Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

After all these years, which tales still give you chills?

Are You Afraid of the Dark? (Nickelodeon)

    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.

    are you afraid of the dark feature Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Are You Afraid of the Dark? (Nickelodeon)

    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”

    Season: 05badge2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 65

    Villain/Monster: Badge

    Storyteller: Gary

    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”


    Season: 01c9223b65 f2ec 4815 969c 512feb2fb6d0 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    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”


    Season: 01hounds1 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 05

    Villain/Monster: Deceased Aunt Dora’s spirit

    Storyteller: Kristen

    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…”

    Moment We First Reached for the Lights: The “feed the hounds” guy (the ghost of stable hand Giles) now seems about as scary as the “Make the Donuts” guy.


    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”

    Season: 04hqdefault5 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 42

    Villain/Monster: The virus

    Storyteller: Gary

    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”


    Season: 03watcherswoods2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    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”

    Season: 02finalwish2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best


    Series #: 14

    Villain/Monster: The Sandman

    Storyteller: Kristen

    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”

    Season: 05visitor2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 61

    Villain/Monster: Aliens

    Storyteller: Kiki

    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”

    Season: 03tumblr_mebfwpnOys1rkun7to1_500

    Series #: 33

    Villain/Monster: Brother Septimus

    Storyteller: Gary

    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”

    Season: 04hqdefault2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 51

    Villain/Monster: The zookeepers

    Storyteller: Kiki

    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”

    Season: 05jagged2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 54

    Villain/Monster: None

    Storyteller: Kiki

    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”

    Season: 03camera2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    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”

    Season: 05prisoners Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 58

    Villain/Monster: None

    Storyteller: Tucker

    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”


    Season: 01tumblr_inline_nbl4yqEmHv1runj5d

    Series #: 10

    Villain/Monster: Erin (aka Gort)

    Storyteller: Eric

    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”


    Season: 05manaha2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 60

    Villain/Monster: The Shaman

    Storyteller: Tucker

    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”


    Season: 02hatching2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 25

    Villain/Monster: Mr. and Mrs. Taylor and the lizard master

    Storyteller: David

    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”


    Season: 01266208 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 11

    Villain/Monster: The Dark

    Storyteller: Eric

    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”

    Season: 02hqdefault3 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best


    Series #: 16

    Villain/Monster: None

    Storyteller: Kristen

    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”

    Season: 04Fire2 (1)

    Series #: 49

    Villain/Monster: The fire ghost

    Storyteller: Tucker

    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”

    Season: 0213floor 2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    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”

    Season: 03guardian1 (1)

    Series #: 34

    Villain/Monster: Dr. Capel-Smith

    Storyteller: Tucker

    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”

    Season: 05cham2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    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”


    Season: 05door2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 63

    Villain/Monster: The toy door

    Storyteller: Gary

    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”

    Season: 05vacant2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best


    Series #: 62

    Villain/Monster: Marie

    Storyteller: Kiki

    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”

    Season: 02darkdragon1 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 19

    Villain/Monster: The dark dragon potion

    Storyteller: David

    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”


    Season: 02ecfb8de8 f8e2 43af b9b1 1757d2f2e766 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    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”

    Season: 05mirror2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best


    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”

    Season: 02dreammachine1 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 18

    Villain/Monster: The typewriter

    Storyteller: Kiki

    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”

    Season: 04hqdefault (1)

    Series #: 45

    Villain/Monster: The British

    Storyteller: Sam

    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”

    Season: 04Grinner2

    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”

    Season: 03phonepolice2 Ranking: Every Are You Afraid of the Dark? Episode from Worst to Best

    Series #: 30

    Villain/Monster: The Phone Police

    Storyteller: Tucker

    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.


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