Lessons Learned From Are You Afraid of the Dark, Season 4

      Lessons Learned From Are You Afraid of the Dark soldiers on, and here I am with the fourth installment. For anyone who hasn't read the previous three articles, the premise is rather simple: Are You Afraid of the Dark? was an educational television program designed to scare children into doing the right thing. Season 4 was arguably the best season of the show, featuring episodes about unfinished paintings, fire, zombies, a computer virus, and the best supervillain ever. It also featured Vink and Sardo together, a crossover collaboration so incredibly awesome that it makes Marvel vs. Capcom 2 look like Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO. Below you'll find synopses for all thirteen exciting episodes from the fourth season of Are You Afraid of the Dark? as well as the lessons you should have learned from these episodes. Enjoy!


Episode 1 - The Tale of the Renegade Virus

Synopsis: Evan and Simon (Christopher Redman from The Tale of the Crimson Clown) are best friends who love playing pranks on each other. As their prank war escalates, it begins to turn from harmless fun into something more malicious. After Simon gets Evan in trouble at school, Evan comes up with the ultimate prank: he uploads a virus into their science teacher's virtual reality game right before Simon is given a chance to beta test it. The prank is funny at first, until the virus takes on a life of its own, traps Simon in the game, and tries to upload itself into his body and escape into the real world. Evan patches into the game and with his help, Simon escapes from the game and the virus is seemingly destroyed. Afterwards, Simon and Evan agree to stop acting like douchebags and playing pranks on each other. In the story's final scene, we see that the virus has still escaped into the real world somehow.
Lesson #1: Anyone with moderate computer programming skills can create a completely photorealistic virtual reality program in their spare time.
Lesson #2: Computer viruses have giant brains and wear mittens.


Episode 2 - The Tale of the Long Ago Locket

Synopsis: Jimmy Armstrong (Will Friedle from Boy Meets World) likes April, but is afraid to tell her. Then one day, when he's walking through the park on his way home, he's briefly transported back to the Revolutionary War. When it happens again the next day, Jimmy meets Lieutenant William, an American soldier on the run from Redcoats. Back in his own time, Jimmy obtains a book from an antique dealer and learns that Lieutenant William was captured by the British while trying to deliver a locket to his one true love; he was executed. Jimmy goes back in time again and helps William escape. Back in present day, he finds William's hunting knife as well as the locket. The newly courageous Jimmy asks April out. When she says yes, he gives her the locket. Later on, Jimmy finds that the history book has changed: his friend survived, married his true love, and got promoted to Captain William. Isn't that fucking cute?
Lesson #1: Stay the fuck out of the park, it's not safe.
Lesson #2: If you like a girl and you don't ask her out, you'll be sent back in time to fight Redcoats.
Lesson #3: Will Friedle doesn't need Ben Savage around to be entertaining.


Episode 3 - The Tale of the Water Demons

Synopsis: Shawn Mackenzie is one of those asshole teenagers who's always getting in trouble, so his mom ships him off to stay with his uncle and nerdy cousin Dean for the summer in a small coastal town. Shawn's uncle thinks honest work will straighten his nephew out, so he forces him to work as clerk at his convenience store alongside his cousin. One evening, they are called upon to deliver groceries to Captain Westchester, a rich old man who used to salvage ships for a living. When they arrive at his house, they end up startling him, and he goes off into a half-crazed story about water demons. The old man made his fortune by stealing from the dead, and he believes the dead come after him every night for what he did. Shawn thinks the story's bullshit, so he swipes some of Westchester's ill-gotten gains before he leaves. But soon Shawn is haunted by the water demons as well, who try to drag him back to his watery grave. Shawn and Dean go back to Captain Westchester for help, and he tells them that he believes the demons come from the Del Rio, a ship which crashed right off the coast near his house. As the undead passengers swarm the Westchester estate, Dean suddenly gets the idea to return their possessions to them. Westchester has held onto everything he took from the Del Rio, so Shawn and Dean load it up in a rowboat and dump it into the water near the wreckage site. When the last piece is returned, the demons stop trying to kill Shawn and the captain. Shawn is shaken by the whole ordeal and decides to stop being such a fucking dick.
Lesson #1: Don't steal stuff from the dead.
Lesson #2: Don't steal stuff from people who stole stuff from the dead.


