Were you one of those kids that loved a scary story? Did you live for campfires where the counselors would tell their creepiest tales to the campers who were brave enough to stay up past midnight? Did you read ghost stories under the blankets with a flashlight after you were supposed to be sleeping?
There were always the kids who would have horrible nightmares if they so much as heard the theme song to one of these shows. But you watched every episode religiously, and maybe even secretly hoped you would see a ghost one day. Scary movies and TV shows aren’t like they used to be. Nowadays, it is all blood, guts, and gore. But you know it wasn’t always like that. For the sake of nostalgia, here are some of the best and spookiest kids shows (and a couple that kids probably shouldn’t have been watching, but were anyway) from the 90s and early 2000s.
Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids
Based on a series of books by Jamie Rix, Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids tried to scare kids into behaving. Most episodes focused on a nasty child learning a hard lesson. The cautionary tales were meant to teach kids about morality, and how certain things like lying, vanity, and uncleanliness could lead to negative consequences. For example, in one episode, a child who is misbehaving in a store is turned into a display window dummy. The animated series was nominated for and won numerous awards, including Children’s Choice at the British Animation Awards. It aired 105 episodes in its eight year run, appearing on ITV, and Nickelodeon.
The Addams Family
If you were one of those kids that had nightmares from everything, The Addams Family was probably the spookiest show you were willing to watch. Based on a series of cartoons that appeared in The New Yorker, the original show aired from 1964-1966. In 1998, The New Addams Family did a more modern take on some of the classic episodes, and The Addams Family film was released in 1991, with Christina Ricci playing Wednesday Addams. The show was more of a dark comedy, but some of the supernatural elements might have creeped out some of the easily spooked kids out there.
More of a comedy/prank show, Scare Tactics was a reality show that was a lot scarier for the people who were actually on it. Each episode (which has been hosted by Shannen Doherty, Stephen Baldwin, and now, Tracy Morgan) would put an unsuspecting person through a terrifying ordeal usually involving some kind of monster, ghost sighting, or serial killer scare. Usually, a friend or family member of the prankee was in on the entire thing, which is actually the scariest part. Because, you never know, it could happen to you.
The Nightmare Room
Based on the children’s book series of the same name by R.L Stine, The Nightmare Room was basically a kid’s version of The Twilight Zone. Episodes focused on different fears children have, such as ghosts, and monsters. Famous child actors who appeared in episodes included Amanda Bynes, Frankie Muniz, and Kaley Cuoco. One episode entitled “Dear Diary, I’m Dead” shows a boy named Alex finding a diary in his room that predicts the future. Including his death. The show only had one season before it was deemed too scary and disturbing for younger viewers in the United States.
One season of this show was all it took to gain a cult following that still lingers today. Originally airing on NBC from 1991-1992, the show follows Marshall Teller and his experiences in his bizarre new hometown, Eerie, Indiana. Various urban legends are depicted throughout the 19-episode run, including big foot, and Elvis Presley – alive. One episode even features a young Tobey Maguire as a ghost who needs to make sure a letter is delivered before he can move on. The show spawned a spin-off series, Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension, and a book series, featuring all original stories based in the same universe as the original show’s run.
If this one didn’t give you night terrors, then you had nerves of steel. The paranormal-focused reality show sent a group of teenagers to a haunted location, like an old mental hospital or prison, to complete dares in order to win prize money. If a contestant was too scared to complete a dare, they would forfeit their cut of the money. Some dares were worse than others (one asked a contestant to get inside a rusted cage that used to be home to a physically deformed psychiatric patient, and stay there alone for one hour), but they all involved exploring a creepy rundown property that was overrun with spirits. The show was one of MTV’s most popular, but it ended after only 2 seasons because it was so expensive to produce.
Tales From The Crypt
Given the fact that Tales from the Crypt was on HBO, there was a lot more freedom to include gore, profanity, and sexual situations, which the network took advantage of. There was pretty much no chance your parents would let you watch this one. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t sneak in a couple episodes at a slumber party, or listened from the top of the stairs when you were supposed to be in bed. Every episode started with the Crypt Keeper, an animated corpse, popping out of his coffin to introduce the story. There were some supernatural elements, and a lot of serial killer story lines. The show aired for 7 seasons, and guest starred a lot of current A-listers, like Demi Moore, and Teri Hatcher. Arnold Scwharzeneggar even directed one episode.
Prolific horror writer, R.L Stine was truly gifted at freaking kids out, and his bestselling Goosebumps series was no exception. The series was made into a show for YTV, adapting many of his books, including Night of the Living Dummy, and It Came From Beneath the Sink, into half an hour episodes. Its original run was from 1995-1998, but episodes are all available on DVD, iTunes, and Netflix. Goosebumps was one of the most popular children’s shows of its kind, but was often edited to tone down the level of violence in some of the episodes.
This Canadian show was called a “Twilight Zone for kids” and aired for 3 seasons on YTV in the early 90’s. It was hosted by a maggot named Maurice, and his cockroach friend, Larry. Each episode portrayed an animated adaptation of an urban legend or scary campfire story, such as the tale of the family who adopted an ugly chihuahua they found during a trip to Mexico, only to find out was actually a sewer rat. Every story started out with the signature line, “this is a true story, it happened to a friend of a friend of mine.” Who knows, it could happen to you too.
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Canadian kids loved their spooky stories. The most popular show on YTV in the 90’s was none other than Are You Afraid of the Dark? The premise involved a group of kids, who called themselves The Midnight Society, that got together around a campfire every week to tell each other scary stories. Who can forget the one about the girl who explores the house next door and is slowly turned into a doll? Or the one with the ghost child who shows up everywhere and says “I’m… cold”. Many Canadian child actors appeared in episodes, including Ryan Gosling, Neve Campbell, and Emily VanCamp. Episodes are now available for streaming on Netflix.