Despite being intended for developing minds, some children's shows are remarkably unsettling. There are plenty of cartoon episodes that gave us nightmares, especially if you're an older fan who grew up during a time when age-appropriate entertainment wasn't quite so wholesome.
Most people recognize Courage the Cowardly Dog as one of the scariest cartoons of all time. After all, pretty much every episode revolves around a new eldritch abomination. However, plenty of animated horrors appear as normal kids' shows, making it easy for mature content to slip past the negligent eyes of disinterested parents.
No matter how bright and upbeat franchises like The Powerpuff Girls try to be, creepy cartoons always manage to slip through the cracks.
Perfect - Courage The Cowardly Dog
"Perfect" is one of those Courage the Cowardly Dog episodes that's a little too real. Courage's insecurities manifest into a horrific governess who's determined to make the canine hero "perfect" by way of yardstick beatings.
Midway through the episode, Courage has a series of nightmares as surreal as they are off-putting. The worst is almost certainly the crude, 3D-rendered underwater creature whispering, "You're not perfect," just before a screaming Courage awakens.
King Ramses' Curse - Courage The Cowardly Dog
It's a story as old as cinema. Thieves steal an artifact from a tomb, causing a ghost to bring plagues down upon anyone who possesses it. What sets "King Ramses' Curse" apart is the episode's bizarre animation. Even if the pharaoh's horrid, broken arms don't give you nightmares, his desiccated 3D appearance probably will.
Freaky Fred - Courage The Cowardly Dog
"Freaky Fred" manages to live up to its title's ghastly promise. The whole episode centers around a hellish nursery rhyme about how Fred likes being "naughty" by shaving off people's hair without their consent. Eventually, Fred and Courage get trapped in a bathroom, at which point the creep shears off all of Courage's fur - minus the hair on his tail, since "that would be weird."
Haunted Train - Hey Arnold!
Remember the days when watching three kids make the slow descent into Hell counted as children's entertainment? Hey Arnold! sure does.
While the premise of "Haunted Train" is certainly creepy, the real scares come from the episode's execution. From the get-go, it's clear something is amiss, but it's hard to pinpoint what's wrong. Nobody ever says where the train is going - probably to avoid saying "Hell" on Nickelodeon - but all signs point to an unpleasant destination.