[Spoilers for Seasons 1-7]
Picking the top ten scariest episodes of a sci-fi/horror genre TV show is no easy feat, especially when you consider that not everyone is afraid of the same things. For example, if you suffer from Coulrophobia (that is, the fear of clowns) like Sam Winchester, you’re probably going to think “Everybody Loves a Clown” and “Plucky Penniwhistle’s Magical Menagerie” are the scariest episodes of the series. On the other hand, if you suffer from Aviatophobia (that is, the fear of flying), you’re likely to hate “Phantom Traveler.” Or perhaps you’re Entomophobic (afraid of insects), and have to close your eyes through most “Bugs.” And if you’re Demonophobic (afraid of demons, devils, witches, evil spirits, and possession),well, I don’t even know how you’re able to watch the show!
My point being that any one episode of the series could be considered “scary” for one reason or another based on each particular viewer’s real-life fears. Thus, I needed some parameters if I was going to wade through 100-plus episodes and pick ten of the scariest.
First, I stuck to my strong conviction that “gory” is not the same as “scary” (my sincerest apologies to the squeamish). I will disclaim this by admitting that I’ve never seen those Saw movies (and never will). But while gory may sometimes be scary, it is not always so. If gory was always scary, then Saving Private Ryan would be listed as a horror movie. And while watching gratuitous, obviously fake blood, guts, and gore splatter across a scene might make me cringe, it will not keep me up at night with my covers pulled up to my chin.
Second, I stuck to my second strong conviction that “dark” is not the same as “scary.” By “dark,” I mean violent and noiresque.
Supernatural is great at depicting evil in its many forms, and when it does so well, the results are episodes that are very dark. “Repo Man” is a good example of a dark episode, as well as “Live Free or Twi-hard.” These episodes are riveting; they make you shudder, but they don’t really scare you. Or maybe they do. Feel free to disagree.
Third, “if Dean Winchester thinks it’s scary, it’s probably so.” That’s just logic.
Finally, I developed a quick n’ dirty philosophy about why certain things we watch scare us. I believe, phobias aside, that the things that frighten us most are those that we have some real-life connection to. Scary TV is just reality, amplified and out-of-control. It’s imagination run wild. In real-life, I sit on my couch at night in a dark apartment, and the tapping on my window sounds odd, but it’s just the drizzling rain. On TV, the protagonist in the same situation believes it to be rain, only it turns out to be something else: a monster coming through the window.
,Okay, I just scared the crap out of myself.
Time to get on with the list!!
11. Honorable Mention – No Rest For the Wicked
Dean: “Tell me something, what the hell does a demon do for fun?”
I hate honorable mentions. I feel like having more than ten in a top ten article is cheating ““ what can I say, I’m anal. But I felt compelled to do it just this once, for one reason only ““ Lilith.
“No Rest for the Wicked” is filled with scary concepts ““ Dean can see demons’ real faces underneath their human masks, and he suffers from hellish hallucinations and nightmares in which he is being chased by hellhounds. That final stroke of the grandfather clock rings out its ominous knell, and we see the resigned terror in his eyes as he whispers the name of the last sight he will ever see: “hellhound.” And then at the very end of it all, we get a glimpse of our valiant protagonist in a place he doesn’t belong. Hell looks liked agony, and we watch in horror as stoic Dean Winchester screams out his baby brother’s name in terror.
Pretty scary,but somehow not quite as scary as a demon possessing a little girl and terrorizing her family, just for kicks. There’s something downright spooky about a good thing turning into something evil. It’s unnatural and unexpected. I know it gives me chills when the old grandpa says, “it’s not her anymore,there’s something inside her.” Eesh. And the scene with Lilith making the mother read that horrible children’s tale for the 27th time still gives me the heebie-jeebies. (Does anyone know if that is a real book??) Kudos to the little actress who played the part so convincingly. She’s the reason this episode makes #11.
Sam: “Holmes built an apartment building in Chicago. They called it the “˜murder castle.’ The whole place was a death factory. They had trap doors, acid vats, quick-line pits,. He built these secret chambers – inside the walls.”
So you’re a young female, living alone in a crappy apartment. You hate it there. Lights randomly flicker. Electronics fuzz in and out. Unexplainable cracks appear in the walls and ceiling. And worse, you hear strange creaking and scratching coming from inside the walls. Little do you know that something evil is lurking there.
Such is the premise of the episode “No Exit.”
First of all, don’t watch this episode if you’re claustrophobic. The scenes where Dean and Jo are walking through those dark, tight spaces within the walls give me the creeps. Not to mention the metal cell Jo gets locked in, with the bloody scratches on the ceiling from a prior victim. Second of all, ectoplasm? That stuff is nasty, and creepy, like it has a life of its own.
But by far the scariest part of this episode has to be the glimpses of the spirit itself. Peeking through a hole in the wall, an unsuspecting victim sees an eye looking back at her, while another witnesses awful, filthy fingers suddenly reaching through the cracks of a vent. Not to mention the dirty, bearded mouth of the spirit whispering to Jo from just outside her prison.
