Classic television shows are known for their Christmas episodes. The majority of them aired at least one episode devoted to the holiday. That having been said, they were also known for their Halloween episodes. While not nearly as common as those devoted to the Yuletide, Halloween episodes of TV shows were common enough in the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies that one could compile a rather long list. To this end I have compiled a list of TV show episodes suitable for Halloween viewing.
Here I must point out that some of these episodes did not air around Halloween, nor do all of them mention the holiday. That having been said, all of them deal with subject matter suitable for the holiday. I have purposefully excluded shows in the horror genre as if I included them they could easily dominate the list. For those who are interested, at the end of the list of TV show episodes I have a list of classic horror TV shows, any episode of which would be fitting for Halloween.
Without further ado, in chronological order by debut of the show, here are the ten episodes.
1. The Phil Silvers Show "Bilko's Vampire" (original airdate: October 1 1958): This is a very amusing episode from one of the greatest sitcoms of all time. Master Sgt. Ritzik becomes addicted to watching horror movies on television. As if this doesn't cause enough problems for Bilko (Ritzik's horror movie addiction is disrupting their regular poker games), Ritzik becomes convinced that he is a vampire.
In "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" Brandon deWilde plays a mentally troubled youth who befriends a carnival magician and his wife with disastrous results. The episode was meant to be the 39th episode of the seventh season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but the show's sponsor Revlon found it so frightening and disturbing that it was not aired during the show's initial network run. It would first be seen in syndication. Several other Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes are also suitable for Halloween viewing, including "Banquo's Chair", "Human Interest Story", and "Special Delivery", among others. There is also the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode "The Magic Shop".
3. The Twilight Zone "Living Doll" (original airdate November 1 1963): Like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, some might question the inclusion of a Twilight Zone episode, but strictly speaking it was not a horror TV series either. Instead it was a fantasy series that occasionally delved into science fiction and even horror. "Living Doll" numbers among its most famous episodes, so much so it is regularly referenced in popular culture. It is also possibly the most frightening episode of The Twilight Zone ever. Quite simply, "Living Doll" deals with Talky Tina, a talking doll who is not only self aware, but also harbours murderous intentions.
4. The Andy Griffith Show "The Haunted House" (original airdate October 7 1963): Unlike the first three episodes I listed, "The Haunted House" from The Andy Griffith Show is not really frightening, but it sure is funny. It all starts when Opie and his friend Arnold accidentally hit a baseball into an abandoned house they believe to be haunted. When Andy, Barney, and Gomer go to investigate the house, hilarity ensues. "The Haunted House" was the only Halloween episode ever produced for The Andy Griffith Show. It also happens to be one of its funniest.
6. The Beverly Hillbillies "Trick or Treat" (original airdate October 31 1962): In "Trick or Treat" Granny is missing the hills and complaining that none of their neighbours in Beverly Hills come to visit the way they did back home. Jed suggests to Granny that they visit their neighbours. Of course, it just happens to be Halloween.
While "Trick or Treat" is a very funny episode, I do have one caveat with it. Halloween was celebrated in the British Colonies of the South well before the United States was even founded.The Clampetts would then be very familiar with the holiday and would likely celebrate it themselves. That having been said, they probably would not be familiar with the custom of trick or treating (as the episode suggests), which did not really develop until the early 20th Century. Regardless, it is still a very funny episode and a historic one at that. "Trick or Treat" marks the first ever mention of Hooterville, later the setting for both Petticoat Junction and Green Acres!
8. F Troop "V is for Vampire" (original airdate: February 2 1967): When a Transylvania count, Count Sforza, comes to town, the men of F Troop can't help be convinced that he is a vampire. After all, he drives a hearse, has pale skin, and keeps company with a crow. The fact that he is played by none other than horror legend Vincent Price probably doesn't help matters! This is a very funny episode and it is great to see Vincent Price on the small screen any time.
9: Star Trek "Catspaw" (original airdate: October 27 1967): One would not expect a straightforward science fiction show like Star Trek to do a Halloween episode, but it did. It also happens to be one of the best episodes of the show. Written by legendary horror writer Robert Bloch, "Catspaw" has all the trappings of classic horror movies: a black cat, a derelict castle, a dungeon, and what appears to be a diabolical wizard. Of course, everything has a rational explanation in the end, but it is all good fun.
Of course, over the years there have been several shows that were dedicated to the horror genre. Here is a list of classic horror TV shows, of which several episodes would be worth spending Halloween watching:
Thriller (1960-1962): Thriller began as a straight suspense anthology and very swiftly changed formats to a show that rotated horror episodes with crime episodes. Eventually the horror episodes began to outnumber the crime episodes until Thriller was more or less a straight horror anthology. In fact, it produced what I consider the most terrifying hour of television ever, an adaptation of Robert E. Howard's "Pigeons from Hell".
Dark Shadows (1966-1971): Quite naturally a soap opera that featured a vampire as a lead character and included werewolves, Frankensteinian creations, witches, and, in one episode, what was obviously the Devil himself, would be suitable for Halloween...
Night Gallery (1970-1973): Rod Serling's horror anthology was not nearly as good as The Twilight Zone, and it could be very inconsistent in quality, but it did produce some good episodes. If you want to watch it, I would recommend getting the DVD sets, which feature the episodes restored as close to their original states as possible. Sadly, the episodes airing in syndication are highly edited, to say the least. Indeed, some of the so-called "Night Gallery" episodes in syndication actually belong to an entirely different show, The Sixth Sense...
Tales from the Darkside (1984-1988): This was a syndicated horror anthology created by George Romeo of Night of the Living Dead fame. Throughout its run the show adapted stories by such writers as Clive Barker, Robert Bloch, Fredric Brown, Harlan Ellison, and Stephen King.
Tales from the Crypt (1989-1996): Before Game of Thrones, Tales from the Crypt was the HBO show to watch. The show adapted stories from EC Comics, mostly from their horror titles (Tales from the Crypt, The Crypt of Terror, Haunt of Fear, and Vault of Horror), but also from a few others as well (Crime SuspenStories, Shock SuspenStories, and Two-Fisted Tales). Like the comic books Tales from the Crypt had a host, the Cryptkeeper from both Tales from the Crypt and The Crypt of Terror.
The X-Files (1993-2002): The X-Files was primarily a sci-fi show, but it featured more than enough episodes that veered into horror (more than The Twilight Zone ever did). It produced what I consider the second most frightening hour of television ever, the episode "Home".
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003): Okay, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is not old enough to be a classic yet, but arguably it is on its way. The show was a supernatural horror series with continuing characters, setting it apart from the earlier anthology shows. It also produced several episodes worth watching. Its spinoff, Angel, is also worth checking out.
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