I realise it’s a bit late for a Halloween post. You’re probably busy tonight with trick or treating / hiding from trick or treaters / watching horror films / cackling over a bubbling cauldron (of pumpkin soup). Or maybe Halloween is already over in your corner of the world. Anyway, I’m going to discuss some of the kids’ TV which really scared me back in the 90s. I admit it, I’m easily spooked…
Goosebumps: This series was based on R L Stine’s massively popular books. In the dreadfully scary intro, the author’s briefcase falls open, releasing a shadowy ‘G’ into the world. After turning a nice dog into a scary dog, the G leads us to a haunted house where clips of people screaming are shown. “Viewer beware, you’re in for a scare”, a voice crows. I actually used to switch off the TV after this, until I got brave enough to sit through the whole episode.
Are You Afraid of the Dark?: Yes, is the answer. But I watched this anyway. A group of teens calling themselves The Midnight Society tell spooky stories to each other around a campfire. Each episode is one of their stories. Watch the intro and see where I got my fear of empty playgrounds from.
Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day: What?! How can this animated Disney episode about A A Milne’s lovable bear be at all scary? Three words: Heffalumps and Woozles. Pooh has a nightmare (or a bad trip) and is terrorised by creatures who are stealing, guzzling, dancing in, and sometimes made of, honey. Sometimes they explode. And there are marching honeypots which sing “Beware, beware, be a very wary bear!” Grim stuff. See also: the notorious ‘Pink Elephants on Parade’ song in Dumbo.
Moomin: And again, what?! This cartoon based on Tove Jansson’s characters had some gentle moments and interesting plots. But it also scared me a lot. There are creatures called Hattifatteners which are sort of tall wobbly white things (pictured above). They’re harmless but were accompanied by panicky music. And there’s the Groke, a lurking creature in the cold mists whom the others are afraid of. What seemed most frightening to me was the Hobgoblin’s hat, which turned Moomin into a monster and the house into a jungle.
ReBoot: This groundbreaking CGI series about characters living in a computer system had some seriously scary episodes, such as the X-Files themed episode ‘Trust No One’ and the funhouse themed game in which a wrong move turns you into a marionette. The characters of Megabyte and Hexadecimal are frightening; they jostle for power in the world of Mainframe. Luckily I never realised the show was supposed to be set in a computer, or that would be one more thing I’d be scared of…
Sesame Street: I found most of the Muppets to be scary anyway, if I’m honest. But the worst were the Martians. There are two of them on a trip to the Earth in which they discover ordinary objects. Now I find them quite funny, but back then, the way the aliens moved and talked, plus the tinkly space music, just terrified me.
The Clangers: Outer space is scary. The darkness, the emptiness, the unknown. That’s the impression I got from the intro. The Clangers themselves weren’t particularly scary, it was the Soup Dragon and the Iron Chicken. I don’t really know why. The newer version of this series is definitely softer and not at all frightening; the sky is even blue instead of black.
Did you watch any of these shows, most of which were not actually intended to be scary?!