Whether you like her character or not, Alona Tal did an excellent job conveying Jo’s bravery and terror in those scenes. This is not an episode I can watch before going to bed!
Sam: “Doc Benton. Real-life doctor, lived in New Hampshire. Brilliant man obsessed with alchemy, especially how to live forever.”
Dean: “Whatever he was doing, it was working ““ he just kept on ticking. Parts would wear out; he’d replace “˜em.”
Now who doesn’t want to live forever?
This is a classic tale of horror. It reminds me in some small way of the Edgar Allen Poe story “Telltale Heart,” for some reason, though they aren’t similar. In this episode, a doctor discovers the secret to immortality – but at a price. He kidnaps people in the dark of night, using chloroform to knock them unconscious. They wake up strapped to table next to a jar of maggots. Then they’re operated on without anesthetic, left awake while an organ is ripped from their body. But that’s not the scariest part. The scariest part is that Doc Benton is still alive ““ will always be alive – buried with his secrets somewhere six-feet under. It’s scary because there’s always the possibility that one day, somehow, he’ll get free.
Gives me the chills.
8. Long Distance Call
Sam: “A crocatta,it’s some kind of scavenger. It mimics loved ones, whispers “˜come to me,’ lures you into the dark and swallows your soul.”
While this episode only makes #8 on this list, for me, it is the scariest. Perhaps because it reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode that used to terrify me, called “Night Call.” A stubborn, lonely old lady is tormented by repeated, cryptic phone calls she receives from some man. She finally yells at him to leave her alone and calls the phone company to find out who was calling. The call is traced to a broken phone line lying over a grave in the cemetery. It’s the grave of her late fiancÃ©e, who died after a car accident she caused years ago. Once she finds out who it is, she picks up the phone to talk to him. But he reminds her that she told him to leave her alone, and he always did what she wanted. Then the line goes dead. Creepy, creepy, creepy!
The scene from this episode that gets me the most is the girl on the computer. Now, who hasn’t had a scary IM experience? This poor girl is chatting via IM with someone who claims, very believably, to be her dead mother. That’s spooky enough. Then the screen goes black, and she sees a figure reflected there, standing right behind her. She jumps out of the chair and the computer starts fritzing, displaying the phrase “come to me” over and over again. And how much more spine-chilling is it when Sam figures it all out and tells her, “Lanie,that’s not your mother!”
I mean come on, this monster even freaked out Dean Winchester!
Bobby: “Suck on that, Swayze.”
This one has to make the list, because it’s a traditional haunted house tale. Now, I’m the type of gal who closes her eyes on the haunted house ride. But if I ever was standing in the quiet, dark hallway of an eerie mansion with my eyes opened, and all of a sudden a large, shadowy figure started running at me yelling, “You shouldn’t have come here!” Well, I think I’d pee my pants.
Now in this episode, the baddie is Mr. Van Ness, an extremely powerful vengeful spirit. His entire body just radiates anger, do you notice? He is one scary dude. And to think of how many spirits have been trapped in that house for so many years,it’s downright chilling.
But by far the most heart-stopping moment of the episode happens when Bobby and Annie are standing at the bar, and all of a sudden this ghost lets out a bloodcurdling scream, flying full-speed, straight into the camera. It’s unexpected, even for Supernatural – a different way of scaring people that the show has rarely used, in my opinion, perhaps because it is so hard to utilize on TV. I know I jumped in my seat when it happened ““ how about you?
Bottom line: it was frightening, and it was classic.
Missouri: “You see, all those years ago, real evil came to you. It walked this house. That kind of evil leaves wounds. And sometimes wounds get infected.”
So yeah, okay, maybe I saw bits of “Poltergeist” on TV when I was way too young, because my dad was watching it and I happened to be in the room. And yeah, maybe those scary images always stayed with me, and “Home” reminds me of a terrifying movie I will never, ever, ever watch again. But that hasn’t influenced the decision to put “Home” on this list at all. Huh-uh. Not one bit. :p
From moving furniture, to a monster in the closet, to strange toys, garbage disposals that turn on when they’re unplugged, and Missouri Mosley herself, this episode embodies creepy.
Did anyone else think that the victim, Jennie, was a way less frightened than she should have been? If I lived in a house with a Poltergeist, I’d grab up my two kids, get the heck out of there, and never go back. She was either incredibly brave or incredibly clueless.
And this is another hunt that scared the formidable Dean Winchester ““ because there are few things more frightening than facing something you’ve spent most of your life trying to forget.
Dean: “Dude, you fugly.”
I will never be able to look at a strawman again! Kudos to the costume and makeup departments for making such an evil-looking scarecrow and forever ruining “The Wizard of Oz” for me. :p
But beyond the monster’s ugly mug, this episode is also heavy on the creepy. Here’s another one that reminds me of a chapter from the Twilight Zone. You’re taking a trip with your significant other and stop for gas in small town America. The people are friendly,too friendly. They fatten you up like rams before a slaughter, and send you out into the corn fields to your death. The worst part is ““ the whole town can hear your screams ““ and no one does anything.
