Taking a trip back to the Darkside

Tales from the Darkside is famous for having one of the scariest theme songs ever, with an ominous narrator voiceover and what should be beautiful shots of nature instead looking eerie when accompanied by the music.

The pilot episode aired in October of 1983, but the first season didn’t start up until a year later in 84. Having viewed all four season again, here’s a list of episodes I found notable for specific reasons, as well as the ones that were my faves.


Trick Or Treat
I’ll never forget when this episode, co-written by George Romero, aired a few days before Halloween in 1983. It was a slice of horror heaven for my fourteen-year-old mind. A Halloween Scrooge has a devilish fondness for terrorizing less fortunate people with his Halloween décor. But the haunter becomes the haunted when a terrifying witch from hell shows up to join the fun. 40 years later and this one still chills me to the bone.

I’ll Give You a Million
This one has a very 1970s vibe as a rich man makes a deal to buy another man’s soul. There’s not only a visit from a dead man, but also from the Devil!

Inside the Closet
A grad student rents a room from a science professor and believes something is living in her closet. She’s determined to find out what, and when she does, the payoff is deliciously freaky.

The Word Processor of the Gods
Not particularly a favorite episode of mine, however, this is based on one of Stephen King’s short stories from his Skeleton Crew collection. A writer inherits a word processor that takes everything he writes literally. I love the nostalgia of the huge floppy disc (you had to be there).

A Case of the Stubborns
Co-written by Robert Bloch of Psycho fame, this is a silly, comical tale about a mother and son who are shocked to discover that recently deceased grandpa just wants to live and starts hanging around the house. This is a really annoying one, but I was happy to see a witch make an appearance at the end. I love witches.

Snip, Snip
A witch and a warlock do battle over a winning lottery ticket. Carol Kane is perfect for the odd, dark tone of this one.

Madness Room
A wealthy couple has a visitor over and they play with an Ouija board. It points them to a hidden “madness room” in their home. The episode is loaded with supernatural elements and has a good Tales from the Crypt style twist.

Two young dudes go to see a magician and think he’s a hack. They confront him and demand he do the amazing tricks he’s known for. He shows them.

Bigalow’s Last Smoke
This story about torturing clients who want to quit smoking whenever they take a puff is notable because it’s very similar to the Stephen King short story “Quitter’s Inc”, which was adapted for the Cat’s Eye anthology film the same year this episode aired.


The Impressionist
This one comes from the director of He Knows You’re Alone and Cameron’s Closet and is about an impersonator hired by the government to communicate with a hostile alien.

Parlour Floor Front
A couple wants to evict one of their tenants and begins experiencing weird situations around their apartment. The wife becomes convinced he’s using voodoo to harm them. There’s a sick little twist to this one.

Halloween Candy
Directed by Tom Savini, this one holds a special place for me. It aired a few days before Halloween, and it was on the first night I babysat two younger friends of mine that lived next door to me. This tale about an old man terrorized by a little demon on Halloween night scared the hell out of them. Heh heh.

The Devil’s Advocate
Written by George Romero, this one stars Jerry Stiller as a nasty radio host—basically a heartless, callous conservative type—who gets just what all those hateful conspiracy theorists deserve, even today.

The Trouble with Mary Jane
Phyllis Diller in an episode about a possessed girl with goat hooves. Need I say more? Ok, I will. The little possessed girl is pretty awesome, too.

Ursa Minor
From the director of Silent Night, Bloody Night, this is a tale of a little girl’s evil teddy bear.

Monsters in My Room
A young Seth Green stars as a boy who sees monsters in his room—from under his bed to in his closet, but his mother and stepfather don’t believe him. The monsters are creepy, including another great witch.

A New Lease On Life
A man takes an apartment under some odd conditions because the rent is so good. He’s told by the weird landlady not to hang anything on the walls. When he ignores her rule and nails a hammer into the wall, it awakens something on the other side…

The Last Car
A Thanksgiving episode of sorts, this tale has a young woman board a train on which there are only three other passengers—and they all get terrified whenever they go through a tunnel. This one is fun, classic 80s macabre.

Strange Love
Another one from the director of Silent Night, Bloody Night. A doctor makes a house call when a woman hurts her ankle. He soon discovers she and her husband are vampires, and they’re going to keep him hostage to care for her. Best part is that he ends up shirtless and chained up with a dog collar on. Hot. There’s also a fun and campy vampiric twist.

The Casavin Curse
This one starts off with a grisly murder scene, so it immediately caught my attention. A young heiress claims her boyfriend was murdered due to a family curse—which leads to a hot shirtless guy being chased by a demon! That’s how you end a season.


