As always, you guys took our invitation to nominate episodes for our two TV Roundtable Readers’ Choice selections and ran with it, coming up with a huge list of programs that hit all sorts of different types of scary episodes, from things that are legitimately terrifying, to shows that messed you up as kids, to episodes that were just really, really suspenseful. We winnowed those down to these 10, and we hope you’ll make your picks. The top two vote getters will be featured in the final two roundtables of this particular theme, on Wednesday, October 23, and Wednesday, October 30.
Here are your nominees!
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “An Unlocked Window” (season 3, episode 17; originally aired 2/15/1965): Inspired by the Richard Speck murders, this riveting episode places the viewer inside a house full of student nurses who have locked themselves away from a serial killer stalking the area. Except they forgot this one window…
The Avengers, “The Joker” (season 5, episode 15; originally aired 4/29/1967): Occasionally, a non-horror series will bust out an episode that verges on psychological horror, as The Avengers did in this episode, where Emma Peel finds herself imprisoned in a house by someone known as “The Joker.” It’s far less cheesy than it sounds.
Cowboy Bebop, “Pierrot Le Fou” (season 1, episode 20; originally aired 3/13/1999): Perhaps a little anime would be the way to close out this theme. An unusual assassin accosts the series’ hero in this episode, and like any good horror movie villain, he just won’t stop coming until he’s made sure his target is dead.
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (originally aired 10/29/1985): Is this the scariest of the popular Halloween children’s specials? We’re not necessarily sure if that’s the case, but one could make a real argument for it. After all, it features Garfield and Odie being menaced by murderous ghost pirates, and not every special can boast that.
Ghostwatch (originally aired 10/31/1992): The United Kingdom lit up with terrified phone calls after the broadcast of this made-for-TV mockumentary that purported to depict a ritual meant to contact the ghosts of a very haunted location and ended with seemingly the entire studio possessed by evil spirits.
Little House On The Prairie, “Sylvia (Parts 1 and 2)” (season 7, episodes 17-18; originally aired 2/9 and 2/16/1981): The wholesome family series unexpectedly ended up with an episode that mixes the usual treacle with absolutely terrifying homages to slasher films, when the titular character comes upon a rapist who wears a mime mask. Seriously.
Lost, “The Other 48 Days” (season 2, episode 7; originally aired 11/16/2005): The infamous episode showing what happened to the “Tailies” during the first season, including several appearances by the then seemingly-supernatural Others. It’s a uniquely tense, strange episode of the show and perhaps its most blatantly horror-like.
The Streets Of San Francisco, “Mask Of Death” (season 3, episode 4; originally aired 10/3/1974): No less an authority on horror than Stephen King called this one of the scariest episodes of television ever produced. A popular female impersonator suffers from a split personality that leads him to kill. Sounds like scary stuff and troubling ‘70s gender politics!
Thriller, “Pigeons From Hell” (season 1, episode 36; originally aired 6/6/1961): No scary list would be complete without a haunted house tale, and here’s one based on a classic short story about a house that bears the wounds of the Civil War and the American South’s long legacy of violence and degradation. Also, Boris Karloff hosts! Neat!
Twin Peaks, “Lonely Souls” (season 2, episode 7; originally aired 11/10/1990): Finally, find out who killed Laura Palmer in one of the most unique, terrifying episodes of one of the most unique, terrifying series ever made. Working equally well as straight-up horror and as unsettling mood piece, this one just might give you some bad dreams.
Vote away! You have until Friday!