Netflix's The Midnight Club Has A Tragic Real-Life Origin

Spooky season is just around the corner (yes, I'm one of those weirdos who would happily celebrate Halloween all year long if I could), which also means there's a new Mike Flanagan horror series making its way onto Netflix. The creator of "The Haunting" anthology and "Midnight Mass" currently has his hands full adapting the macabre works of Edgar Allan Poe for his upcoming miniseries, "The Fall of the House of Usher." But before he returns to the classic literary well, Flanagan will take a detour into the world of young adult horror and mystery with his and Leah Fong's series "The Midnight Club."

Adapted from the 1994 novel of the same name by Christopher Pike, "The Midnight Club" centers on a group of terminally ill teenagers in hospice care who sneak out of their rooms to share scary stories in the dead of night — promising that if one of them dies, they will return in some way to give the others hope there's a future waiting for them beyond their premature deaths. While the teaser for the series gives off big "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" energy, the actual show will probably have more in common with Flanagan's previous horror creations, exploring heartfelt themes about love, loss, and mortality in between terrifying jump-scares and disturbing imagery that imprints itself on your brain.

It only feel right that Flanagan should be the one to bring Pike's source material to the screen, and not just because he's been wanting to for almost 30 years (having first read the novel when he was a teenager himself). "The Midnight Club" is a creepy yet deeply-emotional story that lends itself to his artistic sensibilities, its melancholic premise inspired by a real-life tragedy.

The real Midnight Club

A young Mike Flanagan counted himself among the fans of "The Midnight Club" when it came out and even made a failed attempt to turn it into a movie after studying film in college, as he admitted in an interview with Vanity Fair. Christopher Pike, on the other hand, had already published 19 other books prior to 1994, going back to his first novel, "Slumber Party," in 1985. Having come to amass a sizable fan-base by the early '90s, Pike was contacted by a family whose young daughter was terminally ill and had hoped to meet him before she died.

Because the pair lived on opposite coasts in the U.S., Pike wrote to her and spoke to her over the phone. Over the course of their conversations, the young woman revealed she and the other young patients at the hospital where she was staying has formed their own book club, in which they would get to gather to discuss his other novels. As a way of honoring her and her friends, Pike came up with the premise for "The Midnight Club" and modeled the book's lead character, Ilonka, after the young woman. He also offered to send her finished chapters from the in-progress novel, but she declined, saying she would prefer to read the final version.

In a devastating turn of events that wouldn't feel out of place in one of Flanagan's own horror TV shows, the young woman would end up passing away before Pike could finish the book. Thankfully, if there's anyone who could do right by such a personal piece of storytelling, it's an artist like Flanagan, who's come to specialize in exploring our most intimate of fears and the hard truths of life.

"The Midnight Club" premieres October 7, 2022, on Netflix.