Are You Afraid of the Dark? – “The Tale of the Room for Rent”


So we start off with Gary and the gang hanging around the fire looking bored while Sam sits off to one side jotting something down. Then Kiki shows up, totally out-of-breath, and announces that now that she’s here, they can get started.

While that is kind of an arrogant thing to say, I still give Kiki some props for trying not the keep the other kids waiting. Good manners are essential. I’m sure she also takes off her backwards baseball cap and/or bandanna when she enters a building.

Despite Kiki’s apparent hurry to get there, Sam calmly says that they can wait a little while longer before getting started since she’s busy writing a birthday card to her grandmother. Rude much? People are waiting here, Sam. Just because you have poor time management skills doesn’t mean the other members of the Midnight Society need to suffer for it. Why can’t we have Kristen back?


Both Frank and Gary tell Sam to hurry the eff up–I award a raised middle-finger to bossy Frank and a panty-drop moment to the newly assertive Gary–and Sam finally finishes her note. She tells us that she’s been meaning to write this note for a long time, but just kept putting it off. But (and this is when she starts using her ominous story voice) some things are really important and just won’t wait. What if there was something important (like writing a birthday card to grandma) but something big got in the way of doing it?

Something like… BUM BUM BUM… death!

The other kids look at each other doubtfully, the way they always do with story lead-ins. Normally, I think this is contrived, but in this case, I actually would have had a similar reaction. Doesn’t it sound like Sam’s implying her grandma’s about to die or something? It’s just weird, is all I’m saying. I mean, I know she’s old, but come on. If Grandma was that sick, maybe Sam should pick up the pace a little with that card. Or drop in for a visit.

Anyway, the story starts off with our tween heroine, Jessie, raking some leaves in Mrs. Simpson’s front yard. In voiceover, Sam explains that Jessie is the kind of girl who likes to keep busy, doing a lot of volunteer work in town and doing various odd jobs for the townsfolk, including the resident spiritualist, Mrs. Simpson.


Mrs. Simpson lives alone and everyone thinks she is a witch, but you know, the good kind. She makes her living telling fortunes and shit, and although most people think she’s a little bit kooky, nobody has burned her at the stake just yet.

Jessie finishes up with her lawn work and tries to ask Mrs. Simpson for her hard-earned leaf-raking wages. Unfortunately, Mrs. Simpson is busy reading some guys palm, telling him that there are many obstacles keeping him from finding his true soul mate.


Oh yeah, like what, specifically? If you’re really a psychic Mrs. Simpson (and I assume you are since this is AYAOTD) then cut with the canned phone mystic BS and give us some deets!

Instead, Jessie rides her bike home, where her Grandpa Samuel is busy preparing a sign advertising the new room for rent upstairs. It seems that Grandpa has been sick for a little while and hasn’t been able to go up and down stairs lately. They moved his bed downstairs, so now his old bedroom is ready to rent out to the next stranger that walks in the door.

Jessie is reticent to have a new person in the house, but Grandpa insists that this is something that needs to be done, since money is tight.

Because, you know, leaving a total stranger upstairs unattended with your very young granddaughter is the most responsible thing to do. Thanks, Gramps. I know you can’t get up and down the stairs, but still.

Out front, Jessie hammers in the sign and finishes up just as her friend, Alex, arrives so they can go and watch a couple of scary movies together.


Wow. Remember when tweens actually looked like little kids? If this had been produced today, Jessie and Alex would probably be all tarted up like those girls from “The Clique” movie.


Incidentally, I really enjoyed that movie, so I guess I don’t mind tweens in Armani all that much.

Anyway, later that night, Jessie and Alex are biking home, talking about how fun and frightening the horror movies were. Although it’s nine o’clock already, Jessie insists on dropping my Mrs. Simpson’s house to get her money.

Jeez, Jess, pushy much? I’m sure you can come over tomorrow to collect your moon pie and penny whistle, or whatever it is you get for raking.

