13 Terrifying Halloween TV Specials That Gave Every 2000s Kid the Creeps
As a kid, the entire month of October was about cramming in as much time as possible between my busy schedule of school and homework to catch up on all the Halloween TV specials. I've thrown more than a few truly terrifying Halloween movies and shows into my holiday film mix since then. But, as chilling as American Horror Story or The Haunting of Hill House can be, there's something about The Suite Life of Zack & Cody's "Ghost in Suite 613" episode and Hey Arnold's "Ghost Bride" that still sends shivers down my spine.
So, if you're in need of some nostalgia, check out the most creeptastic Halloween episodes of some of your favorite childhood shows ahead — and if you need even more creepy content to keep you entertained until Halloween, don't be afraid to dig into this list of the best Halloween TV specials of the '90s, too!
Lizzie McGuire — "Night of the Day of the Dead "
Lizzie's arch nemesis Kate Sanders is in charge of organizing the school Halloween party, but when Kate disrespects Miranda's ancestral skeleton decorations, creepy things start to happen. Seeing an opportunity to get revenge on her bully, Lizzie tricks Kate into thinking Miranda's ancestors are out for revenge, resulting in spooky zombie attacks and walking skeletons.
Courage the Cowardly Dog — "Spirit of the Harvest Moon"
If you watched every episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog growing up, you were a brave kid, because pretty much every episode was terrifying. But who could forget the episode where a realistic talking moon head (aka The Harvest Moon) haunted the basement? The Harvest Moon, which looked like something straight out of a 1930s horror film and sounded even more horrifying, was upset with the way Eustace mistreated the farmland around them and refuses to leave until he can successfully grow a plant. Considering they live in a barren flatland, you can imagine how well that went.
Hey Arnold — "Ghost Bride"
Hey Arnold had way more creepy episodes than was completely justifiable for a show about a fourth-grader with a football-shaped head. Aside from the episode about the murderous train conductor and the episode about the headless cabbie that haunts the park, the show took a dark turn with its "Ghost Bride" episode, in which Arnold and his friends do a stake-out in the graveyard to see if the legend of the undead bride is true. This episode features a few jump scares and a silly ending, ultimately making for a fun Halloween scare . . . if you ignore the actual ghost bride making a cameo at the end.
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters — "The Switching Hour"
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters was a show about, well, monsters, so it's not surprising that the first episode takes place on Halloween. The episode, which follows the purple monster Ickis as he gets mixed up with a human child on Halloween night, is actually pretty cute overall — but there's a spooky surprise for anyone willing to watch through to the very end.
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody — "The Ghost in Suite 613"
If you don't remember this episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, then you need to get yourself in front of a TV immediately. Briefly one of the most terrifying Halloween specials of my childhood, "The Ghost in Suite 613" is a Disney Channel classic. From the tragic backstory of the Tipton's resident ghost to the lingering scent of pizza and Esteban's Exorcist-inspired seance, this episode was pretty much the talk of the town in elementary school.
Catdog — "Catdogula"
Catdog, while hilarious, had its fair share of (probably) unintentionally creepy episodes. (I'm looking at you, Taco Depot owner.) In season three, Cat sets out on a mission to save Dog after his brother is bitten by ticks and turned into a vampire. Pretty much everyone in town gets infected by the ticks, resulting in mentions of "bloodless cattle," werewolves, and a full-blown vampire army.
Rugrats — "Ghost Story"
Did anyone else think the intro animation for the Rugrats was kind of creepy? That aside, the babies had a spooky surprise in store when Angelica leads them into the attic of her house to tell scary stories. As the babies come up with different creepy ideas, they actually happen on the screen, resulting in Phil and Lil looking like characters straight from the Addams Family, Tommy turning into a ghost, and the monsters from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters casually making an appearance. A toddler myself at the time, I've got to say I was pretty impressed.
The Simpsons — "Treehouse of Horror XII: House of Whacks"
Is there a "Treehouse of Horror" episode from The Simpsons that isn't amazing? In this particular Halloween episode, the family tries to give their home a "smart" upgrade, and the house becomes too powerful and tries to kill Homer . . . multiple times. As the Simpsons try to escape the house of horrors and save Homer — who may or may not still be alive — lots of running and screaming occurs, making for an episode that isn't so much spooky as it is absolutely thrilling.
That's So Raven — "Don't Have a Cow"
Ok, Raven did wear a lot of disguises over the course of That's So Raven, but not all of her looks involved clever makeup and false mustaches. The second episode of the show's second season, "Don't Have a Cow," follows Raven and Chelsea as they attempt to use magic to get into a Halloween party their school bully, Alana, is hosting. The plan works, but a mistake causes them to experience a few . . . side effects. It's still not clear why Disney Channel decided to go with cows to spook their audience on Halloween, but it did sort of work. At the very least, it was hilarious to see Raven's reaction after her bovine transformation.
Spongebob Squarepants — "Scaredy Pants"
Early Spongebob Squarepants episodes hold a special place in my heart, for better or for worse, and "Scaredy Pants" was one of those episodes that left me with my mouth hanging open thinking, "What. Just. Happened." During the Halloween-themed episode, Spongebob hears a ghost story about the Flying Dutchman, which consequently makes him jump at just about everything in sight, earning him the nickname "Spongebob Scaredypants."
In an attempt to make himself look scary for the upcoming Halloween party and redeem himself, Spongebob asks for Patrick's help in coming up with a costume and takes things way too far when he shaves his head to look rounder, like a ghost, leaving his brain exposed. At the party, Spongebob reveals his new look to everyone at the Krusty Krab, which sends them all running away screaming. Good times, Nickelodeon.
Rocko's Modern Life — "Sugar Frosted Frights"
In this silly season three episode, Rocko and his friends go trick-or-treating, which apart from giving Filburt a sugar rush, results in the trio running into the ghost of a one-legged mercenary called the Hopping Hessian, who throws his missing leg at them as they attempt to run away from him in a graveyard. While Rocko and his friends are initially terrified, it's later revealed that the ghost was only trying to play a Halloween prank on them, and the leg he threw was actually their friend Gordon, a disembodied talking leg. Yep, makes perfect sense.
What's New Scooby-Doo? — "A Scooby-Doo Halloween"
Scooby-Doo was a TV staple at my house growing up, but the Halloween episodes were always the best. During "A Scooby-Doo Halloween," Velma takes the gang to visit her family at Banning Junction and attend a Halloween festival headlined by the band KISS. When they arrive, they're greeted by a slew of living scarecrows and the ghost of the town's founder, which means the gang can't rest until they've figured out what's causing all of these creepy happenings.
Danny Phantom — "Fright Night"
In a show about a kid who turns into a ghost, it's not supersurprising to think that a few ghouls and zombies might show up occasionally. All Danny wants to do is beat his nemesis Brad at a haunted house-building contest, but his connection to the other side means he has to face the wrath of a skeleton army and the Fright Knight who leads them before he can be a normal teenager. While I still kind of wish I grew up with superhero powers, I don't envy Danny in this episode in the slightest.