TelevisionOctober 28, 2015

Television: Group Think – The Scariest Television Shows From Our Childhood


What is the scariest television viewing this Halloween? Once you are done with all of the on-trend prestigious horror shows, take a trip down memory lane to the darkest corners of your childhood telly-watching. 

Halloween is creeping up this week, which could well get you in the mood to endure some scary television shows. The likes of American Horror Story, Hannibal, Sleepy Hollow are all good options for giving you bad dreams – but they aren’t where the true terror lies. We’ve undone years of therapy and unlocked the most repressed of memories to bring you our most traumatising childhood television moments.

José Barbosa on The Adventures of Mark Twain

If today’s parents are concerned about the effect the internet might have on children, then they should thank the deity 1980s children’s programming no longer exists. One of my earliest memories is of being seriously traumatised by a claymation TV movie broadcast on TVNZ in 1987. Made by the same psychos behind the Californian Raisins, The Adventures of Mark Twain concerns the adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher. The trio sneak aboard Mark Twain’s airship for a laugh, but are shocked to discover Twain plans to fly it into Halley’s Comet.

Hilarity ensues until Twain takes the kids to meet “The Mysterious Stranger.” The excerpt is embedded below, so I won’t spoil it except to say it blasted a fear-hole in my ten year old head that has never truly healed.

Don Rowe on Ren and Stimpy

Ren and Stimpy seemed less like a kids cartoon and more like an animated exploration of the darker parts of the human psyche. From Ren’s dark schizophrenic murmuring and homicidal tendencies, to Stimpy’s frightening idiocy and naivety – the show never followed much more of a mission statement than ‘make children uncomfortable.’

Ren and Stimpy also might have been my first inadvertent exposure to the horrors of methamphetamine addiction, as in one episode Ren stays up for days on end until he hallucinates cockroaches eating his eyelashes and playing poker in the fridge. Scary shit. But, most terrifying of all, are the still frames which from time to time depict the characters in extreme close up, veiny eyes and all, in a manner that only Spongebob occasionally comes close to.


Calum Henderson on Alien Abduction: Incident At Lake County

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 1.47.08 pm

It seems laughably idiotic now, but I was 10 years old, and at the time – pre-Blair Witch Project and all of that – I had no reason to doubt that any of this wasn’t real. It screened on TV2 at 8:30 on a weeknight, purporting to be a documentary investigation of footage filmed on a Handicam and found in an abandoned farmhouse. As far as I was concered, aliens really had landed in a paddock. Slowly they made their way into the house, leading to a terrifying climatic scene where the boy holed up in his bedroom with the camera, films the door opening before the screen turns to static. It was, and will hopefully always remain, the closest a TV show has ever come to making me wet my pants.

Alex Casey on Round the Twist

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Round the Twist is the most traumatising show you could ever show to a young child. Paul Jennings is a nightmare-merchant and to see his horrifying visions come to life in this 90’s television series has made the world a very scary place to live in. I have never felt calm around straw, for example, since one iconic episode where a local scarecrow comes to life.


Great, you might think. Friendly. Just like the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz perhaps, all pratfalls and good tidings. Unfortunately, Round the Twist‘s incarnation was more in the style of the gross bat-thing licks the bus window in Jeepers Creepers 2. This enchanted satanic scarecrow went apeshit, waggling his tongue whilst making tribal chanting noises – before slipping off his pole and chasing a young girl inside a lighthouse, smashing through the locked door. Why was he waggling his tongue? What did he want from her? The answers to those questions have given me nightmares for over 15 years now.

Want more genuine horror for your small screens? Click below to watch our spooky Halloween picks on Lightbox including American Horror Story, Mataku and Dexter.


This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our members. If you value what we do and believe in the importance of independent and freely accessible journalism – tautoko mai, donate today.

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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