Editor’s Note: Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? returns tonight with the second installment of its revival: Curse of the Shadows. The six-part season will premiere on Friday February 12th with a new episode to follow each week. To get your goosebumps ready for the new season, we’re revisiting our definitive ranking of every original episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, which was originally posted in 2015.
“Separately, we’re very different. We like different things, we go to different schools, and we have different friends. But one thing draws us together: the dark. Each week, we gather around this fire to share our fears and our strange and scary tales. It’s what got us together, and it’s what keeps bringing us back.” –Gary, Midnight Society President
The premise of Are You Afraid of the Dark? is ridiculous: a handful of pre-teen/teenage strangers traveling from all across a city to tell scary stories out in the woods in the middle of the night. (How’d they meet? What kind of parents allow their kids out like that? How’d they never burn the forest down?) But the infeasibility of The Midnight Society didn’t stop the show from becoming a weekly staple for a generation of tweens. We were old enough to stay up but not old enough to stay out, so we spent nearly every Saturday night huddled around our television sets with friends or siblings, pretending not to be terrified by that week’s tale.
Some of us took it a step further. I recall multiple Midnight Societies popping up around our school in Fight Club fashion soon after the show premiered. Mine met at 8 p.m., lasted one meeting, and consisted of my two friends and I throwing anything granular — dirt, sand, sugar — we could find into my parents’ fireplace, trying to get that eerie Midnight Dust poofing effect. We never figured it out before our Society disbanded about 15 minutes later without a single tale ever being told.
Looking back, it’s easy to dismiss the show as a purely nostalgic wedge of ’90s cheese, and, admittedly, many of the tales haven’t aged particularly well. But there’s also a lot to admire in the care that went into trying to frighten us. We saw the protagonists encountering the creepy and supernatural in the same suburban settings we hailed from. They were remarkably vulnerable and insecure kids, too, ones with problems we could relate to; they were new kids, outcasts, rival siblings, and children experiencing rough patches like deaths in the family or parents filing for divorce.
While re-watching these episodes again, what struck me most is how isolated nearly every tale’s children are from caring and capable adults. The kids are almost always on their own throughout these ordeals — parents and adults either absent, feckless, or the ones instigating the evil in the first place. To a generation of kids who were always taught to run to adults for help, Are You Afraid of the Dark’s message was to trust and rely on nobody, especially those who are supposed to be looking out for you.
Submitted for the approval of our readers, here are the 65 episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark’s initial run ranked and dissected (including drinking cues guaranteed to help you survive the tales that don’t quite hold up). Also, feel free to huddle around the campfire in our comments section and tell us your favorite tale, preferred Midnight Society storyteller, and what creepy or spine-chilling moments from the show have followed you into adulthood.
65. “The Tale of Badge”
Series #: 65
We all have talents. Some of us can draw. Others can flip their eyelids inside out. Gwen, as she learns, can play a flute that keeps an ancient hangman Goblin named Badge (speaks like Yoda, he does, for some reason) imprisoned in a crystal for centuries at a time. It’s all part of the magic that gets passed down from grandmother to granddaughter in Gwen’s partial witch family. Mind you, within five minutes of Gwen gaining this remarkable power, Badge escapes, so, yeah, that’s not boding too well. And with that, the original series goes out with a head scratch, shrug, and yawn instead of a resounding scream. Thanks, Gary!
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Badge uses Gwen’s grandmother’s voice to gain entrance into the house.
Nagging Question: How come villains can always do spot-on impressions of our loved ones?
Drinking Cue: Whenever someone says “setterwind,” set up shots. I have no idea what it means either, but you’ll wake up in the morning with a lampshade on your head — or maybe Badge’s stupid beret.
State of the Midnight Society: Little brother Tucker does a mean (both accurate and cruel) Gary impression, a bit of foreshadowing because Tucker will be the next president of the Midnight Society when meetings resume three years later in the revamped series. He’s got a lot of growing up to do in the meantime.
64. “The Tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice”
Series #: 09
Villain/Monster: Goth and Dr. Oliver
Storyteller: Betty Ann
Plans set in motion long ago place socially invisible teen Dean under the control of an evil ancient magician named Goth, who manipulates him and other students (the Goth kids, I guess) into resurrecting him. Luckily, Dean’s see-through-the-b.s. best friend, Alex, is onto the plot, which is fortunate because apparently everything you need in order to awaken Goth from ancient slumber can be found in a high school chem lab (goggles please!). The all-is-not-actually-well ending offers more chills than anything else, as we learn that Goth is coming soon to a school near you. Um, too late, buddy.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Dean starts pronouncing Alex’s name “Uh-lux.” Apparently, that’s the difference between Good Dean and Evil Dean. That and a black shirt.
Nagging Question: Just how many all-powerful ancient sorcerers, wizards, magicians, etc. waiting to be released on an unsuspecting modern world can there actually be? And what happens when they all arrive at the same time? Royal Rumble?
Drinking Cue: Whenever Dean says “Alex” or “Uh-lux,” mispronounce your best friend’s name and chug-a-lug.
State of the Midnight Society: Frank and Kiki rig a fake skeleton to pop out of a fresh grave and scare the others. Those two hooligans deserve each other.
63. “The Tale of the Hungry Hounds”
Series #: 05
Villain/Monster: Deceased Aunt Dora’s spirit
Aunt Dora’s childhood horse-riding accident has haunted Pam and Amy’s family for years. When Aunt Dora uses her old riding jacket to possess Pam’s body and right previous wrongs (like “not feeding the hounds”), this murky, half-baked tale turns into a 24-minute Kibble commercial. Apparently, everything turns out alright in the end, I think? This one lost me at “submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society…”
Drinking Cue: Whenever you don’t understand what’s going on and realize that you no longer care.
Status of the Midnight Society: Kristen brings her hound dog, Elvis (groans), for sound effects, which leads to bad Elvis jokes (“He ain’t nothing but a hound dog.”) and awkward exchanges like this one:
Frank: “Sounded like a hound dog.”
Eric: “Maybe it was Kristen.”
Frank: “She’s no dog.”
Go take a cold shower already, Frank.
62. “The Tale of the Renegade Virus”
Series #: 42
Villain/Monster: The virus
Simon is winning the prank war against his friend Evan, so when their science teacher makes a breakthrough in virtual reality technology (because high school teachers are always making these types of world-changing advancements while you’re at PE), Evan plants a virus in the program to teach Simon a lesson. However, Evan doesn’t count on the rogue pint-size virus recoding itself in order to take over Simon’s brain and make the leap from virtual reality to actual reality. If you can get beyond the cringe-worthy, awkward attempt to inject computer technology into an episode and decode this mess of a tale without calling IT, then you’re far more computer savvy than me.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Simon finds a computer input/output port embedded in his palm. Oddly enough, we’ll probably be paying for this upgrade in a few more years. Chin up, cheer up, Simon.
Drinking Cue: Every time you cringe at a painful attempt to explain ’90s computer technology to kids.
State of the Midnight Society: Gary’s computer gets a virus, a misfortune he’s apparently able to spin into a story on the way to the meeting. He declines, however, to share his browsing history with the rest of the Midnight Society. I’m sure the Geek Squad got a chuckle, though.
61. “The Tale of Watcher’s Woods”
Series #: 29
Villain/Monster: Old hags and the watcher
Storyteller: Sam (initiation story)
Odd-couple campers Sarah and Kelly are sent off on an assignment into Watcher’s Woods, where a forest demon is said to “blip” children who get lost within. When Kelly tries to ditch Sarah in the woods, the two end up meeting the three girls — now insane, ghastly, old ghouls — who once disappeared in the forest and now remain there in some sort of woodland purgatory. Sam delayed telling this story for two weeks in order to perfect it, but I don’t think a month’s worth of midnights could’ve saved this one. Woods are creepy on their own, Sam. This tale got convoluted hella-quick and shook the fright right out of the forest.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When the wind whistles and the woods start shifting shape around Kelly.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you feel the urge to dangle a rodent in Kelly’s face.
State of the Midnight Society: Betty Ann introduces Sam (a girl!), and within five seconds, Tucker calls her a “babe,” and Frank tells her, “You’re the hottest thing around this campfire.” Gary, I think it’s time to show that Midnight Society sexual harassment training tape again. Oh wait, Gary’s too busy drooling (“I think you’re perfect, um, for the Midnight Society”). Welcome to the Lonely Hearts Club, Sam.
60. “The Tale of the Final Wish”
Series #: 14
Villain/Monster: The Sandman
Okay, looks like Kristen wore out her VHS copy of Labyrinth. Only instead of a giant maze and David Bowie sporting a suspicious bulge, her protagonist Jill’s wish sends us to the Land of Nod with Bobcat Goldthwait. (The premise has somehow lost its magic, hasn’t it?) If Jill can’t fashion a fairy-tale ending for herself, then her family and friends will sleep forever — too late for the audience. The scariest moment in this tale is the fear that Bobcat may at some point break out into the “Magic Dance”.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: Jill pulls back the skirt of her bed to reveal Bobcat Goldthwait there in purple pajamas. Only if Mahoney, Jones, and Captain Harris were also there could this be any more disturbing.
Drinking Cue: Whenever Bobcat’s voice turns grating. Plan on a designated driver.
State of the Midnight Society: Frank learns reading can be fun-damental. Ya know, with heads getting hacked off and stuff in fairy tales. Fret not, Pizza Hut. Your Book It! personal pan pizzas are safe.
