If you’re unfamiliar with R. L. Stine‘s The Haunting Hour, just imagine a modernized version of Goosebumps without the awful acting and lame twists. Unlike its fairly tame ’90s predecessors, The Haunting Hour regularly pushed the boundaries of kid-friendly horror. The series ran for four seasons (2010 to 2014) and had 76 episodes, some of which were adapted from Stine’s anthologies Nightmare Hour and The Haunting Hour. Though some episodes were campy or cheesy, most ended on disconcerting notes with the implied doom or death of the lead character.
So for anyone who grew up watching Goosebumps and was disappointed after revisiting the show as an adult, here are five genuinely creepy episodes of The Haunting Hour that will revive your faith in the genre.
“Catching Cold” (season 1, episode 17)
A haunted ice cream truck drives a boy insane in this chilling installment. “Catching Cold” was the episode that introduced me to the show and got me hooked. Interestingly enough, the plotline doesn’t come from Stine; it was adapted from a short story written by Neal Shusterman.
Summer camp may be a common setting for horror, but “Dreamcatcher” adds the element of a murderous human-spider invading your dreams. With similarities to A Nightmare on Elm Street, the episode stands out as one of the darkest of the series.
“The Red Dress” (season 1, episode 6)
After stealing an expensive red dress from a shopkeeper, a teenage girl must face the grim consequences of her actions. Many of the show’s episodes serve as morality tales, and in “The Red Dress,” the girl’s comeuppance is quite shocking.
“Pumpkinhead” (season 2, episode 5)
In this Halloween-themed episode, a deranged farmer is kidnapping kids and switching their heads with pumpkins. Impressive and unsettling set designs and effects make this a stand-out episode. In the season-four sequel, “Return of the Pumpkinheads,” a family moves into the recently deceased farmer’s house, unaware of its disturbing history.
“Mascot” (season 2, episode 8)
Though other fans may disagree, I believe “Mascot” is one of the scariest episodes of the series. The plot follows two students as they petition to change their school mascot, which is currently a large creature named “Big Yellow.” But the problem is, no one knows who Big Yellow really is.
*Updated April 7, 2020