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My Top Ten Scariest Kids Shows

August 25, 2011

I know my mom has received a bad rap for dropping me off at the mall to see Poltergeist when I was six.  Oh, you didn’t hear about that?  Here you go.  She’ll be thrilled that I keep circulating it.  Well, I’m going to try to cut her some slack here by giving you a rundown of some other traumatizing shows I saw as a kid that, unlike Poltergeist, were supposed to be watched by kids.  Poor parents didn’t know any better. 

Now, before I begin, try to think back to a time when Poltergeist was honest to goodness rated PG.  Yes, PG, as in Hey, moms and dads!  If you happen to be at this movie with your kids – we’re certainly not implying that you need to be – you might want to have a talk with the little tikes afterwards.  Maybe tell them how clown dolls can’t actually strangle kids under their beds at night.  That’s all!  Enjoy the show, folks! 

So, from the same era that brought you PG-rated horror movies, I give you My Top Ten Scariest Kids Show Moments.  In no particular order.  Because it will take time and therapy sessions for me to accurately assess the level of damage each one inflicted on me. 

1.) E.T. The Extra-terrestrial (1982, PG).  So many endearing things in this movie!  Sweet little E.T. eating Reese’s Pieces.  Cute little E.T. hiding in the stuffed animals.  Funny little E.T. drinking too much beer and passing out.  And then, in came the evil government researchers to hunt him down like a dog.  Previously they had captured him while wearing white scrubs, gloves and those hazardous waste gas masks.  Who’s the sci-fi creepos now?  This movie ultimately led me to believe that science was evil.  And that beer makes you funny . . . and it’s okay to drink it . . . so long as your dog is supervising. 

2.) Watership Down (1978, PG).  I can partially attribute this one to yet another parental lapse.  My mom read the book prior to the movie’s release.  Yet I suppose she didn’t remember the whole bit about psychic death visions, rabbits dismembering one another, and so forth.  Fiver’s clairvoyance shows him blood washing over a mountain, warning the rabbits what lie ahead.  Not too far off from little Danny’s vision of blood pouring out the elevator shaft in the horror movie The Shining.  What’s the difference?  Oh yeah.  The Shining didn’t feature cartoon rabbits.

3.) The Last Unicorn (1982, G).  As a kid, I always believed unicorns were on par with sunshine, rainbows and gumdrops as universal symbols of happiness.  No?  So let me get this straight.  Sparkly puffy pink unicorn stickers that I put on my Care Bears notebook:  good.  Unicorns fighting flaming evil bulls and unicorns that transform into naked women:  bad.

4.) The Dark Crystal (1982, PG).  As it turns out, Jim Henson, God bless ‘em and may he rest in peace, had just a bit more going on in his creative little noggin than wigs on pigs and teaching kids to count.  To be honest, I don’t remember much of the doe-eyed little elfin creatures that were used to market this movie to kids.  No, I just mostly remember the skeletal devil vultures. 

5.) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, G).  I’d be hard pressed to find a one of you who wouldn’t tinkle in your Underoos if you saw this tunnel scene as a kid.  


Need to suck more brains...more brains!

6.) Sesame Street, Episode ABC123.  This must’ve been the moment Jim Henson got his taste for terror.  The Count von Count sleeps over at Ernie and Bert’s place.  When the Count can’t sleep – well whaddya know! – he counts sheep.  Which keeps Ernie awake all night.  Which makes Ernie very tired.  Which turns Ernie into a FLESH-EATING ZOMBIE.  I decided not to embed this video for fear that a little person might wander upon your computer.  Here’s a link instead.  Just please promise to hide it away when you’re through so no children will ever find it.  Ever. 

