Lessons Learned From Are You Afraid of the Dark, Season 3

      Yes, I'm back for a third installment of Lessons Learned From Are You Afraid of the Dark. For anyone who hasn't read the previous two articles, the premise is simple: Are You Afraid of the Dark? was an educational television program designed to scare children into doing the right thing. Season 3 was quite possibly the preachiest season of the show, featuring episodes about reading books, respecting the elderly, and stealing. This season also featured the Tale of the Phone Police, one of the most blatantly combative and moralistic episodes they ever did. Below you'll find synopses for all thirteen episodes from the third season of Are You Afraid of the Dark? as well as the lessons espoused therein. Enjoy.


Episode 1 - The Tale of the Midnight Ride

Synopsis: Ian Matthews has just moved to Sleepy Hollow, the town that was once terrorized by the legendary Headless Horseman, the town where the hapless schoolmaster Ichabod Crane met his untimely end on Halloween. At school, he meets a girl named Katie, and the two of them develop a mutual attraction. This doesn't sit well with Brad, a local jock/bully who has had his eye on Katie as well. At the Halloween dance, Brad gives Ian a choice: fight him, or go out into the woods and retrieve the Headless Horseman's pumpkin from the Bridge of Souls. Ian mans up and does it, but he is suddenly attacked by the Headless Horseman. After he screams like a little bitch, the Headless Horseman reveals himself to be Brad in disguise. Katie tells Brad he's an asshole and asks Ian to walk her home. On their way through the woods, they run into a slightly effeminate man on horseback who asks them for directions to the Bridge of Souls. Ian gives him the directions, and the man thanks him. As he leaves, he gives them his name: Ichabod Crane. The two continue on to Katie's house, but then Ian remembers he left his bike at the school and rushes back to get it. Meanwhile Katie is wearing Ian's jacket and finds the key to his bike lock in the pocket; she goes after him. When they arrive back at the deserted school, they hear a horse's whinny and suddenly the real Headless Horseman appears. It seems that since Ian gave Ichabod Crane directions to the Bridge of Souls, he didn't get lost in the woods like he was supposed to and the Horseman was unable to claim his head, so now the ghost rider was in search of a new head. Ian and Katie make a run for the Bridge of Souls, the one place that the Headless Horseman can't go. After some close calls, they make it and the Horseman disappears. Shortly thereafter, Ichabod Crane shows up again and tells the frightened teenagers that he must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and he's going back the way he came. Ian tells him that's definitely a good idea.
Lesson #1: Old legends exist for a reason: THEY'RE REAL!
Lesson #2: The douchebag jock doesn't always get the girl.


Episode 2 - The Tale of Apartment 214

Synopsis: Stacy and her mom have just moved into a new apartment building and Stacy is lonely and desperate to make friends. The first friend she makes is Madeline, an old lady who lives down the hall in Apartment 214. Stacy goes to see Madeline almost every day and listen to her stories, but on the one day when Madeline specifically makes Stacy promise to visit her, Stacy makes a new friend and doesn't show up in time. After that, Stacy discovers that Apartment 214 is empty and that a ghost inside the room supposedly drives out all potential tenants. Madeline's ghost begins tormenting Stacy for not showing up, but Stacy apologizes and says she had tried to, but she made a new friend, and when she got there Madeline was gone. Then Madeline calms the fuck down and tells Stacy that it's important to make new friends and mourns the fact that she never bothered to make new friends while she was alive. Then she promises to leave Stacy alone. Stacy feels bad for Madeline though, and promises she'll never have to be alone again. In the next scene, we see that Stacy and her mom have moved into Madeline's apartment, which they've gotten at a special discount rate. Madeline is happy, and Stacy is too. Stacy probably won't be quite so happy to have an ominpresent roommate, however, once she discovers masturbation.
Lesson #1: Honor your commitments.
Lesson #2: Be nice to old people.
Lesson #3: If you're able to make friends with ghosts, you can get some pretty sweet deals on haunted apartments.


