Are You Afraid of the Dark Wiki
The Tale of the Pinball Wizard
Season 1 , Episode 13
Air date November 14, 1992
Written by Louise Lamarre & Tom Rack
Directed by D.J. MacHale
Episode guide
The Tale of the Prom Queen
The Tale of the Final Wish

The Tale of The Pinball Wizard is the Thirteenth episode of the First season of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, as well as the Thirteenth episode in total. Also, this episode was the Season One finale.


Midnight Society Cast[]

Story Cast[]


That night at the meeting, we see David sitting down beside Betty Ann playing some unknown game on a Game Boy. He is very excited and very focused and says he just needs a few more points and then he gets the key (meaning he might win the game or get the high score). Then Eric steps up from behind pushes a button and asks what that button does. David disappointingly tells him that it resets the game. David is now all bummed out, Eric says oops sorry and goes to sit down.

Frank asks him if he's got the key yet, David sadly tells him no, and Frank snatches the Game Boy and David discouragingly says he might never get the key. Frank sits down next to Kristen and begins to play the game himself claiming it's a piece of cake. Kristen then tells them how she just doesn't get how some people get so into playing videos games, because they're just games. Kiki claims they're like the battle between good and evil, you gotta be smart and be fast and always think three steps ahead and have a lot of patience.

Kiki says it's her turn and snags the Game Boy from Frank and sits down to play it. Kristen tells them all it doesn't matter if you win or lose. David says all he wants to do is find the key, even just once. Kristen, disgusted, says enough and asks who is going tonight. Gary says he is and takes the Game Boy away from Kiki, telling them all to fight over it later.

Gary tells them all, that Kristen is right. When you play a game like that, it doesn't matter if you win or lose. This is because you can always reset and begin a new game and get another chance, but what if it did count, what if you had to beat the game or the game is going to beat you and there were no resets, no replays and no second chances. Gary submits his approval for the Midnight Society throws in the dust, calling his story "The Tale of the Pinball Wizard" and begins his story. 


Gary tells the story. The story takes place inside a huge two-story shopping mall, and it's about a young man named Ross Campbell, a mischievous, greedy loner who would do whatever it took to get something he wanted. He is seen checking payphones for loose quarters and next, Ross looks inside the water fountain and finds a quarter and bends over to pick it up. Then just as he gets it, a homeless bag lady wants it too and tries to fight him for it and they argue back and forth over who gets the quarter, until the commotion is brought to the attention of the security guard. The security guard runs down after them and Ross runs off. He hides behind a display case in the hallway that has a really nice Super Soaker water gun in it with bronze and silver water barrels and a smaller similar water gun, too. Ross sees it and seems sort of interested. Ross heads into a merchandise and fix-it shop named Olson's. In the top left window, is a life-size dummy of a masked medieval executioner wielding a sharp spiky mace.

When Ross enters Mr. Olson's shop, we see Mr. Olson, a grumpy, long haired, middle-aged man fixing something and he asks Mr. Olson if he has thought about whether or not he'll give Ross a job. Mr. Olson is not sure he wants to hire anymore kids, and he certainly isn't so sure about hiring him. Ross tries to persuade him to hire him because he works cheap and he claims to be talented. Mr. Olson snaps at him saying that all he seems to be talented at is playing pinball all day. Ross once again tries to convince Mr. Olson to give him a chance claiming that he can trust him and he has lots of talents and that he won't have to fire him like did to his last employee named Steven. Mr. Olson thinks for a second, shakes his head no and says no. Ross then notices a cloak covering something, lifts it up and mentions that there is a new pinball game under the cloak. Mr. Olson barks at him for peeking at it and claims that it's not working properly, missing a critical piece, and it's an old collectors' item. He shoos him to go outside to play the other pinball games.

On his way back out to the front of the store, Ross swipes some change from a till and plays a pinball game. It seems to be a fire themed game and he is doing pretty well. Then Mr. Olson turns it off and tells him he has decided to go for a late lunch at 3:00 and decided to close up for an hour. When hearing this, Ross once again tries to persuade him to give him a chance by proving to him he can run and care for the store, when Mr. Olson isn't around. He finally convinces Mr. Olson that he won't miss any more sales if he's there when he's gone and finally Mr. Olson gives a Ross a chance under the impression that Ross has stated that he can be trusted. He tells Ross not to touch the money or the merchandise, including the new pinball game that is still in the back and he can't even get up to go to the bathroom until he comes back and if Mr. Olson is convinced that he can trust Ross, he'll give Ross a job; if not, he'll fire him like he did Steven.

