We Need To Talk About…Are You Afraid Of The Dark?


Welcome to ‘We Need To Talk About’ A regular feature that will explore burning topics in the world of horror that really need to be explored and discussed. Let’s get to it ; We Need To Talk About ; Are You Afraid Of The Dark?

If you grew up in the nineties, chances are you grew up with The Midnight Society a group of kids who gathered around a campfire to tell scary stories. And oh what stories they told! We trusted Nickelodeon with our delicate child minds and they crammed them full of images of pool monsters, terrifying clowns, creepy dolls..it was awesome!! Truly cathartic viewing Are You Are Afraid Of The Dark? Was a TV show that was frightening, fun and wasn’t afraid to scare kids shitless. Come now with theHorrorOnline on a retrospective exploration of one of the greatest Horror T.V Shows..


A Canadian/American collaboration between Cinar and Nickelodeon, AYAOTD was developed for Snick (Saturday Night Nickelodeon) a block of programming from 8.00pm to 10pm that was aimed at the older tween to teenage audience. Developed by creator DJ McHale to be a teenage take on The Twilight Zone. A big fan of the original Twilight Zone, Mc Hale even included the iconic line “Submitted for your approval..” delivered by Rod Sterling in three of his opening narrations of The Twilight Zone in his show. Within AYAOTD each member declares “Submitted for the approval of The Midnight Society..” before throwing ‘midnight dust’ (which in reality was non diary creamer) in to the campfire. Mc Hale’s earlier idea was originally quite different to the finished product. In an interview with SpiltSider McHale explained his original concept ; 

“The idea was bed-time stories for lazy parents, We would get some old-time actor who was out of work but whom everyone knew, and put him in an easy chair with a roaring fire and a big book and he’d tell fairy tales.” 

McHale expanded that the true impetuous for show didn’t appear until he thought of his own childhood and realized that the stories that he enjoyed most growing up were frightening ones and so he decided that each tale would be a variant of a ghost story. In the same interview he explains ;

“It would be creepy to have some old guy telling scary stories to little kids, though. So, the old-time actor goes away and is replaced by kids sitting around the campfire.”

The rest is history! The series originally followed Gary, Tucker,Betty Anne, KiKi, Frank, Sam and Kristen later joined by Stig and Eric as they met one night a week as The Midnight Society each taking turns to tell their own scary story. Each storyteller had their own unique take on Horror and their stories would reflect their attitudes and life views. Every story also served to develop each character by having events in their lives be reflected in their stories. 


Though McHale has stated that Nickelodeon rarely gave him notes through the  development of the series and that he decided how light or dark to make the tone, the series was originally commissioned with certain ground rules. The first was that each story be given a resolved ‘happy ending’ (though there were one or two acceptations that ended on a bleak note). Apparently this was considered very important in developing a frightening program for young people, as the belief was that if the episode finished in a happy, resolved way then any scary images of monsters, villains, etc that had been presented would have been defeated and would not have a lasting place in children’s minds (I think we can attest that, that didn’t always work out, Zeebo The Clown, anyone?).


Nickelodeon also originally asked that McHale try to have his stories have literary origins, by basing them on classic horror stories. This is why the pilot which aired on Halloween night in 1991 involved a story entitled The Twisted Claw which was a variation on W.W Jacobs famous short story The Monkey’s Paw. The second rule concerned the conduct of The Midnight Society. A group of teenagers meeting in the woods at night could have many negative connotations (so much so that when the show aired in France the bookended scenes of the Midnight Society were removed, as the French distributer considered the idea of unaccompanied teenagers gathered together at night to be inappropriate). Obviously the teenagers were never to be seen consuming alcohol or partaking in any deviant behavior but interestingly enough the strictest rule concerned the group’s campfire. To ensure that no children would be encouraged to light fires within the woods or play with matches, each script had to deal with the teenagers interaction with the fire in a very exact way. Firstly the teenagers were never to be seen striking a match and so the campfire was always already lit when the group arrived and they were never shown constructing or lighting it. But most importantly the fire was always shown being properly extinguished. Gary (founder of the society and assumed to be oldest member in age) would always use a red fire bucket of water to put out the fire. 


During the first series, all of the Midnight Societies scenes were filmed on a soundstage in Quebec. Budget constraints meant that the woods set could only be constructed once and so every Midnight Society scene of the first series was filmed over the space of a week. In 1996 After 65 episodes the original run of AYAOTD came to an end, then in 1999 it was recommissioned for another series that ran until the year 2000, in the second incarnation Tucker (original founder Gary’s younger brother) is now the oldest in the group and has reformed the Midnight Society with his new friends. 


Are You Are Afraid The Dark? was I think very influential for many future adult horror fans as it helped you to discover your favorite horror genre by exploring many horror story lines and tropes ; romantic ghost stories, Sci-Fi alien invasions, Vampires, cursed objects. It was a gentle but enjoyably scary introduction to the world of horror on film.



The top 10 Scariest Are You Afraid Of The Dark? Episodes


10. The Tale Of The Wisdom Glass 


Watch it here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWgrX1E9QV0

Allan and Jimmy steal a video game and are transported to a strange land, where they are put on trial in front a judge who is working a seriously creepy mask.


09.The Tale Of The Quicksilver 



Aaron and Doug discover a demon who killed their classmate’s sister is coming for them. Dark themes and a very scary demon put this on the list.


08. The Tale Of The Fire Ghost



A vengeful burning Ghost haunts a Firehouse, a ghost on fire? Gah!


07. The Tale Of Many Faces



Madame Visage wants to steal young Anna’s face. Ick! The episode gives us some terrifying ‘faceless’ makeup, very creepy!


06. The Tale Of Dead Man’s Float 



With riffs on Jaws (lots of underwater camera work to denote danger in the water) this tale follows a boy who is afraid of water discovering that his school’s pool is haunted by a terrifying ghost.


05. The Tale Of The Doll maker



Melissa’s best friend Susan goes missing and Melissa discovers that she has been turned into a doll and is trapped in a Dollhouse *shudder*


04. The Tale Of The Crimson Clown



An errant little brother is terrorized by a terrifying clown doll, oh God get it away from me.Ugh!


 03. The Tale Of The Ghastly Grinner 



The Story follows Ethan as he accidentally unleashes demented Jester The Ghastly Grinner from a comic book. Though the character is actually a Jester it’s make up was creepy as hell and is pretty damn clown like, thus was bloody terrifying.



02. The Tale Of The Silent Servant



An incredibly creepy scarecrow is brought to life by cousins Anne and Jared, The scarecrow does their bidding and even kills someone, all the while be bloody terrifying.


01. The The Tale Of The Laughing In The Dark



Zeebo the killer clown. ‘Nuff said.