Episode 3 - The Tale of Watcher's Woods

Synopsis: Sarah is an overachieving Trailmaker who has just about every medal that a scout can earn. Kelly (Jewel Staite from Firefly) is not. Kelly doesn't particularly want to be a Trailmaker, and she certainly doesn't want to spend her summer at Camp Grindlestone. When she gets paired up with Sarah for a Nature Medal exercise, she tricks her into looking for a pheasant's nest then ditches her. Kelly's plan backfires, however, when she gets lost and accidentally ends up in Watcher's Woods, a mysterious place where people have disappeared for centuries at the hands of the evil Watcher. Kelly is captured by three old hags, the ghosts of three Trailmaker scouts who disappeared 75 years ago. The hags tell Kelly that the Watcher trapped them there in 1919, and that they could only leave if they found their missing scout whistles. Kelly tells them that the whistles are in Camp Grindlestone's central lodge and offers to get them if they let her go, but the hags can tell she's a selfish bitch and refuse to let her go. Then Sarah, who's also lost, shows up and offers to bring back the whistles. The hags agree, but they tell her that if she doesn't bring the whistles back by sunrise, they'll feed Kelly to their rats. Sarah quickly leaves the hags' campsite and is almost immediately confronted by the Watcher. The Watcher asks her to join his woods, but Sarah refuses and threatens to burn down his forest with Kelly's cigarette lighter if he doesn't leave her alone. The Watcher backs off and Sarah retrieves the whistles. She returns to the campsite, but as she's about to hand the whistles to the hags, she trips and loses one. The witches, enraged that Sarah got their hopes up then only delivered two whistles, decide to guillotine her. Kelly sees the whistle in the bucket of rats that the witches have put in her cage and tries to tell them, but they refuse to listen, and continue on with their plans to kill Sarah. At the last second, Kelly fearfully reaches into the bucket, retrieves the whistle, and blows it. The witches stop their execution plans and free the two girls. Then they blow their whistles and disappear. Sarah and Kelly hug, signaling to they have overcome their differences and are now BFFs. They return to camp the next morning and retire to their mutual tent for the sort of uncomfortable lesbian sexual experimentation that only happens at summer camp.
The Lesson: When in doubt, threaten to burn stuff.


Episode 4 - The Tale of the Phone Police

Synopsis: Two douchebags, Jake and Chris, enjoy making prank phone calls in their spare time. One night, Jake's sister Annie catches them doing it and warns them that if they play around with the phone, the Phone Police will come and take them away, just like they took away a little boy named Billy Baxter. Later that night after Chris leaves, Jake sits down with the phone book to make some more prank calls. To his surprise, he finds Billy Baxter's number listed in giant text, but it's only six digits. Jake decides to call the number even though it shouldn't work, and to his fucking surprise, Billy picks up. After that, Billy keeps calling Jake back asking for help. Jake and Chris eventually go to the phone company for help, but that turns out to be a big fucking mistake. Jake is arrested by the Phone Police and locked in a holding cell in the basement of the phone company's building. Chris goes to Jake's sister for help, but she doesn't remember him; no one does. With no one left to help him, Chris is forced to infiltrate the phone company headquarters by himself and try and rescue Jake. He succeeds and everything goes back to normal. Jake and Chris swear never to fuck around on the telephone again.
Lesson #1: Don't fuck around on the telephone.
Lesson #2: Hey ladies, that fucking includes drunk dialing.


