Are You Afraid of the Dark Wiki
The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner
Season 4 , Episode 9
Air date December 3, 1994
Written by Ron Oliver
Directed by Ron Oliver
Episode guide
The Tale of the Room for Rent
The Tale of the Fire Ghost

The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner is the ninth episode of the Fourth season of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, as well as the Forty-eighth episode in total.


Midnight Society Cast[]

Story Cast[]


The night begins with Frank walking into the circle asking Gary why it's taking so long to light the campfire while shining a flashlight. Gary exasperated and annoyed says the logs won't light because the logs are wet and frustrated he tells Frank to keep the flashlight still so he can see what he is doing. Kiki tries to get the fire going the old fashioned way by rubbing two stick together, she gets frustrated and says she needs more paper.

This, gives Frank an idea. He swipes a comic book out from Tucker's back pants pocket. He sets it down saying it could be perfect, Tucker mad and upset says no way! and tries to get it back and argues with Frank who tells him it's nothing but firewood. Then just as Betty Ann comes in she takes it and says she could us this, much to Tucker's chagrin and annoyance. As she goes to sit down on then storyteller's chair next to Sam.

Betty Ann, then asks them what if comic books weren't made up? What if they were like guidebooks to another dimension.(also we now see that finally Kiki has gotten the campfire going and it's burning very intensely). Betty Ann also says that comic books take people into a world of fantasy and adventure. But is it a place that comes from someone's imagination? or from someone's experience?

Betty Ann, throws in the campfire dust to make the fire more intense while she submits her story for approval of The Midnight Society. She calls her story "The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner"


Betty Ann, tells the story. The story is about a teenager named Ethan Wood. Ethan, is a young, but very talented artist. He dreams big of becoming a real comic book artist. Unfortunately, every publishing company he has mailed samples of his artwork to, has rejected and turned him down. One night, as Ethan reads through his mail, he finds out that once again a publishing company that he mailed his samples too has turned down; and rejected him. He gets very upset and disappointed. So he rips and tears up many of his amazing drawings off his walls.

Suddenly, Ethan finds a blue envelope. This contains an invitation to come to the grand opening of a new comic shop called "Comic Books Ink". He is invited to come early to avoid the crowd. The next day he arrives to the comic shop. It is an amazing shop, filled with many awesome and amazing superhero comic books. Also there are many posters and cardboard cutouts around the store. These are of such things like monsters and various superheros (including cutouts of the Watcher and The Crimson Clown). Ethan is very surprised to see, that as amazing a store as this is, that no one else has come yet.

Frankie Uncas, the cool, down-to-earth owner of the store, spots Ethan browsing. Soon after, she affectionately addresses him as 'cakes' (a name she'll continue to call him by for the duration of the episode). She asks him if he wants anything. She proceeds to offer him some more obscure comics, such as Dustboy and Fishman at very low prices. This is an attempt to just get rid of them. He shows her his invitation, and she is shocked and surprised to find out he’s the one she invited to come to the grand opening.

She tells him the reason why she invited him. It is because word travels around, and she's heard that he’s a pretty good artist, So she requests to see some of his drawings. He tells her he's feels that he isn’t very good. Since he's been rejected by just about every publishing company there is. She comforts him by telling him that some people just don't know good talent when they see it. Ethan reluctantly lets her looks at his drawings. After looking at them, she is just amazed by how good they are. Now she tells them that even though he is a little rough around the edges, he draws like one of the greats. She mentions that one of the greats was a comic book artist named Sylvester Uncas. Ethan is clueless and asks who?

She asks him if he's ever heard of The Ghastly Grinner. So she takes him over to the counter, and takes out a thick leather case. She unlocks the case, and reveals it to have a comic book inside. The comic book is about a court jester like villain. One said to be so evil and powerful, that just hearing him simply laugh could turn his victims into uncontrollable laughing, drooling idiots. The comic is issue #1: Volume 1 created by Sylvester Uncas. Uncas was a genius comic book creator. But he didn't have the guts to handle the Grinner. It was so frightening, that he only draw one issue then he disappeared. She tells him that the copy is the only copy left. So as a grand opening special, he gets to have it for free. Which he happily accepts.

