“Deadtime” Comes Alive

Lawrenceville sisters Gina and Annette Cascone have transformed their creepy book series "Deadtime Stories" into a successful Nickelodeon show.

Twisted Sisters: Gina, left, and Annette Cascone, co-writers of Deadtime Stories.
Courtesy of The Publisher

A series of spooky children’s books, conceived 20 years ago by Lawrenceville sisters Gina and Annette Cascone, have emerged on the small screen as one of Nickelodeon’s highest-rated shows this season.

The Cascone sisters published the first Deadtime Stories in 1996. The collection, now 17 titles strong, has sold 2 million copies, and provides plenty of frightening fodder for the weekly Nickelodeon show, which premiered in October.

Unlike most scary fare, Deadtime Stories manage to frighten without violence or gore. “We infuse each story with a lot of humor” says Annette. The sisters—who have written 28 books and two movies together—go to “great lengths to make sure the TV show is fun,” filled with thrills and chills for kids ages 7 to 12.

It was important to the Cascones to encourage reading by their young audience, so each TV episode begins with a babysitter, book in hand, reading to the children in her charge. “We are suggesting to kids that reading is a cool thing to do; and that if you open a book, you get to go on an adventure,” Annette says.

Raised by a father who was a criminal defense attorney and a mother who professed to have powers of ESP, the Cascones say their stories are “inspired by something real or imagined from our childhoods.” Season One’s The Beast of Baskerville, for example, is based on a scary night spent in tents in their Mercer County neighborhood, says Annette.

The Cascone sisters still live near each other. Gina, the oldest, who is married, lives in Lawrenceville and has two children and a grand-daughter. Annette lives in Rahway.

With the successful first season having completed its run, the pair are back to the grind, reminiscing and dreaming up new terrors for a hoped-for second season.

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