7.) What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? (1983, NR)  The televised prequel to this was called Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown where Charlie Brown takes a student exchange trip to France.  Only, this next movie didn’t carryon with the whole Snoopy-frolicking-in-a-beret shtick.  I sincerely give Charles Schulz props for attempting to slap some appreciation into us oblivious American kids with our feelings of entitlement.  Linus even delivers the sobering poem “In Flander’s Fields” and it brings the house down.  Here’s my complaint.  If you look at this movie poster of the prequel, would you perhaps be taken aback by the next movie being about the war battles, soldier graves and bloodshed?  I was tormented by this cartoon for weeks.  And not in the way Charles Schulz intended.

8.) The Secret of NIMH (1982, G).  I should’ve made my way out the door for another box of Jujyfruits when I heard Justin the Rat say “Damnit!”  That should’ve been my clue that the grown-ups in the workshop got carried away again.  Because then there was this scene, which is twice as scary on scratchy 16 mm film. 

9.) The Bozo Show: Wizzo the Wizard.  I’ve looked into the eyes of Satan and he is Wizzo the Wizard.  I find clowns as terrifying as the next person.  But if I was forced to choose between:  A.) being locked up at night with Bozo the Clown in the basement of an old abandoned institution for the criminally insane, or B.) doing the “safe lunch” with Wizzo and the Wizard at a neighborhood Red Lobster, there’d be no question what I’d say.  A!  A!  A!  Sweet baby Jesus, please give me option A!

10.) The Electric Grandmother (1982, G).  Based on a Ray Bradbury short story with a wholesome message about intergenerational bonding.  No one else on the planet remembers it.  Except me.  And my brother who is still haunted by it to this day.  A grandmother who is a robot.  She looks human.  But at night, she plugs herself into the wall to recharge.  Don’t get off on the wrong track and start thinking cute little Rosie the robot maid from the Jetsons.  No, trust me, this was certifiably CREEPY.  And what would you expect from a movie that begins with a coffin delivered by helicopter.  See for yourself. 

Am I forgetting something?  Most likely because I’ve repressed it in order to save myself.  Do chime in with your own terrifying kids show memories.  C’mon, it’ll help to talk about it.

33 Comments leave one →
  1. Dr Adam Bricker permalink
    August 25, 2011 7:20 pm

    Watership Down was so sad. The book is good, too, of course full of political symbolism but as a little kid (pre MD, haha), it was very sad. When I was a kid, at least, movies with animals dying in them seemed a lot scarier and sadder than movies with tons of people dying because it was much easier to imagine (or remember) a pet dying than a bunch of people you didn’t even know.

    • August 25, 2011 10:32 pm

      Completely agree. Super sad, that movie. Animals dying seemed to be a common theme for cartoons a few decades ago. Fox in the Hound, Bambi, Lion King, Old Yeller…why did Disney have to torture us so? You make a very good point. Perhaps I would’ve been better served watching Full Metal Jacket than having to sit through Bambi’s mom getting croaked.

      • Dr Adam Bricker permalink
        August 27, 2011 8:34 pm

        You’re a cool blogger because you actually respond to your fan’s comments. Some of my friends are kind of snotty and just ignore me.

        Disney-Pixar these days seems a little less bloody.

  2. August 25, 2011 10:17 pm

    You brought back so many moments of terror. I love Secret of NIMH, but did close my eyes during that scene. The Last Unicorn? With the soundtrack by America (of Horse with No Name fame)? The scariest part in that movie was that creepy old many who asked the Unicorn-turned-lady “Why can I not see myself in your eyes?” Oh, he wasn’t as scary as the harpy that tried to kill the unicorn. God, I can picture it all so clearly. Who the hell makes cartoons like that?

    • August 25, 2011 10:28 pm

      Wow, you know The Last Unicorn so well! Then you probably know Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges and Alan Arkin do voices for it. My brother bought The Last Unicorn DVD for me two years ago (to torture me) and I have to fight off Margot with a stick when she gets her hands on the box. Yay, unicorns!

  3. Timoree permalink
    August 26, 2011 9:44 am

    “To be honest, I don’t remember much of the doe-eyed little elfin creatures that were used to market this movie to kids. No, I just mostly remember the skeletal devil vultures.”