59. “The Tale of the Unexpected Visitor”
Series #: 61
During a break from rehearsal, bandmates Jeff and Perch (the name suits him) accidentally contact a music-loving extraterrestrial using Jeff’s dad’s deep-space messaging equipment (why couldn’t they just peek through his old man’s stack of Hustlers like normal kids?). Unfortunately, their song gets misinterpreted, and the alien comes for a visit so boring that Mulder and Scully wouldn’t even bother investigating it. The Midnight Society mostly eschewed alien stories, and this episode reminds us why that’s a wise move.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Jeff’s dog, Montana, goes out into the woods alone at night. Please, take Perch instead. Just leave the pooch alone!
Nagging Question: Why are there practically no pets in this series? Montana feels like the first.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you see the glowing, yellow spiderwebs, snag yourself a brew.
State of the Midnight Society: Kiki’s exhausted thanks to her visiting Aunt Stephanie keeping her up every night with buzz-saw snoring. Her plight inspires a story, which ironically puts everyone right to sleep.
58. “The Tale of the Carved Stone”
Series #: 33
Villain/Monster: Brother Septimus
New girl Alison (yawn) buys an amulet from Mr. Sardo (“It’s sar-DO. No Mister. Accent on the DO!”) that’s supposed to make her popular but instead sends her back in time where she meets Tom (shrug), another kid who could really use a friend. That’d all be fine if an ancient evil monk named Brother Septimus (typical) wasn’t after the amulet for his own wicked ambitions. This is yet another tale where the excellent running gag of that shyster Sardo actually selling someone something that turns out to be magical — besides his fake vomit, of course — suffers from Gary’s inability to deliver a decent scare.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: Okay, when Septimus reveals that Krueger-esque pinky nail, I found a whole new level of respect for him as a baddie — for a moment.
Nagging Question: Isn’t Alison played by the same actress as Gwen in “The Tale of Badge”? Wow, this girl starred in two god-awful episodes.
Drinking Cue: Every time Sardo offers a fun diversion from an otherwise snooze fest, drink and pretend to upchuck some fake vomit.
State of the Midnight Society: Gary does some cape theatrics and nearly burns the forest down. Capes and campfires don’t mix, bro.
57. “The Tale of the Closet Keepers”
Series #: 51
Villain/Monster: The zookeepers
Billy underestimates his deaf classmate, Stacy, due to her hearing impairment. However, her handicap becomes the very thing that saves them both when aliens capture them and several other Earth children for their zoo. While not an original concept, the human zoo does intrigue, and seeing a heroic protagonist with a disability was a bold move for the series. Also, strange to find out the girl playing the part — which included speaking as though deaf — wasn’t actually hearing impaired. Seems like one of those PC things that would cause an uproar today.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: Seeing the zoo exhibit, which simulated a child’s bedroom, felt eerily similar to the fabricated environments we see in real zoos.
Nagging Question: Why did Kiki name this story “The Tale of the Closet Keepers”? I don’t think there’s a closet in the whole damn episode.
Drinking Cue: Whenever a zookeeper fires a “noise taser,” bottoms up and then mock cover your ringing ears.
State of the Midnight Society: Gary lets Kiki tell stories in back-to-back weeks, and the Society speculates that she swayed Gary by threatening bodily harm. When the tomboyish girl shows up in a dress a couple seconds later, she sure doesn’t look like the type of girl who would beat up a boy just to be that night’s storyteller — or is that what she wants us to think? Welcome to Midnight Society Mind Games 101.
56. “The Tale of the Jagged Sign”
Series #: 54
While her parents are away on business, Claudia goes to stay with her Aunt Yvonne, who runs a retirement home. When Kate, the only person in the neighborhood Claudia’s age, takes her out hiking, they encounter a local ghost on a cliff beside the famous jagged sign. Why does the ghost continue to lure Claudia to that dangerous cliff, and what light can Aunt Yvonne’s ailing resident Marjorie shed on the matter? The Midnight Society love a spooky ghost story, but anybody telling Kiki “good story” after this yawner is just being polite.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When the jagged sign is being drawn in the mud at the girls’ feet by an invisible entity.
Profound Observation: For every ghost, there’s a broken heart.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you see the jagged sign.
State of the Midnight Society: In protest, Stig refuses to take the bag (blindfold) off his head until he’s officially admitted to the Midnight Society. Hope he could hear Kiki’s story with that thing on. Actually, probably better if he couldn’t.
55. “The Tale of the Curious Camera”
Series #: 35
Villain/Monster: Camera Gremlin
Storyteller: Betty Ann
Matt (hey, kids, it’s Paul “Shitbreak” Finch!) is the kind of kid who feels invisible, a feeling that gets further exposed whenever his school picture shows an empty stool where he should be sitting. When the photographer makes amends by offering Matt an antique camera, he neglects to tell him that a gremlin lives inside and something terrible will happen to anyone Matt photographs. In other words, be careful where you point that thing, Shitbreak! This story was a lot creepier when David told it as “The Tale of the Twisted Claw” in the pilot. Beat for beat, it’s the same damn story. Stealing stories from Society members who move away is a bitch move, Betty Ann. Just sayin’.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Matt zooms in and discovers the gremlin’s watermark on each photo. Who knew evil creatures cared about intellectual property?
Drinking Cue: Whenever that wicked camera flashes.
State of the Midnight Society: Betty Ann has all the Society members bring in pictures of themselves as little children. Cute kids. What the hell happened?
54. “The Tale of Prisoners Past”
Series #: 58
Stepbrothers Jason (hey, kids, it’s Mark from Step by Step), a nerd, and Scott, a jock, couldn’t be more different. But when they accidentally release the ghost of famed convict One-Eyed Jack while on a school field trip to the local prison (if I had a nickel), they are forced to work together to fix the situation. Sure, it’s creepy when a ghost follows them home, but by this point, the old ghost-in-need story had started losing its chill factor. This would’ve been so much scarier had Jack actually been an unscrupulous specter out for blood. Just plain bad dudes exist, Tucker.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When One-Eyed Jack reaches through the door and tries to grab the boys.
Nagging Question: If he also had only one arm, would he have been One-Armed Jack or One-Eyed Jack? Or would he have been One-Armed, One-Eyed Jack? Who’s in charge of prison nicknames anyway? Just one more reason not to knock over a 7-Eleven, kids — especially if you’re missing a body part.
Drinking Cue: Whenever One-Eyed Jack appears, close one eye and down the hatch.
State of the Midnight Society: Gary admonishes Tucker for not helping him paint the den, but as it turns out, little brother skipped painting in order to score concert tickets for Gary’s birthday and set him up on a date with Sam. Gary’s gratitude for the little wingman will remain long after that coat of paint fades.
53. “The Tale of Jake and the Leprechaun”
Series #: 10
Villain/Monster: Erin (aka Gort)
Darby O’Gill and the Little People this is not. When Banshee Gort uses a play to gradually turn young actor Jake into a changeling and feed on his soul, local leprechaun (I’m scared too, Garth!) Sean comes to his aid on the play’s opening night. Here are a few interesting things that happen: Sean has Jake drink spiders; Gort turns Jake into a frog; Sean swaps Gort Gort’s own severed tail (which Sean holds onto for occasions such as this) for Jake the frog; and the audience applauds because it’s the best thing they’ve seen since Mamma Mia! All the thick accents, Irish stereotypes, and Guinness in the world can’t explain what goes down in this tale.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: Ever been too confused to be afraid? Though, when Gort removes his prosthetics and robe to reveal pointy ears and a meadow of lush back hair, it was a wee bit o’freaky.
Nagging Question: Maybe I’m wrong, but didn’t this all somehow make sense as a kid?
Drinking Cue: Whenever Jake drinks, sip and recite, “Now turn me into spirit bright and leave beyond the human plight.” Just make sure Gort hasn’t spiked your beverage!
State of the Midnight Society: Eric’s grandfather passes away, and in a touching display of Society solidarity, Frank allows Eric to take his turn as storyteller in exchange for a MTBNL (Midnight to Be Named Later). Frank’s an alright punk.
52. “The Tale of the Manaha”
Series #: 60
Villain/Monster: The Shaman
Bookish but plucky Jonah takes a lot of razzing from his fellow campers and his PG-rated Full Metal Jacket drill sergeant-wannabe counselor, Lonnie, leading up to the group’s first-ever overnight. But when he accidentally sets free an evil Indian shaman who controls the Sasquatch-like Manaha (Mahna Mahna?), Jonah is the only one with the courage and know-how to restore order to the woodlands. Not a scary tale so much as an homage to summer camp and doomed hiker flicks, Tucker scores some style points as we get to enjoy watching those who belittle our hero get picked off one by one.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When the campers flee the ranger’s cabin and go running into the dark forest — knowing they’re being hunted.
Nagging Question: Do my eyes and ears deceive me or did the token fat camper just body-shame the thin kid while never putting down his submarine sandwich?
Drinking Cue: Whenever someone says “Manaha.” It’ll put hair on your chest.
State of the Midnight Society: Tucker scares the gang by wearing a Bigfoot costume. Stig resists the temptation to tell Kiki a joke about what they say about guys with big feet. Thank heaven for that.
51. “The Tale of the Hatching”
Series #: 25
Villain/Monster: Mr. and Mrs. Taylor and the lizard master
Nerdy Augie and fiery Jasmine are enrolled at a reputable boarding school by their parents, but the brother and sister soon discover that there’s something strange and, um, coldblooded about this particular institution. While the evil scheme they uncover (why’d they have to be lizard people?) may disappoint, playing off the inherent childhood dislike/distrust of school makes for some really creepy moments. For instance, that march to the basement — very, very “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)“.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: The Taylors, still looking dapper and refined in their headmaster bests, stalking the kids through the school’s dark halls — ready to greet them with a warm smile, a maniacal laugh, and maybe an algebra exam.
