Are You Afraid of the Dark? is a Canadian horror fantasy-themed anthology television series. The original series was created by D.J. MacHale and Ned Kandel, and was picked up by Nickelodeon in 1991. MacHale, Kandel, and Nickelodeon teamed up with the Canadian company Cinar, and as a part of the deal the show was filmed in Richmond, British Columbia and in the Greater Montreal area of Quebec, including their suburbs.
The series premiered with the episode "The Tale of the Twisted Claw" as a pilot on Halloween 1990 on the Canadian television network YTV and it aired until June 11, 2000. The show also premiered on Nickelodeon's SNICK on August 15, 1992 and aired until April 20, 1996. The show was both a critical and commercial success, garnering numerous awards as the series progressed.
A revival series with new directors, writers, and cast was produced by Nickelodeon from 1999 to 2000 and also aired on SNICK. The sole member from the original lineup to return for the sixth and seventh seasons was Tucker (Daniel DeSanto), although Gary (Ross Hull) returned for the concluding show, which notably broke from the show's established format by blurring the line between story and "reality".
Both series of Are You Afraid of the Dark? revolved around a group of teenagers who referred to themselves as "The Midnight Society." Every episode, at a secret location in the woods, one member would tell a scary story to the group. The actual story, rather than the telling, was displayed to the television viewer. The story was shown between the group's arrival at the site and their departure. Each storyteller would begin their story by saying "Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story, (story name stated here)," at which point he or she would toss a handful of "midnight dust" from a leather pouch into a campfire to heighten the flames and produce an eerie white smoke.
Creator MacHale wrote the line "submitted for the approval of" as a nod to the show The Twilight Zone, in which creator Rod Serling would, after introducing the episode, say "submitted for your approval." The storyteller would continue by announcing its title (The Tale of...).
The themes of the stories usually revolves around a variety of paranormal phenomena, such as demons, ghosts, magic, haunted houses, magical curses, aliens, witches, vampires, werewolves, and the like coming into contact with average youths. Usually, the episodes were either filmed in the woods, in abandoned houses, or in public places like schools or libraries.
Sources of these tales vary in different ways; many were adaptations of public domain fairy tales and short stories or urban legends. For example, the episode "The Tale of the Twisted Claw" is an adaptation of W. W. Jacobs' short story The Monkey's Paw.
Sometimes, the stories were inspired by a certain event in the life of the storyteller. In the episode "The Tale of the Crimson Clown," for instance, Tucker blackmailed his brother Gary with a poem he had found, which Gary had written for Samantha. Gary then told a story in which a naughty younger brother was punished cruelly for his evil deeds. At the end of the episode, Tucker gave the poem back to his brother.
Many, but not all, of the horror stories on Are You Afraid of the Dark? ended with a "happy ending" where some of them have either bad endings or twist endings like "The Tale of the Lonely Ghost", "The Tale of the Dark Music", "The Tale of Vampire Town", and "The Tale of the Pinball Wizard."
At the end of most episodes, one character (usually Gary in the first run and Tucker in the second run of the show) would throw a red bucket of water onto the fire, stating "I declare this meeting of the Midnight Society closed," and the group would leave the campsite, thus ending the storytelling. Sometimes, the story would be related to an event (e.g. in "The Tale of Laughing in the Dark," Kristen, who was afraid of clowns, ran off when Eric put on a clown mask. Then, everyone chased after her). This would cause either Gary or Tucker to hurriedly dump the water on the fire, and the Midnight Society would run off to wherever they go after meetings, most likely back to their homes or the local library.
|Season premiere||Season finale|
|YTV (Canada)||Nickelodeon (US)||YTV (Canada)||Nickelodeon (US)|
|1||13||October 31, 1990||August 15, 1992||June 19, 1991||November 14, 1992|
|2||13||September 25, 1991||June 19, 1993||January 22, 1992||October 2, 1993|
|3||13||October 28, 1992||January 8, 1994||January 20, 1993||April 16, 1994|
|4||13||November 17, 1993||October 1, 1994||January 19, 1994||January 21, 1995|
|5||13||October 7, 1995||April 20, 1996|
|6||13||February 27, 1999||May 15, 1999|
|7||13||April 2, 2000||June 11, 2000|
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Each member of the Midnight Society from 1991 to 1996 has a distinct personality, and a notable trend in their storytelling. Though not all of their stories have similar styles and plots, in many of the stories, each character carries a unique aspect that reflects the nature of the storyteller, and what they find to be most important to themselves. In the second generation, the characters derive their stories more from events that happen during the days leading up to the society meetings instead of from their personal interests and views. Many of the later episodes were simply given to a random society member to tell.
