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Ransom Riggs
8 Forgotten Kids Shows Sure to Give You Nightmares
by Ransom Riggs - June 26, 2008 - 10:36 AM

Cable access shows aside, the strangest stuff on TV has to be children’s programming. I used to watch it myself, but I was a picky viewer — much of it I found boring, and downright weird. I was also a nightmare-prone kid, nosey.jpg plagued by recurring nightmares about Count Chocula, for instance, and my mom wouldn’t let me watch Thundercats because she thought Lion-O’s mummified antagonist, Mumm-Ra, was too scary for me. (She was probably right.) As I get older, though, I realize that I never had the misfortune of being exposed to the strangest of the strange when it came to kids’ shows — but that’s exactly what YouTube is for! Looking back, it boggles the mind that adult television executives thought these shows would appeal to children; I think they’re some of the creepiest clips ever aired. See if you don’t agree.

Peppermint Park



These puppets are like textbook examples from Freud’s classic essay on the uncanny, Das Unheimliche, perhaps best illustrated by the now-famous “uncanny valley” graph. I’d argue that the “Peppermint Park” puppets are at least as uncanny as reanimated corpses:461px-Mori_Uncanny_Valley.s.jpg

Los Dientes!

In this clip from an unknown Spanish TV show, a kid and puppet repeat “the teeth!” over and over again while laughing like hyenas. The wolf, the spastic laughing, the chattering teeth — it’s like a perfect recipe for debilitating nightmares.

The Adventures of Mark Twain

This creepily-claymated rendition of Mark Twain’s classic story “The Mysterious Stranger” has a group of kids meeting Satan … with results so unsettling, this episode was apparently banned from TV.

Fun with Grids

We’re not sure which show this clip is from exactly, but then again, maybe we’re better off not knowing. Four minutes of this insane rabbit character and his friend, who from what I can tell is doing a terrible impression of an autistic boy, is more than enough. Cool-a-rama!!

Noseybonk

Noseybonk, a character from the BBC kids’ show Jigsaw, looks like some twisted precursor to the Jigsaw killer from the Saw movies (hmm, wonder where they got the name?) … absolutely frightening.

Don’t put it in your mouth!

While this PSA has an important message to convey — don’t put random things in your mouth, kids! — its lyrics are far too easy to mock, and its puppets far too strange and creepy. The theory behind puppet design seems to be, if you put fur on it, no matter how weirdly-shaped it is, kids will find it charming and lovable. If only it were that easy.

The New Zoo Revue: “The Miracle of Birth”

Big creepy puppets that look exactly like the ones from Peter Jackson’s nightmarish Meet the Feebles? Check. Super-awkward sex-ed dialogue? Check. 70s hair that makes everybody look vaguely like sex predators? Check. Worst song ever? Double-check.

Many Voices, Many Visions: “You look like a little black boy!”

Oh man, this one’s a kettle of worms. It’s from the PBS show Many Voices, Many Visions, and the way it was edited (by YouTube user cringevision), leaves out a lot of context, so it’s hard to tell what the intention of this segment truly was. But the mom comforting her son by saying “Hey, it’s not like you’re really black!” — says it all. Creepy on a whole new level.


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Shhh…super secret special for blog readers.

Comments (60)
  1. Ransom Riggs: Your blogs are always my favorite! Most of the contributors on here have at least one or two posts that are sub-par, but yours are always magnificent! A friend showed me The Adventures of Mark Twain not too long ago, and wow, I could not even believe it ever existed (but was thoroughly entertained)!

  2. They are all creepy, but the Mark Twain one is downright terrifying. Who could/would market that to children?

  3. What about Zoobalee Zoo?

  4. Does anyone in Southern California remember an ultra-creepy Spanish-language kids show in the late ’70s-early ’80s whose star was a skinny, curly-haired Latino man named “Cepillin” (not sure of spelling; pronounced Seh-pie-yen)? He wore gold lamé suits and sang in a weird, high-pitched, girlish voice. Deeply nightmarish.

  5. I remember the New Zoo Review and it was the cheesiest thing on tv. The Mysterious Stranger was so dark and creepy but fascinating. I wonder how many were damaged for life by THAT one! What the heck were they thinkin????? Great post, Ransom! Thanks

  6. I don’t know I actually kind of liked the mark twain one. The message is, as far as i can tell, that we simply exist…that we don’t have a purpose, or a meaning, etc. Also could be read as there being no god, which also a valid point of view.

