Goosebumps VS Are You Afraid of the Dark

Goosebumps VS Are You Afraid of the Dark
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Thomas O'Connor
Goosebumps vs Are You Afraid of the Dark, which scary show defined your childhood nightmares? In this showdown, we have the TV adaptation of R.L Stine's smash-hit book series, Goosebumps, which hit the airwaves in 1995 in one corner. Squaring off against this cultural landmark is Are You Afraid of the Dark, the cult horror TV series that had its debut in 1990. WatchMojo pits Goosebumps against Are You Afraid of the Dark. Which show is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Whichever one wins, we’re going to be terrified. Welcome to, and today we’re pitting the titans of young adult and children’s horror head to head to find out which is truly superior

In this showdown, we have the TV adaptation of R.L Stine's smash-hit book series, “Goosebumps”, which hit the airwaves in 1995 in one corner. Squaring off against this cultural landmark is “Are You Afraid of the Dark”, the cult horror TV series that had its debut in 1990. Both of these shows helped shape, and scare, a whole generation of kids into future horror fans. But which one is truly superior? Let’s find out.

Round 1: Framing / Setup

Each series takes a similar route in terms of structure, being anthology series presenting entirely self-contained stories, with a few two-parters thrown in for good measure. But that’s really where the similarities end. “Are You Afraid of the Dark” is held together with a framing device in the form of The Midnight Society, a group of teens who gather around a campfire to tell spooky stories. Each episode begins and ends with a scene of the Society, leading us into and out of that episode’s story. This is where the series gets some of its most iconic imagery, like how when commencing their story the teller would always toss a handful of a mysterious powder into the fire. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention the incredibly spooky opening credits sequence. If you’re a '90s kid, odds are that creepy swing haunted your dreams each night.

“Goosebumps”, on the other hand, has a much looser format with no real framing story. For certain hour-long special episodes like “The Haunted Mask”, “The Werewolf of Fever Swamp” and others, “Goosebumps” author R.L Stine would appear at the beginning and ending of each episode, however, which while cool just isn't an image that sears its way on to your memory.

Round one goes to “Are You Afraid of the Dark” for tying the whole series together with an interesting and memorable framing device.

WINNER: Are You Afraid of the Dark 1 / Goosebumps 0

Round 2: Original Ideas & Monsters

Stine’s landmark book series, and the subsequent TV show, plays host to a massive array of monsters and ghouls, many of them inspired by the classic monsters of myth and folklore. Readers and viewers can expect appearances by vampires, mummies, werewolves and all of the most iconic monsters on the block. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some wholly original creations haunting the franchise. One standout is Monster Blood, a green slime that not only devours its victims, but also causes anything that eats it to grow giant. There’s also the terrifying haunted mask, a Halloween mask that slowly becomes inseparable from the wearer, turning them into a monster themselves. And who could possibly forget Slappy, the living ventriloquist’s dummy that’s become the face of the franchise?

“Are You Afraid of the Dark” also has a pretty impressive rogue’s gallery of monsters and frights, and is much more willing to get creative. There are quiet a few episodes focused on ghosts and specters, but our favorites include the more adventurous fair, like “The Tale of the Midnight Madness”, which saw the vampire Nosferatu, emerge from a silent film to terrorize the staff of a theater. Then there’s “The Tale of the Dollmaker”, which centers on a dollhouse that traps its victims and slowly changes them into porcelain dolls. And who could forget “The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner”, which sees a truly horrifying comic book villain escape from the pages of his comic book?

This one is a close call, but in the end we have to give it to “Are You Afraid of the Dark”. “Goosebumps” has some truly memorable and fun monsters, but it just can’t compete with the amount of creativity and atmosphere seen in the competition.

WINNER: Are You Afraid of the Dark 2 / Goosebumps 0

Round 3: Cast

When re-watching old episodes of “Goosebumps”, you’re more than likely to spot a few future stars. Yep, that really is a young Ryan Gosling waving around a haunted camera in “Say Cheese and Die”, and before he faced off against Count Dooku in “Revenge of the Sith”, Hayden Christensen went head to head with Slappy in “Night of the Living Dummy III”. The series also features cameos by established stars like improv actor Colin Mochrie as well as Batman himself, Adam West. Canadian Hockey Commentator Don Cherry also appears in a small role in “Don’t Go to Sleep”, and if you’re not Canadian or from a border state... well, his situation can't really be explained.

