13 Classic Halloween Episodes to Scare (and Tickle) the Geeky Family

SimpsonsHalloween has got to be, far and away, one of the coolest holidays of the year. We get candy. We get to dress up in outrageous costumes without recrimination (unless you’re choosing to go out in public as a “sexy girl scout” because, come on, that’s just plain wrong). We get to dress our pets up in crazy costumes. We get to scare ourselves silly with frightening flicks. And, if we’re lucky, we get to watch one of the greatest inventions of modern television programming: the Halloween Episode.

They still do these today, but to be perfectly honest, I just don’t think they’re as good now as they used to be.

So why not gather the whole Geek Clan together, pop the popcorn, dim the lights, tune up the Netflix and enjoy some of the best Very Special Halloween Episodes from our favorite shows of today and yesterday.

(And don’t forget to leave in the middle of a particularly scary one to “get another soda”, sneak up on your little geeks from behind, and scare the absolute bewillickers out of them. They’ll love that.)

13. Freak and Geeks — “Tricks and Treats” (Season 1)

Freaks and GeeksFreaks and Geeks has got to be one of the all-time best television shows in history. Like most of the programs with the same distinction, it was cancelled way too soon. But before it left us so abruptly after 18 episodes, it gifted us with this super charming, super touching, super funny Halloween episode.

Unlike many of the other entries that use the holiday to change up the tone–or even the whole dang style–of the show, “Tricks and Treats” fit well within the parameters of F&G’s usual offerings. Not that there was anything usual about these wonderfully written and superbly acted stories.

Episode Highlights: Bill’s mirror monologue while putting the finishing touches on his Bionic Woman costume, Sam’s Chaplin costume getting mistaken for that of a Nazi Fascist, and Lindsay finding her redemption by donning a Prince costume to share candy with her mom.

Freaks and Geeks Bill

12. How I Met Your Mother — “Slutty Pumpkin” (Season 1)

HIMYMOkay, full disclosure time: there are a few episodes on this list that you might want to check out on your own before screening for the whole fam. Personally, I was raised on Jaws, The Shining, and The X-Files, so I admit I might have a bit of a skewed view on what makes family-friendly fare. That being said…

How I Met Your Mother features some of the wackiest situations ever found in a situation comedy, and also some of the most poignant. This episode features a little of both. Aired early in its freshman season, “Slutty Pumpkin” finds our hero Ted making his annual trip to the rooftop Halloween party in search of the girl that got away: the one dressed as a pumpkin. Years ago. It’s funny, it’s touching, and it’s more than a little absurd. Which may just be why this show is still on the air in its NINTH season.

Episode Highlights: Barney’s many costume changes and the witty banter between a pirate Marshall and a parrot Lily.

11. Castle — “Vampire Weekend” (Season 2)

CastleOkay, so Castle’s not the greatest show in the world. Yeah, I know, HUGE surprise, right? But, face it: Nathan Fillion has got an on-screen charisma that CANnot and WILL not be denied. He’d make a Very Special Hemorrhoid Episode of Gossip Girl a must-see-TV event. (Is that too far? Maybe… Maybe…)

This episode finds Castle and Detective Beckett trying to solve the mysterious murder of a man with a stake through his heart. This one goes into some dark territory with a look at vampire fetish subculture (definitely one to pre-screen if your kids are being raised differently than I was!), but the show was really finding its stride in this Season 2 era and the thick will-they-won’t-they subtext of our two heroes’ dialogue is as amusing as that kind of shtick has ever been.

RELATED: Check Out the Geekiest Pumpkin Carving Ideas Ever!

Episode Highlight: SERIOUSLY? How about in the episode’s first act when Rick Castle tries on a costume for Halloween? A costume that just happens to be that of a space cowboy in a long brown coat? Huh? If there are any Firefly fans out there–and there certainly should be!–then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Space Cowboy

10. Chuck — “Chuck vs. the Aisle of Terror” (Season 4)

ChuckChuck started off as such a great show, toeing that tight line between Absurd Comedy and Absurd Espionage with so much intelligence and grace. Unfortunately, it eventually fell right off that line, whirling its arms as it plunged beyond Comedy and Espionage, and landing smack dab in the middle of the Just Plain Absurd. But before that happened, we got this really fantastic Halloween episode.

The storyline itself sounds like something ripped from the writers’ room walls of Batman: The Animated Series, but works well with the crazy Buy More characters Chuck has in stock. A scientist (played by Robert Englund, no less) has created a fear-based poison and it’s up to our nerdy hero to save the day. But it’s the so-called side characters (especially Jeff and Lester, otherwise known as Jeffster) that make this a really unforgettable episode.

Episode Highlight: Getting a peek into the horrific collective mind of Jeffster is beyond entertaining; but having that collective insanity actually save the day is the highlight of highlights.