|The Midnight Society (1991–1996)|
|Gary||Ross Hull||1991–1996||Appeared in "The Tale of the Silver Sight", 3 episodes, in 2000.|
|Betty Ann||Raine Pare-Coull||1991–1996|
|Frank Moore||Jason Alisharan||1991–1995|
|The Midnight Society (1999–2000)|
Several years after the last meeting of the Midnight Society, Tucker returns to reinitialize the meetings, inviting his own circle of friends to reform the Midnight Society.
One of the more significant recurring characters was Sardo (Richard Dumont), owner of "Sardo's Magic Mansion" (a magic shop). He would often attempt to sell a character a "prized" item, succeeding almost every single time. He often had items in his shop that contained real properties of magic, yet did not know until it was revealed in the story. One of the most memorable recurring jokes in the series occurred when someone would address him as "Mr. Sardo." He would then get irritated and exclaim: "That's SarDO! No mister; accent on the doh!" Another recurring line was: "Have you seen our vomit?" Additionally, when selling someone an item, he would often ask a rather high price. The main character would mention how much money they had, and Sardo would grab the money saying, "But I'm losing on the deal." Although he rarely got what he wanted, he would often end up helping the characters, often unintentionally. He appeared in Gary's stories, although in the later seasons, he appeared in two of Tucker's and one of David's in the episode "The Tale Of The Dark Dragon."
Another recurring character was Dr. Vink (Aron Tager). He was a physically imposing man who would often appear as a mad scientist, sorcerer, and the like. When he enters, he introduces himself by saying, "Vink's the name. Dr. Vink." He would also get his name mispronounced, usually something like "Dr. Fink?" When this happened, he would respond "Vink. With a va-va-va!" Often, the protagonist would call him a "nutbag" behind his back, assuming he could not hear him, only to have him reply later, "...and I am not a nutbag." Unlike Sardo whose character was set in a magic shop, Dr. Vink had many 'unique endeavors' as he called them, for his stories. These ranged from living deep in the woods conducting strange nature experiments, being a retired filmmaker, owning his own restaurant as head chef and lastly a barbershop. His activities were usually villainous and designed to put the characters in peril and allow him the last laugh. However, in his last appearance, "The Tale of Cutter's Treasure" (which was told by both Frank and Gary), he allied himself with Sardo and the main characters without his usual maliciousness. He appeared in Frank's stories. Aron Tager also played the carnival worker who stands in front of the Funhouse and invites people to go inside in the episode "The Tale of the Laughing in the Dark."
The character of Zeebo the Clown, also played by Tager, who appeared in "The Tale of the Laughing in the Dark" is referenced in several other stories, for example, in the episode "The Tale of the Whispering Walls," two children mention seeing him at a fun park, in the episode "The Tale of the Mystical Mirror", a girl says she will look like Zeebo if she wears too much lipstick, and in the episode "The Tale of the Crimson Clown" in the boys' room a video game called Zeebo's Big House can be seen on the desk with a picture of Zeebo on it as the title character. The video game was also mentioned in the episode "The Tale of Train Magic." Finally, in the episode "The Tale of the Night Shift," the teenage janitor is called Zeebo by his supervisor a few times at the beginning of the episode.
The villain, the "Ghastly Grinner" (star of "The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner"), like Zeebo the Clown, appears in a comic book that "Dark" characters read. In "Tale of the Ghastly Grinner", The Grinner is shown as being the star of a comic book.
Christian Tessier who appeared in "Laughing in The Dark" (1992) also appeared in "The Curious Camera" (1994).
Although not nearly as prestigious as the guest stars of similar shows such as Tales from the Crypt, The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Darkside there were a fair number of notable actors, many of whom would become much more famous later in their careers. Some of these include Christopher Heyerdahl, Mia Kirshner, Bobcat Goldthwait, Charles S. Dutton, Ryan Gosling, Neve Campbell, Will Friedle, Melissa Joan Hart, Kim Schraner, Frank Gorshin, Michael Greyeyes, Hayden Christensen, Daniel Clark, Ryan Cooley, Tia Mowry, Tamera Mowry, Laura Vandervoort, Danny Cooksey, Tara Lipinski, Jay Baruchel, Jewel Staite, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gilbert Gottfried, Jennifer Finnigan, Tatyana Ali, Jennifer Irwin, Aaron Ashmore, Christopher Castile, Christian Tessier, Colin Ferguson, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Gregory Smith, Emily VanCamp, Harold Howard, Jason Tremblay and Asia Vieira.