Episode 5 - The Tale of the Dollmaker

Synopsis: Melissa only gets to see her best friend Susan Henderson a few times a year, when she goes to visit her aunt and uncle in the countryside. When Melissa goes for a visit one summer, she is shocked and disappointed to learn that Susan's family has moved away and that the big house next door is now deserted. One day when she's outside playing, she thinks she sees someone in the Henderson's attic and rushes over to investigate. While she's up there, she sees a dollhouse and a mysterious painted door. The door seems to call to her, but just as she's about to open it, her aunt finds her and tells her to stay out of the Hendersons' house. Later that night, Melissa is awoken by Susan's voice and she looks over at Susan's house to see lights on in the attic. She sneaks over there once again and again the mysterious door calls to her. She opens it and sees her friend Susan wandering around in a weird pastel corridor. Melissa calls to Susan, but she can't seem to see her. Melissa is about to enter the door, when suddenly her uncle pulls her away. Melissa soon sees why: the attic door leads outside and she would have fallen to her death. Her uncle boards up the attic door and then finally tells Melissa the truth: Susan disappeared one night a few months ago without a trace. Her heartbroken parents couldn't bear to live in the house anymore, but they decided not to sell it in case Susan came back. They tell Melissa once again to stay out of the house. Later on, her uncle goes up to the Henderson's attic to board up the mysterious door. Melissa starts to freak out, knowing Susan is behind that door. When her aunt and uncle aren't looking, Melissa sneaks back over to the house with a hammer and takes all the boards off the door. Then she opens it and steps through into the hallway on the other side; she doesn't fall. The door disappears behind her and she soon realizes that she's in the dollhouse. She finally finds Susan, only to see that her friend has almost completely turned into a porcelain doll; then she notices that she's turning into one too. Melissa figures out that the dollhouse is a replica of Susan's house, and if they can get to the dollhouse attic, there should be a door that will take them back to their world. Unfortunately, the door to the attic is blocked by a giant bookcase. Melissa tried to get Susan to help her move it, but Susan's hands are glass and useless, so Melissa is forced to try by herself. Using every ounce of strength in her body, she tips over the bookcase and open the path to the attic. Then Melissa helps her barely mobile friend up the attic stairs and together they jump out the dollhouse's attic door and back to safety. Meanwhile, Melissa's aunt and uncle have been looking for her for hours and worried sick that she's disappeared just like Susan. To their relief and surprise, both Melissa and Susan reappear and Melissa's beliefs that Susan was still in the house are finally vindicated. At the girls' request, Melissa's uncle burns the dollhouse.
Lesson #1: Stay the fuck out of the attic, it's not safe.
Lesson #2: When a child goes missing, never stop believing that they might return safely.


Episode 6 - The Tale of the Bookish Babysitter

Synopsis: Ricky Winter is a fat little boy who fucking loves television and fucking hates babysitters. One day his mom hires Belinda, who bills herself as being a babysitter that even kids who hate babysitters will like. She tries to get Ricky to read, but he gives up after reading a few sentences out of three different books, because reading is wicked gay. But then it turns out that Belinda's books are magical, and Ricky is attacked by a witch, a knight, and a wraith from the stories that he started and never finished. After the witch takes Belinda's form and tricks him into burning most of the babysitter's books, Ricky is forced to use his own imagination to finish the story, thereby putting the escaped characters to rest. He succeeds, and he also learns that reading is kinda cool.
Lesson #1: If you think books are gay, you're wrong.
Lesson #2: If you've been reading Dan Brown's stuff, you can go ahead and ignore the first lesson.


Episode 7 - The Tale of the Carved Stone

Synopsis: Like so many other Are You Afraid of the Dark? characters before her, Alison Denny has just moved into a new neighborhood. She eventually ends up at Sardo's Magic Mansion, where the lovable shyster sells her a talisman that he claims will help her win over friends. It doesn't, but when she puts it near a mirror, it transports her back to 1892, when a friendless young boy named Thomas lived in her house. Thomas and Alison quickly become friends, and Alison decides to bring him into the present to hang out with her. Meanwhile an evil centuries-old monk named Brother Septimus (Frank Gorshin) has been searching for the stone for centuries and tracks it to Sardo's store. Using dark magic, he forces Sardo to tell him where to find the stone and goes after Alison. So Septimus shows up at Alison's house and tries to get the stone, Sardo shows up too, realizing the stone is worth millions and hoping to claim it for himself. There's some brief back and forth through the mirrors, then Thomas puts the stone in his slingshot and sends Septimus into the mirror while simultaneously shattering it. Somehow Thomas is sucked into the mirror as well, and both him and Septimus are trapped in some sort of space-time vortex. As Thomas's image fades a mirror shard, he tells Alison that he doesn't mind being trapped in a horrible void because he finally made a friend. As the story ends, the theme from The Golden Girls is heard playing in the background. There's a pretty good chance I made that last part up.
Lesson #1: It's quite possible that the only person willing to be friends with you either died a long time ago or isn't born yet.
Lesson #2: Even when he's not leaving ridiculous clues, Frank Gorshin just can't win.