    Those doe-eyed little elfin creatures were the ones that scared the living crap out of me and the reason today for my deep, deep seeded fear of puppets. Thanks Jim Henson, for ruining my childhood. (Disclaimer, All muppets and fraggles are excluded from this fear…)

    I was forced to sit in the hall during the weekly showings of “The Letter People” in first grade due to my screaming nervous breakdowns when the TV and VCR were wheeled in on that large AV cart.

    • August 26, 2011 1:58 pm

      I can see where you’re coming from there! Because, though you exclude them in your disclaimer, I even find a few muppets scary. Sweetums in particular. Although, I’ve come to love the big lug now. THE LETTER PEOPLE! Love them. I hope I can find them on a video somewhere because I cannot imagine my kids learning their letters without them. I can almost hear the squeaking wheels as the teacher would push the TV cart into the room. Ah, the highlight of my day in 1st grade.

  4. Stephanie permalink
    August 26, 2011 1:05 pm

    I am with you on most, but dissagree that Willy Wonka was scary – I loved it! As for my scary movies that left big dents on me…Escape to Witch Mountain – when the girl hurts her arm; the original Bridge to Terabithia – saw that in elementary school and hated how it made me feel; and there was some old movie that had Moon in the title? Took place on the coast somewhere and it was the part when the guy or gal cut up there arm…any memories of this? I guess my problem was always when people got cut/slashed/etc – always made my stomach turn!

    • August 26, 2011 1:48 pm

      Wow, you are racking up the bonus points this week, Steph. I forgot all about Escape to Witch Mountain! This absolutely would’ve made my Top Ten list had I remembered it. I loved it as a kid and probably saw it 10 times. But, yes, disturbed me completely! The music was too bizarre. And the repeated flashes of Tia’s drowning vision. Ugh.

      I’m combing through my brain on the other two you mentioned. Hmmm….

    • August 26, 2011 2:07 pm

      I just youtubed the Bridge to Terabithia and read the summary. I can confirm I never saw it and am so glad I didn’t. Icky. Sort of creepy fantasy meets after-school special :-(

      • Dr Adam Bricker permalink
        August 27, 2011 8:35 pm

        That movie makes me cry and I can only say that about 2 movies.

      • August 27, 2011 8:52 pm

        Okay, now I have to see this thing.

  5. August 26, 2011 1:08 pm

    What does an egyptian sarcophagus have to do a with a robot grandma?? And what’s with the cheery music? And it takes place in the dead of winter. That movie is completely out of wack, sis.

    • August 26, 2011 1:40 pm

      That’s funny that you have “sarcophagus” in here. I had to spellcheck it yesterday and then ended up substituting “coffin” because I thought sarcophagus was too obscure. I have to write it a few more times now because it’s such a cool word, sarcophagus, sarcophagus, sarcophagus….

    • August 26, 2011 2:10 pm

      P.S. Bro, didn’t you get to attend a taping of The Bozo Show when we lived in Chicago? Did you get to meet Wizzo?

  6. Gabaway permalink
    August 31, 2011 3:39 pm

    Willy Wonka is by far the scariest movie from my childhood! To this day i cringe when I see Gene Wilder! Stephanie…are you thinking of Man in the Moon with a young Reese Witherspoon? There is a scene where Caleb (her crush) is badly injured on the farm by farm equipment. Oh and for the record…I still cant let my hands or feet etc dangle off the bed at night…thank you Poltergeist!

    • August 31, 2011 9:11 pm

      Yes, Man in the Moon was awful, sick and horribly sad. Poltergeist was PG! I will never let that go. I want to shout it from the rooftops! Are you kidding me – PG? If only JoBeth Williams would’ve shown some skin (causing that rating to shift to R) 1982 would’ve been a whole lot less traumatizing for me.

    • August 31, 2011 9:11 pm

      I should clarify – I loved Man in the Moon. “Awful” because it broke my heart in more ways than one.

