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Series / Deadtime Stories

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Not to be confused with the animation or the 1986 horror-comedy film of the same name.

Deadtime Stories was a series of books written by sisters Annette and Gina Cascone, originally going by the penname "A. G. Cascone", but now going by their real names. It's a kid horror series. Two decades after the books were first published, Nickelodeon brought a live-action TV series based on it.

In the show, a babysitter shows up at the house of two kids to read them a "deadtime story", bringing them the actual physical books themselves. As she reads them the story, we then see the story itself play out, occasionally cutting back to the "real world" where the babysitter and kids interrupt and provide comments.

Although based on books from the 1990s, they are updated with modern technology such as cell phones and laptops, which are sometimes used in the plot itself, and are treated surprisingly realistically. The books themselves were reprinted, with similar updates.

The books and the show contain examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Willy's sister in Terror in Tiny Town is named Margret in the book, but is named Madison in the episode.
    • Invasion of the Appleheads not only changes the protagonist's name from Robin to Kate, but also changes their last name from Carter to Lawrence. Interestingly, the reprint reflects this change.
  • Adaptation Title Change: The original title of the entry The Witching Game is based on is Mirror Mirror, which is reflected in the reprint.
  • Adults Are Useless: Besides the common "they won't believe us", there are almost always ways for adults to be put out of the picture:
    • In "Invasion of the Appleheads", all of them are cursed and changed into doll-like figures.
    • In "Along Came a Spider", the spider hides whenever adults would show up, and reveals itself once they're gone.
    • In "Grave Secrets", the ghost is invisible to adults, and her messages (including one written on a mirror) vanish when before the adults can see them.
    • Averted in "Grandpa's Monster Movies", where the adults know what the problem is, and also help in fighting it off. Naturally it's a kid's idea that actually does it (until the Cruel Twist Ending, that is).
  • All Webbed Up: The fate of a dog in "Along Came a Spider". The kids are terrified that the same will happen to them.
  • Alpha Bitch:
    • "The Witching Game" has an Alpha Bitch with a lackey, who serves as an obstacle to the lead girl.
    • "Little Magic Shop of Horrors" has one who is snobby to two boys.
  • Ascended Extra: Because the stories are stand-alone, Nancy from The Witching Game only appears in that book. In the show, she also appears in The Beast of Baskerville and even gets to be the lead in Who's Giggling Now?
  • Asteroids Monster: The Cruel Twist Ending of "Grandpa's Monster Movies". The monster is blown up with a firecracker, causing it to split into many smaller identical copies of itself.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Happened in "Revenge of the Goblins" as part of the Cruel Twist Ending. However, it wasn't the goblins who won - it was the bullies, who had gotten their hands on the heroes' magic time-freezing ball.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The plot of "The Witching Game". A game of Bloody Mary results in wishes coming true in horrible ways.
  • The Bully: Two of them in "Revenge of the Goblins", giving the heroes a chance to use their Time Stands Still ability to get revenge on them. Two in "The Witching Game", one being the victim of the Be Careful What You Wish For plot.
  • Catchphrase: Shortly before the Cruel Twist Ending, we cut back to the real world, where the babysitter tells the kids "Buckle your seatbelts, because you're in a bumpy ride!"
  • Cool Old Lady: C.T. and Lea's grandma in "Grandpa's Monster Movies" is totally understanding to their reservations about Aunt Luleen's "cooking," serving her own delectable fried chicken and promising the kids they won't have to eat Luleen's dishes if they don't want to.
  • Couch Gag: The opening to each episode starts with the babysitter traversing through numerous areas that relate to the story she's going to read. She then reaches the house she'll be babysitting the kids and closes the door. The last thing she does is pull the screen down, revealing the title.
  • Creepy Child: The ghost in "Grave Secrets", a girl who appears about six or seven, and continually haunts the protagonists. She's not malevolent though; she only wants her doll back — which was taken away by her neighbor more than sixty years ago.
