6 Unnecessarily Horrifying Episodes Of Beloved Kids Shows

We've talked once or twice before about times when family programming slipped beyond the confines of sanity. But in the same way there's no shortage of horrifying moments in your actual childhood, there are still more creeptacular moments in family friendly shows for us to discuss. Thanks to agitated writers, tone-deaf producers, and our brains' remarkable ability to repress upsetting memories, you may be surprised to recall how ...

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6
Boy Meets World Had Not One But TWO Murder-Filled Dream Episodes

Boy Meets World is generally remembered as a sweet coming-of-age story -- because apparently all of the Savage boys need to televise their awkward journey through puberty. It wasn't exclusively pleasant, though. Consider the episode "And Then There was Shawn," which opens with the school getting a creepy new janitor.

Disney–ABC Domestic Television
Seen here wearing the skin of a different creepy janitor.

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Presumably after the writers had to scrap a draft wherein this janitor molests kids, gets burned to death, and returns to haunt their dreams, the show instead opted for a different, no less insane take: They have him show up dead one day.

Disney–ABC Domestic Television
Who hasn't experienced this during their own puberty?

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This was odd, because the corpse quota on these shows was usually rather low. It's almost as if the show hired some former homicide cops to introduce the boys to the real world. Anyway, it turns out a serial killer is stalking the school, leaving messages written in blood.

Disney–ABC Domestic Television
An odd contrast to the Mickey Mouse ears in the corner of the screen.

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Then the beloved Mr. Feeny gets stabbed in the back by a pair of scissors.

Disney–ABC Domestic Television
*hilarious sproing sound effect*

Furthering the show's descent into madness, a student shows up dead, which prompts another student to try to commit suicide by jumping out the goddamn window. Luckily a friend talks him out of it, but then less luckily, the masked killer shows up and throws them both off the building.

Disney–ABC Domestic Television
Get out of here, Skeletor, this isn't even your show.

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Of course, it turns out that this whole continuity-ruining, murder-filled episode was a dream. In this case, Shawn was dreaming all this because Cory and Topanga broke up, and ... uh ... stress? Seriously, this is how he's processing it? Even more bizarre, instead of the episode's final moments ending with Shawn getting a CAT scan and years of therapy, the killer appears out of nowhere and sprints into the shadows.

Disney–ABC Domestic Television
Well, technically he sprints into the well-lit hall. But you know what we mean.

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So it was all real? Or is this just a metaphor for Shawn's lingering psychosis? By the way, this wasn't a Halloween episode or otherwise something viewers might have braced themselves for -- it came out in February.

And this wasn't the last time the show dipped into the violent death well for inspiration. Later in the series, "The Psychotic Episode" (literally the title) opens with Cory straight-up murdering Shawn for no damn reason.

Disney–ABC Domestic Television
Maybe the stupid shirt was the reason.

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Again, this was a dream. But later, he has another murder-dream wherein he strangles his best friend to death.

Disney–ABC Domestic Television
"Curse your perfect straight hair."

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In the end (after this happens like five times), we find out that this is how Cory is processing his fear of change. What the hell, Boy Meets World? This is not how dreams work. Can't your characters go through any life changes without filtering them through elaborate murder fantasies? Say what you will about Saved By The Bell, but at least Zack never learned any lessons by imagining himself running a chainsaw through the Bayside gang. You'd think maybe Screech, but no, not even him.

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5
Captain Planet's Drug Episode Is Straight-Up Zombie Horror

Captain Planet And The Planeteers was the Saturday morning cartoon that taught a generation of children that if they littered, a blue-skinned bodybuilder would beat the s**t out of them. And while obviously Captain Planet's pro-environment message was coming from the right place, sometimes to make its point, the show had to reach a bit -- and we're not just talking about the time Captain Planet met Hitler.

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For instance, there's the anti-drug episode "Mind Pollution." It opens with a young teen, Boris, buying the hot new drug "Bliss" from a giant rat-man in a fedora and trench coat.

Warner Bros. Television
This doesn't feel right, Boris.

