Top 10 Spooky Children Shows

Written by Shane Fraser

As kids, they made us afraid to go to sleep. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 spooky children shows.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the popular, creepy television shows that are geared specifically toward children.

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Written by Shane Fraser

As kids, these shows made us afraid to go to sleep. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 spooky children shows.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the popular, creepy television shows that are geared specifically toward children.

#10: “Beetlejuice” (1989-91)

For those familiar with the movie, the “Beetlejuice” television series was a worthy spinoff – just with a much lighter tone and more kid-friendly themes. Following the titular ghost and his adventures in The Neitherworld with his Goth friend Lydia Deetz, the series features all the monsters, ghosties, Ghoulies and zombies you’d expect from a Tim Burton cartoon. Since Burton was involved in the creative process, the show retained the offbeat charm and supernatural infusion present in the film. That made the series a hit: it lasted four seasons and even won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program. For ‘80s babies, animated “Beetlejuice” was impossible to ignore, avoid, or not to be at least kinda scared of.

#9: “The Real Ghostbusters” (1986-92)

This cartoon based on our favorite paranormal investigators was a phenomenon in the late-‘80s-early-‘90s. Obviously riding on the success of the movie, the animated series caught the attention of children everywhere, and became a revenue-generating machine. Sillier and goofier than the 1984 film, but still spooky by kids’ standards thanks to the ghosts-of-the-week, the show aired on ABC for seven seasons, and the merchandise licensing was extensive: a line of Real Ghostbusters toys was released that was just as successful as the show, while Slimer was even featured on HI-C’s Ecto-Cooler drink until 1997! With witty jokes and the occasional scare, it’s no mystery why an animated Ghostbusters show would be popular among kids of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

#8: “The Addams Family” (1992-93)

There’ve been several takes on the Addams Family over the years, but today is the ‘90s’ animated version’s chance to shine. It lasted two seasons, featured all the regular characters, and even had John Astin from the original live-action series reprising his role as Gomez. Produced by Hanna-Barbera, the animated “Addams Family” possessed the quirkiness and spookiness that the franchise is known for, although it was significantly less macabre since it was made for children. Following the success of the first “Addams Family” feature film, the series was embraced by a fresh generation of kids, proving you can’t go wrong with Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Cousin Itt, Lurch and the rest of the family in any medium.

#7: “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy” (2003-08)

If you’re searching for a children’s show that pushed the envelope, look no further than “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy.” One of the protagonists of the show is the Grim Reaper—literally the embodiment of death—who accidentally ends up eternally bonded with two annoying kids after losing to them in a game of limbo. Hilarity and creepiness ensue, as they travel through various planes of paranormal existence, battling ghosts, monsters, and demons. The series was a hit with kids seeking unique and somewhat spooky entertainment, as it lasted six seasons on the Cartoon Network; an incredibly long run for an animated kid’s show.

#6: “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” (1969-70; 1978)

No matter when you grew up, you were probably exposed to some incarnation of the Scooby-Doo franchise, and it was pretty impossible not to fall in love with it. Full of wacky characters, scary monsters, slapstick comedy, and captivating mysteries, Scooby-Doo has all the adventure a kid needs to be entertained. Of course, it all started with the 1969 Hanna-Barbera series, which paved the way not only for the rest of the Scooby franchise, but also for every cartoon on this list. Scooby-Doo pioneered the horror-themed children’s show, and its status as a pop culture icon is impossible to refute. Jinkies!

#5: “Tales from the Cryptkeeper” (1993-94; 1999-2000)

This creepy animated series is based on the adult-oriented program, “Tales from the Crypt,” which in turn was based on the 1950s comic books. However, the cartoon is far more child-friendly, with anything resembling blood and guts removed to keep kids and parents happy. Being an anthology series, “Tales from the Cryptkeeper” was hosted by the title character: a living corpse who introduced each disturbing story. The Crypt Keeper’s appearance and the myriad of spooky tales became ingrained in the minds of ‘90s kids, despite its relatively short run, with werewolves, trolls and other less traditional monsters bringing the scares.. The show lasted two seasons initially, before being revamped in 1999 for 13 more spooky episodes.

#4: “Courage the Cowardly Dog” (1999-2002)

Courage the Cowardly Dog was so strange it’s a wonder it got made at all, but we’re darn happy it did. Shown from a small pink beagle’s perspective, we’re taken through the nightmarish world in which he lives, and it is supremely unsettling – especially for children. Large frightening creatures – often with supernatural leanings – constantly appear and threaten Courage’s life, and that make for an intense viewing experience that competing kids’ shows at the time simply couldn’t offer. There’s a fan theory that Courage’s world is not actually full of monsters, but that in fact it’s the same as ours, and that’s just how our world appears to a timid and isolated dog. Looking back, that seems quite probable.

#3: “Eerie, Indiana” (1991-92)

Eerie, Indiana didn’t last long and wasn’t watched by many, but those who did get a chance to see it revere it to this very day. Considered a sort of adolescent X-Files, the show revolves around a young teen that moves to the titular town where unexplainable events occur. After the teen befriends one of the few normal residents, the boys team up to investigate the paranormal mysteries that pervade the 19 episode series. Though geared towards kids, the show is known for its creative maturity, which could be seen in the writing and directing. It wasn’t made to patronize kids; it was to heed their sensibilities.

#2: “Goosebumps” (1995-98)

Based on the monumentally successful book series—only beaten in sales by Harry Potter—the Goosebumps show is equally horrifying. Each episode is adapted from a different book, so we have dramatized versions of such classics as “The Haunted Mask,” “Night of the Living Dummy,” and “Stay Out of the Basement,” and the results are predictably unsettling. As the king of children’s horror, R.L. Stine had other Goosebumps-inspired shows such as The Nightmare Room and The Haunting Hour; the latter of which won several Emmy awards– an obviously worthy successor to the show that terrified us first and terrified us best.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” (1994-97)

- “Round the Twist” (1989-2001)

- "Nightmare Ned" (1997)

#1: “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” (1990-96; 1999-2000)

For those brave enough to stay up and watch this show, we commend you. The series featured campfire stories told by a group of teens and tweens known as “The Midnight Society”—and these stories are nightmare-inducing. Dramatized to amplify the creepiness, these unconnected tales follow frightening ghouls that range from sinister clowns, to living dolls, to pool monsters. There were few topics the show failed to explore over its seven season run, and it didn’t sugar-coat anything. Because of this bare-knuckle treatment, “Are You Afraid of the Dark” gave kids of the ‘90s a nightmare they could share, and because of that it may be the most terrifying kids’ show ever made.

Do you agree with our list? Which children’s show scared you the most? For more nostalgic Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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