Children are the most innocent humans on our planet. Their minds are like blank chalkboards, just waiting for us to fill them up with ideas. All children learn differently, but the truth is, children are very perceptive and oftentimes mimic the things that they see. Much of what we grow to believe throughout our lifetime is copies and replicas of the things we see in our formative years as well as the things our peers and leaders teach and tell us. It can be very easy to manipulate the mind of the child, especially through the media they consume.
That is why it can be so disturbing when we come across media made for children that have the ability to scare us as adults. Our children’s minds are so easily shaped by what they see, and if the things we see can traumatize us, imagine what they can do to the mind of a child. Sometimes children’s media is created without the intent of coming off as disturbing. It can be hard to think of unique and interesting characters that children would appeal to and be interested in. Other times, it’s a mystery how anything was approved in the first place.
Not all things are scary, some stray away from the norm and make us think deeply about an issue. Regardless of what you find fearful, you have to admit that some of these cartoons and images are disturbing for all ages. Here are the 15 most disturbing things ever created for children.
15. Don’t Look Under The Bed
Don’t Look Under the Bed is a Disney Channel original movie, better known as a D-com, that was released on the network in 1999. The almost 20-year-old movie revolved around a young girl who was being set up by the boogeyman. Throughout the movie, we watched as Frances did her best to prove her innocence when framed for various pranks. The boogeyman is pictured above in a photo taken during the shooting of the film. Without knowing that this creature was created for a kids movie, you’d probably expect to find the dressed up man in the latest horror movie film. Or, you know, your nightmares. The fact that this was an acceptable children’s movie was outrageous! The movie was perceived as so scary that there were actually a lot of complaints about the contents of the film, causing it to get pulled from the network. You can still purchase the movie anytime online and bring back childhood horror memories in an instant.
14. The Witches
The Witches is a children’s film that could pass as a terrifying horror movie any day of the year. The movie’s plot consists of a little boy who has a run-in with a group of witches at a hotel he and his grandmother are staying in. Of course, after a certain point, the little boy discovers that this large group of women is indeed a group of witches looking for their next victims. The witches are all seemingly normal until they remove their fake face masks to reveal what is pictured above. If you’ve seen the movie as a child, you probably remember being absolutely terrified of these monstrous creatures. If you watch the movie now, however, in your adult life, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be just as scared, perhaps even more terrified at the very idea that there could be these terrifying witches walking among us.
13. Mark Twain Claymation
The Adventures of Mark Twain was a claymation film that was released in 1985. It isn’t a well-known film and nowadays it’s rather challenging to come across a copy. But it will forever be known for its terrifying clip which involves the faceless man above. The movie revolves around three youngsters who decide to partake in adventures similar to the stories told in Mark Twain’s writings. They eventually meet the author, who has the desire to travel to Hailey’s Comet. Once there (spoiler alert) they meet Mark Twain’s dark side, the face above. The result is a very eerie scene of a seemingly harmless figure imposing some intellectual fear onto the children. You can watch the clip above, but you can probably get a pretty good sense of how creepy the video is just by the still from the video.
A Boohbah is a special breed of scary that came to us in 2003 from the United Kingdom. The Boohbahs don’t talk, unless various child-like noises equate talking for you. At a first glance, you might think they’re cute. They have big bellies, are brightly colored, and have a body made out of soft plush. But the way they move around and function is incredibly off putting. The show doesn’t really appear to have a clear plot or storyline other than to have these monstrosities dancing to weird techno music. Just imagine how much more terrifying these would be if they were flesh-colored and didn’t have soft skin like a stuffed animal. They don’t have mouths and their heads basically melt into their body. It’s nice to have colorful imagery to stimulate young minds, but does it have to look this terrifying?
Wizbit is an educational show that takes a stab at discovering everything there is to know about our planet Earth. It also manages to be absolutely terrifying. The main character, Wizbit, seen above, is actually just supposed to be a magician’s hat. Most of the characters in the show are magic related, featuring talking things such as a rabbit, a fortune teller, a mime, and even a troll. Most other characters were things that would be living in the first place. But not Wizbit. They decided to basically take the sorting hat from Harry Potter but make it three times as big and have the voice of a child. The shape alone is enough to give us nightmares, but the way it moves and operates is extra spine-chilling. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so scary if they had only decided to simply remove the eyebrows.
10. Giant Rugrats Baby
The Rugrats was a fairly normal show. Talking babies isn’t a common phenomenon in our world, but it makes sense that youngsters would want to basically watch Friends with people their own age and fewer sexual references. However, this show did manage to have its terrifying moments quite often. The scariest of them all was the episode in which Angelica fantasized about having a little brother. The baby eventually becomes a big baby and terrorizes her life. The baby isn’t just like other children featured in the show. The first thing that separates it is that it has a more human-like drawing opposed to the cartoonish features of the rest of the characters. It also appears to be much older, taking it from just a freakish baby to an actual monster. Luckily for Angelica, it was all just a dream, but for us, it will remain a nightmare.
9. The Groke
The Groke is a character that comes from the stories of Moomin, featured both on television as well as in children’s books. The story of the Groke is rather terrifying. She’s a lonely creature who constantly seeks out the friendship of warmth. She carries coldness wherever she goes, freezing the ground below her and killing all the plants that she crosses paths with. Although her story is tragic, we still can’t help but feel pretty terrified to look into the simply drawn eyes. There’s not much to her as a character, but the image is still rather unsettling. In one of the stories, it is even mentioned that she has a tail. As if she needed anything else to add to her already alarming character. Staring into a big, dark, blob might not seem all that scary until you stare into the eyes of The Groke.
