things creature design I absolutely loved the moment when we see the effects the potion has.
Note: This list of episodes are the ones I specifically enjoyed. Everyone has their own opinions and their own favorite episodes/moments. Would love to know yours.
Be sure to check out the premiere of the ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ miniseries on Nickelodeon October 11.
By Kalani Landgraf