Nagging Question: Within the first five minutes of arriving at Black Book boarding school, Augie and Jasmine’s parents find a young girl screaming and watch the headmaster have a nervous breakdown … and then merrily leave their kids at this place? Hope we can get a refund on those #1 Mom and Dad mugs we ordered.
Drinking Cue: Whenever the school’s tonal bell system rings or someone says “spunge.”
State of the Midnight Society: David deals with the harsh existence of being a new kid at school. The gang — apart from Kristen — offer little support until they learn that he has turned the experience into that night’s story. Because if it’s not a scary tale, these guys and gals just don’t wanna hear it.
50. “The Tale of the Dark Music”
Series #: 11
Villain/Monster: The Dark
When Andy and his family inherit old Uncle Niles’ home in the burbs, they have no idea that the house comes fully furnished with a music-loving creature in the basement who has a taste for, well, Andy. While not a particularly scary episode, things do get creepy when Andy’s revenge plan goes awry and he accidentally feeds his metal head bully neighbor (“Slayer!”) to the creature and gets rewarded with a shiny, brand-new bike for his culinary efforts. And with that, a pact commences. Bodies for consumer goods. I imagine within a week, Andy’s room looked like a Best Buy.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: The devious look on Andy’s face when he realizes he can pencil in his bratty sister next on the menu. Even after Eric promises the gang that he doesn’t, I’m not so sure. Girl had it coming.
Drinking Cue: Whenever someone utters the phrase “afraid of the dark.”
State of the Midnight Society: Turns out that Frank is scared of the dark, which makes the Midnight Society a rather strange choice for an extracurricular.
49. “The Tale of Locker 22”
Series #: 16
Being the new girl at school isn’t easy. But being the new girl at school who is also haunted by the ghost of a girl who once had the same locker and died in a tragic chem lab explosion back in the ’60s is just piling on. Still, it allows Julie and her lone friend, Chris, the opportunity to go back in time, partake in some good vibes, and prevent the accident from happening. Think Back to the Future with a hippy necklace instead of a DeLorean.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Julie gets recognized in the past as the girl who died in the chem lab accident. Is the ghost sending Julie back to rectify the past or to take her place in the explosion?
Nagging Question: Why is Julie a foreign exchange student from France? Entirely arbitrary.
Drinking Cue: Each time the ghost appears or Julie time travels.
State of the Midnight Society: Kristen, late as usual, arrives in full hippy regalia and baring more midriff than the Society have ever seen before or since. Hard to believe her parents let her leave the house dressed that way … to go off into the woods … in the middle of the night … with strangers and no way to be contacted. Actually, it’s a miracle she’s survived as long as she has being raised by those chuckleheads — a little skin won’t hurt.
48. “The Tale of the Fire Ghost”
Series #: 49
Villain/Monster: The fire ghost
Since Jimmy and Roxy’s parents split, the two have gotten to spend very little time with their firefighter father. When Pops gets called away during his surprise birthday party, Jimmy and Roxy end up spending the night at the fire station. It’s an experience that teaches them that being a firefighter isn’t all sliding down poles and rescuing kittens stuck in trees. With a little help from a mysterious firefighter named Jake, they might even make it through the night uncharred. While Tucker’s idea that one person’s firefighter is a fire ghost’s fire murderer may be a little too out there for some of us, Jake, a firefighter who serves above and beyond from beyond, remains one of the most noble characters of the series.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Jimmy and Roxy turn and see the security guard morph into the fire ghost.
Nagging Question: Is it even legal to leave two underage children alone in a firehouse?
Drinking Cue: Whenever a flame gets lit or goes out. That’ll keep you warm on a cold winter night.
State of the Midnight Society: For the second time in the series, Tucker nearly faceplants in the campfire. And tensions flare as Sam tries to explain how Kiki’s favorite sweater, which she lent Sam, got stolen from her locker. Don’t worry, though. The two quash their beef by story’s end. I love it when that happens.
47. “The Tale of the Thirteenth Floor”
Series #: 17
Villain/Monster: Leonid, Olga, and Raymond
Storyteller: Betty Ann
There’s something strange about the toy factory that has set up shop on the 13th floor of Billy and his adopted sister Karen’s apartment building — something alien. Karen soon finds herself in a race against Earth time to prevent being taken away to another planet. But maybe that wouldn’t be so terrible — maybe she’d feel more at home there. Not one of Betty Ann’s better tales, but that striking visual at the end has made me suspicious of my sister to this very day.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: Raymond’s incredibly slow robot stalking of Karen.
Nagging Question: Why does an apartment building need a full-time elevator operator? And what did the aliens do with Gus? Clunk him on the head and stash him in a broom closet?
Drinking Cue: Whenever an alien enters the room, say, “Nanu nanu” and drink.
State of the Midnight Society: Betty Ann teams with Kristen and David to create some ambience with flashlights. Then the whole Society practices those intrigued glances they always flash each other right after the storyteller unveils a scary premise. What, you think that comes naturally? Practice, practice, practice!
46. “The Tale of the Guardian’s Curse”
Series #: 34
Villain/Monster: Dr. Capel-Smith
Siblings Josh (hey, kids, it’s Bobby Budnick!) and Cleo long for the attention of their archaeologist father, but they can’t tear him away from his work, especially now that the mummy of legendary Eygptian Queen Mina (Cleopatra must’ve been busy) has been discovered boarded up inside a wall in his museum. However, when Josh and Cleo accidentally discover the Ring of Eternity and the Elixer of Life in Mina’s sarcophagus (kids apparently make really good archaeologists!), they get a different type of attention. Just who’s after them? Is it an angry ancient Eygptian Queen or that deceitful Dr. Capel-Smith (dudes hyphenated in the ’90s?), the director of the museum? Josh may lose some sleep over this experience, but it’s still nothing compared to those Zeke the Plumber nightmares!
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Mina’s mummified hand reached through the crack of a closet door, I remember wanting my own mommy.
Drinking Cue: Anytime you fear that Josh is about to get an Awful Waffle.
State of the Midnight Society: Tucker borrows Gary’s Onk (an ancient Egyptian symbol — kinda like Prince’s logo) without permission. Luckily, Sam plays mother and smooths things over. Just be thankful, Gary, that Tucker didn’t stumble upon those National Geographics hidden in your sock drawer. What would Sam think about those?
45. “The Tale of the Chameleons”
Series #: 57
Villain/Monster: The chameleon
Storyteller: Betty Ann
Turns out there’s some truth to the old saying “bite you once, bite you twice, a little water, pay the price.” Wait, who the hell says that? But as Janice (hey, kids, it’s Tia Mowery!) discovers, that odd little rhyme is precisely how a local pet shop chameleon (hey, kids, it’s Tamera Mowery!) plans to take over her life on the way to its species taking over the world (and exhale). Only Janice’s best friend, Sharon, knows something’s afoul, but how will she know who to trust? After all, chameleons and Mowerys look so very much alike. It’s not Betty Ann’s best tale, but the classic seeing-double showdown and not-so-happily-ever-after ending save this episode from totally biting.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When the chameleon scampers into the bathroom and Janice opens the door to see her double looking back at her. To us, this is creepy. Meanwhile, the Mowery sisters have probably had this happen to them thousands of times.
Nagging Question: How does the brat in the pet store know so much about chameleons, and why does he set Janice up to be bitten? Was he also a chameleon who had already swapped bodies with a person? Me thinks so.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you hear “Bite you once, bite you twice, a little water, pay the price,” substitute your drink of choice for water.
State of the Midnight Society: Betty Ann brings in a prop — her pet snake, Spike — to hammer home the fact that not all animals are 100% understood and many play by their own rules. Kinda like Stig.
44. “The Tale of a Door Unlocked”
Series #: 63
Villain/Monster: The toy door
Justin “has this thing with girls” (Sardo: “Don’t we all?”) but hopes the magic doorway to the future (beats a Magic 8-Ball) he buys from Mr. Sardo (“It’s sar-DO. No Mister. Accent on the DO!”) will help him navigate the choppy waters of love. But when the beautiful new girl at school looks exactly like the girl from the disturbing accident Justin sees through the door, acting normal around her becomes even more difficult. Can Justin heroically save her from a fiery fate, or will he just continue to be a bumbling loser with the ladies? Gary brings back our favorite huckster, Sardo, one last time in the original series and taps into that awkward phase of not knowing how to talk to girls — you know, the one that starts around age 10 and lasts until about 73.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Justin peeps through the magic door and finds Ashley screaming.
Nagging Question: Just how many one-of-a-kind magic doors (“Okay, they’re two of a kind, so sue me.”) does Sardo have? I’d take the “over” at two dozen.
Drinking Cue: Whenever a magic door opens, crack open a brew.
State of the Midnight Society: Gary brings in a crystal ball and tells fortunes. I wonder if they really came true for the actors. Is Tucker actually cleaning elephant cages at the zoo these days? Time for a Where Are They Now? episode on the Midnight Society.
43. “The Tale of the Vacant Lot”
Series #: 62
Average Catherine stumbles upon a magical boutique where the owner, Marie, gives her anything she wants free of charge. But as Catherine begins to see her social stock soar at school (both on the track field and with her crush, Eric), she’s noticing changes that make her suspect that Marie’s prices are higher than advertised. Kiki weaves zits, shopping, and the desire to be noticed into a coming-of-age tale about what we should really value about ourselves. Not bad, girl.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Catherine sees that first blotch on her cheek. Pizza faces everywhere felt her terror.
Drinking Cue: Each time Marie appears, have a round of drinks. Just remember that nothing’s ever “on the house.”