  • Creepy Doll: At the end of "Grave Secrets", a doll suddenly opens its eyes on its own.
  • Creepy Twins: In "Grandpa's Monster Movies", a pair of twins named April and Mae who are totally quiet and do things like nod their head yes/no in unison. They're first seen wearing identical white dresses despite being outside in the forest playing hide-and-seek.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Used in just about every episode. They range from "boo!" type surprises, to the implication that the heroes are still in major danger. There's even a The Bad Guy Wins ending.
  • Curse: Featured in multiple episodes. The way to end the curse varies.
  • Curse Escape Clause: In "The Beast of Baskerville", the only way to end the curse involves incredibly specific details, such as having 13 kids at a birthday party, one of whom sings "Happy Birthday" in Romanian, on a specific time on a specific day. He succeeds. The curse gets passed on to the other kids.
  • Deep South: The setting of "Grandpa's Monster Movies", which is loaded with Southern stereotypes, like food that grosses the kids out, siblings named Billy Bob and Bob Bob, family members named Earl and Ernie, banjo background music, and some morbidly obese family members. The whole episode feels like a giant middle finger aimed at the South.
  • Dreaming of Times Gone By: A Nightmare Sequence in "Grave Secrets" shows how the ghost girl (Anna) became a ghost in the first place, as well as why she has Unfinished Business.
  • Electromagnetic Ghosts:
    • A ghost contacts a girl using her cell phone, in the form of a video, in "Grave Secrets".
    • A princess ghost contacts two boys using their cell phones in "Ghost Knight".
  • Every Episode Ending: Every episode ends with the characters in the story, and the kids who are being read the story, looking at each other and screaming.
  • Fat Comic Relief: The overweight kid in "Grave Secrets" is used as a source of humor, not for being fat, but for being quirky.
  • Forced Transformation: In "Invasion of the Appleheads", just about every adult, including the police, are transformed into "applehead" dolls.
  • Framing Device: The stories are actually being told to two kids by a babysitter. The story is sometimes interrupted so the kids or babysitter can ask questions or provide commentary.
  • Giant Spider: "Along Came a Spider" has a spider that starts out normal sized, then becomes this.
  • Halloween Episode: Invasion of the Appleheads
  • Infodump: In "The Beast of Baskerville", the beast in question is a boy who is cursed to assume beast form, by 13 Romanian witches, and he can only undo the curse under very specific conditions. All of this, in tremendous detail, is spelled out while he's carrying a kid back to his lair.
  • Invisible to Adults: Common with ghosts. "Ghost Knight" has the princess ghost invisible to everyone except two boys and one particular adult.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: The curse of "The Beast of Baskerville".
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: The ghost girl (Anna) in "Grave Secrets" wears the exact same outfit she wore upon death.
  • Lilliputians: "Terror in Tiny Town" has small figurines from a diorama come to life and attack two boys.
  • The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: "Little Magic Shop of Horrors" features one of these, at the amusing address of 1334¾ Nosuch Place.
  • Losing Your Head: In "Little Magic Shop of Horrors", a magic trick that goes a little too literally causes a kid to have his head painlessly come off... about an hour or two after the trick was performed.
  • Magical Computer: Impressively averted! Computers and tech in general are treated surprisingly realistically.
  • Marked to Die: The two kids, the only people who weren't turned into doll-like figures, have "zombie" and a number written on their hands, in "Invasion of the Appleheads". This makes them realize that they were clearly intended to be transformed. Indeed, the witch who transformed the others is out to get them.
  • Mirror Scare: Bloody Mary herself appears suddenly right behind the kids in the mirror, in "The Witching Game".
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: The "witch" in "Grave Secrets" turns out to be nice after all, and even throws a Halloween party for the town once she's helped. The reason she's so grumpy is that she has been tormented by guilt for 65 years because she stole the doll of another girl, leading to the other girl to chase after it across the street and die when a car ran over her.
