Some of the creepiest episodes of kid’s tv-shows
I have an overabundance of nostalgia for the television shows I watched during my childhood. As someone who is now obsessed with horror movies and Halloween, looking back at the things I watched as a kid in the late 90s and early 2000s … well, let’s just say there might be a correlation as to where that interest started.
In what’s going to show my age, here’s a list of my favourite “scary” episodes from kid’s TV shows.
1. “Have You Seen This Snail?“, SpongeBob SquarePants season 4, episode 3
The peak of kid comedy can be summarized through the antics of a talking sponge and his dim-witted starfish best friend. But it’s somewhat surprising how many boundaries SpongeBob would push. From somewhat gruesome, hyper-realistic closeups to Squidward’s now-obvious prevailing depression, the show’s creators certainly didn’t try to coddle their young audiences. Especially, with this Stephen King-esque episode.
SpongeBob unintentionally forgets to feed his pet snail Gary, who runs away thinking he’s no longer loved. An old woman named “Grandma” takes him in as her own. The creepy old bat — who’s animated with unsettling detail, varicose veins and all — seems sweet, at first. That is until Gary stumbles across a closet containing the empty shells of former pet snails that were overfed to the point of bursting, and discovers that Grandma was trying to lead him to the same fate.
Honestly, what the fuck.
2. “Arthur’s Almost Live Not Real Music Festival” Arthur season 3, episode 11
In the Arthur episode best known for the absolute banger “Library Card,” there’s also a segment with a song performed by the character Brain called “Jekyll-Hyde.”
I would have been pretty young when this came out so cut me some slack if you decide to watch it now. The cartoon bear (I think that’s what he’s supposed to be) turns into a ghoulish green monster that eats eyeballs and wrecks havoc, for God’s sake. I toughened up and got over it pretty quickly, but I definitely remember having a nightmare after I watched it for the first time.
3. Every episode, Courage The Cowardly Dog
The definition of “nightmare fuel” can be found in every single episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog. The combination of disturbing animation styles and haunting plotlines did a great job of making sure my sleep pattern was routinely disrupted. I’m not sure how this show was greenlit for kid consumption but it certainly didn’t veer away from tackling full-on horror and introducing the campiest, most frightening characters kid-me had ever seen.
Did I ever miss an episode? Absolutely not. Did it scare the shit out of me every time I watched it? You bet.
4. “The Tale of the Dead Man’s Float,” Are You Afraid Of The Dark? Season 5, episode 1
Reflecting on all of the shows that existed to terrify children during this golden age of television is truly something else. Are You Afraid Of The Dark? was a Canadian-American teen horror show that I vividly remember watching on YTV every Saturday night. The opening alone was enough to set any kid on edge, and this episode specifically screwed me up for weeks.
What could be better entertainment material for a young child who took swimming lessons every week than a 25-minute story about a disfigured pool monster who tries to drag unsuspecting teenagers to their deaths? I was convinced for weeks that if I was ever in a pool alone that freakish creation would grab me by the foot and pull me under.
5. “Pingu’s Dream,” Pingu season 1, episode 26
Pingu, with all of its vague plotlines and babbling, nonsensical language, was a show I liked — up until I watched this episode. My trust in that claymation penguin was completely destroyed the moment I saw the absolute atrocity that was Pingu’s dream-conjured walrus onscreen.
This bizarre, human-looking crime against nature spends a few minutes antagonizing a traumatized Pingu, eventually eating his bed and laughing at him as he runs away. I don’t blame him for crying on his mother’s lap when he wakes up, the poor guy probably needed therapy to cope with that ordeal.
6. “Stay out of the Basement” Goosebumps, Season 1, episode 11-12
For some reason, owning this specific double-episode of Goosebumps on a VHS tape upped the scare factor for me as a child.
The concept for the storyline was fairly convoluted by children’s TV standards — a father of two is a botanist who was fired from his job as a professor and is doing weird, probably very illegal experiments that no one is allowed to see. He warns his kids when their mother has to go away for a few days to “stay out of the basement.”
It’s certainly dated by today’s standards, but boy oh boy did it ever petrify me.
Honourable mention: Freaky Stories
Nothing says wholesome entertainment like a wisecracking maggot and cockroach sharing sinister “true stories” from “a friend of a friend,” which usually involved something mildly disgusting or unsettling.