    I can see how some kids might get scared by it though, i don’t think it should have been geared towards very little kids.

  7. Those are too funny!! Glad I’m well adjusted enough to watch them now… I remember some show where a guy with really bad brown curly hair was dressed in a ti-i-i-ight skinsuit with half of it showing the human skelton and the other half showing muscles and organs. That guy totally freaked me out - anyone else know the name?
    Telefrancais (from Quebec) had some creepy puppets too but overall I remember loving that show (”je suis un ananas!”)

  8. “The Adventures of Mark Twain” was one of my all-time favorite animated movies. I saw it on TV when I was probably ten years old or so. I managed to snag a copy on eBay a few years ago, and just love it. There’s so much more to it than that particular segment; for one, it introduced me to “The Diaries of Adam and Eve” by Twain, which is an incredibly touching little book.
    So much of childrens’ fare is dumbed down; this one wasn’t.

  9. @ac I remember the show you’re talking about i think his name was Mr. Body. they used to show that in school to teach us our health class.

  10. you can get the “adventures of mark twain” from amazon. i saw that as a kid and, although that segment was very disturbing, i thought it was great. i bought the dvd a little over a year ago.

  11. AC, that was Slim Goodbody.

  12. “Don’t put it in your mouth”

    I swear any Canadian kid born since 1975 can sing that song front to back. It still comes up from time to time, especially while drinking and it never fails… if you sing the first 6 words at least 3 people will join in.

  13. I used to LOVE watching the “New Zoo Review” when I was a kid.
    When I got older, I bought a bloopers and outtakes video that showed clips from the show. The things that Charlie the Owl did to Freddie the Frog were quite interesting. lol!!!

  14. Don’t forget about Fragle Rock.

  15. What about “Today’s Special”? Mannequins came to life. Nightmares forever.

    Also, the security guard puppet was pretty creepy, as far as puppetry goes.

  16. I’m completely with you on Today’s Special. I never understood why half the cast was human, yet Sam the security guard was a puppet. I also remember thinking that all department stores were dirty because they had mice living in them, like Muffy the puppet. Most of the episodes were about hats and noses and basic kid’s stuff. And then there was the super-serious one about alcoholism. So strange.

  17. Luckily I was never subjected to any of these horrifying puppets as a child. I was nightmare proned too and my Mom knew it. but I was exposed to and utterly terrified of the puppet that ran the carousal in the Land of Make-Believe on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I love Mr. Rogers and all of the other puppets but she scared me to death. it was something about her nose and general demeanor. I had to leave the room whenever she was on.

  18. Claire: That was Lady Elaine Fairchild (Fairchilde?), who ran the Museum-Go-Round. She was the closest thing to an antagonist you’d find in the Neighborhood, and she was a little darker than the others. Luckily Daniel Strip-ed Tiger was right next door, on the other side of Anna Platypus and her parents.

    Yes, I still watch it when I get the chance. He likes me just the way I am. Nyah.

  19. Actually, I think as far as wacky-ass kid’s shows go, I’d have to say, ‘The Great Space Coaster’. Not too long ago Family Guy (the place to go for pop culture shreddings) did a nice mock of the opening (look it up on YouTube, hysterical) That show always creeped me out a bit.

  20. I actually liked the Mark Twain story.Forgot about watching it until now. Most kids would forget about it until they grow up and read stuff like this!! Whats more scary!!

  21. Re: the “New Zoo Revue” clip. Am I the only one who noticed that the old guy is actually actor Jesse White, who played the lonely “Maytag Repairman” in commercials for years? Plus, creepy Doug (the dude in the molestor ’stache singing) was married to the female lead, smoking-hot Mary Jo, who wore miniskirt jumpers and white go-go boots in the first few seasons? Jeez, I need a life…

  22. Wow. I must have blocked it out of my mind, but my 7th grade English teacher made us watch that Mark Twain one after reading Tom Sawyer. I think it might’ve been as a punishment for no one actually doing the homework…

  23. Peppermint Park…Wow what an exercise in puppetry futilty, trying to get the drugged up uncanny valley guys to actually look like they’re blowing bubbles. That effect was an addition to the whole amanita muscaria creepiness.

