One of the main things that comes to my mind whenever Halloween rolls around are the classic Halloween episodes of television series that aired when I was a kid. Halloween episodes were different then, with many carrying a somewhat cheesy tone that perfectly captures the spirit of the season. These days, Halloween episodes come few and far between and few of them carry the quality of those in the 90’s. So I present the tackiest, silliest, goofiest and “Halloweeniest”Halloween episodes of the 1990’s.
10. ” Who’s Afraid of Corey Wolf” Boy Meets World (1994) and “Little Boy Boo” Dinosaurs (1992)
We start the list off with a tie, since both episodes draw from the Werewolf mythos, in particular the 1940 Lon Cheney Jr. film The Wolfman, and both left a big impression on me when I was much younger, so much so that I still had memories of both episodes more than twenty years after they originally aired. However, upon a repeat viewing on Hulu, I saw that neither episode has help up well at all.
Both episodes feature the central teenage character of the series, Corey Matthews of Boy Meets World and Robbie Sinclair of Dinosaurs, having a wolfman-esque encounter and struggling with the consequences. In the case of Robbie, he encounters a caveman (who happens to be the same height as a dinosaur) before succumbing to…. cavemanism (???) himself. With Corey, well it’s a massive spoiler to say too much, but it is a little funny watching our pre-teen hero cope with his alleged final days, before the werewolf curse takes hold of him forever.
9. “Good Will Haunting” Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1998)
This one is on here because my roommate requested it. Sabrina is a witch; a teenage one, in fact. She lives with her two aunts and a talking cat. While her two aunts leave for a Halloween party in another dimension, Sabrina invites some friends over to watch movies with and pass out candy to trick or treaters. However, she receives an evil doll from her Great Aunt and soon hijinks straight out of a Chuckie movie ensue. Meanwhile her aunts find themselves trapped in an insane asylum with a number of crazy party guests.
All in all, there’s nothing wrong with this episode, or the show. It even features guest appearances from such horror icons as Frankenstein’s Monster, The Headless Horseman, The Mummy and The Wolfman. It makes a great filler episode in-between marathoning others on this list.
8. “And Then There Was Shawn” Boy Meets World (1998)
Another episode of Boy Meets World. This one is relatively low on the list due to airing in February instead of October and also because of another scene that we’ll talk about in a later editorial. However, side-stepping those issues (for now,) the episode is a pretty fun, if a bit on the nose, send-up of Scream and the other films of the hip late 90’s slasher film revival. It even features a guest star in Jennifer Love Hewitt, fresh off her success from Party of Five and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
7. “Ghost Story” Rugrats (1999)
This one is up her because of a request from my girlfriend. We leave the 90’s TGIF line-up and take a look at Rugrats, one of the original “Nicktoons.” Rugrats was a show that paved the way for many other Nickelodeon original shows such as iCarly, Danny Phantom and the undying monster that is Spongebob Squarepants.
In the episode, the group of babies are partake in telling a ghost story that varies from being incredibly scary to incredibly sweet, to incredibly silly. It also features a guest appearance from the characters of Aah!! Real Monsters, another popular Nicktoon of 1990’s. The episode is a good bit of light-hearted fun.
6. “Pinkeye” South Park (1997)
And now we leave the concept of light-heartedness behind entirely and take a look at one of the most savage television series to ever exist. South Park has been on the air for twenty years and “Pinkeye” is an episode for it’s very first season. It features a number of the now-iconic tropes of the series in it’s early years, including the infamous line “Oh my god, you killed Kenny, you bastard!” (A trope that has sense been more or less removed from the series.)
This episode simply features the town of South Park trying to cope with a zombie outbreak. No political commentary. No social problems addressed. Not even a statement of the line, “you know, I learned something today.” Long before the show became a major source for political and social commentary throughout the Bush and Obama years, South Park was simply a show about the antics of small-town Colorado through the eyes of four incredibly foul-mouthed kids.