Episode 4 - The Tale of Cutter's Treasure (Part I)

Synopsis: Rush Keegan (Dominic Zamprogna from The Tale of the Full Moon) hates his annoying younger brother Max and wishes he would go away. While at Sardo's Magic Mansion one day, Rush enters an in-store challenge to try and open a magic treasure chest despite Sardo's claims that it can't be done. Rush succeeds and wins the contents of the chest, which appear to be nothing more than old junk. At Sardo's urging, Rush accepts a spyglass from the chest. However, the spyglass gives him nightmares, so he returns it the next day. Later that night, while their parents are out, Max finds the spyglass sitting on a stump outside their house. Shortly thereafter, the ghost of the evil pirate Captain Jonas Cutter (Award-winning actor Charles S. Dutton!) shows up. The first half of the story ends with Max being dragged off by Cutter.
The Lesson: Don't enter contests.


Episode 5 - The Tale of Cutter's Treasure (Part II)

Synopsis: As the story resumes, Rush rushes back to Sardo's Magic Mansion in the middle of the night for answers. Sardo is unhappy to be awoken, and he has no explanation for what happened. However, he tells Rush that the man who gave him the chest might. Sardo hands Rush a business card for a barber shop called The Wild Boar and tells him to go there. Rush arrives at the barber shop to find that it's open. He enters and meets its unusual proprietor, the always entertaining Dr. Vink. Vink explains that the treasure chest belongs to Rush's ancestor, Ian Keegan, a man who once tried to stop the murderous pirate Jonas Cutter (award-winning actor Charles S. Dutton!), but failed. The items contained within the chest are blessed with the spirits of Cutter's victims, and they can defeat him. If Rush wants to get his brother back, he must defeat Cutter. With Vink's help, Rush uses the spyglass to transport himself to an old cemetery. A key within the treasure chest opens one of the crypts, which leads down to Cutter's secret treasure room. Rush finds his brother Max in a cage and gives him the third and final treasure from the chest, a dagger, so that he can free himself. Rush is then confronted by Jonas Cutter, who tries to sword him to death. But then Max, who escapes from the cage, distracts Cutter and hands Rush the dagger. Rush uses the power of Cutter's victims to tie him to a chair and Vink tells Rush that he must kill Cutter with the dagger to end the ordeal. But Rush realizes that Vink is wrong. Cutter's ghost is forced to guard its treasure, and since no one comes looking for the treasure anymore, there's no one to guard it from. Cutter lured Rush down to the treasure room hoping he would kill him with the dagger and in doing so, free his spirit from the room. Rush instead opts to give Cutter's victims the justice they deserve. He breaks the dagger in half, freeing Cutter's victims and condemning the pirate to an eternity of guarding his treasure. The crypt begins to collapse, and the boys find that Vink has disappeared. They escape, and Rush uses the spyglass to bring them home. They appear outside their house, in daylight, to find Vink waiting for them. He congratulates Rush on a job well done and reveals that he managed to snag some of Cutter's treasure. He gives Rush and Max each a gem and says that the rest of it will go to finance some of his unusual endeavors. Then Sardo shows up, demanding the $5,000 finder's fee that Vink promised him. Vink tells him that he will be getting double the promised fee and Sardo eagerly asks him if he has any other jobs for him. Max and Rush demonstrate that they've learned to play nice, and the story ends.
Lesson #1: Award-winning actor Charles S. Dutton has done things he'd probably like to forget.
Lesson #2: Vink + Sardo = Awesome


