Family Matters, Dick Van Dyke, Punky Brewster and more all have their freaky moments – and you can watch those episodes online!
Sitcoms have given us so much – laughs, convoluted misunderstandings and even life lessons. But on occasion, they also broke from the typical formula and gave us a few scares. Sometimes they did it to celebrate Halloween. Sometimes they just did it to freak out children in the audience who might not be in on the joke.
Here, then, are a handful of the oddball episodes of classic sitcoms that you can watch right now online – and that you might not believe actually aired until you see them for yourself.
The Facts of Life, "The Seven Little Indians" Aired: January 3, 1987
The ’80s were the decade of the slasher film, but you have to wonder why Facts of Life writers decided that the girls of Eastland School should get in on this trend. In this episode, the girls watch such a movie (The Halloween Hacker 3: Part 6, A New Beginning – Dave Returns Again) and return home to be picked off by a killer. Should it surprise anyone that the killer turns out to be Blair?
The Dick Van Dyke Show, "It May Look Like a Walnut" Aired: February 6, 1963
In 1997, TV Guide ranked this one as the 15th-greatest all-time episode of TV, but you’d be forgiven if you forgot about that one where Rob thinks Laura and the rest of his friends are being turned into aliens, Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style. And that’s not all. There’s also Uhny Uftz, the episode where Rob sees a UFO.
The Cosby Show, "Cliff’s Nightmare" Aired: January 11, 1990
It’s not so much scary as downright surreal, but this very unusual Cosby features an inexplicable narrator, Raven-Symoné inventing pasteurization, and Muppets performing unnecessary surgery on Cliff. The lesson? When Claire Huxtable tells you not to eat a sausage sandwich before bed, listen to her. This is a sequel to another nightmare episode, "The Day the Spores Landed," in which all the male Huxtables give birth.
The Hogan Family, "Nightmare on Oak Street" Aired: November 23, 1987
No TV-loving ’80s child kid needed to see zombie Sandy Duncan, but the powers that be made us watch it anyway. It seems hokey by today’s standards, but fast-forward to the 6:13 mark in the above video to see the mask responsible for many a nightmare. Watch the thrilling conclusion here, and consider this: Odd how this zombie episode aired not all that long after the show killed off Valerie Harper’s character, right?
Punky Brewster, "The Perils of Punky" Aired: October 20, 1985
“Hey, what if we did a two-parter where Punky and her friends get trapped in a cave-in? And Punky tells a ghost story? And there’s a bunch of phony Native American spiritualism? And they get attacked by a giant spider? And maybe Alan gets decapitated?” Yes, this all happened, and here’s part two if you don’t believe it.
Boy Meets World, "And Then There Was Shawn" Aired: February 27, 1998
Even in a post-Scream universe, this one seems weird. Cory and the gang get detention, where they’re bumped off by a masked killer. Will Friedle’s girlfriend at the time – a fresh off I Know What You Did Last Summer Jennifer Love Hewitt – guest stars as Jennifer Love Pfefferman.
Mr. Belvedere, "Kevin’s Model" Aired: January 15, 1988
The main plot may be about older brother Kevin’s romance with a girl who poses nude for an art class, but you may remember this episode better as the one with “The trees … The trees … ” Wesley tries to gaslight his sister and give her a nervous breakdown by making her think that Christmas trees are trying to kill her. No, really.
The Brady Bunch, "Bobby’s Hero" Aired: February 2, 1973
Bobby decides to idolize the outlaw Jesse James causing some concern from Mike and Carol. The situation resolves itself, however, when Bobby has a dream that an Old West version of his family meets James on a train – and he executes them all as Bobby watches in horror. Fast-forward to the 21-minute mark to see the pantomimed but nonetheless disturbing mass shooting. What the hell, Brady Bunch?
Family Matters, "Stevil" Aired: October 31, 1997
Steve Urkel attempts ventriloquism and nightmares result. The little guy, dubbed “Stevil,” bumps off the entire Winslow family. The whole episode is posted online, but it’s one of those instances where someone just points a camcorder at a TV screen. This clip of poor Hariette transformed into a jack-in-the-box conveys the horror just enough.
Of course, Roseanne and The Simpsons are famous for their spooky Halloween episodes. But there’s a difference between having a rep for getting spooky around Halloween and doing a one-off nightmare episode.
Growing Pains did a two-part Halloween episode in its sixth episode, “Happy Halloween,” that had the family telling scary stories. Similarly, Perfect Strangers did a Halloween episode, “Aliens,” in which Balki’s status as a resident alien becomes quite literal.