    Love the Nose guy, and BBC in general. Grew up with new zoo revue, and never found them creepy, but i was always annoyed by Henrietta Hippo. For awhile today at work I was singing “Don’t Put it in Your Mouth” to the likely judgemental cognation of my cohorts.

    recap=Sammy War

  24. I remember watching the Mark Twain program when I was a kid. It never occurred to me how truly terrifying the Satan sequence really is. I remember it being the “scary part”.
    I enjoyed the rest of the show however and actually plan to buy the dvd from Amazon.

  25. How incredibly scary is Noseybonk? Reminds me of the “Yxilon-Show” a czech puppeteer-show which was broadcasted in german TV in the late 80s. They also had creepy puppets and those white gloves. White Gloves! Aaah!

    Does anyone else still remember the “Yxilon-Show”?

    Title theme of the show was “Black Bottom” from Spike Jones, if that helps anyone.

    I’m desperately searching for clips from the show.

    thanks

  26. The only one I remember is “Don’t put it in your mouth”.

    Thanks Joey Jo-Jo Jr Shabadoo for pointing out who the older gentleman explaining sex was. I knew he looked familiar but couldn’t think of where I had seen him.

    The video with the grids, didn’t that actor look like Brendan Frazer from “The Mummy” movies?

    I can’t remember any kid shows scaring me but there used to be a commerical here in Canada that featured moneys ‘playing’ musical instruments and ’singing’ “Red Rose Tea, Red Rose Tea….” That used to freak out my older sister. Whenever it came on TV, she ran out of the living room yelling and screaming. Good times.

  27. I LOVED the New Zoo Review. And for your useless trivia of the day, Chuck Woolery, game show host extraordinaire, played the mailman “Mr. Dingle” on the show.

  28. The absolute most awful part of this whole thing is noseybonk’s subconscious homosexuality. When six obvious freudian penises pop out of the ground, and one almost HITS HIM IN THE MOUTH, this is no longer children’s television.

  29. I saw The Adventures of Mark Twain when one of my high school students brought in a copy. That section with Satan is without a doubt one of the creepiest and most distrubing things I’ve ever seen. And Mark Twain is a bit pervy with the way he goes on and on about how much young Becky looks like his dead wife.

  30. Anyone else remember Kangarate? It had Mr. Miyagi running a book store and it transported kids to this world with a giant kangaroo who did karate? Yeah, it creeped me out.

  31. What about the eerie computer show “Bits and Bytes” with host Billy Van? Very scary indeed.

  32. My son reports that when he watched the animated feature “Watership Down,” (as a grade school kid), it was scary to him. Bunnies, for crying out loud, doing warfare and gouging each other! And the sinister-general rabbit with a bad eye! Creepy for an animal-loving kid!

  33. does anyone remember Clutch Cargo? That show was a cartoon with real human lips pushing through to make them talk. I spent that summer waking up in urine-soaked sheets

  34. Anyone who liked the Mark Twain sequence should look out for the original short story it’s loosely based on.
    It’s totally made for claymation, for sure :-)

    The theme is that angels, without the burdan of the knowledge of good and evil are naturally amoral, and don’t see the difference between ‘murdering’ the creations and sweeping away a sandcastle.

    As much as is possible, the protaganist, (Lucifer IIRC) *pities* mortals that get all screwed up about things like death and betrayal.
    He’s presented very sympathetically in the story, and his magic tricks are even more enthralling than in the clip.

  35. Anyone remember zoobalizoo? I am quite sure I’m spelling it wrong. People dressed like furries…terrifying!

    the bird was a slut!

    hahahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahhahahahahahahaha

    and todays special wsa one of my favorites!!!

    anyone remember fairytale theatre with shelley duvall?

  36. re: nosey bonk…

    did ya notice that the seed packet says “nosegays”…??!

    and the objects that grow (along with his nose) look like giant dildos…

    … and “bonk” is UK slang for sex.

    awesome!

  37. This is maybe the best post ever.

  38. I think one that should be added to this list is booh-bahs.. disturbing, much creepier than any of these

  39. That Mark Twain one was the creepiest shit I’ve ever seen. I’m surprised M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t made a movie based on it yet…

  40. Jesus! They keep getting worse!
    “Don’t worry about it dear-at least you aren’t REALLY black”

  41. AC - you’re thinking of Slim Goodbody. He was always trying to teach us to live healthy and be active. Sadly, McDonald’s won the day there.

