Are You Afraid of the Dark was such an iconic kids show from the late 90s and early 2000s. There wasn't much better than sitting around on a Friday night to watch the latest episode, hoping that it wouldn't be so creepy as to give you nightmares. It was one of my favorite shows as a kid, but now as I sit there and watch episodes with my own kids, I can't help but wonder how it was ever a children's show in the first place.
Sure, some of the episodes are cheesy and more than a little bit stupid, but more times than not, the episode would end up being terrifying, leaving children hiding under the covers to escape the monsters, ghosts, and villains out there in the dark.
Let's take a look at 7 episodes from this iconic show that makes us all wonder how it was ever deemed appropriate for kids. (But we still all love it).
1. The Tale of the Quicksilver
We shall start off this list with the fear that inspired me to write this piece. As a child, I saw this particular episode, and it gave me nightmares for a long time.
The episode begins with a young girl attempting to perform a magic spell to trap a creature that has been haunting her. She is unsuccessful, and ends up accidentally dying in a house fire. A young boy moves into the house later on, and discovers the secrets that the house has been hiding. He eventually meets the twin sister of the girl who died, and together they manage to succeed where she had previously failed. In the end, they see the spirit of the dead girl who is finally free of the demon's control. Creepy and sad at the same time.
2. The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner
The Ghastly Grinner is a super villain come to life, with the ability to turn everyone into drooling morons. It's not so much his power that is creepy, but his overall appearance. It's more than enough to send even the most stalwart child screaming for the safety under the blankets of their bed. When the Grinner escapes from the pages of his comic book, he starts trying to terrorize an up-and-coming artist named Ethan who must figure out how to save himself from the Grinner.
3. The Tale of the Frozen Ghost
Death is hard enough for children to process. Now imagine them watching a creepy story about being haunted by the ghost of a child who only has one thing to say "I'm cold." The ghost comes out to haunt Charles Pemberton-Shilling III, a spoiled rich kid who doesn't think of anyone but himself. He and his babysitter, Daphne, head out to the country to spend a weekend with Charles's aunts. It is here that they encounter the ghost of the frozen child, who they think is out to scare them, but in reality, he just needs their help. It is enough to send shivers up an adult's spine, let alone a child's.
4. The Tale of the Shiny Red Bicycle
It is hard for any child to lose one of their friends when they are young, especially if that friend has died. Mike is one such child, who is still mentally recovering from losing his childhood friend 5 years previous. He had tried to save his friend from drowning in the river, but hadn't been able to. Things start to take a really twisted turn when his friend starts showing up again with his "shiny red bicycle", causing Mike to think he is going insane. In the end, the ghost of his friend needed his help once more. Still, this is pretty twisted for kids to be watching.
5. The Tale of the Mystical Mirror
Employees from the "Elysian Beauty Store" keep disappearing and no one can figure out how or why. Ms. Valenti is the shop owner, who although nice, comes off as more than a little creepy. She tells her employees, Laurel and Vicki, that her family has owned the shop for many years, and to her family, beauty is the most important thing. In a side room of the shop, there is a room filled with photos of beautiful women, but there is also a random mirror within the room. It turns out that Ms. Valenti is a witch who had been using the mirror for decades to steal the youth and beauty of other young women.
6. The Tale of the Water Demons
Shawn is sent to spend the summer out in the country with his strict uncle, and his cousin because of his bad behavior. While "working" at his uncle's convenience store, his cousin tells him that he doesn't want to make a delivery after dark to a particularly creepy home. The home is owned by Captain Westchester, who made his living looting sunken ships for treasure. When Shawn and Dean encounter the captain in his home, Shawn tells him it would be cool to do what he used to do. The captain explains to him that he has been haunted by water demons every time he falls asleep because of what he took.
When Shawn steals a watch from the captain's collection he doesn't realize he has also marked himself as a thief. After being booted from his uncle's house, he falls asleep in a hammock outside the captain's house, which puts him right in the line of the water demons. It takes a team effort to set everything right, and lives are risked in the process.
7. The Tale of the Phantom Cab
On the list of creepy as heck episodes made for children, this one is way up there. Denny and Buzz get lost in the woods before finding a cabin run by Dr. Vink (this was the first appearance of Vink) where they are asked riddles as a price to call their parents. When they can't answer one particular riddle, Dr. Vink scares them off with a severed hand in a jar, telling them that a cab will be by to pick them up.
The cab turns out to be driven by a ghost who died 40 years previously, and unless the boys can answer the riddle, they will die reliving the crash that killed the driver. Of course they get the answer at the last moment and are spared. When they lead park rangers back to the site of Vink's cabin, there is nothing there but a weed-chocked foundation.
Would you let your kids watch the show tonight?