Episode 8 - The Tale of the Guardian's Curse

Synopsis: Cleo Dugan and her brother Josh (Danny Cooksey, better known as Bobby Budnick) are supposed to go on a skiing trip with their archeologist father but he insists on stopping by the museum he works at before they go. Unfortunately for his children, the museum staff have just discovered a long lost mummy behind a false wall, and Dr. Dugan cancels the ski trip so that he can study it further. The mummy turns out to be that of Mina the Guardian, a completely fictional Egyptian harvest goddess. While Dr. Dugan rifles through some texts at home looking for information on Mina, he sends Cleo and Josh back to the museum to get some photos he left in his office. While they're there, Josh accidentally finds a secret compartment in Mina's coffin contained two prized artifacts, the Elixir of Life and the Ring of Eternity. Josh and Cleo fight over who gets to hold the artifacts, and some of the Elixir of Life accidentally spills onto Mina's corpse. After that, the children compromise: Cleo will hold the elixir and Josh will hold the ring. After they leave, the mummy begins to stir. The siblings arrive home, anxious to show their dad their huge discovery. But when they step inside, they find the place has been ransacked and their dad is missing. Frightened, they head back to the museum. They find their dad, unconscious, in the museum's supply room. Apparently he had grown impatient and come back to the museum before their house was broken into. As they try to piece together what's going, Dr. Dugan's coworker, Dr. Capel-Smith shows up and reveals that it was he who attacked Dr. Dugan and ransacked their house. Capel-Smith produces a torch and threatens to burn down the museum if the children don't give him the Ring of Eternity. Josh refuses at first, but Cleo convinces him to surrender the ring. The evil doctor puts on the ring, believing it will grant him immortality, but instead it turns him to stone. Cleo explains that the ring is only one piece of the puzzle, to achieve eternal life, one needs the potion and the ring. Since Capel-Smith only used the ring, he was granted eternity in the form of a statue. Suddenly, the reanimated mummy appears. Cleo and Dr. Dugan freak out, but Josh decides to give it the ring. When the ring is placed on the mummy's finger, it regenerates into the super hot ancient goddess Mina, who almost immediately seems attracted to Dr. Dugan. Josh wonders out loud if Mina enjoys skiing, Cleo smiles, and the story ends.
Lesson #1: The "M" in MILF can also stand for Mummy.
Lesson #2: Threatening to burn stuff is still a great way to get what you want.