  42. Not that this makes the references to the child’s dismay at looking like a black person any better, but I think that “Many Voices, Many Visions” main character is a little GIRL who is upset that her bad perm makes her look like a BOY (or person) with an afro. Not tactfully or tastefully done, but having been a young teenage girl with short hair and being mistaken on a school trip in front of an auditorium of peers for a boy, I can sympathize a little bit with her distress! (not at the racial bit of it, but the gender confusion bit!)

  43. Has anyone here seen the episode of “Angel” that has a cartoon show full of evil puppets that steal kids’ souls? A number of these remind me of that episode.

  44. What about Riki Tiki Tavi? I freaked out when Riki was fighting the snake, and my mom would never let me watch it again. My sister got to though. Privileges of the eldest.

  45. “Animal Kwackers” was pretty disturbing - slack-jawed rock n’ roll puppets with dead, dead eyes.

  46. Anyone remember “Astro Boy”? The robot boy, created in the image of a scientist’s dead son? Totally creepy, and I think it had the moving human lips, like “Clutch Cargo”. And what about “Casper” A dead kid/ghost? What were these producers thinking? Also, “Felix” used to creep me out, but I can’t recall why exactly. I think the story line was too adult or dark for little kids.

  47. dude telefrancais was amazing. i was so forced to watch that in grade 2.

  48. Does anyone remember that super-creepy show on PBS where a man told a story and his wife illustrated it? And he did all of the girl’s voices in this high-pitched, terrifying falsetto?

    I’d be obliged if anyone remembers its name!

  49. I TOTALLY LOVED the Mark Twain one, i laughed so hard when Satan killed the playdoh people XD, i wish that they aired it on tv, it would have made a great traumatising show for kids and great funny show for teens, nice!

  50. I’m told that when I was little, I watched the New Zoo Review every morning. That could explain a lot..

    One thing that frightens me to this day is the ‘fishy fish’ scene from Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life’ movie. Throughout the entire segment, an elephant butler slowly shambles towards the camera, only to essentially stick his face (elongated elephant nose, bulbous fish eyes) into the camera. His long neck still doesn’t make logical puppet sense to me and I refuse to watch it.

  51. Dom- The guy who illustrated the stories and did voices was John Robbins. He had shows with different names, the ones I know are ReadIt and Cover to Cover.

  52. This one’s for the older generation. Remember Andy’s Gang with the nasty frog, Froggy who would pop up in a puff of smoke and say “pluck your magic twanger froggy.” There was something inately evil about him. And the black cat Midnight who was a real cat wasn’t a very likable cat either.

  53. This is going to open me up for cries of “RACIST” but I really don’t care.

    What about the spanish language shows featuring women with very little clothing on?

    The Latino part is not the part that’s wrong. It would be offensive even if it was produced by the whitest, blue-eyed UH-MERRICAN!

    Could you imagine what would happen if a buxom blond in a g-string and bikini top did a duet with Elmo?

  54. I remember HR Puffenstuff, which had a lot of costumed characters. The only nightmare-inducing part was Jimmy’s talking Magic Flute, which he kept in his pocket…oh, and the trees tht came alive. What about Lidsville, with Charles Nelson Reilly? That one was pretty creepy. Wonder what the creators (Sid & Marty Croft) were smokin’ back in the 70s?

  55. I must be a horrible parent - I made the mistake of watching the clips while my 5-yr-old was in the room, and he laughed through every one of them, asking to see them again. So he has a twisted sense of humour, just like his mom. :) Cool-a-rama!

  56. You forgot the movie, “The Peanutbutter Solution”.

  57. Unfortunately i can’t see any of the videos, they were all taken down. Anyone care to repost??

  58. *shudders* Thanks now I’ll have nightmares for the rest of my life! Mr.Noseybonks might be related to Jigsaw but I think Jigsaw is less frightening than Noseybonks. That Mark Twain one was a little too morbid for me. What kinda children show has childrenn talking to an “angel” named satan? *shudders… again* *runs and hides*

  59. I have to throw “Hilarious House of Frightenstein” in there. No one seems to ever remember this one, but Vincent Price did the intro. It featured very bizzare characters like ‘the Maharishi’ and ‘the Oracle’ who were both fascinating and disturbing to the growing mind.

  60. Gundrun, I remember Today’s Special. We (my brother, sister, and I) watched it everyday. We never had nightmares.