When Jessie and Alex arrive at Mrs. Simpson’s, they see candlelight flickering through the windows. For some reason, Jessie still thinks it’s a good idea to try to get her wages. If I were her, I would have waited until the light of day–you never know what you’ll find. For all we know, Mrs. Simpson is getting busy on a bear skin rug with Ernest Borgnine. I mean, why else would she have all those romantic candles set up? Hmm?

Luckily, though, when Jess and Alex get up to the porch and peek in through the windows, they see Mrs. Simpson having a spiritual experience of an entirely different sort.


Interesting. And check out those special effects! They’re pretty awesome, especially for AYAOTD.

So Mrs. Simpson, in a trance, summons some kind of Ghost Dude, who walks through the wall, right past the screaming Jessie and Alex.

The girls realize that now would be a good time to haul ass back to Grandpa’s house. They tell him what happened at Mrs. Simpson’s, and he basically tells them that they are idiots who should STFU and leave him alone.

But, you know, in a nice way.


…while looking a little bit scary himself.

I’m just saying, you might want to dial it down there, Gramps. You’re at about a seven, I think you ought to be at about a four.

The following morning, someone is here about the room for rent. It’s (BUM BUM BUM!) the Ghost Dude!

Grandpa takes an immediate liking to Ghost Dude, mentioning that he seems familiar somehow. Meanwhile, Jessie flails her arms and gives Gramps many a frantic look to try and dissuade him from renting the room out to GD (who is going by the name “Mr. Browning), but Grandpa does it anyway.

Ugh, Grandpa, I know this is a small town or whatever, but at least do a damn background check. This guy’s got a serious case of the crazy eyes.


I guess GD is attractive in a male model kind of way, but I still wonder if he’s related to Christopher Walken or something.

After GD ponies up some cash, Grandpa asks Jessie to show GD up to his new room. Jessie is all freaked out, but goes upstairs with GD. Jessie directs him to his fancy new room, then nervously says that she’s got to go now. GD doesn’t give a crap and completely ignores her. Before going downstairs, however, Jessie peeks in at GD and watches as he tries to pick up an old photo, but HIS HANDS SLIP RIGHT THROUGH IT!!!!

Jessie’s all, “OMFG!” and runs downstairs to get Gramps. She says that “Mr. Browning” is the ghost from last night and now he’s here renting their room! Call an exorcist!

As usual, Grandpa treats Jessie like she’s a ‘tard and tells her to go away.

Grandpa Samuel, you’re cute, but you’re kind of a dismissive jerk, dude. Are you related to Frank, by any chance?

So, at this point, Jessie finally realizes that it’s time to take matters into her own hands. She and Alex go to Mrs. Simpson’s house to try and figure out what the hell is going on around here.

Once there, they find that Mrs. Simpson has absolutely no memory of conjuring up a crazy-eyed Ghost Dude, nor does she particularly remember him stealing money out of her purse.

In any case, Mrs. Simpson is delighted to hear that her “welcoming meditation” worked. It seems that yesterday was a very special day in the psychic community, in which one can call down a spirit on the ninth hour of the ninth day of the ninth month, so that this spirit can use their temporary time on earth to take care of unfinished business. This momentous psychic event is called, “The Opening.”

That’s what she said!

But the spirits only have until the night of the next full moon to get their shizz together. Unfortunately for GD, the next full moon is tomorrow night, which seems kinda unfair to me, but whatever. There’s always next year I guess.

What makes things even more difficult is that the spirits have no physical powers, so they would have to take over the body of a host.

Umm… they have no physical powers but they can hand over money? That’s weird.

Jessie invites Mrs. Simpson over to take a look at GD, but Mrs. Simpson seems strangely reticent to visit Jessie’s place, probably because her grandpa is kind of an asshat. She makes an excuse that the spirit needs to return to the spirit world by the same portal, so she should stick around and wait for him to come back.