  • Never Say "Die": Played straight at times, and averted at others. In "Along Came a Spider", the kids make it clear that they're afraid the dog could suffocate when All Webbed Up, but they stop short of saying it. Some other episodes use words like "doomed" to imply a terrible fate without saying the obvious. On the other hand, other episodes use "die" and "kill" quite liberally, particularly "The Beast of Baskerville".
  • Never Trust a Title: Invasion of the Appleheads implies that the Appleheads are monsters that...well, invade. Instead, they are a kind of doll that adults turn into.
  • Nightmare Sequence: In "Grave Secrets". The lead girl has a nightmare that starts with Dreaming of Times Gone By, then switches to her lying in the coffin presumably intended for the girl who had been turned into a ghost after being hit by a car.
  • No Ontological Inertia: When the witches are killed in "Invasion of the Appleheads", all the transformed people change back, and the scarecrow, actually a man whose tongue was removed, becomes able to talk again.
  • Platonic Boy/Girl Heroes: While almost all the stories involve a group of kids of both sexes, "Revenge of the Goblins" is the one that actually features both a single boy and a single girl specifically.
  • Police Are Useless: Kids actually do call the police in "Invasion of the Appleheads", but the curse has struck them as well, making them unable to help.
  • Recursive Canon: In Terror in Tiny Town, the boys are watching the episode Beast of Baskerville on the TV.
  • Scary Scarecrows: The scarecrow in "Invasion of the Appleheads", who is actually a man whose tongue has been removed and is forced to wear a bag on his head.
  • Separate Scene Storytelling: The babysitter tells the stories to the kids, and we sometime see the camera actually showing what she's reading on the page, but mostly we see the story itself being acted out.
  • Shout-Out: The creature in Grandpa's Monster Movies bears a resemblance to the Crites. To drive this home, the puppeteers for it were the same guys who did the effects for that movie.
  • Show, Don't Tell: Annoying averted in several episodes, where there's a noticeably larger amount of dialogue compared to action.
  • Strictly Formula: The individual stories themselves are all different, but the Framing Device always follows a certain pattern:
    • The babysitter shows up at the kids' house, and either the kids jump out and scare her, or she jumps out and scares them.
    • The kids ask to be read a deadtime story. The babysitter does so (sometimes trying to trick the kids into thinking she won't).
    • At some point during the story, we cut back to the kids and babysitter, as they talk about the story a bit. Then we return to the story.
    • Near the end of the story, we cut back again to the kids and babysitter, as the babysitter promises the story isn't over yet. She then says some variation of "buckle your seatbelts, because you're in for a bumpy ride!"
    • We see the Cruel Twist Ending, and a cut between the story and real world as both the characters in the story, and the kids being read the story, scream at each other.
  • Time Stands Still: A magic ball in "Revenge of the Goblins" does this, while having the reverse effect on the goblins who made it. When everyone is frozen, the goblins can move, and they want their magic ball back. When everyone can move, the goblins are frozen. The magic ball doesn't stop the humans who use it.
  • Title Drop: "There's gonna be some Terror in Tiny Town"
  • Unfinished Business: In "Grave Secrets", the ghost is a child whose favorite doll was stolen before she got hit by a car. She wants the doll returned and will haunt until she gets what she wants.
  • Widow Witch: The neighbor in "Grave Secrets" lives alone and is believed to be a witch by the kids. She threatens them if they enter her property, and hates visitors.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: Used in a few episodes, most notably in "Invasion of the Appleheads", where the sister calls the police and tells them that her parents were turned into appleheads. Naturally they don't believe her, and they threaten to come over if the kids make another "prank call". She decides to turn this to her advantage by calling the police again and this time intentionally making an implausible claim. True enough, they show up. Unfortunately, they too are transformed into appleheads by the time they arrive.

The books contain examples of:

  • Earth All Along: In Nightmare on Planet X, a family gets kidnapped and taken to a planet which turns out to be Earth, as the point of view characters are actually the aliens.
  • Tomato Surprise: The protagonists of Nightmare on Planet X are aliens, with the aliens they meet actually being humans.