A dilapidated row boat, a creaking swing, a menacing clown doll, and a lit match. These images marked the beginning of Are You Afraid of the Dark? and are forever burned into the psyche and souls of most 20-somethings. Horror/fantasy anthology shows have been around since the '50s but ones targeted at children never really took off until the '90s. There were a few memorable ones like the animated Tales From the Cryptkeeper and Goosebumps, but none of them could hold a candle to the Canadian export that had kids gnawing their fingernails raw every Saturday night. AYAOTD was clever, well-acted, and surprisingly scary for a kid's show. Every episode featured "The Midnight Society," (MS) a group of teens who must've all had neglectful parents who didn't notice them running off into the woods in the middle of the night. The MS would meet around a camp fire each week and a different member would tell a tale. Most were based on urban legends, folklore, or fairy tales and they usually reflected a fear of one of the MS members or something going on in their personal lives. It didn't matter where the stories came from though, each week they had kids answering the question posed in the show's title with a resounding "yes." So let's take a look at the creepiest stories told by our old friends Gary, Tucker, Betty Ann, Kiki, and all those other kids who didn't have a curfew.
10) The Tale of the 13th Floor
BIlly and his adopted sister Karin use the vacant third floor of their apartment building as their own personal romper room. That is until the super creepy Leonid, Olga, and Raymond move in and set up the Toy Factory. These three are drawn to Karin in an off-putting manner; leaving her mail, visiting her through the television while she's asleep, even forcing her to perform exercises to unlock her telekinetic abilities. The reveal of the aliens and Karin's ascent to the roof are some pretty unsettling scenes for a young child. The production design of the Toy Factory is some of the series' best and manages to make a vibrantly colored factory come off as disturbing.
9) The Tale of the Dollmaker
On the weekends, young Melissa stays at her aunt and uncle's house - which happens a ton on this show. Unlike most kids on the show who do this begrudgingly, Melissa doesn't mind because she gets to hang out with Susan Henderson, her BFF. But one weekend, Melissa is told that the Susan mysteriously disappeared and the Hendersons moved away. When Melissa sees something in the attic window of the Henderson's house, she goes in to investigate and finds a replica dollhouse of the Henderson's. The episode gets pretty crazy once Melissa finds a door that looks inside the dollhouse and she sees Susan, who now has a mean case of vitiligo. Porcelain dolls = never not creepy.
8) The Tale of the Hatching
Augie and Jasmine "Jazz" Wilson are sent to boarding school and quickly discover that something is off about their headmasters. Class changes are signaled by different frequencies going out over the loudspeaker and everyone is fed a gruel-like substance that frankly looks a lot better than some of the "food" served at my old middle school. Augie and Jazz uncover the school's dark secrets and find out that the headmasters are actually aliens. A pretty unsettling episode overall. They even kill a dog for fuck's sake.
7) The Tale of the Night Shift
Vampires run amok in a hospital and it's up to Amanda the candy striper and her tonsillitis patient friend Colin to stop them. The episode is pretty standard vampire fare but features some really creepy moments like Felix being attacked in the basement and the head vampire, Margot, holding Amanda over the edge of the roof, by the throat. The end of the episode is downright brutal for a kids show and would never fly nowadays. (Spoiler alert: Margot bursts into flames and plummets to her death off the roof of the hospital). This episode also developed some more MS subplots as Gary and Sam decide to explore their feelings for one another. Interesting MS fun-fact: Ross Hull, the actor who played Gary, is now a news reporter in Calgary.
6) The Tale of the Lonely Ghost
Bookworm Amanda is sent to live at her aunt's house for the summer (her parents hate her too) and gets stuck hanging out with her bossy cousin Beth. Beth is like a perfect storm of terrible; she's a ginger, wears a side ponytail, crimped bangs, and leads her gang of friends through fear. She refuses to let Amanda hang out with her until she can prove she's not a "zeeb" by spending a night in the vacant house next door. The house is said to be haunted by a mute girl who died inside. The first scene with the ghost is freaky as hell and features a horror device which never fails to frighten: a ghost appearing in a mirror.