Episode 6 - The Tale of the Quiet Librarian

Synopsis: Jace is a cocky football-playing douchebag with shit for brains. Laurie is a quiet girl who enjoys school, but she's also rather condescending. When the two of them get paired up together on a history project, things don't go so well. While they're working on their project at the library, Laurie refuses to let Jace help because she's a bitch and she thinks he'll fuck up the paper because he's not as smart as her. Jace responds by being an asshole and playing with a loud electronic toy. Then Laurie yells at him, so he grabs some of the books for their project and leaves. Laurie chases him and gets him to agree to give her the books and do the project by herself. Later on, she realizes that Jace left some important notes she gave him at the library and asks for his help in finding them. After she begs, he reluctantly agrees to help her look for them after football practice. When they get to the library, it's closed, so Jace breaks in. Inside the library, the children are chased by the Quiet Librarian, an evil ghost who steals children's voices and traps them in her reading room. She manages to steal both Jace and Laurie's voices with her glowy purple box, but is unable to catch the children. Then they figure out her weakness is noise, so Jace takes out his stupid toy from before and keeps pressing buttons on it until the evil librarian ghost and the glowy purple box explode. Shortly thereafter, a police officer discovers the children in the library and asks them what the fuck they're doing there. They take him to the librarian's hidden reading room, where they discover some children who recently went missing. After the officer leaves with the missing children, Jace and Laurie hear the ghostly laughter of the other children they freed, the ones who were trapped in the room until they died. United by their horrible experience, Jace and Laurie become friends and work on their stupid project together.
Lesson #1: Don't be a bitch.
Lesson #2: Don't be an asshole.
Lesson #3: Don't break into libraries.


Episode 7 - The Tale of the Silent Servant

Synopsis: Jarred Conner gets sent to stay with cousin Anne on her family's farm. When they accidentally break a glass door while playing catch, Anne's dad makes them work off the debt. On their way to deliver beans to a neighbor, Jarred spies an old abandoned barn and convinces Anne to explore it with him. Anne tells him the barn once belonged to Mr. Earlstead, a mysterious farmer who died twenty years ago and who the neighbors believed had magic powers and invisible servants. Inside the barn, they find a creepy old scarecrow. Jarred thinks it will keep deer away from a garden they're supposed to build a fence around, so he and Anne bring it back to the farm. Then Anne's brother asks them if they ever delivered beans, and they realize that they dropped them in Earlstead's barn and forgot all about them. They return to the barn to retrieve the beans and they run into Crazy George, a farmhand who used to work for Mr. Earlstead. George begins ranting incoherently about a silent servant controlled by dragons and how only the true master can separate the dragons and break the spell. He also warns that the servant is evil, and commands given to it cannot be taken back. Anne grabs the beans and the two children quickly leave. Later that night, Anne reveals that she found a talisman inside the scarecrow, a talisman with two dragons on it. Jarred discovers that it's hollow and finds a scroll inside it. He reads the scroll aloud, which contains a spell to bring the scarecrow to life. Soon after, Jarred jokingly asks the scarecrow to fix the door that he and Anne broke. To their surprise, they awake the next morning to find the door is fixed. Jarred then tells the scarecrow to finish a fence that they're supposed to build, and it does that too. Jarred then asks the scarecrow to build him a baseball field, which it does as well. Unfortunately, it takes apart the fence to build the dugout, and Jarred and Anne get in trouble. Later on, when Jarred can't find his glove, he exclaims he wants to kill whoever took it. Even though it wasn't a direct command, the scarecrow still disappears from the yard. The two eventually discover the glove is in the back of Anne's dad's tractor and frantically try to figure out how to save him. Anne remembers Crazy George's words that only the true master can separate the dragons, so she snaps the talisman in half on Mr. Earlstead's grave. Her plan works; the scarecrow falls apart and her dad is saved. Later on, Crazy George is seen picking up the talisman off the ground. He puts the two halves together and the talisman magically reseals itself. The old farmhand laughs maniacally and the episode ends.
Lesson #1: Don't let your parents send you away for the summer.
Lesson #2: Farming is a perfectly reasonable secondary occupation for a powerful sorcerer.


