Editor’s Note: NickSplat is now available on VRV! It includes Nickelodeon content from the 1990’s and beyond, including “AAAHH!!! Real Monsters,” “Are You Afraid of the Dark?,” “CatDog,” “Clarissa Explains It All,” “Doug,” “Kenan & Kel,” “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” “Rocko’s Modern Life,” “The Angry Beavers” and “The Wild Thornberrys,” among others. To celebrate, we’re sharing our childhood experiences with these shows and inviting you to rewatch these classics with us.
I was an anxious kid growing up. I worried about improbable scenarios, invisible threats, and even the fates of characters on TV. So when Are You Afraid of the Dark? came on each weekday evening with its spooky opening music, I usually scrambled to shut off the TV or switch to playing The Rocketeer on my Super Nintendo—it was the 90s, you were stuck with what was airing on TV and whatever garbage videogame you asked your parents to get for your birthday based on the cover art.
But there were times when I didn’t switch off. Maybe I was testing myself, or maybe I was just transfixed, by the anticipation of the terror to come. For whatever reason, I stayed on the couch and subjected myself what would be my first exposure to the horror anthology genre I later came to love.
If you’re not familiar with the show’s premise, here’s how it goes: a group of kids—the self-proclaimed “Midnight Society”—gather around a fire in the woods at night to tell each other scary stories. With a little backstory and some hints at the grim events to follow, a character launches into their narrative by tossing “midnight dust” onto the fire to create an ominous cloud of smoke. Some of these tales were based on urban legends or public domain stories, while others were entirely original.
The episodes that scared me the most as a kid were “The Tale of the Closet Keepers,” in which aliens abduct children to place them in a space zoo; “The Tale of the Chameleons”, in which Tia Mowry of Sister, Sister is bitten twice by a chameleon, doused with water, and then sent into the chameleon’s body while the creature (Tamara Mowry) moves into hers with aspirations of taking over the world; and “The Tale of the Curious Camera,” where a gremlin takes horrifying and prophetic pictures. In that last one, the gremlin also keeps making a TV turn on, which for whatever reasons was a recurring nightmare of mine as a kid.
Each episode concludes with a character dousing the flames and the Midnight Society dispersing to presumably sneak back into the bedrooms before their parents noticed they’d been wandering around the woods setting fires. If I made it to that point, I was proud of myself. I’d also almost certainly have nightmares about being turned into a chameleon.
If you didn’t grow up in Canada, you might not know that Are You Afraid of the Dark? launched the careers of a number of actors familiar to Canadian audiences. Ross Hull—who played Gary—went on to star in the high school sitcom Student Bodies, eventually moving to a career in meteorology. Jodie Resther appeared on Vampire High, a show about sexy vampires before sexy vampires were a thing. And Rachel Louise Blanchard played the starring role in the TV version of Clueless, later appearing in my all-time favorite TV series Peep Show as the devout but somewhat confused Nancy.
The first two seasons of Are You Afraid of the Dark? are now available on NickSplat right here on VRV. I’m going to take the opportunity to overcome my childhood fears—maybe you can do the same.