I miss SNICK. Every Saturday night, without fail, my brother and I would sit in front of the TV waiting for our favorite television shows to come on. We’d sometimes watch the entire two hours of programming, if “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” was on, but we never missed an episode of “Are You Afraid Of The Dark”. The intro, with the empty row boat in the water and the lone swing swaying in the wind and the ominous “woos” being sung in the background, still gives me the shivers.
Looking back, I can see why my parents were so okay with us watching the “scary” episodes. They ended much like R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” books did – sometimes terrifying, sometimes without a definite ending, and sometimes all wrapped nicely like a bow. They made you think and were not always as formulaic as they could have been. The show was really a “Twilight Zone” for junior high kids.
And while I sometimes go on YouTube to look up past episodes, there are a few that really stick out to me as favorites. Here are five of the ones that make the grade:
1. “The Tale of the Pinball Wizard” — Season 1, Episode 13
The story starts out with a boy named Ross who loves pinball games. While at the gaming store in the mall, he disobeys the shop owner who had forbid him from playing a certain game. Ross gets stuck inside the game (now being played in the real world, inside the closed mall). While he himself now has to save the princess, he encounters scary creatures and characters. This one doesn’t end so pleasantly, if I recall.
2. “The Tale of the Thirteenth Floor” — Season 2, Episode 4
Siblings Karen and Billy love to play hockey in their awesome apartment building, which includes an empty skating rink-sized loft on the top floor. A creepy/crazy toy factory moves in (how is this space even big enough for that?) and it turns out that the owners are actuallyaliens in search of their daughter … KAREN! It’s a bit weird and Twilight Zone-y. So I like.
3. “The Tale of the Whispering Walls” — Season 2, Episode 8
On a drive back home from somewhere, I don’t remember, a babysitter and the two she is in charge of get lost. They end up going to a creepy tavern run by a guy who looks like he spends most of his time gaming at his mom’s house. He gives them really bad directions (on purpose), and they arrive at an old Victorian mansion slash fun house. I love this one, especially when a baby the sitter is holding turns into a giant snake.
4. “The Tale of Watcher’s Woods” — Season 3, Episode 3
This might be my favorite one. Kelly and Sarah are at an all-girls summer camp. They get lost in these super creepy woods nearby, where three campers were lost long ago. Turns out, these three lost girls turned into ghostly old hags who want to eat the young ones and cook them in a stew. Yay!
5. “The Tale of the Unfinished Painting” — Season 4, Episode 11
Okay, disclaimer – I really dislike the actress (Jewel Staite) who stars in this episode. She was also in an episode about a girl who loves to sleep and gets trapped in her dreams. Unfortunately, the powers that be at AYAOTD decided that she needed to be in the better written episodes, so sigh, but so annoying. Anyhoo, this girl goes to a painting class and the teacher wants her to finish her painting with a “special” paintbrush. She gets trapped in the painting, just like the people in the pictures displayed in the evil teacher’s gallery. I always wondered if some works of art were a bit too real.
BONUS: “The Tale of the Vacant Lot” — Season 5, Episode 10
So I actually had 6 in mind, but a Top 6 just isn’t sexy enough. High-school student Catherine just doesn’t feel like she fits in with the rest of her classmates. She can’t run fast, she doesn’t have the right clothes – being a white girl in middle-class America just sucks. AMIRITE? She comes across a mysterious tent in a vacant lot. It’s a store run by the strange Marie. She offers all that Catherine could possibly want, but at a price. And the price is every self-centered high school girl’s nightmare! Mu-ha-ha-ha!
I didn’t list any of the Dr. Vink (DR. VINK!) episodes or some of the creepier ones (note, the first episode of the entire series was definitely too horrifying for 11-year-old me), but I like them all. I have now graduated to “The Twilight Zone”, and can’t get enough of their marathons during the holiday season. I am glad that this was available to me as a kid, and hope that there is some sort of comparative show for pre-teens now. Probably not.