We slept with the light on for most of the ’90s, and we blame Are You Afraid of the Dark. Allegedly aimed at kids, the classic Nickelodeon show featured some of the most genuinely terrifying on-screen moments that we’ve ever seen to this day! Our impressionable young minds were probably permanently warped by the nightmare inducing scenes…but we loved every single minute of it and never missed an episode. With Halloween just around the corner, we’d decided that enough time has passed and we’re finally ready to revisit some favorite spooky episodes that have haunted our psyche for two decades. Our therapist says it’ll be good for us!
So now, submitted for the approval of the VH1 Celebrity Society, are our picks for the ten most frightening episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark. Head down below to check ’em out! You’ll laugh at the goofy ’90s style, and you’ll cry at the horror-filled memories you’ve been repressing all this time. Go on. You didn’t want to sleep tonight, anyway…
This tale chronicles a family’s lakeside vacation that nearly goes deadly wrong. When Danielle’s family arrives at the leafy retreat, they meet Peter, the abnormally young inn keeper. The inn is covered with mirrors that shock whomever touches them due to “old wiring.” Because mirrors are usually wired, right? We come to learn that the mirrors are part of an elaborate scheme to drain the inn’s patrons of their souls, thus keeping Peter forever young. During their stay, Danielle and her family begin to feel lethargic and notice more than a couple new grey hairs. Danielle stumbles upon Peter’s “graveyard” where he’s chronicled all the souls he’s stolen over the years. The visual of the graveyard has haunted our dreams for 22 years. Danielle discovers Peter is behind all the strange shenanigans after discovering his soul-sucking lab. Peter offers Danielle the chance to join him in his quest for eternal youth, but instead she destroys his bizarre science project rendering him ancient, saving her parents from an early grave.
The dark can be scary, but movie theaters have gotta be safe, right? Wrong! We begin out story with an old fashioned movie palace teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Loyal employees Pete and Katie will do anything to save the old theater , but things seem hopeless. In walks the uber-creepy Dr.Vink (“with a veh—veh—veh”), who promises packed seats as long as they play his movies. Pete and Katie happily agree, yet soon welch on the deal. But these kids have messed with the wrong movie-schilling doctoral degree-holder. For revenge, Dr. Vink sends his most horrifying movie villain, the demon-vampire Nosferatu, through the movie screen and into the theater, where he terrorizes Pete and Katie with his long weird-looking fingers and wordless threats to suck their blood. A suspenseful chase ensues, before Pete hits on the bright idea of venturing through the projection screen and into the movie, where he destroys Nosferatu’s life-giving coffin. The kids escape with their blood, but in the end Dr. Vink gets the deed to the theater, promising even more terrifying tales to come…
Every camp has its own horror story: A crazy chef who serves human meat, a counselor who snapped, children murdered in their bunks. It’s always assumed the tales are nothing more than a ruse to keep campers inside their cabins while the counselors party, but the tale of three campers lost in the woods at Camp Crindlestone turned out to be true. Legend has it that Watcher’s Woods is where people go to disappear, they say it moves so you never know you’re in it until its too late. Oh, and it just so happens to be the 75th anniversary of three girls’ disappearance. Our heroines, Sarah and Kelly, head into the woods for a hike and find themselves lost in the shape-shifting forrest. With their compasses rendered useless, Kelly bumps into the three lost campers who tie her up and demand she return their missing whistles so their souls can be freed. Luckily for her, Sarah proves to be more resourceful and is able to find her way back to camp to retrieve the whistles.
Our grandmother’s collection of porcelain dolls were scary enough on their own, but they were downright traumatizing after watching “The Tale of the Doll Maker.” In case you’ve repressed the memory of The Midnight Society’s tale, let us fill you in: Melissa’s friend Susan has mysteriously disappeared. While snooping in Susan’s attic (Why Melissa? Why?), Melissa discovers a dollhouse that bares a striking resemblance to Susan’s abandoned home. Like any normal child of the ’90s, Melissa goes back into the attic alone at night to discover her missing friend has not only been turned into a doll, but is trapped inside the strange dollhouse. Against her parents wishes, she returns to the attic and enters the dollhouse to save Susan. If this wasn’t already enough to ruin your childhood, Susan’s porcelain body parts fall off throughout the episode. Luckily, Melissa saves both herself and Susan. Our doll collection, unfortunately, did not survive for for long after we saw this episode.
