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Are You Afraid of the Dark: "The Tale of the Lonely Ghost"

Season 1 Episode 2
Canadian Airdate: November 14, 1990

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Amanda is a teenage girl who has to spend the summer living with her aunt because her parents are scientists studying ancient stone carvings up north.

The parents sound like they are walking into an Aliens vs. Predator movie. Those stone carvings were built by the Inuit under supervision by the Predators thousands of years ago so the Predators would have an arena to hunt Aliens in a frigid climate. Amanda's parents are going to accidentally awaken the dormant Alien Queen, she'll start laying eggs, some of the scientists will catch Facehuggers, and Aliens will burst out of their chests and run amuck. A group of Predators will come down to hunt the Aliens. And Amanda's parents will be caught in the middle of it all, just trying to survive.

Anyway, the house next door is giving off creepy vibes. Amanda's aunt is a real estate agent who says she cannot sell that place, like the house doesn't want to be sold! Well, she's not making any effort to, you know, actually sell it. She's not trying to keep the For Sale sign up. She just leans it against some trees and acts surprised when it falls down again. Also, the sign doesn't even have a phone number. Come on, it's a big house in the middle of the woods, someone would want to live there. I think Amanda's aunt is just sitting on her ass about selling that place because she wants to jump in and buy it at a reduced price or something.

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Amanda will share a room with her cousin, Beth, who has lots of stuffed animals and doesn't want to be friends with her. Beth thinks Amanda is lame and calls her a zeeb. I have never heard of anyone referring to another person as a "zeeb" either.

Amanda should really have her own room. Her aunt's house looks big enough. Maybe this is why Beth is pissed off. There's probably, like, three spare bedrooms in this house but Amanda can't have one because her aunt is using all of them. One bedroom is her home office, another is her arts and crafts room, and the last room is full of freezers she uses to store the dead bodies of the hikers she kills out in the woods. I like to imagine that there is a more horrifying story going on underneath this episode of a children's show.

Beth tells Amanda that the house next door is haunted. I think the house next door isn't even a house. Look at it. Doesn't it look like the Visitor's Center for a park? It has a wide, canopy porch and cement blocks for railing. And it's in the middle of the woods. Maybe the area next door is a national park that was closed down due to budget cuts. Maybe it had a display model behind glass that played a narration about local ghost tales. I don't know where I am going with this other than I have never seen a building like that in which humans actually lived.

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Hey, you know what really weirded me out? Beth looks just like Big Pete from The Adventures of Pete and Pete. You know what I mean. Beth is exactly like Big Pete would look like if he were a girl! Put a wig and vagina on Big Pete, and you end up with that girl. The resemblance is uncanny. It is both beautiful and disgusting at the same time.

There are two possibilities. One is that they are brother and sister. They look so much alike, they have to share a genepool--a somnewhat freakish genepool, but a shared one nonetheless. Perhaps Big Pete, with his show already roaring on Nickelodeon, wanted to help little sister get a shot in showbiz, but her career went nowhere after this guest role.

The second possibility is that Big Pete needed to cover some gambling debts, so he asked Nickelodeon if they would give him extra work. They said sure, but since he was so well known on the channel he would have to disguise himself as not to confuse the young viewers. Reluctantly, he agreed to dress up as a girl for a small part on Are You Afraid of the Dark. Pete gotta be paid.

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It's night. Amanda writes a letter to her parents saying she is having a good time, even though the only other person her age here fucking hates her. Amanda didn't sound sarcastic when she says that, either. Amanda has low expectations in life. I wonder what her life is like back home. I suppose since she is a teenage girl she is used to other teen girls being mean to her for no real reason.

Amanda goes to bed, but OMG there's an old woman in the hallway! Ah! She's wrinkled! She walks all hunched over! "I'm Nanny," says the old lady. This frightens Amanda.

That old woman is Beth's former nanny, who continues to live with them because she has no where else to go. So, is her name also Nanny? That's what everyone calls her. That's odd, as well as lazy of the writers. Maybe Nanny was offering to be Amanda's nanny. She needs something to do during the day. Beth says that Nanny is gross and was driven insane by the ghost next door. That probably had less to do with a ghost and more to do with the girl she helped raise growing into a giant bitch.

It would have been nice if Beth or Beth's mom introduced Amanda to Nanny sometime earlier that day. Maybe Nanny is one of those old people who spends 23 hours a day in their bedroom. You can kind of forget that those people are even in your house until they need to spend that other hour of the day using the bathroom.

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It's another night. Beth and her friends are going to force Amanda to spend the night in the haunted house in order for her to be allowed to hang out with them. Amanda totally wants to go to the mall with purple pants girl and especially orange pants girl and get some sweet orange pants.

In between calling her friends dumb, Beth explains why the house is haunted. The story goes that there used to be family who lived there which included a daughter who all the kids made fun of because she was a mute. The father, who was away fighting in a war, got sick, so the mother traveled to take care of him and sent the little girl to her grandmother's. But on her way there, some mean kids surrounded the girl and teased her. She ran back home. The kids followed her and locked her in her bedroom closet. Since she couldn't cry out, no one could rescue her. Her grandmother didn't even know she was coming over. Her mom returned weeks later and found her dead.

