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.
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.
The Punky Brewster Halloween special, otherwise known as "The Perils Of Punky," was a two-part episode that aired in 1985 and terrified an entire generation. "Perils" starts as most Halloween specials do: with a camping trip. While out in the great wide open, Punky and pals Cherie, Margaux, and Allen, find a campfire and trade ghost stories. There, Native American spirits implore the kids to defeat the evil creature that lies in wait inside a nearby cave. As the group ventures deeper and deeper in, Punky is forced to face her real life fears through the evil she sees.
A dismembered man Punky dubs "Mr. Pieces" informs the kids that the evil creature made him the way he is. One by one Punky's friends are killed by the creature, who feeds on her abandonment issues and arachnophobia. She finally battles the monster with the power of love, which causes it to explode. The kids are seen back at the campfire, where it's suggested the whole thing was a by-product of Punky's vivid imagination. Or was it?
"Boogedy Boogedy Boo!" If you were a kid in the early '90s, you more than likely remember Mr. Boogedy. Gag-gift salesman Carleton Davis moves his family into an old house and things start to go bump in the night. The family chalks it up to mere bad dad jokes - that is his job, after all - but soon discover the place has been haunted by colonial-era ghosts for 300 years. One of the specters, William Hanover, is still holding the spirit of a young boy named Jonathan hostage.
Jonathan is the son of another ghost, Marian, who was Hanover's unrequited love, and who he accidentally murdered. Marian is stuck outside of the house and is unable to get Jonathan back, so she asks the Davis family for help. Disney released this Halloween special in 1986, and it's had a cult following ever since. Mr. Boogedy spawned a sequel, Bride of Boogedy, a year later.