Cable access shows aside, the strangest stuff on TV has to be children’s programming. I used to watch it myself, but I was a picky viewer — much of it I found boring, and downright weird. I was also a nightmare-prone kid, plagued by recurring nightmares about Count Chocula, for instance, and my mom wouldn’t let me watch Thundercats because she thought Lion-O’s mummified antagonist, Mumm-Ra, was too scary for me. (She was probably right.) As I get older, though, I realize that I never had the misfortune of being exposed to the strangest of the strange when it came to kids’ shows — but that’s exactly what YouTube is for! Looking back, it boggles the mind that adult television executives thought these shows would appeal to children; I think they’re some of the creepiest clips ever aired. See if you don’t agree.
1. Peppermint Park
These puppets are like textbook examples from Freud’s classic essay on the uncanny, Das Unheimliche, perhaps best illustrated by the now-famous “uncanny valley” graph. I’d argue that the “Peppermint Park” puppets are at least as uncanny as reanimated corpses:
2. Los Dientes!
In this clip from an unknown Spanish TV show, a kid and puppet repeat “the teeth!” over and over again while laughing like hyenas. The wolf, the spastic laughing, the chattering teeth — it’s like a perfect recipe for debilitating nightmares.
3. The Adventures of Mark Twain
This creepily-claymated rendition of Mark Twain’s classic story “The Mysterious Stranger” has a group of kids meeting Satan … with results so unsettling, this episode was apparently banned from TV.
4. Fun with Grids
We’re not sure which show this clip is from exactly, but then again, maybe we’re better off not knowing. Four minutes of this insane rabbit character and his friend, who from what I can tell is doing a terrible impression of an autistic boy, is more than enough. Cool-a-rama!!
Noseybonk, a character from the BBC kids’ show Jigsaw, looks like some twisted precursor to the Jigsaw killer from the Saw movies (hmm, wonder where they got the name?) … absolutely frightening.
6. Don’t put it in your mouth!
While this PSA has an important message to convey — don’t put random things in your mouth, kids! — its lyrics are far too easy to mock, and its puppets far too strange and creepy. The theory behind puppet design seems to be, if you put fur on it, no matter how weirdly-shaped it is, kids will find it charming and lovable. If only it were that easy.
7. The New Zoo Revue: “The Miracle of Birth”
Big creepy puppets that look exactly like the ones from Peter Jackson’s nightmarish Meet the Feebles? Check. Super-awkward sex-ed dialogue? Check. 70s hair that makes everybody look vaguely like sex predators? Check. Worst song ever? Double-check.
8. Many Voices, Many Visions: “You look like a little black boy!”
Oh man, this one’s a kettle of worms. It’s from the PBS show Many Voices, Many Visions, and the way it was edited (by YouTube user cringevision), leaves out a lot of context, so it’s hard to tell what the intention of this segment truly was. But the mom comforting her son by saying “Hey, it’s not like you’re really black!” — says it all. Creepy on a whole new level.
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More Info: mentalfloss.com