The next day, Ethan is at school. Then during science class, there is a giant microwave oven on display. It is in a glass case, that bursts a giant sausage to bits. The teacher Mr. Wrightson asks the class if anyone, (besides the class nerd Hooper Picalarro) knows how a microwave works. Ethan holds his science textbook upside down. This is to conceal his comic book inside it. He is enjoying himself and having a fun time reading it. In the story, every victim The Ghastly Grinner encounters becomes an uncontrollable, laughing, drooling idiot. Mr. Wrightson comes up to him from behind and confiscates the comic book. He does this to Ethan as a punishment for him not paying attention to his priorities in school. Then Mr. Wrightson walks up to the front of the class, and he nears the fish tank. Ethan cries out to him "No! It's one of a kind!". Mr. Wrightson in a nasty and mean tone tells him "Correction it's none of a kind!". Then he drops the comic into the fish tank, much to Ethan's dismay. Hooper looks over to him and feels bad about it.

After school, Ethan comes home to find his parents sitting together on the sofa. They are eating junk food and watching television. His dad tells him they're not happy that they got a call from school today. One that informed them, that he was acting up in science class. Ethan's excuse is that Mr. Wrightson hates him. His mom politely tells him that he doesn't hate him, he just doesn't want him to waste his time on comic book, and to focus on important priorities. His dad warns him that this is the last warning. So if they got one more call from school like that one. He'll get no more comic books until he finishes college. Ethan is really mad to hear his dad say this. His mom tells him it's for his own good, because comic books are an addiction (just like his parents addiction of junk food and watching television).

Afterwards, Ethan goes into the kitchen. There he tries to read through his now soaked comic book. He looks at the microwave and decides to try drying the comic book inside the microwave. He puts the comic into the microwave and sets the time. Then his mom tells him he has a phone call. At first Ethan isn't too excited. So he asks her to take a message for him. Until his mom says that it's a girl. Now he’s more than happy to answer the phone.

The girl on the phone happens to be Hooper Picalarro. The girl who sits across the room from him in science class (who has glasses, braces and braided pigtails). She has called him to tell him how sorry she was to see Mr. Wrightson wreck his comic book. Also that she thinks he's a really good artist. He really appreciate her telling him this. Meanwhile, downstairs his mom is cooking pizza waffles. This has overloaded the electrical outlet, with far too many machines and devices plugged in at a time. This causes a little explosion! Then the microwave slowly opens in a yellow flash. Ethan, scared from the sound heads downstairs to see what happened.

He comes down coughing through the smoke. So he calls for his mom and dad to see if they're okay. His mom calls out that she’s okay, and says that everything is fine. Much to his current confusion. Ethan finds his comic book dried like new. However now there is a big hole punched through the middle. Also, on the wall is a whole in the shape of cut out of a jester like clown. As Ethan walks closer to see it, in the background laughter can be heard. He looks through the cutout opening and finds a slight bit a blue slime.

His mom comes in and says get rid of this... oh too late! She smiles and begins laughing uncontrollably, as blue slime drips out of her mouth. Ethan terrified, screams and goes over to ask his dad for help. His dad quickly turns his head around. Then he smiles a wide smile with his eyes wide open. Next he says "Heard any good jokes lately, Ethan?". Ethan screams and runs away. As he leaves, his dad begins laughing uncontrollably as well. Also blue slime drips from his mouth too.

Ethan runs outside and hides near the bushes. Then he looks inside the comic book. There he can see that everything bad recently happening in his life, is also happening in the comic book too. Suddenly, he is startled and turns around to see Hooper there. She tells him she heard the explosion over the phone. So she came over to see if he was okay. After she asks him what's going on. He tells her that he's not sure how, but he thinks he brought a comic book character to life. So he shows her the burnt comic. He explains the comic book character to her and how he thinks it got his parents. Hooper says they should call for help. Suddenly we can see Hooper's parents, coming over to visit and Mr and Mrs. Wood. They happily invite them inside to meet "Uncle Bob". Afterwards, very loud and insane laughter, can be heard coming from the inside of the house.

Ethan and Hooper get on the city bus. Next they head over to the comic book shop to meet the shop owner, to find a way to stop The Grinner. On the way as they read the comic it reveals that The Grinner has now also victimized Hooper's parents as well. They realize they're in the comic book too. This indicated by looking in it, that someone is about to get them on the bus. Suddenly, the bus driver's head twists completely backwards. Then blue oozing slime drips out as he laughs uncontrollably. This terrifies the both of them screaming, as the bus driver begins to recklessly drive the city bus completely out of control. Their ride is very dangerous as the bus driver keeps trying to crash the bus. Ethan, is finally able to catch the emergency break and pulls it stopping the bus. This happens so fast, that the bus driver bumps his head and passes out.