Then just as Ross can see Mr. Olson has left, he excitedly heads to the backroom, to play the pinball machine. The possible reason he wants a job is to either buy those really nice water guns that are on display or to always have money to play pinball with or possibly both reasons. He looks back and forth nervously a few times to make sure he is all alone and finally pulls the tarp off, revealing the pinball machine. The game seems to be a medieval themed game with three levels to complete. The first level is to find the crown. The second level is to find the throne and the third level is to crown the princess. While defeating an evil witch, some executioners and an evil sheriff who want the crown for themselves. Then on Mr. Olson's way out, he can hear the music and the sounds coming from the pinball machine and gives a "why am I not surprised look" and smirks and walks off. Ross loses the game, just as a customer comes in.

The customer happens to be a gorgeous young teenage girl. Ross develops an instant crush on her when he sees her. She has come to pick up her music box because Mr. Olson told her it would be fixed that day. Ross, trying to impress her, tries to handle things himself until he realizes he doesn't know what it looks like. She hands him her card and we learn that her name is Sophie. For a few moments, he just stares at her speechlessly, then she reminds him about her music box, he asks her what it looks like. Then she tells him it's a throne in a golden box and finally points out where it is. Ross isn't sure whether or not it's properly fixed yet and tells Sophie he doesn't know and that the truth is he's just watching the store until Mr. Olson comes back. So Sophie decides to go do some of her errands and to come back for it later and thanks him kindly for his efforts.

Then on her way out, Ross can suddenly hear the pinball machine game coming back on. Then he begins to excitedly play it again. This time he seems to play the game for a very long time. First, he encounters zombies. A little later, he claims that this time he is going to crown the princess, meaning he's been at it for quite some time now. Finally much later, he seems excited that he's finally gotten to the second level, meaning he's been trying at it for quite some time now. Then he has trouble encountering the witch. Finally much, much later, he mentions that he is on the third level and he has the crown and the throne but he can't find the princess. He realizes that the villains have her and loses the game for a final time and decides to give up off for now.

He returns to the front of the store to see nobody there but him. He calls out for Mr. Olson and he's not even there. He exits the store and seeing it's all dark inside the mall and he realizes that he has lost track of time and played the pinball game past closing time and he got himself locked into the mall. He sighs saying "Mom's gonna kill me" and tries to run home but he can't get out because the front doors and exit doors won't open. Then he can hear a phone ringing. The phone is a payphone. He runs over it passing through the dark and deserted shopping mall. When he answers the phone at first, he can't hear anything that after saying hello a few times, he can hear laughter and the sound of Mr. Olson's voice asking him if he has an umbrella. Then, there is a musical sound heard in the area as flashes of lights appears.

In the water fountain, it rained quarters. Ross first catches a couple in his hand. Then he excitedly fills his pockets full of damp and wet quarters, stepping right inside the fountain, getting his shoes wet. Then he noticed a man walking by who is wearing a black suit with a bowler hat. Ross asks the man a question until another similar looking man moves in from the side and grabs him by the arm. The men are shown to be wearing sunglasses and have pale faces. When Ross pulls himself free, he accidentally rips one of their arms, revealing the hand to be filled with mechanical wires. This indicates that the men in the suits are robots. More of the gentlemen robots appear before him but when they notice water on the floor, they back away in fear and Ross reassuringly realizes this.

Then suddenly, he hears a girl crying "Help!, Help!". It's none other than Sophie, who's all dressed like a princess in a lovely sky blue velvet gown. He is shocked to see her and she begs for him to get the Tiara from the vault and she drops him a gold key on a chain, before she is taken away by the evil Sheriff in a red and yellow suit with a red and yellow cape with a leather cowl on and wears a patch on his left eye who screams in protest when she drops away the key. After she is taken away, the group of twelve or so gentlemen robots try to get the key for the Sheriff. Then Ross jumps into the water fountains, throws handfuls of water at them making them all run away. Ross succeeds in getting the key and when he does, video game victory music is briefly played. However, he is confused about what she meant by a vault and doesn't know where to find a vault.

Finally, Ross passes by some lockers and figures she meant a vault might be one of the lockers. He unlocks one of them and first he gets green slime tossed into his face. Then he opens a locker under it and he sprayed with water, neatly cleaning him. Then he opens another one and finally finds what appears to be Sophie's purple and pink spotted headband just like she was seen wearing earlier. When he picked it up briefly, video game victory music can be heard in the background. Then suddenly, more music can be heard hinting for him to keep going on, and the escalator starts running upwards.

