As we’ve already established recently, 1991 was a very important year for Nickelodeon. They no longer  borrowed cartoons and TV shows from other sources materials like they used to back in the early to mid 80’s. Instead, they were successful enough to create their own cartoons and shows from their new studio in Orlando, Florida. The last show that came out in 1991 was released around Halloween, October 31. Similar to The Third Eye, it was an anthology series that took you into the thrilling and creepy atmosphere of the supernatural world. I’m talking about the Canadian series Are You Afraid of the Dark?

 

The show is about a group of teenagers simply known as the Midnight Society. Every week, they would meet at a secret location in the woods telling scary stories. Each person would take turns in every episode telling a story which would range from ghosts to haunted houses. The group consisted of the following:

Gary (played by Ross Hull) is the leader of the group. He has a fascination with magic and his stories mostly contained about enchanted objects with supernatural abilities.

Tucker (played by Daniel DeSanto) is Gary’s younger brother and the youngest member of the Midnight Society. He portrays himself as an annoying brat. His stories involve with families who have a bitter relationship at first, but tend to get better at the end.

Betty Ann (played by Raine Pare-Coull) is very enthusiastic and has a passion for unusual bizarre things. Her stories revolve around supernatural forces and unknown realms similar to The Twilight Zone.

 

Kiki (played by Jodie Resther) is a tomboy who sometimes picks on some of the members of the Midnight Society, especially Tucker. Her stories mostly revolve around danger and deceitfulness that her characters go through. In the beginning of the series, her characters were mostly African American to represent her culture. It stopped as the series progressed.

Frank (played by Jason Alisharan) is a tough juvenile delinquent with a tough attitude. He doesn’t have a theme for his stories, but a character known as Dr. Vink would appear whenever he told them.

Kristen (played by Rachel Blanchard) is a squeamish girl who loves to tell stories that revolve around fairy tales and ghosts who have unfinished business. She tends to dress up sometimes whenever it’s her turn to tell the stories.

Sam (played by Joanna Garcia) is a shy, quiet girl who has a crush on Gary. Her stories tend to focus more on love.

David (played by Nathaniel Moreau) is a quiet, shy boy who has a crush on Kristen. His stories tend to be about the outside forces and the darkness inside of people’s souls.

Eric (played by Jacob Tierney) was a pretty normal kid with a proud Irish ancestry which seemed to be the themes for his stories. He was cut from the show and was replaced by Frank.

Stig (played by Codie Lucas Wilbee) is an odd outsider with bad hygiene. He was the last member of that generation of the Midnight Society to be initiated. Not everyone at the Midnight Society cared for Stig very much due to him being an odd character. His stories revolve around outsiders judged by their appearance.

The way to get into the Midnight Society was like this: A person would be brought to the secret location with  their face covered to not know the location by a member of the Midnight Society. He would tell the story and it has to be voted unanimous for that person to be included. If even one person from the Midnight Society says no, then they wouldn’t get in. Stig had to do this twice in order for him to be a member.

Each episode started off with a person giving a introduction to what the theme of the story was and grab a brown bag that contained a substance known as “midnight dust”. They would look at the campfire, say the following words “Submitted for your approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story (throw the midnight dust at the fire, the fire pops a bit), The Tale of…

Depending on who’s telling the story, each episode then focuses on the story. It would start off simple at first with the main character living their normal lives, doing their normal routines. Then throughout the story, something strange happens, it gets worse and worse, a creepy ghost, a supernatural force, or a monster would appear out of nowhere and scare the main characters. They work together to take down the monster or evil force until, the majority of the time, they would defeat them and save the day.

 

However, it wasn’t that simple. There were even stories in which the story does not end in a happy note. There are some stories that end tragic or in a cliffhanger. I like stories like this since they don’t happen often and leave you with a more memorable story at the end.

 

Even though each main character and story was different in every episode, there were recurring characters that show up throughout Are You Afraid of the Dark? Like the previously mentioned Dr. Vink (played by Richard Dumont), who’s a supernatural mad scientist, Sardo (played by Aron Tager), who owns a magic shop that contains supernatural objects and items, Zeebo the Clown, and The Ghastly Grinner.

As time went on throughout the series, all of the members from the Midnight Society left for being too old in the group, with the exception of Tucker. He became the new leader and initiated his four friends in the group.

Andy (played by David Deveau) is a troublemaker, similar to Frank.

Vange (played by Vanessa Langies) is the youngest of the group and a complete tomboy who speaks her mind, similar to Kiki.

Quinn (played by Kareem Blackwell) is a sweet farm boy who is teased for his huge size and his lack of brains.

Megan (played by Elisha Cuthbert) is a snobby, rich girl who doesn’t like to get dirty. She’s not used to being outdoors, so she brought her old couches and sofas outside their secret location to make it more comfortable.

