Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story, “The Tale of Orpheo’s Curse.”
For kids who grew up in the 1990s, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” was practically a right of passage. Along with R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books (the television series wouldn’t begin until 1996) and Alvin Schwartz’s “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” Nickelodeon’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark” introduced a generation of children to the delights of horror.
The show featured a different ghost or monster story in each episode. The stories were told by members of the Midnight Society, a group of friends who met in the woods to tell scary stories. The show ran from 1990-1996, and was briefly revived in 1999.
The Tale of Orpheo’s curse was a video game adaptation of the television show. It was released in 1994 and available on MS-DOS and Mac. In it, you played the part of a potential new member of the Midnight Society. To be accepted by the group, you had to tell a good story. Your story was titled, “The Tale of Orpheo’s Curse.” It was about two siblings (Alex and Terri) who go exploring in Orpheo’s Palace, a classic vaudeville style theater.
Once inside the theater, you were trapped by the ghost of Orpheo, a magician who used to grace the stage. It seems that many years prior, a curse was placed on Orpheo which caused all of his tricks to go terribly wrong. Your mission was to find five enchanted objects. Doing so would break the curse and free the ghosts trapped in the theater.
Orpheo’s Curse was a point and click game that featured puzzles you had to solve as you worked your way through the theater. Along the way, you got to explore places like The Museum of Nature’s Oddities, The Wax Museum (which included classic horror figures like Dracula, the Wolf Man, and a Mummy), the theater dressing rooms, the magic workshop, and even the catacombs beneath the building. You controlled both characters, but certain areas were specific to Terri or Alex. A few of the spirits inhabiting the theater helped you during your quest, but more often than not the haunts were malicious.
If you stopped playing and had to reload, you were brought back to the gathering of the Midnight Society. The other members, all seated around a fire, would recap the previous action before your game loaded to the last save point.
Compared to its contemporaries (games like The 7th Guest or the 11th Hour), Orpheo’s Curse was relatively tame. There was no outright gore or shocking violence like you find in many of our modern horror games. Still, it packed a healthy dose of thrills and chills. If you were a fan of the show, it was an absolute must play. It was fun to sit at your keyboard, attempting to solve the puzzles. It was exciting to move through the abandoned theater, feeling the rising sense of dread that something was about to leap out and snatch you. To top it off, the game offered the tantalizing hope that you, yes you, could become a member of the legendary Midnight Society.