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It turns out Boris is the cousin of Planeteer Linka, and we soon see the drug having weird side effects, turning kids into full-on Romero zombies. The zombie addicts attack the Planeteers, who apparently forget that they all have magic rings.

Warner Bros. Television
"Quickly, let's use our most powerful weapon: our feet!"

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Things go from worse to hilarious when Boris launches himself through a window, only to start bleeding way too much from the wrists!

Warner Bros. Television
Holy crap, Boris.

He survives, only to die later when he randomly ODs or something (it's not clear). He collapses and is immediately declared dead by one of the children imbued with magic powers but no formal medical training. And that's it. That's the end. The moral of the story is man, what the hell, Boris.

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The show had more nightmares in store, though. Like the episode in which the same rat-man villain seemingly gives a teenager AIDS.

Warner Bros. Television
Then goes to Kinko's so he can tell everyone?

The poor kid has to flee to a shack in the woods? Jesus, what is going on here, Captain Planet? Kids were only looking for something to watch on Saturday mornings while their parents slept off hangovers. This is not the time to provoke day-terrors.

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But there's still more! Like the episode about radiation, in which the kids visit a hospital's oncology department and Wheeler taunts a bald kid's haircut. The kid responds that he's had radiation treatment, and we all learn a lesson about being patient in the face of colossal asshattery.

Warner Bros. Television
You're as mean as you are dumb, Wheeler.

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Bottom line, it turns out that hanging with Hitler was one of the most sensible things to ever happen on this show. Tasteful, even.

4
Sesame Street Goes To The Museum, And Big Bird Battles An Ancient Demon

Long before Sesame Street moved to HBO after realizing that numbers and letters weren't a viable corporate sponsor, there was a TV special called "Don't Eat The Pictures," which finds the gang spending the night in a museum.

Sesame Workshop
Cookie Monster gets brutally subtweeted in the opening minutes.

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Then, as inevitably happens when people spend the night in a museum, the gang meet a ghost -- in this case, the ghost of a dead Egyptian child. This despite the fact that Sesame Street mainly focused on phonics and puppets and only rarely on dead children

Sesame Workshop
It turns out this is why you don't eat the pictures. Many are made with toxic paints.

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The poor kid is doomed to this hellish limbo because every night, some demon asks him a riddle and won't let him into the afterlife until he gets it right. Then, despite their distinct lack of experience dabbling in the occult, Big Bird and Snuffy help the ghost boy take on the demon.

Sesame Workshop
Kill it with fire, Snuffy.

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Things get dumb for a bit then, and our heroes get whisked away to some other plane of existence to try to convince Osiris to let the poor kid into the afterlife.

Sesame Workshop
We should all aspire to slip so gracefully from this mortal coil.

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They eventually manage to answer the riddle the poor kid was stumped on: "Where does today meet yesterday." The answer is, not coincidentally, a museum. Which doesn't make a whole lot of sense, since museums weren't even a thing until 2,500 years ago, well after the time of Osiris, but whatever, we're done. See ya, Osiris, it's been dumb.

Fun footnote: This isn't the only time Big Bird confronted teleportation. Just a few years later, our bird would find himself travelling to China and hanging out with teleporting face-painters.

Sesame Workshop
This episode was brought to you by the letters W,T, and F.

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3
Babar's Origin Story is Horrifying

Babar is of course the adorable cartoon elephant and tool for brainwashing children into loving colonialism. But before his gentle authoritarian rule began, he had a messed up origin story. The cartoon series in particular delved into it with a series of flashbacks which showed Babar's mother getting murdered by a hunter. So like Bambi, but worse.

Nelvana

Nelvana
At least Bambi wasn't riding on his mother when it happened.

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Later in the episode, Babar finds the same hunter, attacks him, and at the last minute decides not to murder him. Yeah, Babar's origin story was basically the same as Batman's.

Nelvana
Babar, seen here hardened after a decade of martial arts training.

That wasn't the only time death stalked a Babar episode. There was the episode wherein Babar flashes back to when his old lady friend was dying -- an experience he dealt with by experiencing a batshit crazy hallucination in which he battled an elephant-shaped blood demon in a haunted dreamscape.

