Fun fact: I have a collection of every episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark recorded on VHS, which is currently collecting dust somewhere in my parents' basement. Thanks to YouTube, I won't have to pull those tapes out from storage and attempt to remember how to work a VCR, but I still consider the collection that evolved in the '90s to be a prized relic. Nickelodeon's weekly block of programming known as SNICK — which ran from 1992 to 2004 — offered a bevy of fondly remember gems such as All That, Clarissa Explains It All, and the decidedly terrifying AYAotD. Looking back, I'm kind of surprised I was allowed to watch it, given the plethora of ghastly creatures featured throughout the series' nearly decade-long run. I wasn't afraid of the dark before ensconcing myself in my living room (with Gushers and Capri Sun on hand, mind you) to watch the first episode, but I definitely needed to sleep with the lights on once the credits rolled.
My lack of sleep aside, AYAotD is still one of my favorite '90s shows to date. Each story was carefully crafted in a way that left my childhood self enthralled, and one classic episode may have even been the inspiration behind The Sixth Sense. You may not remember which member of The Midnight Society (what a sardonic weekly ritual those guys had — amright?) was designated to each story, or every character's name, but one thing that likely remains etched in your mind is the images of the show's scariest villains. In case you need a refresher, I have compiled a list of the AYAotD villains that still haunt your nightmares.
1. This Indoor Pool Corpse From "The Tale Of Dead Man's Float"
Want to impress a girl you like? Why not volunteer for private swimming lessons in an abandoned indoor pool that wreaks of sulfur and nightmares? In the episode, high school nerd, Zeke, yearns to impress the popular swim captain, Clorice, and suggests she give him lessons at the school's haunted swimming pool. Just as things are heating up, a crimson monster emerges from the water, completely killing the mood.
2. Zeebo The Clown From "The Tale Of Laughing In The Dark"
Clowns have long been the product of nightmares, and Zeebo from "The Tale Of Laughing In The Dark" didn't skimp on the terror. After teenager, Josh, steals an animatronic clown's cigar at a carnival, the ghost of Zeebo demands its return in the form of flying pudding, grisly phone calls, and exploding spaghetti.
Abstain from thievery, guys.
3. The Ghastly Grinner From "The Tale Of The Ghastly Grinner"
This episode teaches us never to...um...microwave comic books, because apparently the radiation can cause the comic's villain to come to life and attempt to straight up murder you. Also, that maniacal grin can never be un-seen — sorry, guys.
4. Nosferatu From "The Tale Of Midnight Madness"
Watching a movie that stars this nefarious demon is scary enough, but when Nosferatu actually emerges from the big screen to torment two theater employees, it's just bad news bears. No amount of free popcorn would coax me into working at this joint.
5. The Crimson Clown From "The Tale Of The Crimson Clown"
Once again, AYAotD proved that clowns are perfect for terrifying children.
6. This Green Vampire From "The Tale Of The Night Shift"
No caption needed. Excuse me while I crawl under a cocoon of blankets and shudder.
7. This Evil Computer Virus From "The Tale Of The Renegade Virus"
Back in the early '90s, the internet was not the household commodity it has become today. Case in point: "The Tale Of The Renegade Virus" mused on the fact that computer viruses could actually come in the form of metallic demons who force you into a perilous world of virtual reality. Eek!
Bonus: Ryan Gosling In "The Tale Of Station 109.1"
Yes, Ryan Gosling appeared as flannel-loving Jamie Leary in an episode. "The Tale Of Station 109.1" didn't include any characters that were particularly terrifying, but I decided to offer up this bonus as a way to help you all cleanse the palate from the horror I just bestowed on you. You. Are. Welcome.
Images: Nickelodeon (4); Giphy (5)