The Circus
George Romero co-writes the premiere episode of season 3. A newspaper man who exposes hoaxes targets a circus. The ringmaster reveals that his horrific attractions are most definitely not fakes, including a hideous vampire, a werewolf, and Frankenstein’s monster (renamed).

I Can’t Help Saying Goodbye
There’s nothing like a “bad seed” story, and in this one a little girl has the ability to kill people just by touching their faces while saying “goodbye”.

The Geezenstacks
What’s tragic here is that this episode aired close to Halloween, yet after two great Halloween episodes they didn’t bother to make one for the third season. This story stars Craig Wasson of Elm Street 3, Body Double, and Ghost Story, who begins to notice that anything his daughter pretends happens to her dollhouse family happens to his actual family.

Black Widows
This is how you do a short horror story. A woman who never met her father wants to get married against her mother’s wishes. When she ties the knot, she finds out why…

A Serpent’s Tooth
It’s the nanny’s mom Sylvia Fine in a tale about a mother whose totally 80s adult kids are too rebellious while living in her house. So she uses a talisman to get them to listen to and appreciate her. This one has a campy tone, but it’s actually quite dark.

Season of Belief
On Christmas Eve, a father…who looks old enough to be his wife’s grandfather…tells his kids a scary story of a monster called The Grither. He warns them never to say his name out loud. Naturally they can’t resist saying it because they were told not to. This one definitely has that eerie Christmas horror atmosphere, and the ending is insane!

My Ghostwriter – The Vampire
A struggling horror writer, played by Jeff Conaway, is offered the best material ever…from an actual vampire who wants the author to write his story.

Auld Acquaintances
Directed by Robert Friedman (Scared Stiff, Doom Asylum, Phantom of the Mall), this is a tale about two women that have been witchy rivals for centuries.

The Swap
A wife cheats on her husband with a super hot handyman, and that’s enough for me. As a bonus, the husband plots a supernatural revenge.


Another one penned by Robert Bloch, this tale travels familiar but always satisfying territory. An archaeologist steals from a mummy and there’s hell to pay…in the form of beetles. Blech.

The Moth
Debbie Harry plays a woman who asks her mother to perform a ritual that will capture her soul in a moth so she can be resurrected. It’s a fairly bland tale, but there’s a classic anthology story twist at the end.

No Strings
If only every episode had been this macabre. A mobster hires a master puppeteer to use one of his human victims for a show. It does not go as planned. Eek!

The Grave Robber
In this campy episode, two archaeologists break into a tomb, and the angry mummy forces them to play strip poker with him.

The Yattering and Jack
This Christmas tale was written by Clive Barker and stars go-to horror little man Phil Fondacaro as a holiday demon that wants to steal a man’s soul. It’s campy with a dark edge.

A nice winter episode, this one stars David Gale of Re-Animator fame as a man whose family is visited by strange Himalayans, the leader of which is played by Divine! He claims their son is supposed to be the new Lama of their country. It’s a cartoonish episode, but it’s Divine!

Sorry, Right Number
This one comes from the director of the Tales from the Darkside movie and is written by Stephen King. A woman gets a phone call from someone begging for help, but the line goes dead before she can find out who it is. The twist is as horror anthology as it gets.

Payment Overdue
A bill collector who derives pleasure from harassing people on the phone starts getting creepy calls saying she has an overdue bill. This one has a classic dark horror anthology ending.

Love Hungry
This episode is kind of heinous. After popping a new diet drug, a woman hears every piece of food she or anyone else eats screaming in agony. There’s also a tragic element to the tale.

The Cutty Black Sow
A dying grandmother warns her grandson to keep a fire burning to ward off an ancient monster. This episode actually takes place on Halloween, even though it first aired in May of 1988, and the main boy is responsible for taking his younger sister trick or treating. They do a ritual in their house and things just get perfectly creepy, plus we get a monster, which is rare in this series.

Do Not Open This Box
This is notable for a shocking reason; Jodie Foster directed it! A couple opens a box that specifically says not to and then the postman gets freakishly intense about getting it back.

Family Reunion
Directed by Tom Savini, this is a tale of a man who is on the run with his son because he believes the boy has a monstrous illness. It has a classic monster movie vibe, a twist, and stars Patricia Tallman, the lead from Savini’s remake of Night of the Living Dead.

A boy invents a “noise eater” that looks like a vacuum cleaner with an aardvark trunk, and it terrorizes him and his babysitter. It’s so 80s teen/sci-fi/horror I couldn’t help but like it.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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