Jeffster

9. Roseanne — “Boo” (Season 2)

RoseanneWhat a great show. Am I right? Oh, you disagree? I dare you to go back and watch any three episodes from any of the seasons and tell me that I’m still wrong. Do it! … See?

Roseanne was always a popular show for its crass humor, but in hindsight we can see that it was actually incredibly intelligent, too. The Connor family may have been crude at times, but they were also one of the most honest and loving (in their own way) families in TV history. I‘d even argue that theirs is also one of the most true-to-life. And boy did they know how to put on a good Halloween Episode! This one has Dan and Roseanne pitted against one another, each trying to outdo the other in guerilla scare-fare.

Episode Highlights: Choose for yourself! Here’s the full episode!

8. Friends — “The One with the Halloween Party” (Season 8)

FriendsFriends is one of the most beloved sitcoms of our generation. It lasted for 10 seasons and there’s absolutely nothing I can say about it here that you probably don’t already know–it’s that embedded into modern pop culture.

There could easily be a list of the best Friends episodes of all time, and that list could easily be at least 50 entries long. No matter what you may remember about liking or not liking it, the truth is that this was an excellent studio sitcom. And this is an excellent example of a Halloween Episode done right.

Episode Highlights: Ross lamely trying to explain his Spud-Nik costume and this great Rachel-Monica exchange:

 Friends 1Friends 2Friends 3

7. The Office — “Halloween” (Season  2)

OfficeI’ll be honest, when the American version of The Office debuted, I was more than a little skeptical. I had already been a big fan of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s UK original and was wary of 2nd-banana-replicas. But first episode aside (which was basically a word-for-word remake of the UK’s first episode), Steve Carell and Co. absolutely knocked it out of the park on an almost-weekly basis.

There’s plenty of memorable Halloween-themed Office eps worth mentioning, but this one from the excellent 2nd season stands out. It’s worth a re-watch this All Hallow’s Eve.

Episode Highlights: Michael’s ridiculous dual-headed costume, Creed changing Michael’s mind about firing him in his typical psycho-psychological way, and Devon taking out his frustrations on Michael’s beloved car. With a pumpkin.

6. Are You Afraid of the Dark? — “The Tale of the Twisted Claw” (Season)

Afraid of the DarkI look back on this decidedly scary Nickelodeon show with fond, fond memories. Perhaps my fondness is a bit nostalgic, as repeat viewings show that it really wasn’t that terribly scary after all, but at the time I was awestruck that a “kids show” could be so unabashedly terrifying.

This episode is a great retelling of the classic W.W. Jacobs short story “The Monkey’s Paw” and even though the show didn’t age spectacularly well, this one’s still every bit as spooky as I remember it.

Episode Highlight: That paw/claw! How wickedly awesome and gross was THAT thing?! Here’s a reminder:

Afraid of the Dark 2

5. The X-Files — “Home” (Season 4)

XFilesYes, yes, yes, I know what you X-Files geeks out there are going to say: “Home” wasn’t a Halloween episode! There were two more eps AFTER it aired, BEFORE October 31st! Okay… But, so what? I’m cheating and I don’t care.

XFiles 2The truth is, this is about as scary a television episode (of ANY show at ANY time) as was ever produced. The episode is a “Monster-of-the-Week” stand-alone that has Mulder and Scully investigating the Peacock family. (Ugh, just saying their name sends shivers down my spine…) If you liked The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes or any other horror flick that features a family of deformed and homicidal maniacs, then you are going to LOVE this episode. Right after you change your undershorts, of course.

CAUTION: This one is DEFINITELY recommended to be viewed before showing it to your kids. And then you might well think twice about doing so anyway…

Episode Highlights: The reveal of what’s under the bed, the gruesome front-door booby-trap, and the ENTIRE THIRD & FOURTH ACTS.

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer — “Halloween” (Season 2)

BuffyJoss Whedon’s beloved Buffy had some really fantastic Halloween episodes, but I’m partial to this one in particular. Why? Because it’s such a great premise: the gang gets turned into whatever costume they’re wearing. For real. Willow becomes a ghost, Xander becomes a commando, and poor Buffy becomes an 18th century noble woman.

The episode is a classic and considered by many to be the one of the best of the bunch. Although if you’re looking for the scariest Buffy episode of all time, check out the non-Halloween-themed “Hush” and prepare your heart for some heavy-duty beat-sprints.

Episode Highlights: The first appearance of the sinister and dashing Ethan Rayne and Buffy beats up Spike (always a great scene in any one of a hundred episodes).

3. Quantum Leap — “The Boogieman” (Season 3)

Quantum LeapSome people might scoff at the idea that this particular episode of this particular show is rated so highly on my list, but what can I say? I love Quantum Leap. I love stories about writers. And I love Stephen King. Done and done.