 

There was even a three part special called The Tale of the Silver Sight. Gary returned in this movie working together with the new members of the Midnight Society looking for an object known as the Silver Sight. Gary and Tucker’s grandfather had mysteriously passed away and told them to look for the object and destroy it. This was the first time in the entire series that didn’t involve with a scary themed story, they were actually going through it. It’s a very well done story that you should really check out sometime.

 

 

 

 

An interesting fact about Are You Afraid of the Dark? was that it almost didn’t make it to TV. The creator of the show, D.J. MacHale, was inspired by other anthology TV series like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents and had written the first episode of the show and sent it to Nickelodeon. The executives of Nickelodeon refused to air it due to the fact that they too scary for kids and set the script aside. Then a year later, an Nickelodeon executive named Jay Mulvaney looked at the set-aside script and said “Whoa! Why aren’t we doing this show?” The rest was history.

 

 

The show ran for 7 seasons ending its run on June 11, 2000. The actors had gone on to do other things while some have faded into obscurity.

 

Ross Hull did a few more TV shows such as Ready or Not, Iron Eagle IV, Student Bodies, and Stargate: Atlantis. He quit acting and is now currently a weatherman for CTV in Ontario.

 

 

Daniel DeSanto has done a lot of TV, movie, and voice work such as The Magic School Bus, Half Baked, Mean Girls, Braceface, Goosebumps, The Border, Aaron Stone, Combat Hospital, and Breakaway.

 

 

Jodie Resther has done other TV and voice acting roles such as Vampire High, Abandon, Undressed, and Who is KK Downey? You might know her nowadays as the voice of Francine Frensky in Arthur.

 

 

Joanna Garcia has been on other TV and movies such as American Pie 2, Party of Five, Freaks and Geeks, Boston Public, Reba, Gossip Girl, Royal Pains, and Animal Practice. She is married to New York Yankee outfielder Mike Swisher.

 

 

Rachel Blanchard has done other movie and TV shows like Iron Eagle IV, The Revenge of Carrie, Clueless the TV Series, Road Trip, Flight of the Conchords, Without a Paddle, and Flashpoint.

 

 

Jacob Tierney has done other movie and TV shows like Josh and Sam, The Neon Bible, Big Wolf on Campus, Touched by an Angel, The Trotsky, and Good Neighbors. 

 

 

Elisha Cuthbert has been in other movie and TV roles such as Popular Mechanics for Kids, Old School, 24, Love Actually, The Forgotten, and Happy Endings.

 

 

Vanessa Lengies has done other movies and TV roles such as For Better or Worse, American Dreams, Popular Mechanics for Kids, 8 Simple Rules, Foreign Exchange, CSI: Miami, Castle, and HawthoRNe. You might know her as the voice of Emily from Arthur or Sugar Motta from Glee.

 

 

D.J. MacHale went on to create other TV series such as Flight 29 Down and Seasonal Differences. He wrote the popular fantasy series Pendragon and Morpheus Road. He’s currently working on some new books.

 

 

Overall, looking back at this show, most of the stuff is not scary anymore. Some of the acting from the Midnight Society members and the characters in the stories are very hokey, cheesy, and a bit over-the-top. However, for some of these stories, they still have a bit of an edge to them when it comes to thrills and unsuspecting twists. There are some stories that are still very fascinating to listen to and find out how it ends.

 

Are You Afraid of the Dark, at the time, was called a softer tone compared to Tales from The Crypt which had ran on HBO two years before, however it came out before R.L. Stine wrote his first Goosebumps book, which would begin the ultimate craze of spooky stories in the 90’s. But Are You Afraid of the Dark? was focusing on thrills and straighter tone point of view than Crypt paying homages to other anthology TV series like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. From the very beginning, Are You Afraid of the Dark? wasn’t meant to be a horror anthology series, but instead a thriller anthology series. For that, the show kinda still works. This is how MacHale describes it in an interview by Mathew Klickstein at splitsider.com.

 

“It depends on the episode. There are some episodes that were straight out horror — horror light because it was a kids show. It’s a mix between Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The Twilight Zone wasn’t necessarily scary, per se. It was always some ironic story or morality tale of the supernatural/impossible happening. Then we added the Hitchcock touch, which was tension in there, as well. Which always led to some climactic moment of escaping danger. It was really more of a thriller, I guess you’d call it.

 

I’m not necessarily a horror fan, but I’m a fan of good stories with mystery and ironic twists, and that’s what Twilight Zone is about. We paid homage to Twilight Zone in every episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? Rod Serling [in Twilight Zone] would always say, ‘Submitted for your approval…’ So, I had the Midnight Society, when they would reach into that bag of midnight dust, say, ‘Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society…’”

 

 

 

 

 

I would highly recommend checking the show out, but don’t expect it to give you nightmares or anything like that. But listen to some of the creative thrilling stories that will take you out of this world.

 

That’s all for now. Tune in next time as we have two special interviews from the people who had worked on Are You Afraid of the Dark? Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon.

 

-Patricia

 

 

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