That night, Alex sleeps over Jessie’s house. Jessie attempts to eavesdrop on GD, and Alex is kind of a wet blanket about the whole thing. Personally, I love staying up late. I think Alex is just being a tool. Eventually Jessie convinces Alex that she’ll feel better after a little snack, so the girls decide to go downstairs to grab a bite.

Because wandering around in a dark old house with a creepy ghost living in it is SO worth a plate of cheese and crackers.

Well, I guess it would be worth it if they were going to make fluffernutters or something.

Anyway, down on the ground floor, they find this:


Jessie yells, “NO!” and Alex screams for them to run… and they do! Yeah, that’s right. They run back to Jessie’s room and leave Grandpa alone with the Ghost Dude. The girls even barricade the door with a dresser, since they’re so scared of this lethal ghost.

Yeesh. I know Grandpa’s kind of a jerk, but come on girls. That’s cold, yo.

But it doesn’t matter, because GD has magical ghost powers and no mere door can keep him away. He sticks his torso through and warns Jessie and Alex not to stand in his way.


Right about now, Alex is probably kicking herself for not insisting that they sleep over at HER house.

Jessie says that they have to warn Grandpa right now–better late than never to grow some balls, I guess. They shake Grandpa awake, tell him that “Mr. Browning” is after him, and tell him that they can prove it. Gramps grumpily agrees to go upstairs to GD’s room, where everything is oddly still and quiet.

Hmm… Jessie and Alex look around suspiciously while Grandpa pretends to sniff around for Mr. Browning. Gramps even goes to the closet and pretends that he’s being attacked by a monster.

Ha-effing-ha. I freaking hate it when adults do that. How funny would it be if you called the police on a burglar in your house, and the cop pretended to get shot in front of you? You’d probably pee yourself, Gramps, but apparently this sort of thing is funny when you’re the one playing the joke. Ugh. I bet he’s the kind of guy who would probably leave his kid on the side of the road just to teach them some kind of lesson.

Anyway, finding nothing in the bedroom, Grandpa goes back to bed and suggests that Jessie and Alex do the same. Before leaving the bedroom, Jessie and Alex check the closet, just in case, and find a box of old photographs (you know the box fell on top of them, because it wouldn’t be scary otherwise). Unfortch, Jess and Al don’t get a chance to look through the photos because Grandpa yells at them to get to bed.

The next day, the girls are dog tired and sleeping on the porch. Grandpa heads over to the Legion Hall (as is his usual routine), so the girls go back to Mrs. Simpson’s house to report their findings. At some point, I’m sure pushy-ass Jessie demanded her wages, too.

Mrs. Simpson says that there’s not much she can do about GD, but isn’t overly concerned when she finds out that GD was trying to take over Grandpa’s body. She tries to calm the girls down, but Jess and Al throw a shit fit when they notice a really old picture of young Grandpa, young Mrs. Simpson, and forever-young Ghost Dude on the mantel.

Mrs. Simpson explains that Ghost Dude is actually her ex-fiance, Jacob, who died during the war. It seems that Jacob, Gramps, and Mrs. Simpson were all pals back in the day. Mrs. Simpson says that she was planning on breaking things off with Jacob, but didn’t get a chance to because he died during the war. Jess asks what happened, and Mrs. Simpson gets a far-away look in her eye and says that she fell in love with somebody else.

Hmm… was it Ernest Borgnine? Keep reading to find out!

Mrs. Simpson explains that Jacob and Grandpa were in the Air Force together. When their plane got hit by enemy fire, Grandpa Samuel ordered Jacob to strap on a parachute and GTFO while Gramps stayed back. Turns out Jacob’s chute didn’t open and he died, but Grandpa used his mad flying skillz to safely land the plane nearby.

Mrs. Simpson sniffles and says that Grandpa Samuel never should have ordered Jacob to parachute out. The girls agree that this is horrible and see now that it was Grandpa’s fault that Jacob died.