Episode 8 - The Tale of the Room for Rent

Synopsis: Jessie is a young girl who lives with her grandfather, Samuel. Their neighbor, Sara Simpson, is an amateur medium. One night, Sara successfully summons a ghost. Jessie and her friend Alex, who are walking home from the movies, happen to see the ritual and get freaked out. They immediately go and tell Jessie's grandpa, but he reminds them that they were just watching horror movies and tells them they probably just imagined it. The next day, a man comes to rent the spare room in Jessie's house, the same man who Jessie saw Ms. Simpsons summon. Jessie confronts her neighbor about the ghost, and she explains that she had been trying to summon a ghost with unfinished business, but she was unsure if the ritual had worked because she was in a deep trance. Jessie asks Ms. Simpson for help, but she seems unconcerned because the ghost has to return to a portal in her living room by midnight of the next night. But when the ghost goes after her grandfather that night, Jessie and Alex go to Ms. Simpson for help once again. While they're at her house, they spy an old photograph of Jessie's grandfather, Ms. Simpson, and the ghost. They learn that the ghost is Jacob, Ms. Simpson's former fiancé. She fell in love with someone else shortly before he left to fight in World War II and she never got the chance to tell him; then he died in the war. On top of that, Jessie's grandfather was responsible for his death. They served together in the air force, and when their plane was hit, Samuel ordered Jacob to jump; his parachute failed and he died. Jessie, Alex, and Sara go to warn Samuel that Jacob's ghost is after him, but he tells them they're being foolish and refuses to listen. Later that day, Jacob possesses Samuel's body and goes to visit Sara. Meanwhile, Alex and Jessie find Samuel's diary and learn the truth about Jacob's death. They go over to Sara's house and confront Jacob with the truth. It turns out their plane had taken heavy damage and everyone else had bailed out. There was only one parachute left, so Samuel gave it to his friend, then lied and said he'd be right behind him. Samuel had been trying to save his friend's life, but instead Jacob died and Samuel miraculously landed the plane. As midnight approaches, Jacob still refuses to give up Samuel's body, telling Sara that they can finally be together. Sara then tells him that she had fallen in love with Samuel shortly before the war and never got a chance to end their engagement. Jacob realizes he has to move on, and returns to the afterlife, his spirit finally at rest. Then Samuel and Sara, no longer guilty about Jacob's death, resume their romantic relationship after a forty year hiatus.
Lesson #1: Don't try to summon ghosts.
Lesson #2: Don't assume your best friend killed you on purpose.


Episode 9 - The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner

Synopsis: Ethan Wood is an aspiring comic book artist who can't catch a break, probably because he's like a fourteen. When a new comic book store opens in town, the owner is so impressed with his work that she gives The Ghastly Grinner, a rare comic book that only lasted one issue because it drove Sylvester Uncas, its author, insane and he disappeared. When Ethan's teacher catches him reading the comic during class, he throws it in a fish tank. Ethan takes the comic home and microwaves it to get it dry, but a freak electrical accident causes the Grinner to escape into the real world. The Ghastly Grinner is a supervillain who turns people into laughing idiots that drool a disgusting blue goo. With the help of Hooper, a nerdy girl from school, Ethan desperately searches for a way to stop the Grinner. They return to the comic book store, where the owner explains that comic books are portals into alternate realities and reveals that Uncas has tried to destroy the Ghastly Grinner in a second issue of the comic book, but he never finished it. After a failed attempt to destroy the Grinner with microwaves, Ethan realizes that the only way to beat him is to complete the comic. Ethan finishes the story by introducing a new superhero based on himself who kills the Grinner. In doing so, the Grinner is defeated and Sylvester Uncas, who had been trapped by the Grinner for years, is freed. With the help of Mr. Uncas, Ethan becomes a famous comic book artist and his new superhero, also named Ethan, becomes a huge success.
The Lesson: Don't put comic books in microwaves.