State of the Midnight Society: Kiki asks each of the Midnight Society members to bring in his or her most prized possession. By the way, that’s not a Hank Aaron rookie card, Tucker. Somebody saw you coming a mile away, sucker.
42. “The Tale of the Dark Dragon”
Series #: 19
Villain/Monster: The dark dragon potion
After a car crash affected both his ability to walk normally and his outlook on life, Keith buys a magic potion from Mr. Sourdough (“It’s sar-DO. No Mister. Accent on the DO!”) in order to become popular (which apparently means turning into a Canadian Fonzie). But as his social stock soars, Keith begins noticing the potion’s hairier side effects. Luckily, fabulous fraud Sardo (“But I’m losing on the deal!”) lends his comic relief to what is otherwise a Steve/Stefan episode of Family Matters with a painfully saccharine, lesson-learned ending to match. Flash lights up for trying to tackle some dark material, though.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Keith’s savior, Mariah, pulls her face from his chest and reveals that she’s changing as well. Guy transforms, cool. Pretty girl transforms, tragic and horrifying. Not sure why. I don’t make these rules.
Drinking Cue: Whenever a drop of the potion gets dispensed. (Warning: Do not mix alchohol with any potions purchased from a magic shop.)
State of the Midnight Society: It’s Gary’s birthday, and David surprises him by telling a special birthday story featuring Gary’s recurring magic shop owner, Sardo. Gary seems appreciative but slightly pissed off that David pilfered one of his creations. Hey, it’s Gary’s party and he can cry if he wants to.
41. “The Tale of the Whispering Walls”
Series #: 21
Villain/Monster: Master Raymond
Storyteller: Betty Ann
Siblings Claire and Andrew are being driven home from an amusement park by their favorite babysitter, Louise, but the three take an unexpected detour that leads them to the house of Master Raymond (who looks like Barnabas Collins and gets around like sneaky, sneaky butler Emilio from Mr. Deeds). Are the voices whispering from the walls out to get them, or are they the only allies who can save our lost travelers from Raymond’s “soul”-ful scheme? While the plot leaves something to be desired, details like the picture-frame specters and the ghost saloon make this haunted house story unique and spooky. Also, Betty Ann goes very meta by including both a reference to Zeebo the Clown and the Are You Afraid of the Dark? opening theme song playing from the saloon jukebox.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Claire and Andrew find Louise upstairs in the haunted house rocking a “baby” in a chair and coaxing them to join her. No babysitter is ever that angelic! Run, kids!
Nagging Question: How do the siblings not realize that Raymond was both the man peering through the hole burned through the floor by the banana split and the one back at the inn who gave them directions to the haunted house? How many people do they know who look like this freak? Where do these kids hang out?
Drinking Cue: Whenever you see a ghost in a mirror.
State of the Midnight Society: “Full moon on leap year. The night spirits can take innocent victims away,” teases David. I’ve been biting my tongue for most of the second season, but when exactly did timid David’s balls drop and turn him into Frank Part II? We like our David how we like our Jesus: gentle, meek, and mild. Also, Betty Ann borrows a cue from Kristen and spins a tale in costume. Nice touch.
40. “The Tale of the Mystical Mirror”
Series #: 56
Villain/Monster: Ms. Valenti
Storyteller: Betty Ann
Plain-Jane Cindy networks a job at Ms. Valenti’s Elysian Beauty Store through her friend Laurel. However, Cindy soon notices that employees are mysteriously disappearing, the local canine population has increased, and Ms. Valenti just keeps growing prettier and prettier. That can’t all be a coincidence, can it? As Cindy comes to learn, the price of beauty can sometimes be far too steep. Betty Ann’s tale doesn’t make any more sense than, say, “Jake and the Leprechaun,” but it registers as the right kind of cray-cray: dark, sinister, and twisted while no doubt making girls think twice about pancaking on the Clinique.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: The opening chase scene through the woods — the moon, the screaming, the howling.
Drinking Cue: Whenever Ms. Valenti refers to her employees as her “beauties.”
State of the Midnight Society: Betty Ann hates the fact that she’s asked to wear makeup for her family’s upcoming portrait. The gang, however, love how she turns her dilemma into a scary tale about superficiality.
39. “The Tale of the Dream Machine”
Series #: 18
Villain/Monster: The typewriter
When hopeful horror author Sean finds the typewriter of a mystery writer who was murdered long ago, he soon learns that the stories he types on the machine come true. That might be harmless enough if all his scary stories weren’t about his best friend, Billy, and total crush, Jennifer. There aren’t many scares here, but a clever concept, recognition of the written word’s power, and Kiki’s creepy post-tale prank go a long way.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: The shot of Sean’s doughnut-obsessed English teacher reading his story while sitting on the toilet giggling and tapping her toes with her donuts sitting on the bathroom stall floor. I sure hope the janitor mopped in there. So gross.
Nagging Question: Where did that smooth, turn-down-the-lights jazz music come from during Sean’s awkward early encounter with Jennifer? Also, was that The Clapper? <Clap, Clap> Guess it was.
Drinking Cue: Whenever someone says “Dream Machine” or the English teacher eats a doughnut.
State of the Midnight Society: In an unprecedented move, Kiki, suffering from laryngitis, asks Gary to read her story aloud to the group. Gary does so under protest and promises to file a formal written complaint over the break in protocol. He then grows up to work for the local DMV, where he tells spooky stories to smokers in the break room.
38. “The Tale of the Long Ago Locket”
Series #: 45
Villain/Monster: The British
Jimmy (hey, kids, it’s Eric Matthews!) finds his friend April a lot more enthralling than his history homework but doesn’t know how to tell her how he feels. However, history finally comes to life for Jimmy when he finds himself intermittently traveling back to 1780 and aiding a soldier and kindred spirit who, legend has it, was caught and hung by redcoats while trying to deliver a profession of love. Can learning from history’s mistakes help Jimmy find the words to talk to April? This hardly even qualifies as a ghost story, but history buffs and romantics alike will appreciate Sam’s revolutionary tale.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When the hand reaches out of the shrub and grabs Jimmy.
Nagging Question: Why do these high school kids spend so much time hanging out in the woods? Is the mall being fumigated or something?
Drinking Cue: Don’t drink until you see the whites of their eyes! In other words, when you spot the redcoats, bottoms up.
State of the Midnight Society: Frank continues to actively pursue Sam, and soft-spoken Gary keeps right on pining away. No, wait! In an act of un-Gary-like assertiveness, he foils Frank’s plan by taking both Sam and Betty Ann to a rock concert. Gary’s officially back in the running! I wonder if there’s a rule that prohibits dating within the Society. Sam’s great, but it’s like Gary always says: tales before gals.
37. “The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner”
Series #: 48
Villain/Monster: The Ghastly Grinner
Storyteller: Betty Ann
Aspiring comic book artist Ethan doubts his talents and gets no support from his parents or teachers. However, when he accidentally microwaves to life a Joker-like villain called The Ghastly Grinner, the fate of the entire world rests in Ethan’s skills as an artist to bring the cruel clown to justice. Will he and nerdy, humorless (this comes in handy!) Hooper and her “For Big Mistakes” eraser be able to eradicate the Grinner, or will we all end up giggling idiots with blue slime gushing from our mouths? Using the same campy style perfected in “The Tale of the Full Moon”, Betty Ann puts us smack dab in the middle of a comic book.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Ethan’s mother starts giggling and the blue Grinner goo drips from her mouth.
Nagging Question: How did DC Comics not sue Are You Afraid of the Dark? back to the dark ages? Or at least the ’80s?
Drinking Cue: Every time the comic book shop owner inexplicably calls Ethan “Cakes,” have your cake and drink it, too!
State of the Midnight Society: When Frank and Gary can’t light the damp campfire wood, wilderness expert Kiki rubs a couple of twigs together and a towering inferno that can be seen three provinces away erupts almost instantly. Game on, Betty Ann.
36. “The Tale of the Phone Police”
Series #: 30
Villain/Monster: The Phone Police
To prevent crank yankers Jake and Chris from making prank calls, Jake’s sister, Annie, tells them a story about a kid named Billy Baxter who got taken away by the Phone Police for the same offense. But what if there really was a phone police, and what if when they disconnect you, they actually wipe you from existence? More a conspiracy story than a spooky tale, this episode made kids think twice about abusing their bedroom phones — and made adults remember to pay the phone bill on time.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Chris goes to Annie for help, but she has no recollection of him or Jake. Oh, and the Billy Baxter legend — it’s now known as the story of Jake O’Brian. No way!
Drinking Cue: Whenever a telephone rings. Your head will be ringing in the morning.
State of the Midnight Society: Frank may hate Tucker, but even he has to admit that the little guy has re-stoked the weekly campfire meetings. In an unprecedented move, Tucker tells his tale remotely, via Gary’s Zack Morris phone. And the scare at the end … Nice touch, preppy.
35. “The Tale of the Room for Rent”
Series #: 47
Villain/Monster: Jacob, the pilot ghost
Jessie lives with her Grandpa Samuel, who decides to rent out a room to bring in some extra cash. But when Jessie finds out the new tenant is actually a ghost with a score to settle with her grandfather, she finds herself, along with her friend Alex and local psychic Mrs. Simpson, battling the supernatural to save her grandpa’s life. While Sam’s story nearly overdoses on convenient coincidences — not to mention we almost see the series’ first love triangle involving a ghost — there’s always room around the campfire for an old-fashioned, vengeful ghost story with some body-snatching to boot.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Jacob sticks his head through a closed door and warns Jessie not to interfere.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you suspect that Sam’s story is inspired directly by the ongoing Frank vs. Gary saga to win her heart.
