GUEST TV REVIEW by Sarah McKnight: The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float

Are You Afraid of the Dark S5: E1:
The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float

TV Series – 10.7.1995 – Not Rated – 22 minutes
Director: DJ MacHale
Writer: Will Dixon (original creator: DJ MacHale)
Stars: Margot Finley (Clorice), Kaj-Erik Eriksen (Zeke Matthews)

Zeke and Clorice find an abandoned swimming pool at their school where a secret is contained.

“Submitted for the approval of The Midnight Society, I call this story…”

Are You Afraid of the Dark? is a horror anthology series that ran on Nickelodeon from 1990-1996. The series featured members of The Midnight Society gathered around a campfire in the woods and exchanging tales that ranged from the bizarre to the truly terrifying. Each character had a distinct personality and told stories that aligned with their individual interests. With a rating of TVY7, the show not only sparked my love for all things horror, but essentially traumatized me with a few memorable episodes as well.

The one that scared me the most, and naturally became my favorite, was titled The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float. As a child, I absolutely loved swimming and would spend hours in the pool, but the fear of drowning was always in the back of my mind. This episode solidified that fear. The tale revolves around Zeke, a nerdy teenager who never learned to swim, and Clorice, a cool girl on the swim team. After Zeke discovers a pool hidden behind a fake wall within their high school, he teams up with Clorice to get it cleaned up so the swim team can stop traveling for their practices. In exchange, all Zeke asks for is private lessons so he can finally learn to swim. But, as Zeke and Clorice soon find out, there was a reason the pool was hidden away for so long.

Something is lurking beneath the water; something invisible and evil that caused numerous deaths in the past. After a near-fatal experience in the newly opened pool, Zeke and Clorice soon discover, with the help of an old janitor who was once a lifeguard for that very pool, that the school was built over a cemetery and some of the bodies had been missed during the excavation. While this is a tired, arguably overused, trope, the twist on it feels unique and the story, in my humble opinion, still holds up to this day.

Now, Zeke and Clorice know what is lurking beneath the waters, but how can they fight something they cannot see? Fortunately, Zeke is a wiz at chemistry, and he has an idea that just might be crazy enough to work.

When Zeke pours his chemical compound into the pool water, the creature responsible for so many deaths is revealed, and my young mind was subjected to the most terrifying imagery I have ever seen. It still haunts me to this day, and I love it.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? didn’t have to go so hard with their visual effects, but I am so thankful that they did. There was something raw about this show that I feel you don’t see in modern kid’s TV, even if it is horror themed. I recently rewatched the entire series and was surprised at the amount of death and sadness portrayed in the stories shared by The Midnight Society. I think, even as a child, this was one of the reasons why I loved the show so much. Sometimes, it was incredibly real, and the dark tales were not watered down. No one tiptoed around the subject matter just because the audience was mainly children. It was an entertaining, spooky, and occasionally funny show that can still be enjoyed by all audiences to this day.

The series had a short revival from 1999-2000 in which only one member of the original cast returned, and beginning in 2019, Nickelodeon has begun airing short spinoffs of the original show, which have grown in popularity. While these spinoffs are enjoyable, and I feel they have captured the vibe of their predecessor, nothing can beat the original. The entire series, save for seasons 5 and 6, can be found streaming on Paramount+. I highly recommend binging it. Maybe, though, keep the lights on.

“I declare this meeting of The Midnight Society closed.”

Boo-graphy:
Sarah McKnight has been writing stories since she could pick up a pencil, and it often got her in trouble during math class. After a brief stint teaching English to unruly middle schoolers in Japan, she decided she wasn’t going to put off her dream of becoming a writer any longer and set to work. With several novels in the making, she hopes to tackle issues such as anxiety, depression, and letting go of the past – with a little humor sprinkled in, too. A St Louis native, she currently lives in Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and three cats. You can find her on Twitter and on her website.

The Reaper Chronicles 1:
The Reaper’s Quota
Meet Grim Reaper #2497. Behind on his work, he must complete his quota of thirty Random Deaths or face termination in the worst way. Faced with an insurmountable task and very little time to complete it, Reaper #2497 struggles to hang on to the one thing he’s not supposed to have – his humanity.

CHARACTER INTERVIEW: Grim Reaper #2497 (The Reaper’s Quota, Sarah McKnight)

Meghan: Hi Reaper. Thank you for joining us today. What is one word you would use to define yourself?

Trapped.

Meghan: Do you see yourself as the “good guy” or the “bad guy”?

I was the bad guy. Right now, I really don’t know.

Meghan: What does the plot require you to be? How does this requirement limit you?

Indecisive. It doesn’t leave much room for my own character growth, but I guess I’m supposed to be that way.

Meghan: What is your quest?

All I want out of life – er, the afterlife – is a do-over. I know I can do better.

Meghan: What do you hope to accomplish, find, or become during the course of your book/series?

I need answers. I need to find a way to escape this corporate hell.

Meghan: What do you like about the other main characters? What do you least like about the other main characters?

Reaper #2007 is okay, I guess. I think he really wants to help. The Big Boss can crumble to dust for all I care.

Meghan: When was the last time you lied What made you do it?

I lie every day to try and keep my skull attached to my spine.

Meghan: Who have you betrayed lately? What happened?

I’ve betrayed tons of people who had full lives ahead of them. The only thing is, they don’t know I betrayed them.

Meghan: Would you say that you are an optimist or a pessimist?

Realist, I guess. Life sucks and then you die, and sometimes even then fate isn’t done with you yet.

Meghan: What is your superpower?

My Reaper Magic is pretty fun to play around with. I can’t manipulate anyone’s freewill, of course, but I have been known to cause a few creative… accidents here and there.

Meghan: What is your biggest secret?

I remember. Not everything, but it’s coming back slowly, and I can’t let them know.

Meghan: Do you live in the right world? How necessary are you to your world?

I’m in the right world in the sense that I did something to deserve to be here. I wouldn’t say I’m a necessary part of the team, though. I’m just another faceless Reaper in a crowd of thousands.

Meghan: What is your role in this setting? Are you okay with this role or would you like it to change?

Look, I get that death is inevitable and without us, people couldn’t die, but I really want to quit this lousy job.

Meghan: Did you turn out the way you expected?

No, and I hope I can still change that.

Meghan: What, if anything, would you change about your life?

That one moment that sealed my fate as a Reaper.

Meghan: How do you feel about your author?

If I were real, she’d be next.

Meghan: If the two of you got together for coffee, what would you want to say to them?

I’ve got something extra special cooked up for you. Consider it payback for all the torture you put me through. I hate this job, but I’m making an exception for you since you’re the one who put me here in the first place.

Boo-graphy:
Sarah McKnight has been writing stories since she could pick up a pencil, and it often got her in trouble during math class. After a brief stint teaching English to unruly middle schoolers in Japan, she decided she wasn’t going to put off her dream of becoming a writer any longer and set to work. With several novels in the making, she hopes to tackle issues such as anxiety, depression, and letting go of the past – with a little humor sprinkled in, too. A St Louis native, she currently lives in Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and three cats. You can find her on Twitter and on her website.

The Reaper Chronicles 1:
The Reaper’s Quota
Meet Grim Reaper #2497. Behind on his work, he must complete his quota of thirty Random Deaths or face termination in the worst way. Faced with an insurmountable task and very little time to complete it, Reaper #2497 struggles to hang on to the one thing he’s not supposed to have – his humanity.