Then after Ross rides it up to the second floor (the second level of the game), suddenly he notices that Sophie's headband has magically changed into a beautiful silver tiara and all the coins in his pocket have become marbles. Princess Sophie then calls for Ross to follow her, as he runs after her as she turns the corner unexpectedly. He encounters an evil witch with long silver fingernails and green hair. He steps back in horror and he sees Princess Sophie being carried away on someone's back and as she is taken away, she cries for him to save the tiara and to get the throne. After Princess Sophie is taken away, The witch comes in closer and closer. Terrified, Ross keeps backing away until the witch begins to powerfully blow at him. This causes wind to blow him all the way down the hallway and right through a door. After he falls down, the witch takes the tiara and vanishes in a flash of green light.

Then Ross gets back up and can hear Princess Sophie crying for help, she begs for him to go get the music box, so he runs over to Mr. Olson's shop to find it. When he gets to the shop, he can hear a muffled crying sound and he goes back to see Princess Sophie all tied up to a chair. She's in chains with a red scarf tied to her mouth. Then he uses the golden key to unlock the chains. He wants to know what is really going on, but she doesn't tell him, claiming that there is no time to explain and she just needs his help to get through it. Ross is completely confused and scared saying it's like a dream and still having no clue what's really going on. Then suddenly, crash! A big spiky mace smashes the porcelain statues on Mr. Olson's shop shelf. This is because that the life-sized dummy of the masked executioner that was in the front window has come to life and it's after Ross.

They run outside into the hallway, and the executioner hot on their trail. Also, they notice the witch is about to put on the tiara. Then Princess Sophie opens the music box and the pleasant music coming from it causes the tiara to vanish in flash of green light just as the witch was about to put it on. And now she is very mad, realizing that they must have the throne. Princess Sophie then hides the music box in a garbage can. That's so if anything happens to them, then no one can get both the throne and the tiara. Ross still demands to know what is going on but he gets no answer.

Then suddenly, the executioner comes back, swinging his mace around again. The mace gets stuck on top of a garbage can and remains forgotten. Princess Sophie tells him to get the mace which he does, and tells him he has to play the game. After he gets the mace, the executioner tries to grab him, but he gets away and he and her run off. Then a little distance away, Ross figures out by asking her if they're in a video game. Princess Sophie just tells him they need to find the tiara so she can be crowned. The tiara is seen floating in the air nearby, Ross grabs and she smiles to him with some relief.

Then the witch appears again and tries to approach them. Princess Sophie instructs him to throw some marbles. So Ross takes some marbles out of his pocket and throws them at the witch causing her to slip and fall. Ross and Sophie are pleased with their victory. That is until the evil Sheriff appears and grabs her again, holding her a headlock. The Sheriff tells him to just give it up and the game will be over. Ross tries to threaten him with the mace to let her go, but it doesn't work. Sophie tosses him the tiara and tells him to take it to the third level and they can't lose it again.

The tiara begins to quickly slide by itself across the room up to the garbage can. The garbage glows a red aura inside and then he remembers that the music box is inside of it. Then he takes the items and rides the escalator up to the third floor (the third level of the game). Then when he sees that the tiara is now a crown. he finally remembers that everything happening is exactly like the plot of the pinball game. So if he crowns Sophie, he'll win and be set free. Next, he tries to get the throne. He realizes that the music box has the form of the throne, but thinks it is too small to be a real throne. That is until he places it onto the floor and it transforms into a real beautiful golden throne complete with red velvet trimmings.

Next, Ross sits down on the throne, as it begins to rapidly move, passing by all the different stores. On the way, the witch tries to stop him but the throne crashes right into her. Afterwards, nothing but part of her black cloak is left of the witch and stays behind. When Ross gets there, suddenly he is stopped by a huge massively muscled wrestler guard (possibly the executioner has had a power-up boost). The guard grunts at him and Ross cringes in fear. The guard presses the button on the elevator and the Sheriff comes up with a bunch of his gentle robots. The Sheriff picks him and throws him into the elevator, which send him back to the first level (the beginning of the game). Ross runs up the escalator to the second floor where the water guns are on display. He then realizes why Sophie told him he would be needing the executioner's mace. He uses it on the display case to collect the water guns. Then he heads back up to the third floor where he sees that Princess Sophie is being held in place by two robots. The wrestler guard is about to crown Sheriff king. Just as the crown is about to go on his head, Ross shows up and tells them to freeze. The Sheriff tells him not to be a fool and he's already lost. Ross tells him that he never loses and starts to squirt them with the water gun. The robots vanish in a puff of smoke after being sprayed and so does the wrestler guard who again grunts and growls before vanishing.