Like many ghost stories, this one doesn't make much sense. So, the mother just sent her little girl off on her own? Would it have been that hard to accompany the kid to her grandmother's and then travel to her husband? And I bet grandma would have been happy to find out she suddenly has to be a babysitter for an unknown length of time. Also, why would the mom have to take care of her husband? You're telling me the Army doesn't have nurses?

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Amanda nervously enters the house and makes her way up to the dead girl's bedroom. There is something scribbled on the wall. Amanda looks into a full length mirror on a closet door on the opposite side of the room and sees that the writing is HELPME written backwards. HELPME? What's that mean? The word doesn't--oh fucking shit! The ghost of a little girl materializes in the mirror! Amanda runs back to her aunt's house a fast as she can.

How about all the scariness from this episode comes from a little girl and an elderly woman? Evil little girls pop up in horror pretty frequently. I remember they became a fairly common theme in horror movies and video games around the time The Ring was in theaters. The explanation I heard for that is that little girls, in our society, are symbols of innocence and niceness and non-threatening little things who need our protection. Making one into something evil totally turns that representation on its head and terrifies the audience.

And why are old women scary? Well, they are old. They look like witches, and they are old. No one wants to tap that. Sex with an old woman would be frightening. I mean, The Shining had both scary little girls and an ugly old hag who Jack Nicholson was terrified at the thought of making out with. And that is a horror masterpiece.

I have a feeling a lot of these scary girl/old women stories are written by men who are often scared of women.

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The next morning, Amanda's aunt makes the two girls go to the haunted house to scrub away the writing on the wall. Amanda's aunt is pissed off and she has two open houses and closing today so she will be busy. Amanda's aunt wore her candy stripe suit for this big day. That's her power suit.

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Beth calls Amanda a cunt all the way to the haunted house. There is much more writing on the walls now, all backwards. Beth accuses Amanda of doing this and Amanda is, like, oh shit this ghost is all going fuck us up our asses now.

Suddenly, an image of a room full of stuffed animals appears in the mirror. Beth is hypnotized by it because she likes stuffed animals. Amanda warns her to stay away, but Beth is not concerned about the image that just appeared in the mirror of the house she knows is haunted, so Beth enters the mirror and the scary little girl emerges from it. Amanda tries to escape the room, but the door will not open.

Amanda cowers in fear, but the little girl does not harm her. She just writes HELPME on the wall again, only forward this time, not backwards. Amanda's finally gets it. "Oh, you want help...for you. OK, I get it now."

The little girl shows Amanda a locket that has a picture of Nanny. Nanny has a similar locket with a picture of a girl. Nanny is that girl's mother! OK, so I guess that ghost story is true. Which means Nanny was a horribly negligent mother.

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At that very moment, Nanny is getting into a car to go to an old folks home. Amanda run to her and shows her the locket. Amanda grabs Nanny and leads her into the Visitor's Center. All along the way Nanny is all crying like, "No, no I caaaan't. Too many bad memories. I caaaan't." That had to be tedious for Amanda to put up with.

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Nanny reunites with her dead daughter. They smile and enter the mirror together. The mirror changes to show them happy and dressed like they are in the 40s or 50s. The two go off to do whatever the fuck they get to do now. In heaven, I'd guess.

I have a couple of questions

1). Why is the girl wearing a night gown? Did she die wearing it? Was that the clothing her mother dressed her in when she sent her off by herself? I mean, it's bad enough to send your disabled pre-teen daughter out on her own and not even tell the other person to expect her, but you could have at least let her get dressed first. I can understand why Beth hates Nanny. She must have been a pretty poor babysitter considering what an awful mother she was. I wonder why Beth's mom even hired her to begin with. "Oh, so your only child died of starvation because you weren't watching her? OK, you're definitely nanny material. I mean, why else would your name be Nanny?"

2). Considering the age of Nanny, the war her husband fought in must have been World War II or Korea. That would make the mirror girl a Baby Boomer. I wonder if she misses not having been able to take part in the 60s? Though, judging by how happy she is to be back in the 50s, she is probably one of those Boomers who hated 60s culture and would have grown into an angry old Teabagger today. She's better off dead.

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Beth is still trapped in mirror world. I thought the little girl could only exit the mirror because Beth entered it. You'd think Beth could leave now, but she can't. That doesn't make much sense. You'd almost think this show was aimed at children with how little sense it makes!

Beth's friends come to the house because Beth's mom told them the girls were there, even though Beth's mom is busy working all over town and teenagers who aren't Zack Morris don't own cell phones yet. Beth pleads for Amanda to let her out of mirror world. Amanda says she will only do so if Beth agrees to not be a tremendous bitch to her and Beth's friends. Amanda then opens the closet door and Beth falls out of it. I don't know how that works, either.

We are told that Amanda goes on to have a great summer. Amanda's parents return, the only survivors of their expedition. They outlive their daughter and grandchildren by several hundred years because they consumed the flesh of a Predator.

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Also, there was some bullshit side story about the kids who tell these stories. You see, the premise of this show is that some junior high kids gather in the woods once a week to tell scary stories. Anyway, the boy who told this episode's tale likes this girl. He bought her a locket like in his story. She is taller than him. Puberty does that at that age. It's good for the girls because it gives them a couple of years of breathing room before they have to start worrying about date rape.