Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society… the Tale of the Wimpy Keith. I was always a little wary of the kids from Are You Afraid of the Dark? who would meet up in the woods in the middle of the night, presumably without homework, or Friday night plans, or parents who cared where they went. I think I may have half-expected for the series finale to reveal, in one of their trademark spooooky twists, that they were all just the Canadian ghosts of an ill-fated camping trip forced to tell each other scary stories forever, and ever, and ever. Except for Eric, who disappeared abruptly after the first season. Maybe his spirit found a way to move on.
And I will admit, some of those stories were genuinely scary. Like, ruin-any-chance-of-sleeping-scary. Alvin Schwartz-scary. Often you’d be safe with some cutesy retelling of The Monkey’s Paw or something about time travel and learning not to be mean to your parents. But every once in awhile the doomed souls of the Midnight Society would unspool a yarn so insidious and so shivery that it would stay with you for days.
For me, it was the “Tale of the Midnight Madness,” in which the recurring Dr. Vink (with a va-va-va) shows the silent classic Nosferatu, and the etiolated bloodsucker steps right out of the screen like a horrible Purple Rose of Cairo. My young mind couldn’t handle it. I mean, if he could step out of the movie screen, what would stop him from stepping out of my TV screen? It was meta-terrifying. Also getting a nomination for scariest episode was the “Tale of Laughing in the Dark,” featuring Zeebo, the freakiest clown since Pennywise or whatever they have at the Cirque de Soleil. And the scene in the “Tale of the Lonely Ghost” in which the dead girl in the mirror writes “HELP ME” backwards on the wall – to be fair Empleh isn’t exactly as clever a Redrum – removed any remaining bejeezus from my person.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? hasn’t hit the new 90s programming block on TeenNick yet, but I’d be curious to see whether the scares hold up well, or whether my fear of those episodes will go the way of my childhood fears of earwigs – thanks Night Gallery – and taking off my shirt at the pool. I feel like each person who watched the show has their own pick for the episode that most haunted them. What are yours?