Awww, tragic… And confusing. I mean, how the hell was Gramps supposed to know the chute wouldn’t open? Technically, Jacob stood a much better chance of survival with the parachute than staying on the plane. Just saying. There’s no reason to be all judge-y about it. And it wasn’t really Grandpa’s fault–it was whoever the hell sewed that defective parachute.

Anyway, everybody realizes that Jacob must be back from the dead to get revenge on Grandpa. Jessie says that she’s got to get home. This time, Mrs. Simpson grows a few balls of her own and decides to come with them.

Meanwhile, back at Grandpa’s house, ghostly Jacob is lurking in a very creepy way.


Gramps should just turn around and be all, “You want a sip of this soup, Jacob? Oh, wait. You can’t taste it because you’re dead. Bam! Suck it!”

A minute later, Jessie and company screech/pedal up to the house, just in time to save Grandpa. Mrs. Simpson and Grandpa have a slightly awkward interlude, followed by coffee and an argument about metaphysics. Typically, Grandpa doesn’t believe that “Mr. Browning” is Jacob come back from the dead. After a bit of shouting, Mrs. Simpson stalks away, slamming the door behind her.

Jessie and Alex aren’t too let-down by this, because since the ghost has to leave by midnight that night, all they need to do is stick like glue to Gramps and keep him safe until then.

Umm, girls? Maybe you could have done that in the first place, maybe like, IDK, after that first meeting with Mrs. Simpson that established the timeline for this whole ghost thing?

Well, whatever. That night, Alex and Gramps are downstairs watching a scary movie while Jessie is upstairs looking through that box of Grandpa’s private photos and papers and stuff. Because, you know, it’s really her place to read all of this private stuff that doesn’t belong to her.


She discovers that Grandpa and Mrs. Simpson were once in love (to quote Buffy the Vampire Slayer, does the word, “duh!” mean anything to you?). Then Jessie finds Grandpa’s old diary, in which he has poured out all his most private feelings about the events with Jacob. You know, I’m sure old people love it when you read their journals without their permission–probably as much as an average teenager likes it.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Alex and Grandpa are still watching the movie. Alex is getting really into it–so much so that she doesn’t notice Jacob creeping up behind Grandpa. Whoops!

Upstairs, Jessie is clearly finding some very juicy gossip in Grandpa’s old diary. She rushes downstairs, saying, “Man oh man oh man,” but finds that Grandpa is gone, baby, gone. She briefly yells at Alex for not taking better care of Grandpa, then get a phone call from Mrs. Simpson asking why Grandpa is standing outside of her house.

I’m no expert, but it probably has something to do with  Ghost Dude invading his body. But that’s just my theory.

Jess and Al rush over to Mrs. Simpson’s to save the day. Once there, they find Mrs. Simpson and Jacob standing in the living room. Looks like Jacob has taken over Grandpa’s body (we know this because of the echo-y way he talks). Jessie yells that she’s not going to let Jacob hurt her Grandpa!

If I were Jacob, I’d be all, “Kid, you just DID let me hurt your grandpa. That’s what you get for reading other people’s diairies.”

Instead, Jacob says that he’s going to stay in Grandpa’s body permanently, with Gramps going back to the world of the dead in his place. Jacob says that Grandpa certainly owes him this, because he was cheated out of a long life of happiness with his fiancee.

Jess finds another occasion to annoyingly yell, “Grandpa!” then goes into her explanation of how Grandpa didn’t mean to hurt Jacob at all.

Again… Does the word, “Duh!” mean anything to you?

She reads a passage from his journal about how he gave Jacob the last parachute, thinking that the plane was going to crash for sure. Gramps wanted to give Jacob a fighting chance, and felt terrible when he found out that Jacob’s chute had failed. Bummer.

Jessie even hands Grandpa’s journal over to Jacob so he can read some more… because people like it when you read their journal aloud and then pass it around the room. This so sounds like something those Clique girls would do to torture each other. Damn.