Mummenschanz is a theater group who performs using a series of masks and props, as seen above. The group was not originally intended for children in particular, but they did appear on shows made for children, like The Muppets. As adults who are attempting to view an artistic performance, we can suspend our horror and attempt to admire the show that they’re putting on. But even in that scenario, it can be difficult not to be put off by the somewhat chilling show. The group consists of real humans who only wear all black and various masks. As we remember from the Mark Twain video, masks alone can be pretty terrifying enough. It seems a little strange that they would put this particular performing group on children’s series, as some kids might take a fear of grown men wearing strangely shaped masks. Children don’t always have the capacity to interpret art, so they’re faced with simply viewing the images in front of them.
Karbonkel is a terrifying character that came from the Norwegian series, I Mik Loreland. The story revolved around Mik, who lives in a world where everyone is obsessed with reading and writing; that is, with the exception of Karbonkel. Karbonkel set out to terrorize Mik and try and destroy her chances of getting better at reading and writing. Karbonkel is meant to be a little off-putting, but the level in which he is terrifying is rather high on the scale of horror. Like many characters on the list, there were complaints of his scary appearance, so they attempted to make him a bit more friendly throughout the series. Unfortunately, they didn’t seem to do that great of a job, as he’s still pretty terrifying. The show has since been canceled- appeared in the late 90’s. If you ever wonder why our society may be the way it is today, we might have terrifying kids shows to blame.
Oobi is one of those shows that’s terrifying without having a clear reason why. The show aired on the Noggin channel in the early 2000s. It was created by one of the same people behind Sesame Street and was inspired by puppeteers who performed without any puppet actually being on their hand. The idea is simple, it’s just the hands talking with ping pong balls for the eyes. The set, dialogue, and storylines are all rather simple. But there’s still something unsettling about the whole thing. The way the characters talk is a bit disturbing, as well as the way the hands move and float around set as if they were detached. Them being puppets without actually being puppets is almost as if we’re watching the skeleton of the puppets perform. Or rather a puppet that’s just made out of flesh. No matter what you might think, Oobi is scary on some level.
5. Psalty The Singing Songbook
Psalty is a singing songbook that comes from the Kids’ Praise! series of Christian children’s musical albums. Psalty is just one terrifying character, but even more frightening than him is the dog featured above. Not many images of the dog exist now, as Psalty has mostly gone solo or remained animated, versus this terrifying dog-human hybrid combination. The series is meant to encourage children to partake in singing religious praise songs, but instead, it probably makes most wish they had never laid eyes on the blue-eared mutt. The most frightening part is trying to figure out when the human face ends and the dog snout starts. The character is very human as well as dog-like, which makes it all the more unsettling. What’s so wrong with just a basic dog costume? Or at least just a nice, normal set of ears.
4. Jim Henson’s Limbo
Limbo is a Muppet character who is arguably the most terrifying of them all. Many people think puppets alone are scary, but for the most part, they’re harmless objects often used in children’s media. Limbo is a much different puppet, however. He was the most abstract of them all, mostly appearing as just a mouth and two eyes made out of string. These would sometimes appear in front of an image of a body, but for the most part, it was just the face. You can watch the character in the short video above. The character was created by the late, great Jim Henson, so obviously there is still a level of enjoyment and suspension of terror when watching the videos of this particular Muppet. However, it’s still got to be a pretty scary image for a child, especially paired with the omniscient music and existential monologues Limbo is often accompanied by.
3. Peppermint Park
Peppermint Park is a pretty poorly produced rip off of Sesame Street. The biggest difference between Peppermint Park and Sesame Street is that Sesame Street is actually entertaining, educational, and seen as a normal children’s show. Peppermint Park, however, is something created specifically to produce nightmares. Well, not really- it was intended to be a popular educational children’s show. But that intention was lost somewhere along the line when the creators decided to make these absolutely terrifying puppets. The puppets even look as though they could be humans wearing costumes. The faces are similar to dolls, and the bodies are long and move in a frightening manner. Now, this show is mainly seen as a terrifying mistake that should have never been made. It’s incredibly hard to come across photographs, footage, and audio of the series, though a few clips do exist online somewhere if you’re looking in the right place. But the fact that it’s difficult to come by might be a good thing when it comes to trying to get to sleep at night.
2. Ratafak Plachta
Ratafak Plachta is a character that appeared on the Czechoslovakian show, Slniecko. Slniecko translates to “the sunshine,” while Ratafak Plachta supposedly translates to “nosey blanket.” The show was educational, and not intended to be frightening. Many parents did indeed complain about the show having some horror-like effects on their children. Although this was released much earlier than Saw, the face of the nosey blanket is rather similar to the puppet featured in that horror movie. The idea of an animated blanket is also something that is frightening without anyone probably ever thinking that it might be scary in the first place. The puppet was operated by two different people, each controlling an arm. The creature rarely talked, but when it did it was just as unsettling as the way that it moved throughout the city when it was featured. Luckily this show no longer exists, but there’s a slight chance the puppet might still be circling around out there somewhere.
1. Courage The Cowardly Dog
Courage the Cowardly Dog is one of the most frightening cartoons to ever be made for children. The plot revolves around the adorable and neurotic Courage, a purple dog riddled with fear. He lives with an elderly couple, Muriel, and Eustace. Muriel is an absent-minded sweet natured woman while Eustace is a grumpy old man. The trio makes for an exciting group, always finding themselves in the middle of a supernatural or sci-fi problem in Nowhere, Kansas. The show appeared on Cartoon Network for a little bit and is now even available on some streaming services. Even now as adults, the show remains spine-chilling in nature. The characters created are always eerie, and the use of limited omniscient music makes the show overall pretty frightening. Although it’s terrifying, it’s definitely the most enjoyable watch on the list. It’s rumored the show may make a reappearance, though none of the original creators have confirmed.