State of the Midnight Society: Sam delays the night’s tale while she finishes writing a message in her grandmother’s birthday card. Gary is none to thrilled by her lollygagging, but he bites his tongue when he learns that Sam also volunteers at both the library and the hospital. If she could just start her stories on time, she’d be the perfect girl for him. Can Gary look past this potentially deal-breaking flaw?
34. “The Tale of the Magician’s Assistant”
Series #: 24
After his dad dies, Todd finds a father figure in Shandu, a once great magician who has been reduced to performing birthday party magic in the park from something like a food truck. When Todd borrows Shandu’s magic wand without permission, he accidentally releases an ancient evil magician named Nazrak who aims to return the world to the dark ages (if I had a nickel). Clearly, Gary’s dad had recently showed him Star Wars: Nazrak has wrinkled white skin, wears a black Sith robe, talks in a gruff voice, and shoots electric bolts from his wand. Shandu, Todd’s Obi Wan, appears to him (in a toaster, but still) when needed most: “Todd, Todd. Remember the rules of magic, Todd.” And to put his own personal spin on the holy trilogy, Gary doesn’t end his story in an epic battle of light sabers or wands but rather with Nazrak and Todd quizzing each other on the magician’s rule book.
Cripes, Gary is so the type of kid who reads the directions before playing a video game.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: The close-up when Nazrak reveals it’s him beneath a Shandu disguise.
Nagging Question: Did Shandu really just pick that name so he could rhyme it with “can do” all the time?
Drinking Cue: Whenever someone says “Shandu,” show them what you “can do” given a beer.
State of the Midnight Society: Gary takes attendance and compliments the gang on their improved punctuality. They’d be wandering through the woods telling knock-knock jokes to shrubs if it weren’t for El Capitán’s guidance.
33. “The Tale of the Dangerous Soup”
Series #: 39
Villain/Monster: Dr. Vink and the gargoyle
Nonnie (hey, kids, it’s Party of Five’s Neve Campbell!) and Reed work in ghastly gourmet Dr. Vink’s (“with a Va-Va-Va!”) restaurant, The Wild Boar, where the specialty is the $100-per-bowl Dangerous Soup. But what’s Vink’s secret ingredient, and why have so many employees been mysteriously quitting? Nonnie and Reed have every reason to be very, very afraid, and that’s what Vink’s special soup is counting on. Whether he’s a scientist, filmmaker, or chef (just don’t call him a nutbag), the good doctor never fails to entertain, perplex, and make us feel uneasy.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Reed’s dead uncle opens his eyes in his coffin and reaches for his nephew.
Drinking Cue: Whenever Vink says, “It knows what scares you.”
State of the Midnight Society: In preparation for his story, Frank has each Society member confess his or her secret fear. Tucker claims that he’s not afraid of anything. Not even of the box Frank sets on his lap and urges Tucker to reach into. Clearly young Tucker has never run across the classic dick-in-a-box ruse. Not afraid, Tucker? You should be. You should be.
32. “The Tale of the Silent Servant”
Series #: 46
Villain/Monster: The scarecrow
Storyteller: Betty Ann
Cousins Jared and Anne wish they could spend more time playing baseball and less time completing chores around the farm. However, when they dabble in some heartland magic, they soon learn that sometimes it’s much safer to do the right thing and put in the elbow grease. While not Betty Ann’s tightest tale, the image of the scarecrow and thought of it silently doing its masters’ bidding — never discerning between good and evil — definitely registers on the scream scale.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Jared accidentally orders the silent servant to kill his uncle and Anne looks outside and sees that the scarecrow has left its perch.
Nagging Question: Is it farmers or pirates who wear large, golden hoop earrings? I guess it’s farmers. Thanks for clearing that up, Cousin Mark! Just don’t get that dangly earring caught in the thresher.
Drinking Cue: Whenever someone says the word “servant,” serve yourself your drink of choice.
State of the Midnight Society: Betty Ann’s conscience doesn’t allow her to sneak into a movie with Frank and Kiki. Gotta admire her gumption while facing peer pressure — and her ability to spin it into that night’s story.
31. “The Tale of C7”
Series #: 59
Jason moves with his mother and sister into an old lakeside inn that they’re looking to renovate and reopen. When he stumbles upon an old jukebox, he learns that song C7, “Last Dance”, summons a ghost from the lake. What’s the story behind that song, and will Jason figure out how to right the wrongs of the past so that the ghost can finally be at peace? It’s the type of romantic ghost story that the ladies of the Midnight Society tend to do very well.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When we first get the creepy point-of-view camera of the ghost moving up the dock and toward the inn.
Nagging Question: When Jason’s mom asks if their new home is heaven, he responds, “Is heaven a place where nothing happens?” Is Jason a Talking Heads fan or just a smart-ass?
Drinking Cue: Anytime Jason and his mother sass each other. Christ, you’ll see where he gets his mouth.
State of the Midnight Society: Kiki continues to criticize Stig’s hygiene. At this point, it’s pretty clear she’s the one who voted nay after Stig’s first initiation story. Also, Sam explains that a lot of her stories are inspired by small keepsakes, like a locket (“…The Long Ago Locket”), a school ring (“…The Dream Girl”), and a whistle (“Watcher’s Woods”). An interesting look into her process. Coming soon, maybe a story inspired by a love letter from Gary?
30. “The Tale of the Quicksilver”
Series #: 37
Quicksilver, a poltergeist who hunts children, lives inside the walls of brothers Aaron and Doug’s new home. As the demon tightens its grip on Doug, Aaron enlists Connie (hey, kids, it’s Fresh Prince’s Ashley Banks!) — a girl at school who used to live in the house and lost her twin sister to Quicksilver — to help save his kid brother. While revealing Quicksilver in the very first scene does murder much of the suspense, I’ve never felt comfortable leaning against a wall again, even as an adult. Thanks for the crippling phobia, Kiki.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Quicksilver first appears to Aaron and Doug.
Nagging Question: After seeing Quicksilver, why does Doug go back into that room ever again, especially alone? Also, why does Connie’s dead twin, Laura, dress like she’s from the 1800’s?
Drinking Cue: Whenever an inanimate object mysteriously moves or shakes, shake a cocktail and move it towards your lips.
State of the Midnight Society: Tucker’s starting to wear out his welcome with big bro and Frank. Lose the Flutophone, kid. The only music this crowd wants to hear is a symphony of screams.
29. “The Tale of the Lonely Ghost”
Series #: 03
When Amanda gets sent to stay with her bossy cousin Beth for the summer, she stumbles upon a lonely ghost living inside a mirror in the abandoned house next door. Not only does Amanda help unite the ghost with its mother (Beth’s unappreciated nanny), but she teaches Beth the lesson that bitchy isn’t always better. While the story does venture into overly sentimental territory, kudos to David on the backwards “Help Me” messages (redrum!) and allowing Amanda the option to leave Beth trapped in the mirror. Shoulda done it!
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: Sure, the little girl stepping out of the mirror warrants a gasp, but far more terrifying is the thought of sharing a room for the summer with super-bitch Beth. Most odious person ever.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you feel the urge for Amanda to cousin-slap Beth. (Be responsible!)
State of the Midnight Society: David is crushing on Kristen. Who isn’t?
28. “The Tale of the Dream Girl”
Series #: 36
When Johnny finds a ring in his work locker, a gorgeous girl named Donna begins showing up and fawning over him. The only problem is that Donna died in a terrible accident years ago. As Johnny tries to figure out why Donna is in hot pursuit of him, his sister, Erica, helps him understand that maybe Donna isn’t the only ghost in town. It’s clumsily done at times, but you have to admire Sam for delivering The Sixth Sense five years before M. Night Shyamalan. Are campfire stories copyright protected?
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Donna appears behind Johnny’s locker door.
Nagging Question: Why the borderline porn music when Johnny and Donna kiss, and wasn’t it weird to get hot and heavy in front of little sis? This felt like it was going to be the first (and probably only) three-way in SNICK history.
Drinking Cue: Whenever Donna calls out “Johnny,” answer with a swig.
State of the Midnight Society: Kiki calls Tucker a “runt” and clobbers him in arm wrestling, but they also bond over their mutual disgust for the topic of Sam’s tale: love. Go on, Sam. Show those kids just how terrifying the big “L” can be.
27. “The Tale of the Full Moon”
Series #: 22
Always the pet detective, never the pet owner. Sigh. Jed (code name: Rin Tin Tin) just needs to break one more big case before he’ll have enough money to purchase a puppy of his very own. Catching a cat-eating werewolf living next door should just about cover the down payment on that pooch. Are You Afraid of the Dark? is predicated upon normal children or teens reacting as you’d expect (or more heroically) to incredibly bizarre or frightening situations. Here, Frank turns that formula on its mushy head with campy laughs replacing the screams and Jed finally getting his pet in the least predictable way possible. It doesn’t fit the vibe of the series, but it’s a lot of fun.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When we see the neighbor’s beastly transformation from Jed’s bedroom.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you think you accidentally switched channels to an episode of Eerie Indiana.
State of the Midnight Society: It’s the one-year anniversary of Frank’s initiation into the Midnight Society. As tradition (aka Gary) dictates, Frank must tell the night’s tale. If someone else’s anniversary happened to also fall on this night, the storyteller would be determined by Frank and that member facing off in a best of 37 head-to-head storytelling competition, with the other members voting on the winner of each round — with said votes being weighted according to both seniority and cuteness (as determined by Gary). Thank goodness nobody but Frank was celebrating an anniversary this night.
