The age-old tradition of the campfire ghost story got a 1990’s update in Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark? Debuting as part of the Friday night SNICK block in 1992, the show featured a group of teen and preteen storytellers, each telling tales of the spooky and the macabre.
Horror fan Gary was the founder of the Midnight Society, a club of kids who each week retired deep into the woods, lit a campfire and took turns scaring the living daylights out of one another. In addition to Gary, the original Midnight Society lineup included Betty Ann, Kiki, Frank, Kristen, David and Eric.
As each episode began, one of the Midnight Society members would begin spinning his or her web of gloom, and the show would segue into a dramatization of the story. The familiar vampires, werewolves, haunted houses, mad scientists, etc., were all present in the kids’ tales, but the stories also delved into Twilight Zone territory. Kids were given twisted morality lessons about prank phone call police, magic mirrors that showed inner ugliness, the problems with having your wishes all come true, and so on. And for the hard core scare fans, the Midnight Society also had its share of voodoo, cannibals, scary clowns and raising the dead.
The Midnight Society was the show’s only regular cast, as other actors took over during the stories themselves. That left plenty of room for guest stars, and Are You Afraid of the Dark? filled the bill with appearances by Bobcat Goldthwaite, Melissa Joan Hart, Neve Campbell, Boy Meets World’s Will Friedle and TV’s original Riddler, Frank Gorshin.
Midnight Society members came and went during the show’s first run, with Sam, Stig and Gary’s kid brother Tucker joining up to replace the exiting spookmeisters. With the start of the sixth season—which came after a three years of no new episodes—an entire new Midnight Society was formed, with only Tucker hanging on as the group’s new leader. Excitable tomboy Vange, upscale Megan, burly farm boy Andy and streetwise Quinn were now the ones sharing their chilling yarns.
Somewhere out there, the Midnight Society continue to hold their macabre meetings in the woods, and as long as kids love good ghost stories, the tradition will surely stay alive.
If you remember and want to relive the spooky fun of Are You Afraid of the Dark, or you’ve never indulged, then join us tonight at midnight in our Retro Rambling’s Midnight Drive-In for a curated selection of episodes. That is, if you’re not afraid of the dark.