Episode 10 - The Tale of the Fire Ghost

Synopsis: Jimmy and Roxanne (Vanessa King from The Tale of the Guardian's Curse) are the son and daughter of a firefighter. While they're at the firehouse celebrating his birthday, a giant fire breaks out and the firefighters are all called away. The children are left alone, or so they think. Then they meet Jake, an old firefighter who watches the station while the others are away. He tells the children that fire is alive and when it dies, its soul doesn't always die with it. Sometimes the soul follows the firefighters back to the station, where it hides and wakes for the right moment to strike. He warns the children to be very careful in the firehouse. Later on, the fire ghost almost burns Jimmy to death in a closet, but Jake smashes a window and saves him. He then reveals himself to be a ghost and tells the children to get out of the firehouse. They run outside, but a police officer who heard the window break drags them back inside to explain themselves. Once they get inside, the officer turns into the fucking fire ghost. Roxanne sprays him with fire extinguisher, seemingly killing him, but he comes back. He corners the children, but then Jimmy tricks him into turning to fire, thus setting off the station's sprinkler system. The fire ghost is killed for real this time, and the children rejoice. Jake congratulates the kids on a job well done and disappears.
The Lesson: Firefighting is a tough job. Those people are heroes, and they deserve our respect.


Episode 11 - The Tale of the Closet Keepers

Synopsis: Stacey is great at basketball, but she's also deaf. When another girl invites her to play on a neighborhood basketball team, another player, Billy, gets pissed. He claims that having a deaf girl is too much of a hassle and it'll take forever to teach her all their plays. Stacey gets upset and runs and hides in an old abandoned building. Unfortunately for her, the building is the secret base of operations for some aliens, and they capture her. Stacey is transported to an intergalactic zoo, where aliens come to stare at her. She's not alone; there are children from all over the world there. Later, the alien hunters spot Billy playing basketball and are impressed by his skills, so they kidnap him too and put him in the same cell as Stacey. Together they figure out the aliens use high-pitched sounds to agitate the children and keep them in line. Since Stacey is deaf, she is immune to headache-inducing noises and is able to lead an escape. Together her and Billy use the transporter to send the other children back to their home countries, then escape themselves. Billy learns that being different doesn't make you defective and he and Stacey become friends.
Lesson #1: Deaf people are just like you and me... only deaf.
Lesson #2: In America, people go to the zoo to stare at weird creatures. In Soviet Outer Space, weird creatures go to the zoo to stare at YOU!


Episode 12 - The Tale of the Unfinished Painting

Synopsis: Cody (Jewel Staite, whom I plan to kidnap someday) is an an aspiring artist. One day, she's sitting in the park working on sketches when she sees a young girl drop her hat. She picks it up and follows her to an art gallery. Inside, she meets the owner, Mrs. Briar and compliments her on her paintings. Mrs. Briar offers to help Cody develop her craft and gives her an unfinished painting to work on, claiming that finishing someone else's painting might inspire her. She also meets Jenna, another girl who's working on a painting. Cody has to leave, but she promises to come back the next day and work on the painting. When she returns to the gallery, Mrs. Briar gives her a special brush to paint it with. Cody works on the painting all afternoon until it's almost finished, then leaves. On her way out of the gallery, Cody spies a cabinet and decides to open it. Inside she sees a medallion, a weird sculpture of a disembodied head, and some paintbrushes. She touches one of the brushes and sees a brief flash of a girl. She gets freaked out, closes the cabinet, and leaves. The next day at the park, Cody falls asleep and has a dream where she sees the same girl she saw when she touched the paintbrush. The girl warns her not to finish the painting. Cody wakes up, and finds her brother has come to the park looking for her. She expresses her doubts about finishing the painting since it's someone else's work, but he encourages her to do it because it's given her lots of inspiration. Cody goes back to the gallery, but when she gets there, she sees the picture that Jenna had been working on hanging up, only Mrs. Briar's signature is on the painting and one of girls looks exactly like Jenna. In another painting, she notices a girl that looks just like the one from her dream. Cody confronts Mrs. Briar about Jenna's painting, but Mrs. Briar claims that it's a completely different painting; she also says that Jenna quit unexpectedly and won't be coming back. After Mrs. Briar leaves Cody to finish her painting, she sneaks back to the cabinet and touches more of the paintbrushes. She feels souls trapped inside all of them, including Jenna's, so she gets freaked out and calls her brother to come get her. Then Mrs. Briar finds her and asks her what's doing, Cody tells her that she finished the painting and she has to leave. Mrs. Briar convinces her to sign the painting before she leaves, which Cody does. This turns out to be a mistake. Cody gets trapped inside the painting, which is set at some sort of formal ball, and she's forced to dance endlessly. Cody's brother shows up at the gallery looking for his sister, but Mrs. Briar lies and says she's never met her. When he insists he dropped her off there, she says she'll check with her associates. Instead, she grabs the painting with Cody's image on it, throws it in a dumpster out back, and sets it on fire. As the painting starts to burn, Cody notices she still has a paintbrush for some reason. She breaks it in half, and reappears inside the gallery. She runs to the cabinet to get the other brushes, and the disembodied head inside suddenly opens its eyes and makes Cody an offer to become a hunter for him like Mrs. Briar and live forever. Cody isn't interested though, so she grabs the brushes and throws them into the burning dumpster. As the brushes burn, both Briar and the head are destroyed. The souls within the brushes are freed, but only Jenna comes back to life; everyone else Briar had captured had been trapped inside the paintings for too long. After that, Cody never has trouble drawing again because the freed souls give her constant inspiration.
Lesson #1: Don't take credit for other people's work.
Lesson #2: Don't indenture yourself to an evil disembodied head.