Then just as Ross helps Princess Sophie onto the throne, The Sheriff surprisingly attacks him and knocks the water gun off from Ross' hand with the mace. He snaps at Ross informing him that the game isn't over until all of the characters die, but that he is still there, He tells Ross that he shouldn't play the game if he doesn't know the rules. Ross then tells him that it's not a game, it's real and when it's real you can make up your own rules. Ross then pulls out the smaller water gun telling him "You are out of here!". The Sheriff backs away in fear trembling "no! no! no!", Sitting down on the throne, Ross squirts him as he screams in pain. The Sheriff begins to smoke, vaporize and vanish leaving behind a beautiful silk light blue cloak with white fur and a black spotted trim.

Ross and Princess Sophie rejoice about their victory and she kisses him on the cheek. Then finally, she sits down on the throne, puts on the cloak and he crowns her and she glows in a pleasant pink aura and everything begins to vanish. However, suddenly Ross realizes he won but he is still trapped in the game and sent back to it's beginning again. He madly shouts out that since he won, he shouldn't still be inside of it. However, Mr. Olson's sinister laughing is heard, and his giant face appears above the the glass roof of the mall. In reality, Mr. Olson stands outside the pinball machine and watches a tiny Ross walking around in it. He says: "You told me I could trust you, Ross, but you had to play the game didn't you?" "Hope you'll enjoy your free games, you'll be playing them forever!". This indicates that Mr. Olson decided to trap Ross in the game as a devious punishment for breaking his trust. (The viewers aren't told how Mr. Olson is able to do this, but as the episode's title indicates, he appears to be a kind of wizard.) Mr. Olson starts to play a new game and a giant silver pinball appears and is preparing to crash down the escalator on Ross. Meaning he may have won the game at first, but he's going to have to keep playing again until he loses and dies.


As the story is ending, Gary is heard telling the viewers "When Ross saw that ball, he knew that he would never get out!" The end.

Then back to the Midnight Society, Gary then tosses David his Game Boy back and asks him if still wants to give it a go and David says that now he thinks he has outgrown it and gives it to Frank. Frank doesn't want it either and passes it to Kiki. Kiki doesn't want it either and passes it back to frank. Frank passes it to Gary. Gary then says "Whoever's got the game, just make sure the game doesn't get you". Betty Ann wishes them all a goodnight and leaves with everyone leaving after Gary is last to leave because he stays to pour the bucket of water to put out the fire and says "Till next time".

  • This was the most difficult episode out of the series to produce and took the longest to film. D.J. MacHale actually pleaded with the crew to break union rules and work an extra day. They unanimously agreed to work a day of overtime to help finish the episode.
    • The concept of the episode proved to be hard to do in their budget, especially since they were at the end of the season when they were low on money. DJ worked hard to get to the story to be possible to show. He wasn't going to direct it at first but took over so no one else would be burdened with it.
  • This is the first episode not to show a scene with the Midnight Society discussing the story partway through the telling.
  • One of eight episodes to use the regular introduction but excluding background music and showing the hand with the match slide into view before it disappeared replaced by lightning and the title, rather than showing the hand with the match that lights itself.
  • A.J. Henderson who portrayed Mr. Olson had just appeared two episodes before in "The Tale of the Dark Music" portrayed the short part of The Carnival Barker.
  • Tom Rack who also co-wrote this episode and appeared as The Security Guard and The Sheriff. He also reappeared later in the series as The Watcher in "The Tale of Watcher's Woods"
  • The members in the Midnight Society take turns playing an original Game Boy. The cartridge looks like Tetris. But the sound effects sound like Donkey Kong (1981), which was never on the original Game Boy or had generic Atari game SFX.
  • Gary, who told this story, was portrayed by Ross Hull, coincidentally his character Gary told a story about a character named Ross.
  • This episode marked the last time Eric appeared, the reason for his departure was never explained.
  • Gary is the second Midnight Society member to "break the fourth wall" at the end by saying "Till next time".
  • A similar story is shown in the section The Bishop of Battle of the 1983 horror film Nightmares. Teenage videogame player J.J. Cooney (portrayed by Emilio Estevez) breaks by night into a shopping arcade to play the game "The Bishop of Battle" and reach Level 13 which no one up to then had reached. When he succeeds, the game's 3-D CGI enemies fly out into the real world and fire lasers at J.J. who defends himself with the gun from the game's controls which now fires real laser blasts. When J.J. finally flees to the parking lot, the CGI face of the Bishop of Battle swallows him and sucks him into the game where he appears on the screen of the game's cabinet.
  • Another early example for people being sucked into computer games is the 1983 science fiction action adventure film Tron where the game system's master control program uses a laser scanner to digitize a software designer and upload him into the game system where he has to fight against computer programs. 2010, a sequel Tron: Legacy was released.