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.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Sarah McKnight

Meghan: Hey, Sarah! Welcome to Meghan’s HAUNTED House of Books. Thanks for joining us today. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Sarah: I think the shorter answer is what isn’t my favorite part of Halloween! I love seeing all the fun and unique costumes (and occasionally dressing up myself), the crisp fall air, and of course the endless supply of horror movies.

Meghan: Do you get scared easily?

Sarah: It really depends. Paranormal things don’t scare me so much because I’ve always had a huge interest in them. It’s the things that could cause direct harm to me, like real people, that really scare me.

Meghan: What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen and why?

Sarah: This is a really hard one! Off the top of my head, I think I would have to say Stephen King’s Apt Pupil. There is a particular scene in both the movie and the book involving a cat that disturbed me so much I will never, ever look at either of them again.

Meghan: Which horror movie murder did you find the most disturbing?

Sarah: Probably the murders that take place in Funny Games, which is incidentally probably my favorite movie of all time.

Meghan: Is there a horror movie you refused to watch because the commercials scared you too much?

Sarah: That’s never happened to me!

Meghan: If you got trapped in one scary movie, which would you choose?

Sarah: I would have to say The Haunting, that terrible 90’s movie based on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. It was the first horror movie I ever saw, and I always wanted to explore that gigantic house.

Meghan: If you were stuck as the protagonist in any horror movie, which would you choose?

Sarah: Anything paranormal! Probably Stephen King’s IT. I want to be in the Losers Club.

Meghan: What is your all-time favorite scary monster or creature of the night?

Sarah: Pennywise the Dancing Clown, of course. Chucky is a very close second.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Sarah: Scary movies in the dark. I will never get tired of it.

Meghan: What is your favorite horror or Halloween-themed song?

Sarah: Oogie Boogie’s Song from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Not to brag, but I can really belt that one out!

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Sarah: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I think the reason it’s so scary is because it’s an extremely realistic situation that could happen to anyone.

Meghan: What is the creepiest thing that’s ever happened while you were alone?

Sarah: My friends and I had been messing around with a Ouija board (I know, I know…) I went back to my apartment and none of my roommates were home. While I was in my room, I heard something fall and break in the kitchen. I went to investigate, but nothing was out of place, and I was still there alone.

Meghan: Which unsolved mystery fascinates you the most?

Sarah: So many! I think if I had to pick just one, I’d want to know what happened aboard the Mary Celeste.

Meghan: What is the spookiest ghost story that you have ever heard?

Sarah: The classic Lady in White. Can you imagine picking someone up off the side of the road, driving her all the way home, only for her to disappear and discover she was dead the whole time?

Meghan: In a zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?

Sarah: Probably a hammer. Easy to carry and good for bashing brains!

Meghan: Let’s have some fun… Would you rather get bitten by a vampire or a werewolf?

Sarah: Vampire, please! Can you imagine having to manage all that fur? Yikes!

Meghan: Would you rather fight a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?

Sarah: Aliens. Maybe they’re friendly after all?

Meghan: Would you rather drink zombie juice or eat dead bodies from the graveyard?

Sarah: What exactly is “zombie juice”? Is it like Bug Juice? I’m probably going with that just to be safe.

Meghan: Would you rather stay at the Poltergeist house or the Amityville house for a week?

Sarah: The Poltergeist house. Show me all the paranormal activity!

Meghan: Would you rather chew on a bitter melon with chilies or maggot-infested cheese?

Sarah: Bitter melon with chilies please. I don’t even want the mental image of the other thing.

Meghan: Would you rather drink from a witch’s cauldron or lick cotton candy made of spider webs?

Sarah: Depends, what is the witch cooking up? A potion? A delicious soup? I’ll take the mystery cauldron!

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.