26. “The Tale of the Bookish Babysitter”
Series #: 32
Villain/Monster: The witch, the knight, and the king’s ghost
Storyteller: Betty Ann
Black-cloaked Belinda comes billed as the babysitter “for kids who hate babysitters.” What’s her secret? Well, she reads with kids. But as ginger couch potato Ricky soon finds out, when you read with Belinda, you better bring along an imagination as powerful as hers — or else. While Betty Ann has told scarier tales, few are as creative as this one. Belinda is a truly enigmatic character — one who we can never quite put our finger on — and the idea of most of the terror taking place in Ricky’s own home made it all the more difficult to fall asleep after watching this episode. Reading Rainbow this is not.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When the witch turns and sheds her Belinda disguise.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you hear the name “Belinda,” hoist a literary lager or liqueur.
State of the Midnight Society: Sam continues to expose Frank for the male chauvinist he is and pummels him with her feminist fists of fury. She is basically a more badass version of Kristen. And Gary likey … a lot.
25. “The Tale of Train Magic”
Series #: 52
Villain/Monster: Ray Lawson
Tim keeps the memory of his father alive by sharing his love of trains. While Tim’s obsessive passion for all things railroad-related has begun to annoy his older brother, Hank, 713 conductor Ray Lawson believes the boy shows a lot of promise as a trainman. The only problem with that endorsement is that Ray Lawson and all his passengers on the 713 died 80 years ago in a terrible train wreck — an accident they are forced to repeat each and every night. Tim dreams of being a conductor like his father, but this isn’t exactly what he had in mind. Containing both chills and charm, Frank’s tale is a ghost story that never fails to come roaring down the track.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Tim’s brother finds him and Ray Lawson vanishes.
Drinking Cue: Each time Ray Lawson appears or vanishes.
State of the Midnight Society: Sam is aggravated over Frank being late, but just as she’s about to give up on him, Frank emerges and lets the train magic win her over.
24. “The Tale of Old Man Corcoran”
Series #: 26
Jack and Kenny are movin’ on up from the rough side of town (East Side represent!) to a cushier stretch of suburb. How do you get street cred in their new hood? By playing hide-and-seek in the old graveyard (not the schoolyard) with the locals. Cemetaries are inherently creepy, and even more chilling is trying to figure out who’s alive and who’s dead in this haunting tale.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Old Man Corcoran sneaks up on them for the first time.
Nagging Question: Why do Jack and Kenny’s parents let them out at ungodly hours of the night? This isn’t the “East Side” anymore, but still.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you feel like the extent of the episode writer’s understanding of black people comes from having watched the trailer for Boyz n the Hood.
State of the Midnight Society: Okay, it’s been a full season, and nobody’s mentioned that Eric is gone. I guess Gary’s policy of two “shit” stories in a row and you’re out actually gets enforced. Where do you go after getting booted from the Midnight Society? Oh, the shame.
23. “The Tale of the Midnight Ride”
Series #: 27
Villain/Monster: Brad and the Headless Horseman
Storyteller: Tucker (initiation story)
Goofy but likable Ian moves to legendary Sleepy Hollow and struggles to fit in with the locals. When he takes a shine to a girl named Katie, her ex, town tough guy Brad, uses the old story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman to teach Ian a lesson. But as Ian, Katie, and even Brad quickly learn, some legends refuse to remain just stories. Tucker shines his first time out, taking a famous legend and putting his modern characters right in the thick of it. You got chops, kid.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: After the prank on Ian ends and the camera pans to see the real Headless Horseman trotting in the mist.
Nagging Question: The Headless Horseman could ride out of a stone wall but not through a chain-link fence?
Drinking Cue: Whenever Ian comes across as a total Marty McFly redux.
State of the Midnight Society: Gary pours one out for David and Kristen, whose families have moved and taken them away from the Midnight Society. (I like to think that chapters of the Midnight Society will spring up in their new towns — kind of like Fight Club.) Gary then brings in his kid brother, Tucker, to try out. Nepotism doesn’t sit well with Frank and Kiki, but a good initiation story will. Welcome, little bro.
22. “The Tale of the Unfinished Painting”
Series #: 50
Villain/Monster: Mrs. Briar
Cody is struggling to find artistic inspiration. When a local artist and gallery owner, Mrs. Briar (she’s no Bob Ross), offers to let her complete an unfinished painting, Cody figures it might be just the thing to overcome her artistic block. But why does Mrs. Briar have a strange bust in her cabinet, why does she insist that her pupils only use her brushes, and why does the girl in that new painting by Mrs. Briar look exactly like Cody’s fellow pupil, Jenna? Cody has definitely stumbled upon something strange and sinister, and Gary uses her tale to deter millions of children from ever picking up a paint brush. So much for the arts.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Mrs. Briar tells the head in the cabinet that “another lamb has wandered our way.” Extremely creepy line.
Nagging Question: How did Mrs. Briar know Cody’s name? Why did Cody spend a single second longer in that studio once she learned that Mrs. Briar already knew her name? Stranger danger!
Drinking Cue: Anytime you see Mrs. Briar’s signature on a painting.
State of the Midnight Society: Tucker’s freaking out. It’s the two-minute warning, and he still doesn’t have a story for the night’s meeting. Luckily, Gary steps in with a tale and even helps little bro save face in front of the others. I’d have just let them roast Tucker over the campfire.
21. “The Tale of the Crimson Clown”
Series #: 38
Villain/Monster: The Crimson Clown
Sam is the little brother from hell. He steals his older brother Mike’s money (intended for buying their mom a birthday present) to purchase a video game (hey, Zeebo’s Big House!) and lies to get Mike grounded. Luckily, the Crimson Clown is the karma police, and Sam learns that being a little shit comes at a painful price. The Scrooge-like “the spirits have given me another chance” ending may be a bit much, but this episode — especially that bedroom stalking sequence — no doubt had bratty little siblings on their best behavior for several weeks afterward.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When the Crimson Clown has Sam tied to his bed with red ribbon and is moving towards him under the covers. God, that’s so creepy.
Nagging Question: Where did Mike find another $70 to buy their mother that replacement birthday gift? Did the Crimson Clown float him a payday loan?
Drinking Cue: Whenever you see a Crimson Clown. Any Crimson Clown at all.
State of the Midnight Society: Libidos are burning even hotter than that campfire. Frank pops the date question to Sam, who responds with a bucket of water over the head (“You need to cool off”). And after Tucker finds one of Gary’s love poems (an ode to I think we all know who), he promises his silence in exchange for his big brother acting as his personal slave. That’s as sit-com as two feuding roomies splitting a line down the middle of an apartment. But don’t worry. Gary’s tale brings little bro around, and Sam even agrees to let Gary walk her home. Gary can do no wrong tonight.
20. “The Tale of Apartment 214”
Series #: 28
Stacy moves into a new apartment building with her mother and soon befriends a lonely, old woman living next door. The problem is that according to the landlord, nobody has rented that apartment in 10 years. Even if the tale’s happy-happy resolution seems far-fetched (and likely to end in disaster should Stacy ever move), Kiki proves that little, old ladies can be terrifying and makes us wonder about the histories of the apartments and homes we currently live in.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: Madeline, standing in her dark apartment and sobbing, turns to Stacy, as lightning flashes, and screams, “Why did you break your promise?” It’s a terrifying moment whether or not anything supernatural is happening.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you hear the word “promise,” promise your liver a drink.
State of the Midnight Society: “Don’t touch the pouch!” Gary admonishes Tucker. That sounds weird even taken in context. Also, for the second week in a row, Betty Ann mentions that her mystery friend, Sam, will be telling an initiation story soon. Fresh blood!
19. “The Tale of Station 109.1”
Series #: 55
Storyteller: Stig (initiation story #2)
Chris has been obsessed with death ever since he played a game of capture the flag in a cemetery — a macabre fascination that is beginning to irritate older brother Jamie (hey, kids, it’s future Hollywood hunk Ryan Gosling!). But when the little Addams in training accidentally picks up on an off-the-dial radio frequency designed to usher the wayward deceased to the afterlife, Chris finds he’s not quite ready to have his number called. The inspired idea of a radio station acting as modern ferrymen of souls coupled with Gilbert Gottfried’s (Iago!) equally comical and menacing turn as Station Manager Roy make 109.1 well worth finding on the dial.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When a middle-aged gentleman refuses to go through Roy’s doors and the boys in black help him find his bearings.
Nagging Question: Did this episode single-handedly phase out the snap bracelet fad? I know I wouldn’t wear one after seeing Roy snap it on Chris. Didn’t want to risk it.
Drinking Cue: Each time Daniel Carpenter jump scares Jamie. Have refills at the ready.
State of the Midnight Society: Stig has one final chance to get on the same wavelength as the rest of the Society. While his personal hygiene and grasp on social norms may leave something to be desired, if the gang doesn’t let him in after this tale, I have to wonder if initiations are just thinly veiled popularity contests. Luckily, Gary and co. restore my faith in the democratic process and make Stig a member.
18. “The Tale of the Twisted Claw”
Series #: 04
Villain/Monster: Miss Clove
Kevin and Dougie play a “Mischief Night” prank on the wrong little, old lady. When they have the sack (ya know, for candy) to return the following night for trick-or-treating, Miss Clove opts for the latter. She gives the boys a magical, wooden vulture claw that grants wishes and warns them, “Be careful what you wish for. You might … just … get it.” As the boys soon learn, the claw works but never quite the way they want it to. Borrowing heavily from W.W. Jacobs’ short story “The Monkey’s Paw”, this episode, originally a Halloween-aired pilot, began the long-running ritual of turning the lights out every Saturday night and waiting to scream.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Kevin grabs the claw and angrily tells Dougie, “I wish you’d just lose your folks!” A second later, Dougie gets a call from the police telling him his parents have been in a car accident. How dark is that?
