We were super into Dustin & Suzie’s Neverending Story song duet in Stranger Things 3, so naturally we looked up the original 1984 movie and what-in-the-actual-heck?!? How did this freaky, flying dog thing not creep every kid in the ’80s out? Oh, that’s right. Everything in the last century for kids was a straight-up horror show. Ok, maybe not everything, but there’s a giant list of characters that will forever haunt our nightmares. Here are our top 15 scariest. You’ve been warned…
#15 – Falkor from The Neverending Story
It might be weird–way too weird for us to ever consider hopping on and taking a ride–but Falkor is actually the least frightening of the kids’ characters of the past. That doesn’t mean he’s not frightening though. The dog-like flying thing is actually a Luckdragon, whatever that is. This creature comes from a German storybook, and has been described as having paws, pink scales, white hair, ruby eyes, like a Chinese dragon, a camel, a lion, and a dog. Put that in a blender, and you have this magnificent furry weirdo. Who can fly without wings. Because he’s made of air or some craziness.
Luckdragons have no special powers except they can breathe blue fire and they sing. And they’re lucky. Oh, so lucky.
Sorry, we’ll take our dragons the right way: with scales and wings and fierceness toward everyone but their MOTHER.
Fun fact: In the German book, the beast is named Fuchur, after the Japanese word for “lucky dragon,” which is Fukuryū (福竜/福龍). The filmmakers wisely decided to change the name to Falkor since the original in both other languages sounded way too much like fuka-yu in English–no good for little kids to run around screaming. (Although, if they watched the movie, we’re assuming they’ll still be screaming.)
#14 – Chairry from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse
No, it’s not fun, Pee-Wee. A giant talking chair with a mouth that you actually sit on is not fun. And don’t even get us started on Dog Chair, that white monstrosity next to it with a mouth, sharp teeth, and an awkwardly-placed nose. Chairs are supposed to look like this:
Friendly. Normal. And without teeth that can possibly bite your butt. Chairs are for sitting. Chairs are for thinking. Chairs are not for terrorizing innocent people who just want to get off their feet for a darn minute. Yes, Anderson Cooper (previously revered serious CNN news reporter guy that we just can’t take seriously now), Chairry is a nightmare.
But surely Chairry isn’t the scariest thing on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, you say. And you would be right. There are a ton of creepy characters just waiting to haunt us. Like Randy, the puppet bully, or Roger the monster (who looks a lot like Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc. if you ask us…).
And these guys: the Playhouse Gang. It’s 1987, kids. No one dresses like that!
But truly, it’s Chairry that freaks us out the most. Because we need to actually sit in chairs the rest of our lives without worrying about them swallowing us.
Don’t get us wrong, we love Pee-Wee Herman himself. Dude was a snappy dresser and way ahead of his time for demanding diversity on and off the set. But his show was a nightmare. We’ll leave you with the theme song (sung by ’80s icon Cyndi Lauper of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” fame). You’re welcome.
#13 – The Sleestaks from Land of the Lost
The theme song was actually catchy. Holly was cute. But then these guys showed up and ruined everything. They’re almost 7 feet tall. They have pinchers for hands. They sleep upright. They communicate by hissing. And they eat humans. No thank you.
At least we have nice locals like sweet Neanderthal boy Cha-Ka. Oh, wait…
#12 – The Yip Yips from Sesame Street
Our moms think these guys are funny. They’re not. They’re terrifying. They not only do nothing but yip-yip-yip and nope-nope-nope and spaz out, they can pull their mouths up over their damn faces.
Apparently this is a popular Halloween costume for the older generation. If we ever saw people dressed like this out in public, we would pee our pants and have a heart attack all at the same time.
Some people actually crochet these monsters as if they’re some cute and cuddly toys. They’re not.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, some sickos have made clothing with these creatures on them. Actual clothing! Like dresses and swimsuits and leggings.
This pretty much sums up how we feel about the Yip Yips:
#11 – Mr. Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street
Also known as Aloysius Snuffleupagus or Snuffy–or in our house What-In-The-Actual-Hell–this elephant/anteater/dinosaur/monster nightmare could, for a long time, only been seen by Big Bird.
We wish it had stayed that way.