The television series spawned multiple licensed products. A PC game was made for the show titled Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Tale of Orpheo's Curse. A board game was made titled Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Game. Perhaps the most prominent of products from the franchise's merchandising was a series of books written by various authors between 1995 and 1998.
Three VHS tapes were released by Sony Wonder. Ghostly Tales which included the episodes, "The Tale of the Shiny Red Bicycle" and "The Tale of the Frozen Ghost" plus a bonus: "Feel the Fear" music video and was released on March 22, 1994, Nightmare Tales which included the episodes, "The Tale of the Final Wish" and "The Tale of the Dream Machine" and was released on May 31, 1994  and The Tale of Cutter's Treasure which was released on June 13, 1995.
In addition, episodes of the series were included on two compilation tapes of SNICK programming, both of which were released on August 31, 1993; "The Tale of the Lonely Ghost" was included on Nick Snicks Friendship, and "The Tale of the Hungry Hounds" was included on Nick Snicks the Family.
Direct Source released all seven seasons of Are You Afraid of the Dark? on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time between 2006 and 2008. The first five seasons were released in Canada only while season 6 & 7 were released in Canada and the US. The company also released a joint collection of Season 1 & Season 2/Season 3 & Season 4 as a boxset. These releases have been discontinued and are now out of print.
On April 8, 2013, it was announced that Berkshire Axis Media had acquired the rights to the series (Canada only) and would be re-releasing it. Season 1 was re-released on May 28, 2013. Season 2 was re-released on October 15, 2013.
Nickelodeon is also re-releasing the series to DVD in the US through Amazon.com's CreateSpace service beginning with two random-episode "volumes" released in 2013. However, those releases were canceled and were followed by proper season set releases beginning in 2014.
On December 1, 2014, it was announced that Madman Films had acquired the rights to the series in Australia, and would be releasing the series thought Via Vision Entertainment. in 2015 Via Vision released season 1-3 individually. it was announced on September 22, 2017 that Via Vision Entertainment have no plans to release the remaining seasons of Are You Afraid of the Dark?.
|Release name||Ep #||Region 1 (US)||Region 1 (Canada)||Region 2 (UK)||Region 4 (Australia)|
|Freaky Favorites||6||December 8, 1999||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|The Complete 1st Season||13||June 23, 2014||18 April 2006
May 28, 2013 (re-release)
|N/A||February 4, 2015|
|The Complete 2nd Season||13||June 26, 2014||November 28, 2006
October 15, 2013 (re-release)
|N/A||March 11, 2015|
|The Complete 3rd Season||13||September 24, 2014||April 24, 2007||N/A||April 10, 2015|
|The Complete 4th Season||13||October 2, 2014 ||November 13, 2007||N/A||N/A|
|The Complete 5th Season||13||October 15, 2014||February 26, 2008||N/A||N/A|
|The Complete 6th Season||13||N/A||April 29, 2008||April 29, 2008||N/A|
|The Complete 7th Season||13||N/A||August 19, 2008||August 19, 2008||N/A|
|The Complete Series 1 & 2||26||N/A||N/A||March 5, 2007||N/A|
|The Complete Series 3 & 4||26||N/A||N/A||April 7, 2008||N/A|
On October 17, 2011, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Volume 1" was released on iTunes and Amazon on Demand.
On January 30, 2012, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Volume 2" was released on iTunes and Amazon on Demand.
On April 30, 2012, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Volume 3" was released on iTunes and Amazon on Demand.
On August 6, 2012, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Volume 4" was released on iTunes and Amazon on Demand.
On August 20, 2012, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Volume 5" was released on iTunes and Amazon on Demand.
On September, 2016, All 7 seasons of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" were made available for free on YouTube.
On November 13, 2017, it was announced that a film adaptation of the series was in the works at Paramount's Paramount Players. It writer Gary Dauberman is set to write the screenplay with Matt Kaplan producing. The film is scheduled to be released on October 11, 2019.
Cuthbert appeared in the original series for one episode, going on to become a regular when the show was revived.