Episode 9 - The Tale of the Curious Camera

Synopsis: When benchwarmer Matt Dorney (Eddie Kaye Thomas from the American Pie movies) gets his basketball team portraits back, he doesn't show up in them. When he complains to the photographer about it, the guy gives him an old antique camera as a consolation prize. Matt quickly discovers that bad things happen to everything he photographs. After using it to break the leg of the evil bully Kullback (Christian Tessier from The Tale of Laughing in the Dark), Matt begins to plot revenge on every single fucking asshole who ever picked on him. But after the camera almost crushes his sister Amy with a chandelier, Matt decided to get rid of it. He goes back to the photography studio, where he finds that the photographer has become massively successful since he is now free from the bad luck the camera brings. Matt tries to give the camera back, but the man explains that the gremlin inside the camera chose Matt and that he's doomed to keep it until it chooses someone else; no matter how many times Matt throws it away, breaks it, or gives it away, it will always come back. Dejected, Matt returns home with the camera, but on his way inside, he accidentally takes a picture of his parents' car. Shortly thereafter, his parents depart to go see a movie, despite Matt's pleas to the contrary. In a desperate attempt to save their parents from impending doom, Matt and his sister set up the camera in front of a mirror and carefully set it off. Their plan works; the camera is destroyed, its magic is broken, their parents are saved, and Matt fucks Stifler's mom. Unfortunately, the camera's gremlin jumps into a nearby video camera that's hooked up to their television and VCR, and it begins spinning around madly, trying to film Matt and Amy. Matt grabs the VCR remote and presses fast forward, which somehow causes the TV, VCR, and video camera to all explode. Thus, Matt and Amy are saved. As they leave the room, their computer monitor flickers. The gremlin has survived... and it has taken over Windows 3.1!
Lesson #1: If you want to get rid of an evil magical household appliance that can kill people, turn its own magic against it.
Lesson #2: This episode is pretty much just a better version of The Tale of the Dream Machine.


Episode 10 - The Tale of the Dream Girl

Synopsis: Johnny Angelli and his sister Erica are both employees at a bowling alley. One day when they're leaving, Johnny finds a girl's class ring in his locker. Once he puts it on, it becomes stuck and he begins having visions of a beautiful girl. Then he begins getting letters and phone calls from her. She seems to know him and be madly in love with him, but he doesn't remember her at all. Eventually, he discovers that the girl's name is Donna Maitland and she died in a car accident, so he decides to go to her grave with Erica. When they get there, Erica points out that he found the grave awfully fast and asks him if he knows why that is. Johnny doesn't remember at first, but Erica keeps pushing him and he realizes that Donna was his girlfriend and that they died together in the car crash. He then brushes aside some leaves on Donna's grave and sees his name on it as well. You know, because when a high school couple tragically die together, they *always* get buried together. Erica tells Johnny that she's the only one who can see him, which explains why everyone else in the episode was a dick to him, and begs him to stay with her. Then Donna appears and tells Johnny he needs to come with her. Johnny apologizes to a crying Erica and tells her that he has to leave. Then Johnny and Donna go off to Heaven to do whatever the hell teenagers do in Heaven. Awkward sex in the backseat of a cloud, perhaps?
Lesson #1: Maybe that girl's not a crazy stalker bitch, maybe you're her dead amnesiac boyfriend.
Lesson #2: M. Night Shyamalan is a complete fucking hack.


Episode 11 - The Tale of the Quicksilver

Synopsis: Aaron Johnston and his brother Doug are excited; they've just moved into a big house in a new town. That excitement quickly fades, however, when they discover the house is haunted and something evil is living in the walls. Doug contracts a mysterious sickness, and Aaron begins having weird dreams where he sees his classmate Connie (Tatyana Ali from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) trying to perform a ritual to draw a ghoul out of his bedroom wall. Aaron also finds a burned yearbook hidden in his room, which magically opens to a picture of a girl named Laura who looks exactly like Connie. When Aaron asks Connie about it, she tells him that Laura was her twin sister and she died in a fire in her old house, which just happens to be Aaron's new house. Laura was convinced that there was a ghoul inside her bedroom wall and she burned to death while trying to cast a spell to destroy it. With Connie's help, Aaron recreates the ritual that Laura was performing, and draws the monster out of the wall. But when they recite the incantation to trap the ghoul, it won't work. As the monster closes in on Doug, Aaron realizes that Laura messed up; the spell required the presence of silver, but the spoon she had used was actually stainless steel. Aaron substitutes in his grandfather's silver pilot wings and successfully seals the demon in an amulet, thus curing his brother. Then Laura's ghost appears and Connie hands her the amulet and apologizes for not believing her.
Lesson #1: All that glitters is not gold silver.
Lesson #2: Tatyana Ali is adorable.