Nelvana
f**k him up, Babar.

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And does anyone remember how Babar became king in the first place? Turns out the original king died after eating a "bad mushroom." Babar was nowhere near the king at the time, though, so he was probably innocent. In any event, no one started asking any hard questions, sparing us an elephant-themed Game Of Thrones-like series of recriminations and assassinations.

Random House
"The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination" -- Voltaire, quoting Babar, presumably

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2
The Berenstain Bears Weren't Afraid to Get Super Creepy

The Berenstain Bears are a lovable ursine family who star in a book series that's moralized pretty damn heavily about things like junk food and TV consumption. But the series also hasn't been afraid to tackle more serious topics, like the multitude of times the bears get racist thoughts about their new neighbors.

Zonderkidz

Zonderkidz

Zonderkidz
"You promised you wouldn't try to speak in their accent this time, Papa Bear."

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The Berenstain Bears cartoon show also tackled the issue of stranger danger. And here's where things get really creepy. The story opens with Sister Bear talking to some weirdo in the park.

PBS
Nice bears don't wear hats like that.

So Papa Bear has to teach her about strangers, which involves flipping through the paper and reading about the vast quantities of goddamn pedophiles lurking in Bear County.

PBS
"Bothers" is a subtle choice of verb here.

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Which naturally terrifies Sister Bear to the point where she doesn't want to leave the house. Top, top parenting there, Papa Bear. Anyways, in the end, she's fine. But Brother is almost lured into some creep's car.

PBS
Probably best to stay away from hatted bears entirely, it seems.

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In another episode, Sister Bear learns about jealousy, the metaphorical green-eyed monster, and because this isn't a subtle show, she soon begins envisioning an actual green monster. In this case, her green monster is an evil doppelganger who creeps into her bed at night.

PBS
If you ever wanted a cartoon bear version of Twin Peaks, here, amazingly, it is.

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The monster then convinces Sister to steal her brother's bike, and we can all count ourselves lucky that it stops there, and not, like, with her starting a fight club or something.

PBS
Or stealing Christmas.

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1
Star Trek: The Next Generation Had A Psychic Rape Episode

Star Trek: The Next Generation had its fair share of disturbing episodes, from Cronenberg-esque head explosions to Scottish orgasm ghosts. But one story was especially upsetting. The episode "Violations" finds the Enterprise taking a break from Borg attacks and Holodeck-related deaths to confront the issue of psychic rape.

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It all starts with a group of visiting aliens who can enter someone's mind and help them relive repressed or forgotten memories. If that wasn't a big enough hint that this episode was going to be about consent, one of the aliens has to publicly remind another that they're not supposed to probe someone's memory unless they're given permission. Which is subtle like a kick in the teeth, but it has got nothing on the response:

CBS Television Distribution

CBS Television Distribution
Like your creepy psychic distant uncle Lester.

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This goes exactly where you would predict it to. Late one night, Counsellor Troi randomly starts reliving a memory of Commander Riker forcing himself on her ...

CBS Television Distribution

Then the alien guy shows up in his place and full-on sexually assaults Troi.

CBS Television Distribution
Incidentally, this show was rated as appropriate for children aged 8+ by concerned parents.

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So a few things to unpack here. One, holy s**t. Two, these guys insinuate themselves into preexisting memories. So is the show implying that Troi was assaulted by Commander Riker and had repressed the memory? How else is the audience supposed to interpret that scene?

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It was the alien the whole time? OK.

OK.

Moving quickly away from this point, the show diverts our attention to an alien messing with Dr. Crusher's mind, forcing her to relive when she had to identify her husband's body.

CBS Television Distribution
While accompanied by Picard and Picard's toupee.

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This dream too goes haywire when she sees her husband's corpse opening its eyes.

CBS Television Distribution
Just top, top work by the subtitle person here.

If there's any good to be found in all of this awfulness, it's probably in the original promo for the show, as the marketing department bravely tried to make an hour of sexual violence and dead husbands springing to life seem like another fun space adventure.

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Also, the fact that you yourself repressed your memory of this episode is kind of interesting.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter, or check out the podcast Rewatchability.

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