Once upon a time, before family therapy, kids were allowed to watch some seriously creepy stuff. There's a fine line between childish whimsy and straight up terrifying, and these shows stumbled far, far over that line.
Do you remember...
Lift Off (1992-1995)
Possibly one of the freakiest kids shows simply because of the faceless doll that appears in each and every episode. This supposedly educational show features a group of young children and the problems they encounter growing up along with segments of animation, puppetry (*shudders*), documentary segments and much more. You just can't escape EC… especially in your nightmares!
HR Pufnstuf (1969-1970)
This used to be the only video at my grandparents' house, so I am very familiar with HR, that weird witch, the tiny cowboy, Living Island and the rest of the characters (things?) in this colourful show. Why it was on our TVs however? I have no idea.
Actually, while we're thinking about it, what is HR Pufnstuf?
Adventure Island (1967 to 1972)
A suggestion from some more mature journalists, Adventure Island hosted a strong Good Over Evil Motif in every story (which spanned the course of a week!). Who would expect a child to go to sleep every night AND learn something at school the next day when they have had the begeezus scared out of them? Apparently "it always turned out on Fridays" but I'm not game to find out!
The Magic Roundabout
I'm against any show where someone bursts out like a jack-in-the-box or spoke directly to you from the camera. Add in a merry-go-round and you have something nightmares are made of! Apparently this show appealed to the parents, as it was right before the news, but I think I'd rather tune in earlier and go to bed before the news than watch this show.
This is the show HR Pufnstuf was based on. Banana Splits was part live action, part animated (scary enough!). The main characters were a beagle crossed with a retriever, an orange-furred gorilla, a lion and an elephant who only spoke in honking noises. The segments were meant to be musical and comical, but whether the producers achieved that is another question. Although it should be noted there is a TV movie coming out later this year and it's a "horror-like" setting - 'nuff said.
Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men
Bill and Ben surpass generations, everyone seems familiar with the kooky pair as their show was first transmitted in 1952 and re-produced in 2001. This means almost everyone has been exposed to the two men who live in flower pots… But you have to ask yourself, two men with pots as bodies, a flower with a face, a man made out of potato and a tortoise. You also NEVER see any humans. And let's be honest, if someone is yelling "flobabdob" wouldn't you be scared?
Monkey or Monkey Magic
The weirdness in Monkey Magic starts in the theme song, title character Monkey is described as "born from an egg on a mountain top" - which would be fine except it's a stone egg, and he is a stone monkey who is also a fighter.
The song then goes on to claim that he is "the punkiest monkey that ever popped" which I have a few problems with; firstly what does that mean? Secondly have you seen Aladdin? Apu pops! Anyway a few things go down and Monkey is imprisoned under the mountain for 500 years. (Is this a *spoiler alert* if the series is over 30 years old?) Anyway, things happen and basically the plot gets more weird… but hey if that's what you're into…
Round the Twist
I have vivid memories of Round the Twist, what else was on at 5pm on a weeknight? And the show ran for 11 years! It won't matter what age I get to if someone sings the words "have you ever, ever felt like this?" I will always respond with "strange things happen, when you're goin' round the twist." But I also have to blame this show for me thinking babies come from a cabbage patch, all outhouses are haunted and certain appendages can make you swim faster. Scary? Yes! Addictive? Hell yes!
My brother had a weird thing for the Gumby cartoons and it's only now in my late 20s I realise how weird it actually is. He is obviously very popular however, the green clay thing has had two television shows, a feature length film and much more made about him. Gumby and his sidekick Pokey (a talking clay orange pony of course) are in a band, hold down full-time jobs and confront bullies. Sounds like they have it more together than a lot of millennials.
Johnson and Friends
The freakiest thing about this show is that these toys are so relatable, I mean I would loved Michael's toy box as a kid, but it caused many trust issues with my toys (and my hot water bottle for that matter) - what exactly were they doing when I walked out of the room? But my mum always let me watch it because it had an educational message. So I guess you have to take the good with the bad or scary.