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The Most Macabre Holiday-Themed TV Episodes Ever Produced

Updated December 10, 2019 1.1k votes 153 voters 2.6k views12 items

List RulesVote up the episodes that chilled you to the bone.

Halloween isn't the only holiday that deserves its own spooky TV specials. When it comes to television, Christmas isn't just about claymation reindeers or Charlie Brown. As it turns out, there's some pretty scary holiday TV, too. The cheerful nature of the holiday season makes it the perfect venue for horror: What can go wrong will go wrong, and because we're too busy wrapping presents or sitting around the fire, it'll happen when we least expect it. The episodes in this list were designed to rip the safety net right off the holiday season and remind us that spooky stuff happens no matter the time of year. 

  • 5

    A Clown, Hobo, Army Major, Bagpiper, And Ballerina Are Trapped On 'The Twilight Zone'

    A Clown, Hobo, Army Major, Bagpiper, And Ballerina Are Trapped On 'The Twilight Zone'
    Photo: CBS

    Episode: "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" (Season 3, episode 14)

    It's arguably one of the most famous Twilight Zone episodes of all time. A ballerina, two soldiers, a clown, and a bagpiper wake up inside a dark, metal room with no recollection of how they got there. There's no doors, no windows, and no way out. Thus, the characters decide that they must be in hell.

    Plot twist: The five characters are actually dolls inside a Christmas toy collection bin. In the final scene, we see the characters as they really are: inanimate figures with painted-on faces. The most haunting part of the episode is when the ballerina reaches for the major's hand, her painted-on eyes filling with tears.

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  • 6

    A Monstrous Christmas Legend Comes To Visit On 'Tales from the Darkside'

    Episode: "Seasons Of Belief" (Season 3, episode 11)

    Forget Krampus. A father shares the story of the Grither with his two kids on Christmas Eve. According to legend, he's the most evil creature in the world and whenever his name is said outloud, he grows stronger. Repeating his name will summon the creature. When the siblings ignore the warning and say his name over and over again, the Grither breaks through a window and snaps both of their parents' necks. The scariest part: We never actually see the Grither aside from a pair of veiny yellow arms. The rest is left up to the imagination.

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  • 7

    The Spellmans Summon Gryla To Stop The Yule Lads On 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' 

    The Spellmans Summon Gryla To Stop The Yule Lads On 'The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina' 
    Photo: Netflix

    Episode: "A Midwinter's Tale" (Season 1, Holiday Special)

    The Yule Lads, mischievous pranksters from Icelandic folklore, have descended upon the Spellman house, causing all sorts of chaos - blades fall from the ceiling, Ambrose is attacked by zombies in the morgue, and poor baby Leticia is put in an oven. To make matters worse, there are 13 of them (13!) and each represents a singular day of the 13 days before Christmas.

    Meanwhile, an evil mall Santa is coating humans in wax and keeping them as part of a sick Christmas display.

    Gryla, the Yule Lads' demon mother, is summoned to take out both Santa and her creepy children - but not without nearly fighting Zelda for a baby. Between an evil Santa and a group of demon children with big, white scary eyes, it's one hell of a holiday special.

    Ambrose says it best at the episode's end: "Aside from the home invasion and the child abduction, I'd say this was a rather merry Solstice." 

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  • 8

    Alien Beings Terrorize On 'Doctor Who'

    Alien Beings Terrorize On 'Doctor Who'
    Photo: BBC

    Episode: "Last Christmas" (Christmas Special, December 2014)

    The Doctor Who Christmas Special is a long-running tradition, but few specials are spookier than "Last Christmas." The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) team up with Santa Claus to save a research base at the North Pole from a ravenous alien species called Dream Crabs. They sound harmless, look like something out of a David Cronenberg film, and upon latching onto a victim's face, induce a euphoric dream state to distract the victim while slowly eating their brains. The Crabs can even weaponize their targets' own dreams against them, exploiting their deepest, darkest thoughts and secrets. In short, it's utter creepy chaos.

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