The character was created by the education geniuses at Sesame Street to help kids who had imaginary friends. Help them how? By showing them the relentless teasing they would get when no-one ever believed them? By scaring the crap out of children without imaginary friends? “Be mean to Billy all you want. His not-really-imaginary friend will eat you!”
Nothing about this creature is cool. Not his weird voice. Not the way he can barely walk or turn around. And certainly not his foot-long eyelashes. Sweet Thor, those eyelashes!
Oh, and his trunk isn’t called a trunk, it’s actually called a “snuffle” and other characters such as Elmo like to stroke it. You’re welcome.
Snuffy is apparently eternally 4 years old and lives in a cave near Sesame Street (there are caves in New York City?) with his family of freaks including little sister Alice, tophat-wearing Uncle Abe, and cousins Abigail and Señor Snuffalupago.
After learning that 40% of kids in America were affected by divorce, Sesame Street writers decided to mess with Snuffy’s family as well by having his parents get one. The resulting episode though had a mysterious “negative effect” on test audience kids and was never aired.
After watching a particularly frightening 60 Minutes segment about child abuse however, producers decided that maybe the adults on Sesame Street not believing Big Bird all those years was a bad thing–as in, why would kids ever tell adults any of their secrets when they knew they’d just be ridiculed like their yellow, feathered hero? So 17 years after his debut, the adults finally got to see Snuffy. (Only after Big Bird yelled “Food!” to get their attention because there’s no other way to get adults’ attention apparently.) The adults apologized to Big Bird for not believing him all these years, but Big Bird told them all to suck an egg. Or at least in our version he did…
The Snuffleupagus costume was so big and heavy, it had to be flown around via helicopter when the series filmed in Hawaii. During regular shooting days, it was covered by a pink blanked and hung from the ceiling.
We know there are plenty of Snuffleupagus fans out there (at least the sale of Snuffy POPs suggests there are). To you, we say, feast your eyes on the original Snuffy. Yeah, we stand by our ranking.
#10 – Lady Elaine Fairchilde from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood
Every neighborhood needs a crazy, old, white lady to yell at kids who play on their lawn and tell the authorities (King Friday in this instance) that they’re not the boss of everyone. In the neighborhood of Make-Believe, that lady was named Elaine. Lady Elaine, if you know what’s good for you.
She did have a cool house, the Museum-Go-Round thing. She was a boss, starting her own TV studio and becoming an astronaut. She was sassy to be sure. But she was also scary as all get out.
First off, there’s her face. We don’t want to be judgey; sure she has a big nose and an unfortunate haircut. But the wart and the coloring on her cheeks? She looks infected with something. Maybe… evil? Her scratchy voice didn’t help. Nor did the fact that when she was mad, she could turn the entire place into the original Upside Down with her magic Boomerang-Toomerang-Soomerang (of revenge).
Mr. Rogers Productions wised up and gave Lady Elaine a total makeover for the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood cartoon. She apparently lost 40 years and gained a fine husband, Music Man Stan, and adorable daughter Miss Elaina, but none of that will erase the memory of the original dead-eyed puppet. Right, Toots? (She apparently called everyone “Toots.” We have no idea what this means. We’re assuming it’s an olde tyme thing.)
#9 – The Gorgs in Fraggle Rock
We’re not big fans of Fraggle Rock. The theme song alone is an earworm large enough to kill you:
We’re not super big fans of puppets in general, but we especially hate giant puppets. Like giant-er than giant humans. Like the Gorgs. Don’t get us wrong, there are plenty of creepy characters in Fraggle Rock. Like this guy:
And these guys:
And even this horrifying trash heap:
But the Gorgs are the scariest of all because they are ginormous. On the show, they were supposed to be 15 feet tall, but in person, they’re still taller than anything with legs ever should be. Sorry, Mr. Henson, you can give these monstrosities cute names like “Junior” all you want, they are still the stuff of nightmares.
#8 – Sweetums from the Muppets
While we’re on the subject of larger-than-life beasties, we have to address the Muppets resident nightmare, Sweetums the ogre. Again, Mr. Henson, call them by all the cute names you want, these gargantuan puppets are HORRIFYING.