Drinking Cue: Whenever the boys make a wish using the claw.
State of the Midnight Society: Eric commits the faux pas of calling a meeting without a complete story. Bastard. Luckily, David pipes up with a surrogate tale. Tonight we spell “hero” D-A-V-I-D.
17. “The Tale of the Quiet Librarian”
Series #: 43
Villain/Monster: Ms. MacGregor
Children are disappearing at the local library, and classmates Laurie and Chase discover why when they sneak into the building after hours to get a forgotten notebook. There they find a very strict no-talking policy and a librarian who takes silent but deadly measures to enforce it. A chilling tale from the stacks, it would take a lot of Reading Rainbow to get a kid back into a library after seeing this episode.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Laurie and Chase enter the Quiet Reading Room and find children covered in cobwebs, including the recently missing ones — oh, and the silent screams.
Nagging Question: Laurie mentions having found the missing children near the end of the episode. Clearly, the community knows about this, so why are parents still letting their kids go unescorted to this library? Is a little afternoon delight worth losing your kid over? Don’t answer that, parents.
Drinking Cue: Each time someone opens his or her mouth to scream but no sound comes out.
State of the Midnight Society: Kiki sets the stage for her tale by playing the quiet game. First one to talk has to sit next to Tucker.
16. “The Tale of the Night Shift”
Series #: 64
Villain/Monster: Vampire, the walking dead
A shape-shifting vampire (who looks and laughs a lot like the emperor from Star Wars) is turning the hospital that Amanda volunteers at into a blood bank — and everyone’s a matching donor. Ingeniously, he ships himself inside his coffin to the hospital in the guise of a hot water tank — what a clever way to schedule your once-every-50-years feeding! And even creepier than the vampire’s reveal is how all of Amanda’s hospital co-workers, one-by-one, turn into half-drained zombies ready to do that bloodsucker’s bidding.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Amanda tries to escape and everywhere she turns a former co-worker appears, neck punctured and color drained. It’s so suffocating. She can’t punch out. This is one shift she’ll have to finish.
Drinking Cue: Each time Amanda runs into a bitten co-worker.
State of the Midnight Society: Oh, yeah. Gary and Sam get together and cuddle by the fire after the tale. (Gary: “Why don’t I put out the fire.” Sam: “No, not yet…”) Scary stories are a natural aphrodisiac, don’t ya know.
15. “The Tale of the Super Specs”
Series #: 06
Villain/Monster: Black-clothed figures
After Weeds (yeah) playfully casts a voodoo spell on a pair of “Super Specs” from Mr. Sardo’s (“It’s sar-DO. No Mister. Accent on the DO!”) magic shop, Mary Beth is able to see dark beings from another dimension. Now, she, Weeds, and the charlatan Sardo (“Have you seen our vomit?”) must hold a seance in order to restore the seal between dimensions before the other universe takes over ours. Not only is the idea of having undetectable creatures moving all around us horrifying, but this episode offers the series’ first twist where our protagonists don’t all live happily ever after.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: The first time we see the woman in black. Such a simple yet terrifying image.
Nagging Question: What if the spell had accidentally been cast upon Sardo’s fake vomit instead of the Super Specs? Mary Beth never would have seen the invasion coming then, right?
Drinking Cue: Whenever Mary Beth puts on the Super Specs and sees the black-clothed figures.
Status of the Midnight Society: We find out that Gary’s dad owns a magic shop (this explains sooo much). Kristen also lets it slip that the gang have become skeptical of Gary’s ability to tell a scary story, a devastating blow to the Midnight Society leader’s pride and a challenge to his manhood. Does Gary still have what it takes? Cue the dust.
14. “The Tale of the Dollmaker”
Series #: 31
Villain/Monster: The Hendersons’ Attic/Dollhouse
Storyteller: Betty Ann
Melissa feels disappointed when she goes to visit her aunt and uncle and finds out her good friend Susan Henderson no longer lives next door; in fact, the Hendersons moved because Susan vanished a year ago, or did she? Something keeps drawing Melissa to the attic where an elaborate dollhouse sits, one that looks just like the Hendersons’ home. Brilliantly paced, this creepy tale keeps revealing itself bit by bit until we learn the awful truth about Susan Henderson. It’ll leave your face as white as a … porcelain doll.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Melissa realizes she’s in the dollhouse and turns to find Susan “all dolled up” with no place to go.
Drinking Cue: Whenever someone says “Susan.”
State of the Midnight Society: Tucker is so excited for Betty Ann’s tale that he nearly face plants into the campfire. However, he’s disappointed when she brings out a porcelain doll as a prop. Will Betty Ann’s tale enlighten Tucker about just how scary “girly” stuff can be? Oh, yeah.
13. “The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float”
Series #: 53
Villain/Monster: Pool Zombie
Storyteller: Stig (initiation story)
Swim star Clorice befriends chem nerd Zeke after he shows her the school’s old swimming pool. However, once she starts meeting him for swimming lessons, the two begin to understand why the pool has been closed, boarded up, and hidden for more than 40 years. Something’s off about this pool, and it’s not the chlorine levels. While ex-lifeguard, current janitor Charlie’s speculation on the nature of the pool’s inhabitant threatens to bog down the tale, the underwater Jaws shots, delayed reveal, and fluidity of the pool zombie — morphing from gurgling red liquid to ghastly, hulking creature at will — are reason enough to both love this episode and never go swimming again.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: The underwater shots from the zombie’s point of view that make you want to shout, “Get out of the pool, you fools!”
Drinking Cue: Whenever someone gets in or out of the pool, make a splash with a beverage of your choice.
State of the Midnight Society: Frank moves away, and Tucker nominates a friend, Stig, who is actually more obnoxious than Frank. Case in point, within two seconds of having his blindfold removed, Stig calls Kiki a “babe” and forces a smooch on her. Oh, how we long for the comparatively carefree, chivalrous days of Frank’s lustful catcalling.
In an unprecedented move, the society doesn’t unanimously vote Stig in but will allow him to attend meetings and try out again. The fact that the gang caught him eating the midnight dust may have cost him votes. Blindfold on, Stig. You ain’t in just yet. Seriously, though, you deserve a re-vote.
12. “The Tale of the Captured Souls”
Series #: 07
Villain/Monster: Peter Kirlan III
While vacationing with her parents, tomboy Danny (“Don’t call me Danielle!”) discovers how a “young” man, Peter (goes to the same barber as Sideshow Bob), has been using mirrors to sap the souls of guests at his inn and stay young forever. She needs to find a way to stop him before she and her parents become his next victims. No doubt the mirror angle kept kids terrified of brushing their teeth or combing their hair for days after watching this episode. We also see the beginning of a trend in which parents are absolutely no help in warding off evil and protecting their children. A sobering thought for us suburban kiddos of the ’90s.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: On the monitors in Peter’s room, Danny sees an elderly man sitting downstairs with her parents. When she goes to see who the new guest is, Peter turns to her in his chair, grins deviously, and offers her some tea. Oh, snap. The old dude is Peter! Explains the “do” and the duds. Well, maybe not the hair.
Nagging Question: Once Peter is defeated, Danny opts to tell nobody about what happened. Um, did she forget the mass grave in the backyard, where Peter has buried dozens of adults, children, and pets after extracting their souls?
Drinking Cue: Whenever Danny’s parents mention that they’re tired.
State of the Midnight Society: Kiki snaps photos of the gang while Frank makes an inappropriate “flasher” joke. Perhaps Frank has finally stopped trying to woo Kristen and moved on to Kiki. Watch out, Betty Ann. You’re next!
11. “The Tale of the Phantom Cab”
Series #: 01
Villain/Monster: Dr. Vink and Flynn
Storyteller: Frank (initiation story)
Hot tea, a warm fire, and riddles. An evening at avuncular Dr. Vink’s (“with a Va-Va-Va!”) cottage sounds rather quaint – until we find out that the good doctor uses a cursed ghost cab to send lost travelers to their dooms and collect his, um, specimens after they die each night in a fiery wreck (no judgment here). Will little pain-in-the-neck Denny finally do his big brother, Buzz, proud and solve the riddle in time to break Dr. Vink’s spell? Well, there’s a first time for everything.
So, tell me. Are you any good at solving riddles?
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When cab-driving ghost Flynn suddenly spins his head backwards and reveals to Buzz and Denny that he’s actually dead. Hey, keep your eyes on the road, bub!
Drinking Cue: Whenever Buzz questions Denny’s worth as a human being.
State of the Midnight Society: Frank gets voted into the Midnight Society unanimously and so do we!
10. “The Tale of the Water Demons”
Series #: 44
Villain/Monster: Water demons
Troubled, light-fingered teen Shawn’s boring summer staying at his cousin’s becomes a lot more eventful after he meets Abraham Westchester, a retired sea captain who made his fortune looting shipwrecks. When Shawn steals an item from Westchester’s ill-gotten collection, he soon finds that the same creatures who stalk the captain as he sleeps are now after him. Unless he makes amends or manages to stay awake forever, a watery grave looms in Shawn’s near future. The dread of being tracked in one’s sleep, the ghostly mist rolling off the lake that allows the demons to follow anywhere, and the fear that there may be no way of stopping their pursuit make this a particularly chilling tale.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Shawn awakens to find the demons dripping above him.
Nagging Question: After refusing to sleep under his cousin’s roof, why would Shawn go nap in the hammock in Westchester’s back yard? This is the crazy coot who says he has water demons hunting him. Spring for the motel, kid.