Meanwhile, “Are You Afraid of the Dark” has some pretty intense future star power as well. For starters, Ryan Gosling and Hayden Christensen appeared in this series as well! Not entirely surprising the shows were made during the same decade and both were shot in Canada, albeit in different provinces. But it doesn’t end there. Stars including future scream queen Neve Campbell, Emmanuelle Chriqui. Mia Kirshner and Jay Baruchel also make appearances. The show doesn’t nearly have the established star power of “Goosebumps”, however, although Gilbert Gottfried does appear in one episode, and that’s something right?

This is another close round, but as much as we want to give it up to “Are You Afraid of the Dark’s” massive list of future stars, we just can’t say no to Adam West. Nobody messes with Adam We.

WINNER: Are You Afraid of the Dark 2 / Goosebumps 1

Round 4: Popularity & Impact

If you’re a child of the '90s then you should already know just how big “Goosebumps” was back in the day. The first book in the series, “Welcome to Dead House”, released in July of 1992, kicked off a core series that would encompass 62 books over the next five years. Numerous spinoff series were also published, including “Give Yourself Goosebumps”, a series of choose-your-own-adventure books, and “Goosebumps Series 2000”, a follow-up to the original. The books sold over 400 million copies worldwide. There was, of course, the TV series, and more related merchandise than you can shake a skeleton’s arm at. There were t-shirts, toys, video games and more. While it did arrive a little late to the party, there was also a big-budget “Goosebumps” movie in 2015, starring Jack Black as R.L Stine himself. A sequel to the film, “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween” was released in 2018.

“Are You Afraid of the Dark” meanwhile, is something more of a cult item than the massive pop-culture juggernaut of its competition. The series first aired in 1992, with an original run until 1996 and a revival series from 1999 to 2000. Altogether, the series has 91 episodes to its name. The show garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards for its sharp writing and acting, and fans across North America tuned in to watch it on stations including Nickelodeon and Canada’s YTV. The series retains a devoted fanbase who continue to enjoy the series on DVD.

This one isn’t really much of a contest. “Are You Afraid of the Dark” may have cult status, but the overwhelming popularity of “Goosebumps” just has to win out, bringing this spooky battle to a tie.

WINNER: Are You Afraid of the Dark 2 / Goosebumps 2

Round 5: Scares

When talking about horror, there’s one question that pretty much dwarfs all others: is it scary? Both of these classic shows are all about frights and chills, but which one is truly scarier? When it comes to “Goosebumps”, there are plenty of frights to be had. Episodes like “Ghost Beach” and “The Girl Who Cried Monster” can even be downright terrifying. But we also gotta be honest here, the show could be seriously goofy at times. Episodes often ended on pretty ridiculous twists, like when an episode about a sinister summer camp turned out to be taking place on an alien planet. Wait, what? Then there are oddball episodes like “One Day at Horrorland”, which features monsters putting on a campy game show.

“Are You Afraid of the Dark” tended to play things a little bit more seriously, being geared at a slightly older audience. There are definitely some silly episodes, but the show definitely didn’t pull any punches when it came to spooks. Who can forget the terrifying ghost from “The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float”, which was revealed in all its glory in the episode’s finale. And then there’s “The Tale of the Crimson Clown”, a simple but effective morality play that turns an inanimate clown doll into possibly the most terrifying thing ever. The atmosphere in “Are You Afraid of the Dark” just can’t be beat, and many of the episodes come off as both frightening and sincere in their execution, only occasionally playing things for laughs.

While the fun frights of “Goosebumps” will always hold a place in our hearts, we just can’t say no to the genuine scares offered by “Are You Afraid of the Dark” just can’t be beat. It ended decades ago and we’re still having nightmares!

WINNER: Are You Afraid of the Dark 3 / Goosebumps 2

And with that, the plucky underdog pulls out a victory, proving itself to be the king of '90s kids horror shows. We’ll always treasure our memories of both of these shows, but it's our memories of “Are You Afraid of the Dark” that keep us up at night more.