Are You Afraid Friday: The Tale of the Lonely Ghost
Dir. D. J. MacHale (1992)
A young girl who is desperate to get into her snotty cousin's friend group agrees to spend the night in a haunted house as part of her initiation.
Haunted houses have such a long and storied history in horror, and the best of those stories involve a realistic (and often devastatingly sad) story as the basis of their haunting. The ghosts of children, of course, are often the saddest, as they require the death of a child by their very nature. One of the best things about Are You Afraid of the Dark is how it can combine these horror fundamentals into a tale to which kids can relate, and in this case, that combination features a young girl who just wants to make friends and a friend group filled with bullies and jerks. Everyone can identify with this sort of scenario, and it's a great and refreshing direction to take a relatively standard haunted house story.
This is the first story told by David (Nathaniel Moreau), and it focuses around a young girl named Amanda (Laura Bertram) who has moved in with her shitty cousin Beth (Laura Levin) for the summer. In order to become a part of Beth's friend group, Amanda is tasked with going into an allegedly haunted house, in which she finds a young girl who has scrawled "Help Me" in reverse on the wall. When the writings are assumed to have been done by the girls, they're forced to clean them by Beth's mother, which leads to Beth accidentally crossing over to the other side of a mirror and Amanda trying to solve the mystery of the ghost to get her back. The biggest mystery, however, is how in the world Beth's mother let her go out with that cockatoo hairstyle.
Ghost stories are always fun, especially when they're well done, and this one certainly is. It's always cool from a viewer's perspective when the legend turns out to be true, and the little girl ghost that is rumored to have disappeared does indeed make an appearance in the episode. And, of course, as this is ultimately a television show, the bully eventually gets her comeuppance and there's a happy ending when all is said and done. The rote story and delivery does feel a little cheap, but it's creepy enough (and has a ghost design that will become familiar later in the decade with films like Ringu) while still continuing to be entirely relatable to kids who would be watching the show.
This is the first episode where the Midnight Society begins to become characters in their own show. We learn that David has himself a little crush on Kristen (Rachel Blanchard), and that Eric (Jacob Tierney) is not a big fan of new group addition Frank (Jason Alisharin). We may see some of these relationships develop in future episodes, but it's nice to see the characters that we will eventually come to know and love develop a personality all their own.
Who this episode is for: Haunted house lovers, Ghost story fanatics, 90's hairstylists
Bottom line: The Tale of the Lonely Ghost is the weakest of the series so far, but it's still a charming little ghost story with a genuinely creepy poltergeist at its center. This one is all about the relatability, however, featuring a protagonist who stands up against a bully and is all the better for it. This is one for the kids who were parented by television. The show is streaming for free on Peacock if you want to check out this and all of the other episodes!