Drinking Cues: Each time somebody falls asleep.
State of the Midnight Society: Frank stumbles upon an entry in Sam’s diary that says she has the hots for him. Don’t count that notch on your bedpost just yet, Frank. The entry is in Tucker’s handwriting. Sam really needs to invest in a diary with a lock — or maybe find a better class of friends who tell scary stories in the middle of the woods at night.
08. & 09. “The Tale of Cutter’s Treasure (Parts 1 and 2)”
Series #: 40 and 41
Villain/Monster: Captain Jonas Cutter
Storyteller: Gary and Frank
Rush and his kid brother, Max, are starting to feel their age gap. While Rush now has girls on the brain, Max just wants to hang out with his big brother like old times. Just how far apart have they drifted? Well, it takes a 200-year-old family legend, a heavy dose of magic, and a firm nudge from two familiar faces (hint: one seems like a nutbag, and the other is definitely losing on the deal) in order for them to share some quality brotherly time again, um, battling pirate ghosts. Less a spooky story and more a Goonies-esque tale of high adventure, Rush needs to save Max from the mutinous, murdering Jonas Cutter and learn the most important rule of manhood: bros before, um, that prudish Sandy girl he’s always trying to make out with. Yeah, that’s it.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When the mist rolls into Max’s room. It’s a very Hook moment.
Drinking Cue: Whenever the spyglass spins or someone looks through it, let out a “yo-ho-ho” and hoist your bottle of rum.
State of the Midnight Society: In an unprecedented move, Gary and Frank tag team this two-episode tale, boldly going where no Society members have gone before.
07. “The Tale of Laughing in the Dark”
Series #: 02
Villain/Monster: Zeebo the Clown
Storyteller: Betty Ann
When Josh steals the nose of a fun house clown named Zeebo to win a wager with his friend Weegee (like the board, only spelled differently), the clown follows Josh home to get his property back. Is the ghost of Zeebo really after Josh, or is it just that creepy, rhyming fun house caretaker having a wicked laugh at his expense? Never actually seeing Zeebo (apart from a bit of wafting cigar smoke) makes Josh’s night home alone all the more terrifying. I can still hear that clown laughing in the dark all these years later.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When we see the print of that giant clown shoe in the spilled pudding and know that Zeebo’s actually in the house.
Nagging Question: Where did Josh get the cigars to appease Zeebo? I guess they didn’t “Card Hard” in Canada back then.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you question why Weegee hangs out with Josh.
State of the Midnight Society: Kristen has an extreme fear of clowns. So what’s she doing kissing David an episode later?
06. “The Tale of the Prom Queen”
Series #: 12
Greg and Jam (that’s not a typo) are fascinated by a local legend about a prom-goer named Judy who was killed in the ’50s while waiting for her ride to the dance. A new girl in town, Dede, shares their fascination and joins them in their mission to find out if the legend is true or not. Less a tale of horror and more a classic ghost story, the fun of the episode comes from watching the characters waver on how much of this developing ghost story they actually believe in. The twist, while hinted at very early on, never fails to charm.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When a seance on a boat looks as though it might bring Judy’s dead boyfriend, Ricky, and his car to the surface of the lake it crashed into 40 years prior.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you understand exactly why Jam’s parents named him Jam.
State of the Midnight Society: Kristen’s tardiness has become a problem, but she gets a pass this time with a fashionably late entrance in a long, flowing specter-like dress and veil that freaks out the rest of the group. This is what’s known in the Society as pre-gaming.
05. “The Tale of the Pinball Wizard”
Series #: 13
Villain/Monster: Mr. Olson
Ross sure plays a mean pinball, and he’ll need to because shop owner Mr. Olson owns one mean machine. When Ross defies Mr. Olson’s instructions to never play a particular pinball machine, he discovers that his dream come true — unlimited plays — is actually a neverending nightmare. It’s a brilliant mishmash of staples from ’90s teendom (malls and video games), resulting in an equally adventurous and terrifying tale. Oh, and the twist at the end: so wickedly evil for no apparent reason, which makes it all the more satisfying. If you scroll to see high scores for telling tales, you’ll find the letters G-A-R-Y near the very top.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Sophie, the game’s gorgeous princess, lures Ross down a corridor where he finds a ghastly, cackling witch instead. Terrifying jump scare. It’s the equivalent of thinking you’re going to get a kiss from Kristen and getting one from Frank instead.
Drinking Cue: Whenever you hear a video game sound effect, hit up + down + left + left and chug.
State of the Midnight Society: Kristen doesn’t understand gamers, and Boss Gary has to confiscate an original Gameboy from David, Frank, and Kiki. Luckily, he uses his shocking abuse of power to segue into the night’s story.
04. “The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors”
Series #: 08
Villain/Monster: The Brauns
Storyteller: Betty Ann
In a classic tale of suburban paranoia, Emma and her brother, Dayday (yup), suspect their new neighbors, The Brauns, are actually vampires. The evidence amasses: the accents, dark clothes, only going out at night, vials of blood in the basement, and a strange illness taking over the neighborhood. Of course, there’s a logical explanation that eventually puts Emma’s fears to rest. Unfortunately, Emma still has every blood-sucking reason to worry, as we see in arguably the series’ most terrifying twist.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: The ticking-clock scene when Emma and Dayday (as opposed to Nightnight) snoop through the Brauns’ basement … with the family due back any moment.
Drinking Cue: Whenever a Braun creepily appears, have a pale ale.
State of the Midnight Society: The gang contemplate what makes telling stories in the dark scary and veto a motion to become the Mid-Afternoon Society. And when Eric (asshole!) calls out Betty Ann’s stories for having happy endings, well, let’s just say he’ll be eating preppy crow in his nightmares tonight.
03. “The Tale of the Frozen Ghost”
Series #: 20
Spoiled Charles Pemberton Chilling III (we know he’s spoiled because his name’s Charles Pemberton Chilling III) and his babysitter, Daphne (Clarissa! na-na na-na-na), spend a weekend at the farm belonging to Charles’ aunts. There they encounter and help the ghost of a boy who froze to death long ago and solve a family mystery in the process. Everything here chills: the remote woodsy location, the oddball aunts, and the creepy events slowly building towards Charles learning the truth. Turns out Kristen is more than just a pretty face; she can weave a ghost story as well as any campfire colleague.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: That first point-of-view shot of the wind rushing up the lawn, through a window, and into the house. Very Evil Dead.
Nagging Question: If Daphne is Charles’ babysitter, why do Chuck’s parents need to send him to spend the weekend with his aunts?
Drinking Cue: Whenever someone says “ghost.”
State of the Midnight Society: A heat wave is threatening to cancel the evening’s story, but luckily Kristen has a chilling tale to cool things off a bit. Kristen also arrives on time for a change and stays off of Gary’s naughty list. Well, one of Gary’s naughty lists.
02. “The Tale of the Midnight Madness”
Series #: 15
Villain/Monster: Nosferatu and Dr. Vink
When the old movie theater that Pete works for faces the possibility of closing due to dwindling ticket sales, our old friend Dr. Vink (“with a Va-Va-Va!”) cuts a deal to screen his old vampire film, guaranteeing that it will soon reverse the struggling theater’s fortunes. However, after Vink’s film proves a blood-dripping success, the theater manager breaks his promise to screen the doctor’s other movies — big mistake. This tale blends Nosferatu with The Purple Rose of Cairo and has never lost its bite in syndication.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When the vampire Nosferatu walks out of the screen as Pete dozes off. Pete isn’t sure what he saw really happened, but we are, and now the creature’s loose.
Drinking Cue: Whenever Dr. Vink laughs or mysteriously appears or disappears, sip that va-va-va-vodka or a drink of your choice.
State of the Midnight Society: Frank brings back Dr. Vink, the series’ first recurring character. Gary takes copious notes. Sardo, anyone?
01. “The Tale of the Shiny Red Bicycle”
Series #: 23
A teenage Mike has always been haunted in his dreams by the memory of how he couldn’t save his boyhood friend, Ricky, from falling off a rickety bridge to his death. But now he’s starting to see Ricky and his shiny, red bicycle even when he’s wide awake. Why is Ricky haunting him, and will Mike ever learn to stop blaming himself for his friend’s death?
The direct link between the ghost and person being haunted (as opposed to someone arbitrarily stumbling upon a supernatural situation) marks a new turn for the series. We see the friendship and therefore understand the loss and guilt. Also, beautiful touches like the bleached colors framing Ricky’s shiny, red bicycle and the way that Mike’s teachers, classmates, and parents can’t bring themselves to believe him (only his kid brother does) feel genuine. It’s a ghost story that haunts but also touches an incredibly poignant and life-affirming nerve.
Moment We First Reached for the Lights: When Mike sees Ricky and his bike outside through the nurse’s window and turns around to find the ghost sitting in the office with him.
Drinking Cue: Whenever Ricky appears, toast to the best friend you’ve ever had.
State of the Midnight Society: David’s bike gets stolen. And the gang share Pulp Fiction-level amounts of rage over this offense.
David: “You know what some fucker did to my bike the other day?”
David: “Fuckin’ stole it.”
Betty Ann: “Man, that’s fucked up.”
David: “Tell me about it. It was unlocked for five minutes, and some dickless piece of shit fucked with it.”
Kiki: “They should be fucking killed, man. No trial. No jury. Straight to execution.”
David: “I’d have given anything to catch that asshole doing it. What’s more chickenshit than fucking with a man’s bike?”
Gary: “You just don’t do it.”
Actually, David kept his calm and turned in the best tale in Midnight Society history.