True story: we were at the Muppet*Vision 3D show at Disney World a few years ago, and at the end of the film, when a real, life-sized Sweetums ran out onto the stage, a middle-aged woman got so scared, she ran screaming out of the theater. (She may or may not have been one of our mothers.)
We do not care that Sweetums is supposedly sweet, a gentle giant as it were. He is 6-foot-7-inches tall and looks like he would kill us. We will never give him the chance.
#7 – H.R. Pufnstuf
The reign of terror of giant-sized puppet monsters began in 1969 with the terribly trippy TV show H.R. Pufnstuf. Your ’80s-raised parents probably won’t remember it, but their parents will. It only lasted 1 season, but it was so popular, it re-ran through most of the ’70s. It was the brainchild of Sid & Marty Krofft who also gave the world Land of the Lost.
The story goes that a young boy named Jimmy is shipwrecked on a magical island ruled by his benevolent royal highness H.R. Pufnstuf. Although the entire island seems like a drug-induced fantasy–the name literally sounds like “puffing stuff” when said out loud–the creators swear they were never using… during the making of it anyway. Marty Krofft told USA Today, “No drugs involved. You can’t do drugs when you’re making shows. Maybe after, but not during.” Um, ok.
A sequel of sorts was revived on Nickelodeon in 2015 called Mutt & Stuff that featured H.R.’s nephew and dog trainer Cesar Millan’s son, but it was cancelled after 2 seasons.
Admittedly, H.R. isn’t as scary on the surface as Junior or Sweetums, but he gets a higher fright ranking for starting the big-head, towering nightmare puppet trend.
#6 – E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
Don’t believe E.T. is hideous? Fight me. He looks like a cross between a starving third-world child and what you’re afraid your great-grandma looks like under her nightgown.
The glowing finger and light-up chest don’t make him any less creepy. The fact that he inspired Eleven’s dress-up disguise scene in Stranger Things doesn’t either. E.T. is gross.
We recognize the possible hypocrisy in the fact that we love ourselves some Yoda. But Yoda is actually adorable. Maybe it’s because instead of just sitting around and stuffing his face with candy all day, he dispenses actual wisdom and wears clothes that cover up his wrinkly nastiness. Yoda is our adopted grandfather. E.T. is what happens when grandma goes to the nursing home.
Need more proof? When Jedis die, they respect those of us left behind by disappearing into thin air. Extra-terrestrials, on the other hand, when they die, splay their ugly bloated bodies out as dramatically as possible to make the rest of us sick.
We know director Steven Spielberg is a master. We love most of his stuff. Just not this. Maybe love for E.T. is one of those “you had to be there” things. We weren’t. Some things just don’t age well. E.T. is one of them.
#5 – All the Gremlins from Gremlins
Another ’80s movie, executive produced by Spielberg, that does not translate well is Gremlins. We only saw it on cable years later when we were unsuspecting small kids and it scared us sick. Like, we still jump at random noises and are afraid of Christmas. That’s right, Christmas. Because it literally kills Santa Claus, as in stuck-in-a-chimney, decomposing-body, try-ever-forgetting-that-story kills.
If you want to kill us, simply start singing “Do You Hear What I Hear?” while banging on our air-conditioning vents.
The 1984 movie is especially horrifying because, unlike the horror movies of the day with similarly scary creatures like Leprechaun or Child’s Play, Gremlins was made specifically for kids. It was marketed as a fun family movie. Even worse, instead of just unleashing bad guys, Gremlins starts with this mind-twist:
The movie poster, the lunchboxes, the stuffed plush all screamed: Go see this movie because it’s full of adorable teddy bear-like creatures! So of course, kids went and were duly traumatized. By this:
And especially this:
Yes, that’s actually a gremlin opening his trench coat to flash his genitalia at this poor, young girl, Kate:
Adults were not amused at the movie marketing trickery. The New York Times warned, “They attack their young audience as mercilessly as the creatures attack the characters.” The fact that the movie was given a PG rating led to the almost immediate creation of the PG-13 category. Because maybe, just maybe, 5-year-olds don’t need to see a teacher stabbed by a letter opener or their mom almost killed by this:
#4 – Sloth from The Goonies
Call us a-holes if you will. We know Sloth is really just a huge guy born with a craniofacial disorder. We know that now. But when we were kids, which is when Sloth surfaces, in another kid movie by obvious child-hater Steven Spielberg, we didn’t understand he was anything other than a monster. What were were supposed to think when he was introduced this way?:
He is chained up like a monster. Grunts like a monster. And no-one ever explains otherwise.