At the comic shop, Ethan asks the shop owner how it can be real when it's just a comic book. She explains to him that Sylvester Uncas was such a good artist. So he wasn't just making comic books, he was also creating guidebooks to other worlds. So people in other worlds could protect themselves. However, everyone thought he was crazy. So they didn't believe him until he created The Ghastly Grinner. Turns out he mistakenly created something so evil that he immediately needed to put a stop to it. Therefore he tried to quickly wrap it up and end the comic book series by making the final issue "The Death of the Ghastly Grinner. However, before he could finish the comic book, the Grinner found out and captured him. So he hasn't been seen ever since. She reveals she knows all of this because Sylvester Uncas was her father.

She tells him, that this was reason why she gave him the invitation to the shop in the first place. So that he could to finish the comic book and stop the Ghastly Grinner once and for all. This is because she believes he has the right potential to do so. Hooper suggests an idea, the idea is to use giant microwaves and have the emitting rays destroy him. Because if the rays from a microwave can bring him to their world. Then possibly it could send him back too believing that was how the comic was supposed to end. Suddenly The Grinner appears in the shop and closes in on them and makes Frankie disappear.

Back at school, Ethan and Hooper head to Mr. Wrightson's science class. There, they set up the giant microwave machine. As they prepare this and set this up, Mr. Wrightson comes in and tries to stop them for messing with the equipment. Because he says it's no laughing matter. Suddenly The Ghastly Grinner appears and grabs Mr. Wrightson. Then he stares at him in the face and laughs at him until he becomes a laughing and drooling idiot too. As this happens, they turn on the microwave machine. Then blinding flashes blinked all throughout the classroom. This didn't harm or hurt the Grinner in any way. The Ghastly Grinner picks up Ethan and asks him how he can ever repay him for bringing him to the world. Maybe a smile? He begins to laugh at Ethan. Then Hooper runs in the way and they break free and make a run for it.

Hooper leads them back to the comic book shop. There they find and retrieve the unfinished comic panels for the final issue. She tells him she believes in him and so did Ms. Uncas and that she just knows he can finish the comic book. Ethan with much more encouragement now, carefully and quickly gets to work. Ethan works fast but seems to do a very good job. Hooper mentions that it is sure is quiet now. She wonders where The Grinner might be. Suddenly, we see a cardboard Cutout of the Grinner come to life as he insanely laughs. He tells her "Know what happened to the last guy who tried to stop me? let's just say his subscription was cancelled! " He picks up Hooper by her pigtails and attempts to victimize her. However much to his disgust and surprise it's doesn't work. This is because Hooper reveals that she doesn't have very much of a sense of humor. Therefore he has no affect on her.

Ethan has finished the comic book and presents it to him with him as the main superhero character. He calls out "Hey Smiley! who's laughing now?" Seeing the comic book The Grinner instantly let's Hooper go and runs over to Ethan. The Grinner runs over to Ethan as Ethan runs over to him holding the comic book. They bump right into each other and disappear in a yellow flash with a laugh heard in the background. As Ethan and The Ghastly Grinner enter the comic book world for a battle.

The comic book pages are left on the floor. Hooper scared and worried reads through them. The comic shows the Ethan hero punching The Grinner out. Then it shows Ethan rescuing Ms. Uncas and her father Sylvester Uncas. While the Ghastly Grinner calls for them to come back and they can't escape. The Ethan Hero exposes the Grinner to rays of a microwave. Now he tells him it might not have worked in Ethan's world, but it will work in his world. As it's turned on, The Grinner is zapped by a rap from the microwave and screams "Microwaves no!". Then afterwards, Ethan Hero is victorious, but suddenly asks "Now how do I get out of here?

Hooper says I thought you knew, suddenly inside the comic it shows that The Ghastly Grinner is back. Now he sneaks up on Ethan hero from behind. The pages shows The Ghastly Grinner staring right at Ethan Hero's face, laughs. Then he screams out Hooper! Not knowing what else to do, Hooper takes the page and takes out her gigantic eraser. Then she erases The Grinner's face away. Then suddenly a little flash of light appears with a slight explosion. Now her eraser is on fire. Ethan is freed and the Grinner is trapped in the comic defeated. Hooper is so happy that Ethan is all right and they hug. Ms. Uncas comes forward and and happily introduces him and Hooper to her father Sylvester Uncas. Ethan is amazed to meet him. Ms. Uncas is so proud and happy telling Ethan that she knew he could do it. On his way out, Sylvester gives him his drawing back, He says I believe these are yours (as if to say don't stop now).


