WHERE THIS EVIL HAILS FROM: Are You Afraid of the Dark?
WHY THIS EVIL MADE ME FILLE THE FEAR: On a personal level, 8-year-old me was still in the midst of regular swimming lessons at the time “Dead Man’s Float” came out and this episode’s Big Bad just so happened to kill children who were trying to learn how to swim. And immediately after watching this episode my charming older brother decided to sneak up behind me at our next lesson and drag me under, Dead Man’s Float-style, while my blood-curdling scream put an end to any further joint lessons between us siblings.
But swimming lessons aren’t the only reason. While the Canadian series is still remembered as one of the scariest shows to ever be directed at children (or even made, if you ask me), the Season 5 premiere, which introduced a new member of the Midnight Society, Stig, really upped the fear factor. It killed off a young Jay Baruchel within minutes of his first of four appearances on the series before letting the tension build as our two protagonists, Zeke and Clorice, dangled their hands in the haunted water and otherwise went through a series of near misses with whatever was hiding in the pool. But it was Zeke finally exposing what the acrid-smelling horror looked like that sealed this evil as the most fearsome thing I can remember. The blood-coloured, ragged silent corpse rising out of the pool is an image I have never entirely recovered from. It was a rare case of the thing we’ve heard so much about actually being scarier once we’ve seen it, even if Charlie’s explanation—a body left behind when the school dug up a cemetery to build the pool—wasn’t the most innovative.
HOW THIS EVIL STILL DOES: Watching the episode again, I basically covered my eyes when the time came to see this baddie reappear, a feeling that I’m not alone with if the number of lists ranking “Dead Man’s Float” in the Top 3 scariest episodes are anything to go by. But aside from his terrifying intro, you kind of get used to him popping up through drains as the episode continues and the saves start to feel contrived, leaving him more as the grossest evil the show has ever come up with.
Then again, I will probably never be able to bring myself to watch this episode again, so that might be some false bravado.