Aside from the legitimately heart-pounding scenes where the scarecrow-god is chasing and nabbing people in the dark, the scariest part for me is when Dean gets up on that ladder right next to the thing’s face. Perhaps it’s the wind, but I swear I can see it moving ever so slightly, every single time. Nothing should look that creepy in the daylight.
Lessons: 1) be wary of the kindness of strangers, 2) stay away from fugly scarecrows, and 3) don’t go into the corn fields at night!
Sam: “Something… something bad, is happening in Oasis Plains. We think it might have something to do with some old bones we found down there – Native American bones.”
No joke, I’m writing this and look over my shoulder to see a spider crawling across my kitchen floor. Not. Cool.
But hey, I have Raid, so,.
This episode is so worst-nightmare-ever creepy that I can hardly watch it with my eyes open, much less write about it. It makes my skin crawl.
It’s the shower scene, okay? With the spiders that explode out of the wall. And,granted, I’m arachnophobic, so I’m biased. But even I can admit that the spiders don’t even look that real – it’s the idea that’s so frightening. I was going to post the screenshot from that scene, but I just can’t do it. Huh-uh. Can’t even think about it. Heebie-jeebies.
Enough said. Moving on.
Sam: “The Bloody Mary legend. Dad ever find any evidence that it was a real thing?”
Dean: “Not that I know of.”
Sam: “I mean, everywhere else, all over the country ““ kids play Bloody Mary, and as far as we know, nobody dies from it.”
Dean: “Well, maybe everywhere it’s just a story, but here it’s actually happening.”
I think a lot of people can identify with this one. I know I can. The terror of my junior high days consisted of girls daring each other to go into the school bathroom, shut the lights off, and say “Bloody Mary” into the mirror three times. Looking back, I think the point of the game was to see who could play the more convincing actress, as each girl would come out with some story about having seen something. I can’t remember specifically participating in such games, probably because I was too superstitious (my personal motto is to not mess with any of that kind of stuff, even in jest). But I do remember times when I was so freaked out I couldn’t walk past a mirror in my parent’s house at night. So “Bloody Mary” is another hard episode to watch with my eyes open.
That being said, the scariest scene, hands down, is when “Mary” crawls out of the broken mirror. The jerky movements and stringy hair make it a truly horrifying moment.
Dean: “Boy, three bedrooms, two baths, and one homicide. This place is going to sell like hotcakes.”
This episode did a really good job at capturing a sense of panic. Even Sam and Dean were having trouble keeping their heads in this situation. It’s yet another case of something being in the walls ““ but this time, it’s not a spirit. It’s a deranged, homicidal, and very territorial human.
The spooky starts when a family moves into a new house. The young girl sees a face staring out the second floor window. Then the little boy starts playing catch with a figure in the closet. The house is filled with sour smells and strange rustling noises, and the little boy insists he didn’t write “GO” on the wall in crayon. “The girl in the walls did it!” But oh my god, the scene with the girl lying in bed, thinking she’s petting her dog when she’s really not ““ that’s nightmarish. And it’s only the beginning.
Sam and Dean come crashing through the door to warn the family, when suddenly the lights go out. The girl in the walls kills the dog and uses its blood to write “TOO LATE” on the side of the U-Haul. The tires on every vehicle are slashed, preventing escape. Sam and Dean’s weapons are stolen. There’s more crawling in tight spaces ““ “pleasenobodygrabmyleg, pleasenobodygrabmyleg,” and some other, rather disturbing sh**. Uncle Ted’s death is particularly horrifying. And the scene with rat? Tell me you weren’t completely freaked by that. Then we find out, in one final twist, that it’s not just the girl ““ she has a brother, and he’s more violent than she is! It’s a terrifying romp through a sick and twisted world, another one that probably shouldn’t be watched right before bedtime.
I also think this is one of the most emotionally heavy episodes of the series. What the characters are feeling individually and collectively, coupled with the traumatic experiences each have endured, is something almost tangible for the viewer. The nicely woven mixture of horror and drama would take hours to pick apart and analyze, and that’s great. But it’s also really hard to watch.
Dean: “I’d give anything not to tell you this, but sometimes nightmares are real.”
“Something Wicked” wins out at number one because not only is the monster of the story frightening, but the episode is the only one in the series that uses legitimately creepy music.
In short, it has the whole package of Scary.
A Shtriga is a witch that feeds on children, sucking their life force while they sleep. Not particularly frightening, until you actually see the thing. It’s old-school horror, going back to your childhood, when you cowered under the covers at the sound of a tree branch tapping on your bedroom window and had an irrational fear of elderly people because their skin was wrinkled and gnarled. And nothing is creepier than seeing those long, spindly fingers reaching to open that window from the outside,.I think I just spooked myself again, lol.
This is another monster that, for many reasons, unnerved Dean Winchester. We all know he hates witches, and this was the one that had gotten away. But the music sealed the deal for me and made this episode worthy of being deemed the scariest of all.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bed ““ and you can bet I’ll be sleeping with the lights on tonight. 😉
What do you think is the scariest episode of Supernatural? Did it make the list?