Apparently, Being A Contestant On Legends Of The Hidden Temple Was A Waking Nightmare

Legends of the Hidden Temple epitomized what it meant to be a "'90s kid" game show – the kitschy props, the vague themes, the action-packed physical challenges and smoke machines. Though it only ran two short years, the series gained such a strong following that it still lives on today. Not only did the series launch a thousand nostalgic Halloween costumes, but Nickelodeon released a Legends of the Hidden Temple movie in 2016.

For a quirky show that only ran between 1993 and 1995, Legends sure had some lasting power which is, in no small part, attributed to its culture of losing. Avid fans of the series can probably recall the unyielding frustration of watching another kid fail at the deceivingly complicated Shrine of the Silver Monkey. It should be no surprise that Legends of the Hidden Temple was secretly hard. Nickelodeon game shows are known for their zany physical challenges (lest we forget the Guts' famous Aggro Crag), but Legends may have actually been the most difficult. It was certainly the most terrifying.

It's not often that we get a glimpse behind the scenes on kids' game shows, but former Legends contestants have opened up about being tormented by jump scares after navigating through the show's nearly impossible obstacle course. These weird facts about Legends of the Hidden Temple paint a picture where kids are set up to lose, and we can't help but watch.

  • Nickelodeon Actually Toned Down The Scariness

    Nickelodeon Actually Toned Down The Scariness
    Photo: Nickelodeon / Nickelodeon

    Legends of the Hidden Temple is known for its strong jungle theme -- who else felt endless amounts of frustration watching kids struggle at the Shrine of the Hidden Monkey? Though the jungle theme added just enough kitsch to make sure the show could never survive outside of the '90s, the iconic setting was originally supposed to be a haunted house.

    Instead of working their way through a temple-inspired obstacle course, the original version of the show saw contestants treading through the hallways of a haunted house. As they were trying to complete challenges, monsters would pop out and try to scare them. The show felt a whole lot more like Scare Tactics meets Guts than the mysterious, obstacle-course driven gameshow of our childhood. When producers pitched the show, Nickelodeon ended up liking the overall sentiment but weren't keen on the horror aspect. Instead, producers decided to set the show in a jungle because jungles still could be kind of scary (and those temple guards made sure of it).

  • At Least One Contestant Thinks The Show May Have Scarred Her For Life

    At Least One Contestant Thinks The Show May Have Scarred Her For Life
    Photo: Nickelodeon / Nickelodeon

    Yes, the temple guards were really that scary – and some contestants may have actually been scarred for life. Former contestant Keeli alleges that the anxiety the show induced may have stuck with her through adulthood.  She told SBNation:

    "I'm 31 and I can't go to haunted houses. I'm deathly afraid of things popping out of closets and doors, etc., at me. I can't watch scary movies where things jump out and scare people. Can I say that this is directly related to that? No, not one hundred percent, but ..."

  • Olmec (That Giant, Talking Head) Was Actually Played By A Live Actor

    Olmec (That Giant, Talking Head) Was Actually Played By A Live Actor
    Photo: Nickelodeon / Nickelodeon

    Olmec is arguably the most recognizable thing in Legends of the Hidden Temple. Though he was inspired by the mysterious stone heads of the ancient Olmec civilization, there wasn't a single mysterious thing about this giant, all-knowing hunk of rubber.

    While most people thought Olmec was animatronic, it turns out that Legends didn't have the budget for such expensive, technologically-advanced props (remember, it was the '90s!).  Instead, the giant talking head was voiced by live human Dee Bradley Baker, who stood behind the prop and used a two-by-four attached behind the head's bottom lip in order to make it move while he was speaking.

  • Sometimes Your Teammates Would Be Real Duds

    Sometimes Your Teammates Would Be Real Duds
    Photo: Nickelodeon / Nickelodeon

    Legends of the Hidden Temple tested numerous strengths and weaknesses of its contestants. Not only did they have to complete physical challenges, but they had to actually pay attention and learn – like in school. Wait, wasn't this supposed to be a game show? Not for teams who reached the Steps of Knowledge. Team who reached the Steps of Knowledge had to listen to a history lesson and answer trivia questions. Some kids were more attentive than others.

    Keeli was 12 years old when she appeared on the episode "Stone Marker of Leif Erikson." She ended up carrying her entire team, doing most of the work on her own. Keeli answered all three of her questions in the Steps of Knowledge in order to push her team forwards.

    "To be honest. I thought we were pretty much dead in the water on the Steps of Knowledge because my partner was an abject idiot," she told SBNation.

  • Only 32 Teams Ever Beat The Temple Run (For Good Reason)

    Only 32 Teams Ever Beat The Temple Run (For Good Reason)
    Photo: Nickelodeon / Nickelodeon

    In 120 episodes of the series, just 32 teams actually won the Temple Run round. This round was impossibly complicated for kids aged 12 to 14 -- all odds were stacked against them.

    The temple contained more than a dozen rooms filled with puzzles, switchbacks, and tricks. By the time a team stepped on the iconic course, they had already endured a 12-hour session of answering trivia questions and competing physical challenges. At this point, even an adult would be exhausted and feeling pretty drained. On top of this, they had to memorize Olec's instructions, which was nearly impossible.

    The talking head was frequently vague and former contestants have reported that after a while it "sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown." Though the kids got to walk through the temple prior to competing, it was hard to remember everything they had to do. Then, there were also the temple guards.

  • Kids Were Genuinely So Scared By The Temple Guards They Kept Messing Up

    Kids Were Genuinely So Scared By The Temple Guards They Kept Messing Up
    Photo: Nickelodeon / Nickelodeon

    Legends of the Hidden Temple wasn't supposed to be nearly as hard as it actually was. The Shrine of the Hidden Monkey was made up of just three simple parts. So why couldn't kids get literally anything right? Apparently, the temple guards were so terrifying, kids were too flustered to think straight.

    In an interview with AV Club, even executive producer Scott Snow admitted that kids were too flustered to perform well.

    " …Kids would get in the temple, and they’re so afraid of the temple guards coming out and jumping on them that they’re not thinking," he said. "When we rehearsed them, we let them go through the temple, and we told them the temple guards weren’t there. They were just so petrified that they couldn’t think about anything."

    And then there's the time host Kirk Fogg loves to recount, about the time one poor contestant puked in the Pit of Despair. Former contestant Keeli stands strong in her conviction that the guards "are the scariest thing imaginable. Nothing is scarier and I will stand by that statement until the day I die."