This hypnotic and hallucinogenic episode finds Sam leaping into a horror novelist who appears to be chronicling the strange deaths occurring in a sleepy town. There’s crazy fun scares, Al ends up being a bit of a devil, and there’s even an appearance by a young Stephen King (or at least a child actor portraying him). What’s not to love?

Episode Highlights: The spooky goat/ladder incident, Al’s final reveal, and this pumpkin-headed freak:

Quantum Leap Pumpkin

2. Community — “Epidemiology” (Season 2)

CommunityWhile the fourth season of Community (without show creator Dan Harmon) was lackluster at best, the first three were just shy of genius. Or, maybe even perfectly genius. Every once in a while the show would switch up stylistically to put the characters in a setting familiar to movie junkies everywhere: the wild west shootout of the paintball wars, the Apollo 13-like drama of the space capsule, and the zombie apocalypse of this fantastic episode.

The gang finds themselves at a Halloween party that’s turning their friends and classmates into flesh-craving monstrosities of the undead, and everyone must fight for their lives to make it out of the building in one piece. It’s as hilarious as any Community episode has ever been and as genuinely scary as a straight-up zombie flick.

Episode Highlights: Everyone’s costumes, Troy and Abed’s metafictional tactics for survival, and Ken Jeong. Always Ken Jeong.

Community 2

1. The Simpsons — “Treehouse of Horror V” (Season 6)

Simpsons 2Almost all of the” Treehouse of Horror” episodes are worthy of this list, but this one is by far the absolute best of the best. The Simpsons is always great at parody, but this Halloweeny episode is crazy-good at it.

Among the short stories told in this installment are: The Shinning (a BRILLIANT parody of Kubric’s take on “The Shining”), Time and Punishment (a HILARIOUS examination of the butterfly effect) and Nightmare Cafeteria (a WONDERFULLY DISGUSTING rendition of Soylent Green in the lunchroom). It’s totally worth re-watching. And re-watching… And re-watching…

Episode Highlights: Oh, the whole dang episode is a highlight reel. But my absolute favorite story is The Shinning. Here’s a clip:

*BONUS SCARES (AND TICKLES)

While this hair-raising (and funny-bone-fiddling) list is composed entirely of special Halloween episodes from many of our favorite TV families, I just can’t bring this to a close without mentioning a couple of mind-blowingly awesome shows that also used All Hallow’s Eve as inspiration. (And besides, the last two entries were just gimmies, right? I’d like to end this on at least a SEMI-unpredictable note…)

These were essentially both made-for-TV movies, so they’re not totally oddballs here. The first is a cartoon that we all know and love with all our hearts. The second is a live action nugget of pure bone-chilling genius that most of us don’t even remember that we know and love, despite it scaring the bejeebus out of us all.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

CharlieThis classic Peanuts story revolves around the gang at Halloween, with Linus holding vigil for the Great Pumpkin and everyone else ridiculing him for believing in it.

This is absolutely PERFECT for the WHOLE family, with zero adult content and zero crudity. What it does have, in place of lazy scares and unnecessary blood-baths, is a whole lot of heart. My own heart swells at the thought of watching this one again this year. Which I will do. Without a doubt.

Mr. Boogedy (1986)

BoogedyThis Disney Sunday Movie, starring Richard Masur, Kristy Swanson, and John Astin, is the one that scared me the most as a kid. And remember, I was raised on such fare as Jaws, The Shining, and The X-Files for goodness’ sake!

It’s only 45 minutes long and I don’t know how well it holds up after all these years (I’m still too terrified to re-watch it!), but it’s got to be one of the most thrilling and unsettling kids’ movies of all time. The story centers around a loving family who moves into a house haunted by a dark past. There’s monsters, there’s ghosts, and there’s magic. For my money, you don’t need much more than that. Do me a favor: when you watch this, drop me a line and let me know if you think I can handle it now. I’d love to watch it again, but… Boooooogedy, boooogedy, boooooooogedy… *shudder*

How’s that for a nice Halloween-themed TV marathon? Do you remember any of these episodes with as much fondness as I do? And PLEASE tell me what I missed. I’m putting together a personal list for this year and I’d love to add some new/old stuff that’s fallen off my radar!

 

 

 

Oh, yeah, if you’re up for it, there’s even a sequel to Mr. Boogedy… But I can’t vouch for this one. Not. At. All.

Bride Boogedy

Don’t Forget About Us!!

About Peter Diseth

Geek-tician and Sci-Fi-nancier, Peter has been honing his research for Geeks Raising Geeks for better than three decades. He makes a living creating web content for individuals and businesses, both local and international. He's also a veteran actor of stage and screen, and doing this makes "making a living" worthwhile. Peter is also the sole creator of NewsAttire.com (a satirical news blog in the vein of The Onion) and a once-contributor to WhatCulture.

Peter lives in New Mexico with the three loves of his life: his wife Kate, his kitty Kitty, and his vast library of well-loved and well-worn genre fiction.

Like this article?


Speak Your Mind

*