5. “Treehouse of Horror I” The Simpsons (1990)
The Treehouse of Horror episodes are the longest running traditions of television’s longest-running show. No family celebrates Halloween quite like the Simpson Family. The very first special features a send-up of the classic Amittyville Horror series when the family movies into a haunted mansion, then a great spin on a classic Twilight Zone episode featuring the popular alien duo Kang and Kodos.
However the soul reason this episode is this high on my list is because of the third story, which is simply a reading of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven, presented to us by the one and only James Earl Jones. His voice alone places this in the top five.
4. “Arnold’s Halloween” Hey Arnold (1997)
Hey Arnold was one of my favorite shows as a kid. Just a simple story of a group of kids growing up in the inner city and having adventures ranging from the mundane to the fantastic. This episode takes the paranoia of Orson Well’s classic radio broadcast of War of the Worlds and cranks it up to eleven, showing a town in absolute pandemonium as a Halloween prank centered around an alien invasion goes horribly and hilariously wrong.
Hey Arnold is not a only a classic Nicktoon, but it is simply one of the best and is still popular to this day. A revival movie is said to be coming out very soon.
3. “Treehouse of Horror V” The Simpsons (1994)
“Treehouse of Horror V” is simply the best of the 28 (!) Halloween episodes that The Simpsons has given us. This is mostly due to the segment that kicks off the episode- a parody of the classic film The Shining called “The Shinning.” This segment has The Simpsons family take over a mysterious hotel in the mountains where strange things are a foot. Next, we see Homer mess with all of time and space and accidentally alter history in numerous hilarious ways. Finally, the last segment has Bart and Lisa Simpson discover a horrifying secret- the school principal has been eating the children sent to detention!
Each story is also noteworthy for including a scene where the loveable Scotsman Groundskeeper Willie attempts to save the day in each story, only to be abruptly killed with an ax to the back.
2. “The Haunting of Taylor House” Home Improvement (1992)
Unlike the other entries on this list, this episode features no monsters, serial killers, alien invasions or anything terribly gruesome. Instead we see the Taylor family throw a good, clean family-friendly Halloween party and Haunted House. Tim Taylor accidentally blows up a pumpkin in an attempt to streamline the tediousness of pumpkin carving, then later tries to help his oldest son Brad navigate the treacherous terrain of an angry girlfriend and finally the entire family teams up to give a bully the scare of his life and send him screaming from the house.
All in all, this episode is simply good, timeless fun, just like the show itself.
1. “Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery” South Park (1999)
Okay, honestly this really isn’t the best Halloween episode out of ANY of the others on this list. It’s not even one of the good episodes of South Park. Realistically, the top spot goes to Home Improvement, but hear me out on this.
This episode is wonderfully dated, wearing it’s late 90’s release date like a badge of honor. While the band often topped the charts and were featured prominently on MTV’s Total Request Live numerous times in the late 90s, Korn isn’t exactly a household name in 2017. I wonder if any of the people reading this are even aware of them, and honestly, I can’t say that I’ve even listened to them in at least a decade. They have a very limited shelf-life for some. However, the episode is still hilarious if you’re familiar with the band or even just old 1970’s Hanna Barbera cartoons.
The episode portrays Korn, a band notorious for being the bane of moms and public school administrators in the mid-90s, as a roaming band of teen detectives straight out of a Scooby Doo cartoon, complete with an alien bird mascot. They roll into the town of South Park and find themselves embroiled in a mystery involving pirate ghosts terrorizing the town. Fortunately, the 90’s metal band is able to crack the case, learning that the town is actually being terrorized by the most unlikely of suspects, using nothing more than a few q-tips and a flashlight.
When I watch the episode, I wish that there was an alternate universe where this episode spun off into a separate show, and that Korn continued to drive around America, solving mysteries and imparting words of wisdom to the younger generation. The episode is loaded with all the tackiness, fun and joy that perfectly captures the spirit of the season and is essential viewing for at least this Editor’s Halloween.
What about you? Are there any essential Halloween/Horror-themed episodes or even TV series that you enjoy streaming around this time of year, 90’s or otherwise? Let me know what you think.
P.S. Most of these episodes can easily be found on Hulu, in a playlist that more or less inspired this article.