In this case, though, I guess it saves the day. Jacob starts teleporting back up to Heaven or whatever, but he doesn’t give up Grandpa’s body just yet. He tells Mrs. Simpson that they can finally be together, just like they had planned all those years ago.

Mrs. Simpson decides that now would be a good time to break up with Jacob, telling him that she meant to ditch him for Grandpa Samuel years ago, except Jacob just up and died before she got the chance to mention this. Very tactful, Mrs. Simpson. You should be a diplomat or something, seriously.


Jacob finally phases out of Grandpa’s body and begins to rise back up toward the light. He tells Mrs. Simpson that he’s always loved her and always will. Instead of saying it back, Mrs. Simpson just stands there in silence, like a pimp. It’s almost as cool as Han Solo just saying, “I know,” when Princess Leia finally confesses her love.

Well, anyway, Grandpa is ok and stuff. Sam informs us in voiceover that Grandpa and Mrs. Simpson resumed their love affair, happy to have a fresh start.

Cut back to the fire, where we have some sappy words from Sam about how it’s never too late to love…

Ugh, whatever. My first question is, why are all old people on this show so effing weird? I’m also wondering something else… who the hell did Mrs. Simpson marry after all of that drama? Seriously–she’s got one dead fiance, some guy she had an affair with, then another dude she married and probably killed or something. She gets around, and you know what? That ain’t good.

Watch out, boys. That girl is poison.

Ok, well, I guess that the moral of the story is: if you find someone’s diary, always read it. You never know when the information could come in handy!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Danger, Questionable Parenting, Stereotypes, TV recaps
9 comments on “Are You Afraid of the Dark? – “The Tale of the Room for Rent”
  1. Sadako says:

    Oh, man. That was great reading. I missed this one the first time around. I really wish I could watch this on DVD but Nick hasn’t released them or something. Or only the new ones. Ugh.

    Will you do any Dr. Vink episodes? I lurv me some Dr. Vink.

  2. R. G. Quimby says:

    Oh, yeah, the good doctor. I actually watched that one about the fear soup the other day. It’s got a 90’s era Neve Campbell who, aside from some dark lipstick and a woeful lack of highlights actually looks exactly the same. That episode kicked total booty and I remember thinking the lead guy was a hottie. Not as hot as Mr. Dark Dragon, but whatevs.

    Re: availability of episodes… I actually bought all of mine from It was a good deal–the whole series for under twenty clams. Ditto for the Babysitters Club. My only caveat is sometimes things can get a little weird since it’s not as well-regulated as Ebay, but it is a cool place to find DVDs of 90s TV shows.

  3. Shannon says:

    Gramps should have known Ghost Dude was up to no good just from his devil-eyed creepy stare.

  4. R. G. Quimby says:

    Seriously, dude. What part of Ghost Dude’s expression makes one want to let him live in your house?

  5. […] the lady who plays Gary’s grandma is the same woman who played Mrs. Simpson, the mystic from The Tale of the Room for Rent. I totally kept expecting Ghost Dude to pop up […]

  6. Fraulein N says:

    Okay, this — “Instead of saying it back, Mrs. Simpson just stands there in silence, like a pimp.” — is HILARIOUS. I actually don’t remember much about this episode, except for Ghost Dude’s crazy-ass eyes.

  7. R. G. Quimby says:

    That part where Mrs. Simpson just stands there… I’ve gotta ask… did it remind anyone else of that scene in Return of the Jedi where Leia tells Han she loves him and he also just stands there like a pimp?

    Or am I getting too geeky now? 🙂

  8. […] the lady who plays Gary’s grandma is the same woman who played Mrs. Simpson, the mystic from The Tale of the Room for Rent. I totally kept expecting Ghost Dude to pop up […]

  9. He tells Mrs. Simpson that he’s always loved her and always will. Instead of saying it back, Mrs. Simpson just stands there in silence, like a pimp. It’s almost as cool as Han Solo just saying, “I know,” when Princess Leia finally confesses her love. LMFAO Like A Boss

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