      • February 25, 2012 9:01 am

        i did a post on MOTM ( … that movie was good, but emotional scarring at the time for a pre-teen girl.

        i watched scary movies as a kid, and remember Steven King movies, like “It” and “The Shining” creeping me out. Now, I have no stomach for them. I think this show called “the news” ruined it for me, haha.

        great post!

      • February 25, 2012 4:03 pm

        That movie killed me. Don’t you think it was especially disturbing to watch it at a young age, back when you believed your friends and other young people to be invincible? And then what a dreadfully gory way to go. I’ll go over and read your post about it.

        It. Scariest clown in the history of clowns. And that really says something. I don’t have any stomach for violence these days either.

      • February 25, 2012 4:44 pm

        a movie that scared me popped into my head this afternoon: the island of dr. moreau. scared me on so many levels.

      • February 25, 2012 5:00 pm

        Eeeek! I had to Google it as, thankfully, that is one scary movie I never saw as a kid.

        Here is what I found about the book. Ick. No thank you. “The novel deals with a number of philosophical themes, including pain and cruelty, moral responsibility, human identity, and human interference with nature.”

  7. Katie Adams permalink
    September 9, 2011 3:09 pm

    Holy crap! I still think the Dark Crystal is the scariest movie ever. My mom dropped Jenny and I off at the Grand Theater and took off. When the creepy 3 ladies sharing an eye came on the screen I had had enough. Poor Jenny who rarely got to see a movie all the way through when she went with me had to spend the other hour in the lobby with me waiting for my mom to come back and pick us up.

    • September 11, 2011 10:46 pm

      Haha! That sounds familiar. The whole “mom dropping kids off at the theater to watch a horrifying, emotionally-scarring movie” seems to be an ongoing theme around here, doesn’t it? I wonder sometimes if we practically raised ourselves.

    • Hope permalink
      March 19, 2013 9:17 am

      Three ladies sharing an eye? Sounds like the Fates from Greek mythology. Or the Gray Sisters (can’t remember which group of 3 shared an eye- I know the Gray Sisters shared a tooth)

  8. November 1, 2011 6:47 pm

    The Electric Grandmother made me so sad! That’s absolutely the only thing I remember about it.

    • November 1, 2011 8:37 pm

      While creepy, that one was a heartbreaker; I absolutely agree. I don’t know why shows like that seemed to want so badly to emotionally break us down as kids. I’m still recovering from Disney cartoons killing off everyone’s mom or dad.

  9. Hope permalink
    March 19, 2013 9:15 am

    You forgot about that creepy episode of Pingu with that walrus stalking him! The nightmares of many today!

    • March 24, 2013 8:35 pm

      If I forgot it, I must’ve full-on repressed it as that doesn’t even ring bell. My therapist might uncover it for me in an upcoming session.

  10. Macie permalink
    August 12, 2013 11:04 pm

    There was this part in Hey Arnold where arnold is daydreaming about him and Gerald being old men who hate each other and out of nowhere there is a decaying grandpa Phil who laughs all creepy and then his jaw falls off! I still to this day get the chills!

  11. Heathtown permalink
    May 15, 2015 12:56 pm

    This is a great blog that I’m having a good old time browsing through (I found it while looking up old Sears Wishbook scans).

    I definitely remember The Electric Grandmother. I think I watched this at school on movie Fridays in the 3rd grade. You see, while in the 3rd grade, our instructor down in Los Angeles county (Ms. Fenroy) would allow us to watch films. They were usually the Afterschool Special and the like variety. But it was great because we were able to bring in any snacks we wanted (i.e. show off…as it ended up looking like a kid version of The Breakfast Club lunch scene) and not have to really “do school” for a couple of hours. And she even offered good attendance money (fake money of course) which you could save and use to get popcorn provided by her. That is if you had the right amount of funds.

    I watched a lot of TV in my time, but I think I’ve missed most of your list. Or I have selectively blocked it. I’m not entirely sure. xD

    Hope all is well and thanks again for providing witty glimpses into the past.

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