Sure, they may be pretty cheesy by today's standards, but for those that grew up in the '70s, '80s, and '90s, Halloween specials were a rite of passage and a sign that autumn was in full swing. To kids of the era they were unbelievably scary, and they were what we all bonded over in school halls the next morning.
The Halloween specials of yesteryear set the tone for the frights, fun, and mountains of candy acquired during the macabre holiday. Despite the spooky overtones, these specials still maintained a level of innocence and charm. They also often came with more profound messages about the importance of self-love and being kind to others. Sure, the ghouls, goblins, and murderous ventriloquist dummies were genuinely terrifying, but the stories they were in were often illuminating. We were oblivious at the time, but in adulthood we see their lessons pretty clearly. And if we're lucky, we'll be able to share these scary but resonant specials with our own kids.
Nickelodeon's Cry Baby Lane is the stuff usually reserved for urban legends, but it actually exists. It was initially shown just one time on Nick's SNICK block, then relegated to the vaults for several years due to alleged parental complaints of it being too scary for kids. It was considered "lost" until one Redditor posted a VHS copy to YouTube. The lost film, now found, aired again in 2011 in Nick's SPLAT block of programming and has aired intermittently since.
Nick claims the film was never banned due to content—they had simply "forgotten" it. The plot involves good and evil conjoined twins who died, and whose bodies were separated with a chainsaw and buried in different parts of town. The evil twin possesses the town as the good twin cries for help.
George Romero penned this episode of Darkside, so you know it has all the earmarks of a great horror story. Set during Halloween, "Trick or Treat" is far removed from the levity and wonderment associated with the holiday. Scrooge-like character Hackles loves to participate in Halloween festivities, as long as he can torment the kids of the people who owe him money.
Every year, he invites the kids to get their parents out of debt by finding IOUs on his property. If they can get through his maze of horrors (most cannot and end up traumatized) they will be debt free. It's only when real ghouls show up that Hackles gets his just deserts for treating the kids, and their parents, so cruelly.
Goosebumps by way of the Twilight Zone, "The Haunted Mask" episode finds the bullied Carly Beth ditching her intended duck costume for something way more sinister in an "I'll show all of them how scary I can be" moment. In a costume shop - and against the shop owner's advice - she buys a mask from a room that is strictly off limits to customers. Much to her dismay, the mask takes on a life of its own.
It not only alters the girl's behavior, but permanently affixes itself to her face. When she fesses up to the costume shop owner, he tells her the only way she can remove the costume is to love herself despite the bullying. She does, and the masks comes off.
How can Tales from the Darkside's "Halloween Candy" NOT be scary? It was directed by horror film makeup master Tom Savini. The plot involves a man named Mr. Killup who wants to be left alone, especially by the noisy neighborhood trick or treaters. His son leaves him candy to give out so his house isn't vandalized, but the old man is too stubborn and he refuses.
As the night wears on, one last trick or treater pays him a visit to show him the error of his ways: an actual goblin with tricks and treats of his own. The goblin taunts the old man with hallucinations, maggot-filled candy, and traps him inside.
Savini, who created the goblin, supposedly still owns the costume.