As the story ends, Betty Ann tells the viewers that there is a comic convention. Many customers are lined up at a table in Comic Books Ink. But they're not here to see Sylvester Uncas. Turns out that Sylvester Uncas retired and never drew another comic book again, because he had enough excitement for the rest of his life. The comic book convention is for Ethan and everyone is gladly buying his new Ethan super hero comics and he’s happily autographing them for everyone. Some people are interviewing Ethan's parent's who are both really happy saying that they always encouraged Ethan's talent and always knew from the beginning he would be a star. Ethan finally made it into the comics literally. As Betty Ann, ends the story she says continued next issue. Her friends are all impressed with the story with Gary saying it was very Ghastly. Gary declares their meeting closed and puts out the campfire and everyone heads for home.

  • When Ethan Wood lifts up the comic with a hole burned into it, you can see advertisements for "Are You Afraid of the Dark?", as well as another Nickelodeon series, The Ren & Stimpy Show.
    • The former ad seems to specifically be for the VHS Nightmare Tales.
  • A cardboard cutout of The Crimson Clown with it's gleaming gold eyes was seen in the comic shop.
  • In the episode "The Tale of C7", Lisa is seen reading the Ghastly Grinner comic book, and "The Tale of the Manaha" shows Steve has a copy too. In the rebooted series, Jai has a copy of the same issue in "The Tale of the Haunted Woods", and later in "The Tale of the Darkhouse" he discusses the original character and an update called The Return of the Ghastly Grinner with Margot Picalarro.
  • Numerous superheroes' and villains' pictures are seen in the background of the comic-book store, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, Venom, Batman, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, The Joker, and Daredevil. Four other posters are photos from elsewhere in the series - The Crimson Clown from "The Tale of the Crimson Clown", The Watcher from "The Tale of Watcher's Woods" and a transformed Keith from "The Tale of the Dark Dragon".
  • Terrence Labrosse who portrayed Mr. Wrightson. quickly reappeared in the series again in the next season in the episode "The Tale of the Jagged Sign" as Duncan.
  • Heidi Burbela who portrayed Hooper, later reappeared in the series again in the series revivals season 6 episode "The Tale of the Walking Shadow" as Kim.
  • Penny Mancuso, who portrayed Mrs. Wood later reappeared in the series again as a woman in the series revival's episode "The Tale of the Time Trap".
  • Amos Crawley and Daniel DeSanto, also worked together on the animated children show The Magic School Bus, as the voices of Arnold Perlstein and Carlos Ramon.
  • Amos Crawley appeared in the Goosebumps Haunted Mask episodes as Chuck.
  • According to Amos, this is the thing he's been in that directors on other things he's been in bring up the most.
  • In the ending credits, the editors misspelled the last name "Uncas" as "Uncan".
  • In season 1 of the 2019 reboot, Gavin writes a story called "The Return of the Ghastly Grinner". The Return of the Ghastly Grinner title is later reused in Season 2's "The Tale of the Darkhouse" as the name of an official reboot for the character.
  • According to Ron Oliver, this episode was inspired by him being gifted some Tales from the Crypt comics and wondering what would happen if comics came to life.
    • Hooper is based on a girl he knew as a kid.
  • Composer Ned Fisher stated this was one of his favorites to do. He joked he was trying to "out cheese" Danny Elfman.
  • DJ MacHale initially wanted the Grinner to be all white, but makeup artist Annick Chartier insisted they use primary colors for him.
  • Ron Oliver stated he based a lot of the framing in his direction off of comic books, to fit the theme.
  • Due to the way the Writers Guild of Canada contracts work, Ron Oliver owns the rights to the Ghastly Grinner character so permission must be asked in order to use his likeness. [1]
    • While Ghastly Grinner is only mentioned in the first season of the 2019 reboot, he's likeness is used in the other seasons so they likely went through Ron to do this.
  • The pinball machine seen in the background as Ethan is opening his mail at the beginning of the episode is a 1981 Bally Fireball II
  • Neil Kroetsch, who portrayed the Grinner, was worried that Amos Crawley would get too scared, but he was reassured by his mother being there.
    • He filmed all of his scenes in just one day.
    • Decades went by before AYAOTD crossed his mind again. Until a fan reached out to him for an autograph, which led him to binge-watch all of the episodes again.
    • He has said that he would be willing to reprise the role if he was asked.