90s, Quick Lists, TV — October 31, 2014 10:14 am

13 Classic Episodes of Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

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Growing up in the 90s, Saturday nights weren’t completed without sitting on the big orange couch for a block of SNICK programming on Nickelodeon.  Clarissa, Ren & Stimpy, the brothers Pete, and Alex Mack were all there at one point, though the show that regularly capped the evening was Are You Afraid of the Dark?.  There was an extra air of mystery in being able to stay up with Nickelodeon an hour later than on usual weekdays.  Instead of jumping into Nick at Nite reruns of F Troop, a generation of youngsters were treated to a show of delightful scares.  The show dared to leave episodes on an unhappy ending, which is not only rare in general, but particularly rare for children’s programs in the 1990s.  Staying up late to watch Are You Afraid of the Dark? often meant not being able to fall asleep for several more hours.

The moral of nearly every episode seems to essentially be “don’t play outside the house”.  Do pinball machines still freak you out?  Close up shots of door knobs and old fans make you feel ill at ease?  Are you scared of the phone police or magic tricks?  Or are you simply… afraid of the dark?  No matter what stuck with you from the series, here are thirteen classic episodes sure to bring in equal waves of nostalgia and horror.

13 – The Tale of the Chameleons

This one’s a real nail-biter!

Bite you once, bite you twice, a little water, pay the price.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who still recites this poem every time I see an iguana and pretend it’s a chameleon.  Bonus point to this episode for having the Sister, Sister twins, Tia and Tamera Mowry.

12 – The Tale of Station 109.1

Does this episode shed some light on why Ryan Gosling won’t eat his cereal?

This episode was a real treat to anyone who watched USA Up All Night on USA Network, as they both featured Gilbert Gottfried.  We also didn’t realize it at the time, but there was another legendary actor in this episode: Ryan Gosling.

11 – The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner

Cool artwork on those comics!

This episode was all about one thing: the “for BIG mistakes” eraser.  There is often comparison between Are You Afraid of the Dark? and the Goosebumps TV adaptation, though I never saw the similarity.  This episode, however, is probably the closest the two ever came to being comparable.

10 – The Tale of Locker 22

“Bummmmmmmer!”

It seems cool to like The Beatles at any age nowadays, but in 1995 I was definitely the lone fan in my school.  When this episode referenced the White Album, which was blowing my young mind at the time, I took immediate notice.  On top of that, my Back to the Future obsession (still going strong) meant I also had an interest in anything time travel related.  Mad props to Shaffner’s 1960s mustache.

9 – The Tale of the Phone Police

Jealous of that glowing phone?

Twenty years later and I still get a kick out of whispering “it’s Billy Baxter” over the phone when I call friends.  This episode is a great take on an urban legend of how prank calling was handled by law enforcement.  Maybe that’s not so applicable today with caller ID, but every kid at the time this episode aired either took their chances with the phone police or were scared to death of them.

8 – The Tale of the Crimson Clown

His eyes glow into your soul.  Your.  Soul.

Clowns were explored as a source of fear on the show a few times, though the real horror of this episode is having such a puke as a little brother.  It’s never clear if the Crimson Clown is real or imagined, which makes it all the more scary.  Also, is that a Zeebo the Clown Sega Genesis game the kid buys that’s compatible with NES?  Good luck finding that rare cartridge on eBay!

7 – The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors

This episode taught children across North America how combination locks worked.

Was this also your introduction to vampires?  If so, you certainly haven’t forgotten any of the basic rules of how to keep them out of your home.  Garlic?  Check.  Crosses?  Got it.  Reminding the parents not to invite the neighbors in?  D’oh!

6 – The Tale of the Renegade Virus

The makeup on the virus still scares me.

I’m just going to get this out of the way because it bugged me then and it still bugs me now: you can’t plug a parallel cable into a serial port.  The storyline played on the fears of people who hadn’t yet used computers, which seems like a totally archaic concept now, but was actually status quo just two decades ago.

5 – The Tale of the Dark Music

This is also another episode depicting a single parent family, which was pretty common on the show.

This one is a personal favorite of mine.  Something about the way the basement monster gets scarier each time it appears really haunted me for years.  There’s some other quality about “The Tale of the Dark Music” that really resonates with me, as well, even all this time later.  Perhaps, it’s the Atari references.

4 – The Tale of the Thirteenth Floor

Fun fact: many tall buildings don’t actually have a floor labeled as the thirteenth.

A couple kids are in for an adventure when they discover a toy factory is opening up in their apartment building.  Of course, it goes horribly wrong, but it’s kind of their fault for not picking up on suspicious characters named Leonid, Olga, and Raymond.

3 – The Tale of the Pinball Wizard

I call shenanigans on being able to see a Game Boy in the dark.

The classic save-the-princess story is cleverly woven into a plot about a magic pinball machine.  Along the way, keep an eye out for re-painted Super Soaker water pistols used as props.  Do you think this was filmed at the same mall as the movie Cloak & Dagger?

2 – The Tale of Laughing in the Dark

“Give me back my nose!”

If you have a fear of clowns still lingering from your childhood, this might be the episode that served as the source of your phobia.  The story covers a young lad who learns never to mess with Zeebo the clown’s nose.  To this day, I can’t enjoy chocolate pudding for fear that a letter z will be etched into it.  I wrote about a real life fun house with a similar room of doors a while back.  Check out “When Fiction Becomes Your Reality” here.

1 – The Tale of the Super Specs

The look like a novelty item, but these glasses can unlock an alternate dimension.

This is probably the most iconic episode in the entire series.  The shot of the girl wearing the creepy glasses made it into regular promos for the series.  For extra coolness, we learn a little more about Gary’s back story and also get an introduction to the regular character Mr. Sardo.  Wait, sorry — no “mr.”, accent on the “do”.

BONUS

Be sure to check out Guy From That Show, a web series produced by Ross Hull.


Check out the PopRewind Podcast episode in which we interviewed Ross Hull about the series, as well.

 

 Did we miss one of your favorite episodes?  Do any of these ones still give you nightmares?  Share your story in the comments!

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