The Midnight Society suggests that Gary has lost his touch so he pulls out all the stops with “The Tale of the Super Specs,” which not only cemented Gary’s super spooky status, but also terrified children across America. Many episodes began at Sardo’s Magic Shop, but none of Sardo’s wares were as traumatizing as his Super Specs. While wearing the specs, Mary Beth sees things that aren’t really there, from tea kettles whistling on the stove to extremely creepy figures cloaked in black. She soon learns that the specs have been cursed with “second sight” opening a window into an alternate dimension. Sardo agrees to help Mary Beth clear her home of the dark aberrations, but his inexperience causes a cosmic imbalance allowing the creatures full access to our world. Unlike most episodes of the series, this story ends with our hero’s demise, which was a lot to take in at five years old.
Future Entourage star Emmanuelle Chriqui had one of her very first roles in this spooktastic episode, which must be among the most violent in kids’ show history. Honestly, it’s kind of amazing that she wasn’t scared away from acting forever! Emmanuelle appears as Amanda, an honors student who volunteers to work the night shift at a local hospital. As if it isn’t freaky enough with blood, guts and dead people laying around, she discovers too late that this clinic is absolutely crawling with vampires. They attack her friends, turning them one-by-one into blood suckers, until finally the head vamp dangles Amanda by the throat off the roof of the hospital, threatening to let her drop and lick up her spattered blood. Thankfully this episode had a “happy” ending: Margot the vampire bursts into flames and falls of the roof to her own demise. So…the main takeaway from this episode is don’t ever get sick and go to the hospital, right?
Look at that face. LOOK AT IT! What the hell, Nickelodeon!? You are looking into the eyes of the Ghastly Grinner, an evil comic book character bent on making life for young Ethan a living hell. It all started when the boy went to the opening of a new comic book store in town. The store’s owners gifted him a one-of-a-kind comic featuring this freakshow above, who causes people to laugh uncontrollably and spit up blue goo. Gross. Before putting the rare collector’s item with the rest of his memorabilia, Ethan accidentally spills water on it. Instead of wiping the mess up with a towel like a normal human, he decides to microwave the comic book….because, sure. But it’s bad news for Ethan, because the radiation somehow brings the comic book villain to life! After the Ghastly Grinner starts freaking people out all over town, Ethan takes matters into his own hands by creating a new comic book to defeat the Grinner. But the bumbling kid somehow manages to get trapped inside (d’oh!), bringing him once again face to face with the gut-busting villain.
Clowns are the worst. How much more evidence does the world need? Well, just watch this charming episode! It’s only the second in the show’s history, but they’ve already cracked the code on how to royally creep out an entire generation of kids, and also taint carnivals for us forever. The tale dates back to the Great Depression, when scheming Zeebo the Clown steals cash from the carnival payroll. On the lam, he hides out in the funhouse, which he then accidentally burns to the ground with his cigar ash. By all appearances, the clown felon goes up in smoke as well. Bummer. The carnival rebuilds the structure, sticking a dummy of Zeebo inside as a memorial to the dude who robbed them (very weird). Flash forward to the good ol’ ’90s,when a little punk named Josh decides to swipe Zeebo’s nose in an effort to prove he isn’t afraid of the local legend that the funhouse is haunted. But he should be. Because soon he is visited by the ghost of Zeebo, who begins terrorizing Josh at his home and making threatening phone calls. The clown got his nose back in the end, but we’re still looking for our innocence.
To this day, our sister will NOT get into an indoor swimming poll, and this episode is one hundred percent to blame. Why? The terrifying skeleton demon that pops out of the drain, of course! Big ups to Are You Afraid of the Dark writers for showing us that there’s something even worse than the kid who pees in the pool. This tale centers around the exploits of Zeke, a teenage nerd who yearns to get close to Clorice (chlorine pun?), the super-cute captain of the swim team. In exchange for teaching her chemistry, she opts to give him swimming lessons. Letting our crush see us flailing around in our bathing suit is our personal high school nightmare, but well-played all the same, Zeke! Eager to impress, he leads her to the school’s abandoned swimming pool (which is still mysteriously filled with water) to begin the lessons. But the pool has been hidden for a good reason: It was built on top of an old graveyard, and now the spirits are angrier than a lifeguard after your cannonball gets them wet (translation: they’re pissed). Enter this horrifying creature seen above. But in the end, Zeke uses his chemistry skills/nerd-dom to defeat the evil skela-zombie, get the girl, and learn how to doggie paddle.
This episode is by far the scariest episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark. Seriously, it is so scary that even now, we’re too scared to re-watch it for the sake of this blog post. All we remember (way too vividly, if you ask us) is that a girl goes through a mirror to find a young ghost living on the other side. Once she enters the mirror you can see the words “HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME” scrawled across every square inch of wall space. The jerk of a ghost tries to trap our heroine inside the mirror so she herself can escape. We have no idea how this episode ends and are honestly too afraid to watch it. Even thinking about it right now has us on the verge of tears.