We do feel sorry for him. We’re glad he becomes friends with the Goonies. But he still scares us half-stupid.
Even the fact that Lego made him a minifig doesn’t help. It just makes us more conflicted about being creeped out by a movie monster that isn’t really a monster.
Maybe we were extra freaked out, not because of Sloth’s face, but because of his unusual size. We are girls, after all. Blindly trusting every scary-looking, 6-foot-8-inch man you meet is not in our best interest. They might all have hearts of gold. Or they might be serial killers.
You know what, Goonies? Screw you for making us doubt ourselves. We refuse to take moral direction from a movie that wants us to believe girls are so stupid that heroine Andy would mistakenly kiss her boyfriend’s scrawny little brother. We don’t care how dark that cave was, no one would mistake Brand for Mikey. No one.
#3 – Salacious B. Crumb & Jabba the Hutt from the Star Wars films
We know we’re treading on thin ice here, but giant Star Wars fans that we are, we cannot pretend we weren’t completely freaked out by everything to do with Jabba the Hut and his creepy little cackling companion Salacious Crumb. Oh and Bib Fortuna. We hate him too.
They are all completely and utterly disgusting. This little jerk, a Kowakian monkey-lizard, gave us the heebie-jeebies from the get-go. With his saggy, wrinkly skin, beady eyes, and hair in all the wrong places, he looks like a cross between our two least favorite things: reptiles and old people.
Then there was Jabba himself, with his mismatched nostrils, giant wormy girth, and slobbery, snotty, saliva-y grossness. Not to mention that tongue. When he did this to our beloved princess, we almost fainted:
When he did this, we were damn near done:
Thankfully, the Star Wars universe has become much more female friendly (huge heart eyes at Rey and Rose), but we’re talking about our nightmares here, and having monsters that enslave women is right up there near the top. Obviously.
#2 – Everything in Labyrinth
Yeah, yeah, David Bowie was supremely cool. Nothing else about this movie was though. Not the beautiful young girl constantly in danger (we’re sensing a theme here), not the baby brother constantly in danger, and not any of the creepy creatures constantly causing danger.
Not these guys:
Not this guy:
And not this guy:
Even the weapons they used against each other were frightening creatures with even scarier teeth. Behold the Nipper Stick:
Again, this is a movie made for kids, rated PG, and yet it includes torture, characters peeing, and a middle-aged king so obsessed with a teenaged girl that he drugs her. This is wrong on so many levels.
And then there are these:
Oh yes, those are the Helping Hands. Large, disembodied, male-looking hands that “help” teenaged Sarah by groping her all over her body while she says, “help,” “oh, yuck,” and “you’re hurting.” When they threaten to immediately drop her and not “help” her anymore, she quickly apologizes and begs them to pick her up again. Um, no. And no again.
#1 – The Dark Crystal. All of it. Every single creature. Arrgghhh!
Damn you, Netflix, for resurrecting this most gruesome of children’s shows. It is the single worst things ever created. It’s not a nightmare; it’s a night terror. Without a solitary human co-star, there is no break from the wicked puppet world. It’s relentless. It consumes you. It slips into your brain and hands your inner demons a Red Bull.
We refuse to spend even a second listing the awful names and characteristics of the creatures in this monstrosity, so instead, here are some images to wallpaper your psyche.
We have these giant beetle-like soldiers with swords:
Even the good guys have to ride things that look like this:
Then you have these guys. Lots and lots of these guys. They’re tall and they walk. Like they could walk into your living room right now…
Here’s another one:
How about a close-up?
These are different characters, we swear:
It couldn’t get worse, right? Oh, it could:
You get the idea. No, no you don’t. Not until you see what cannot be unseen. The grandaddy of all horribleness. Or grandmammy as it were. The worst creature ever created. Presenting the #1 of the #1 most frightening children’s characters. Aughra, the wise woman. Who has a mustache. And boobs. Droopy boobs. With nipples.
There is nothing more horrifying on this or any other planet.
Or is there?