Episode 13 - The Tale of Train Magic

Synopsis: Tim Williamson loves trains. He has a sizeable collection of model trains and he hangs around the train station all the time. One night when he's walking along the train tracks, he meets a mysterious old conductor named Ray Lawson who offers him his watch as a gift. Before Tim can take it, his brother Hanks calls to him and the man disappears. The next day, the same conductor shows up at the Williamson house and gives Hank a model train to give to Tim. That night Tim puts the train on his track and suddenly finds himself aboard it. The conductor tells Tim that he'd make a good conductor and offers him his watch again. Tim almost takes it, but instead he pulls the train's emergency brake. A moment later, Tim is lying on the floor of his cellar and the toy train has crashed. The next day, Tim goes to the train station to see his friend Cap and tell him about what happened. Cap doesn't believe Tim at first, but when he mentions the name Ray Lawson, Cap tells him the story of Train 713, a train which crashed 80 years ago on some old tracks by Tim's house. The conductor, Ray Lawson, was supposed to stop the train at Switch 224, pull it, and switch from Track 1 to Track 2, but he fell asleep and never got the message, so the train crashed and everyone on board died. Cap then tells Tim to stay away from trains, and sends him out of the station. Later that night, Cap goes down to Track 1 to confront Ray Lawson's ghost. He tells him to stay away from Tim, but Ray refuses. He wants to retire, and Tim is going to be the new conductor of the 713. He then hypnotizes Cap and forces him to board his ghost train. Unbeknownst to both of them, Tim was watching from the woods and saw what happened. Tim rushes home and begs Hank for help. Even though Hank doesn't believe his brother, he agrees to go out to the old abandoned tracks and pull Switch 224. Meanwhile, Tim puts the toy train that Lawson gave him back on his model track and jumps back inside the 713. Inside the train, Tim tries to pull the brake again and save Cap, but Lawson has disconnected it. Ray tells Tim that he's the conductor now and gives him his hat and watch. He tells Tim that he's freeing him, and now it will be Tim's turn to crash the 713 every night. But Tim refuses to become the conductor and smashes Ray's watch. Then, right before the train is supposed to crash, Hank pulls the switch and the train switches over to Track 2. The train doesn't crash, and all the souls on board are freed. All of them except Ray, that is. With his watch broken, and no train to oversee, Ray Lawson's now powerless ghost is forced to walk up and down Track 1 forever. Having successfully survived the curse of Train 713, Tim decides to stop liking trains and pursue other interests instead.
The Lesson: Trains are gay.

      So what have we learned today? All sorts of stuff. We learned that virtual reality is viable technology. We learned that parks may help prevent holes in the ozone layer, but they create even more dangerous holes in the space-time continuum. We learned that trains are stupid, but deaf people aren't. We learned not to enter libraries, firehouses, or contests, because the consequences often outweigh the benefits. We learned that Jeepers Creepers 2 didn't invent the evil scarecrow concept. But mostly, we learned not to microwave comic books. Also, I still want to kidnap Jewel Staite.


Posted by: Syd Lexia