Episode 12 - The Tale of the Crimson Clown

Synopsis: Sam is a total dickhead, and quite possibly the worst kid in the entire world. He constantly causes problems, then blames everything on his older brother Mike so that he gets in trouble instead. The day before their mom's birthday, Mike takes Sam to an antique store to help him pick out a present for her. When Mike isn't paying attention, Sam steals the $70 he had saved up and buys an NES game at a nearby toy store. When Sam returns with the game, Mike points out a clown doll in the antique store and makes up a story about it. He tells his brother that the doll is called the Crimson Clown, and that when kids act like complete assholes all the time, the clown comes after them. Unfortunately for Sam, the story turns out to be true and the doll follows him home and torments him over and over again until he cries like a little bitch and promises to be good.
Lesson #1: Don't steal.
Lesson #2: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, or you'll wake up tied to your bed with a creepy clown looming over you.


Episode 13 - The Tale of the Dangerous Soup

Synopsis: Nonnie (Neve Campbell from Party of Five and Scream) is the hostess/bookkeeper at The Wild Boar, a restaurant run by the eccentric Dr. Vink. Vink's specialty is Le Potage Dangereux, the dangerous soup, and people come from all over the world to try it. The good doctor charges $100 per bowl and limits his customers to one serving. Not one serving per night, mind you, one serving... ever. Nonnie enjoys her job, but she notices that members of the waitstaff frequently quit and have to be replaced. One day a self-styled tough guy named Reed shows up looking for a job, and Vink is so impressed by his attitude that he not only hires him, but he decides to let Reed and Nonnie in on the secret of the soup. It turns out the soup has a very special ingredient: human fear. Vink has an evil magic demon statue thing that is able to read people's thoughts and create illusions based on their worst fears. The statue then feeds on those fears and distills them into a green liquid that Vink puts into his soup. Vink keeps the statue contained in a special room, and every so often he traps an insolent member of his staff into the room to feed the statue. Afterwards, the person is so horrified that they leave the restaurant and never come back. Since Reed likes to act all fucking tough, Vink decides it will be fun to find out what scares him. He locks Reed in the room and lets Nonnie, his most trusted employee, watch the statue do its thing. Unfortunately, Nonnie has somehow developed a crush on Reed in the five minutes she's known him, and she can't bear to watch him face his worst fear: his dead uncle. Nonnie opens the door to let Reed out, and suddenly the statue, awakened by the taste of fear, flies out of the container cell and off into the night. Vink tells them that she's made a terrible mistake and the statue is now free to feed on anyone. He runs off to catch it, while Nonnie and Reed discuss whether or not to call the police. They soon discover that the demon hasn't left the restaurant and has decided to feed on them. Reed locks Nonnie in the container room, thinking she'll be safe, but her fear is claustrophobia and she sees the walls closing in on her. Reed is then confronted by his dead uncle once again, but he stands up to him, seemingly breaking the statue's power. Reed rushes into the containment room to get Nonnie and he tells her that the nightmare is over and it looks like Vink is going to be out of business. Then out of fucking nowhere, Vink tells Reed that he's wrong. Nonnie and Reed turn around to discover that Vink sealed them in the room when they weren't paying attention and that the statue is back on its fucking roost. Vink laughs and tells them he's going to be in business for a long, long time.
Lesson #1: Don't fuck over your boss, especially if he doesn't answer to stockholders or a corporate hierarchy.

      So what have we learned today? Mostly we've learned that Season 3 of Are You Afraid of the Dark? had some pretty kickass guest stars: Frank Gorshin, Danny Cooksey, Neve Campbell, Tatyana Ali, Christian Tessier, and Eddie Kaye Thomas. Oh yeah, and Jewel Staite, who I sincerely hope to trap in my basement someday. Other than that, it's the same sort of common sense lessons you've ignored time and time again: reading is important, stealing is wrong, don't make prank calls, attics are scary, and burning stuff is awesome. That's basically all you really need to know. Now leave me the fuck alone; I'm putting the finishing touches on my super awesome plan to kidnap Jewel Staite.


Posted by: Syd Lexia