From 2001 until 2006 and then again during a brief revival from 2011 to 2012, Fear Factor managed to give audiences queasy second-hand embarrassment whenever it was on television. Hosted by UFC color commentator, Joe Rogan, this game show challenged 6 to 10 “lucky” contestants every week to commit to daring stunts at the price of a grand prize and, of course, their dignity. To be fair, the grand prize was usually around $50,000. When someone puts a price tag like that on anything, there’s no telling what kind of crazy antics people would be willing to do for that kind of money. Fear Factor tested that notion by asking participants to do such crass challenges as being covered in bees, eating bugs, and even jumping 25 feet from a helicopter. People really are willing to do anything for money.
Originally, Fear Factor was conceived as a Dutch series called, Now or Neverland. In order to compete with CBS’s Survivor who was, at the time, a ratings juggernaut, NBC adapted the concept for the American market and the rest, as they say, is history. It seemed at the time that no matter what language or country the show was dubbed in, it always translated to high ratings thanks to an audience compelled by the show’s gross-out gags. Even when the ratings declined years later and its subsequent cancellation after six seasons, fans still have fond memories of the series and its infamous stomach-churning moments. Check out our list of 15 of the grossest Fear Factor challenges that had audience members blowing chunks from just watching the episodes at home.
15. Special Pizza
There is nothing more universally loved in this world than a good pizza. It’s hard for anybody to turn down a great slice of pizza, that is, of course, if that pizza happens to be a Fear Factor pizza. If there’s any way that someone is guaranteed to turn down a slice of pizza, it’s if that pizza was served by the guys behind creating the infamous Fear Factor challenges. For one episode, the twisted minds behind Fear Factor crafted what would be, by the show’s standards, a masterpiece of a dish and gave it to their final four contestants. This pizza’s toppings included cow-bile crust, coagulated blood paste, rotten cheese, red worms, and fish eyes. It’s not exactly a crème de la crème type of dish, but it’s certainly a one of a kind dish that can only be found on a Fear Factor set (thankfully). Somehow, all four finalists were able to advance to the next round, but at the cost of losing their lunch and causing the audience to seriously rethink ordering a pizza in the near future.
14. Double Tunnel Flush
Not all of Fear Factor’s gross challenges involved contestants eating something disgusting. Sometimes, the most unsanitary acts committed on the show didn’t even involve food. However, sometimes the most unsanitary acts did involve the use of toilet water and feces. This was the case with a particular challenge during a special couples episode of Fear Factor. In this episode, the men sat handcuffed to a dumpster with their head trapped in a glass tube, while their partner scurried through the tube to find the key to their lover’s freedom. While it sounds simple enough, it was the outside factors that really caused the situation to be problematic. Hundreds of gallons of raw sewage started to rain on top of their heads. It is hard to believe that a studio would actually approve of such an extreme challenge, but considering all of the other sickening stunts we have seen from this show, we would not put it passed them if this was truly raw sewage. Even if it was just dirty water at best, that doesn’t make the challenge any less gross.
13. Rat Pit
For its very first episode on television, Fear Factor knew it had to instantly grab audience’s attention while simultaneously grossing them out. The show’s pilot opener sought to make an immediate impact with one of its first challenges called, The Rat Pit. The idea behind The Rat Pit is pretty self-explanatory. The challenge asked contestants to sit strapped down in a pit filled with rats crawling all over their bodies for four minutes. Apart from just having a bunch of rats on their body, the biggest downside for the contestants was probably that these rats bit and when the four minutes were up, many of these contestants emerged from the pit with marks and wounds all over their bodies. All of the contestants managed to get through this challenge except for one NYC resident who would rather have walked away from the show altogether. The fact that a guy living in the rat capital of the world couldn’t do this challenge proved just how brutal it had to be.
12. Buffalo Testicles
Eating testicles from any brand or species is a nauseating pastime in itself. Imagine trying to stuff four massive testicles belonging to a buffalo in your mouth? Sounds like a hard one to swallow. Contestants were given four minutes to eat four buffalo testicles. One contestant barely bit into the first testicle, before calling it quits. Can’t say we blame her. Alternatively and strangely, another contestant was not only able to finish eating their testicles, but claimed to enjoy it. The guy scarfed into his meaty bull gonads as if he were eating a hamburger fresh off the grill. Apparently, some stomachs have a stronger tolerance for buffalo balls than others. On the bright side, buffalo testicles are actually a delicatessen in some parts of the world, originating on Canadian soil. Diners can actually blame Canada, since it’s not uncommon for their restaurants to serve buffalo testicles on the menu as an ultra popular dish.
11. Eating African Cave Dwelling Spiders
If a person had a choice in the matter, they would never choose to eat African cave-dwelling spiders (more commonly known as whip scorpions or Amblypygi). Except, of course, if a brand new car is on the line. On a special Las Vegas edition of the show, during its 4th season, the final three contestants were brought in front of a live audience to a poker table covered in African cave-dwelling spiders. No one risked elimination, but the ultimate goal was for every spider they ate to bring them closer to winning a 2004 Mazda RX-8. It was cringe-inducing to watch each contestant struggle to chow down on each spider. When fans think of this moment, they immediately recall how hard of a time Krisandra had with chewing her food. She didn’t win the challenge, but she was the first one to endure this creepy crawly meal. Amblypygi have proven to be harmless to humans and lack venomous fangs so no one was harmed while eating, but knowing that information doesn’t make it any easier to eat a spider or watch someone eat a spider. Preferably, it’s recommended to do neither on a full stomach.
10. Eat Camel Spiders
It goes without saying by now that the showrunners behind Fear Factor seemed to have had an unhealthy obsession with spiders and convincing people to eat them. One can argue that Fear Factor has forced people to do much worse things with spiders than eating them, but this particular instance was just too excruciating to witness. During this episode, contestants had to eat camel spiders. At least Amblypygids are harmless to humans. Although, camel spiders aren’t much deadlier, they do have a venom that can numb an area of the body and are vicious predators towards other insects. That doesn’t sound like something that a person should be putting in their mouth. It doesn’t help that it looks less like a spider and more like an oversized, deformed ant with a camel’s hump on its back. One contestant on the show had trouble eating it and chose to slowly chew it in half, which made it sound crunchier than a Pringle. Judging by the look on her face, it probably didn’t taste like one.
9. Gross Dunk Tank
When it was on the air, Fear Factor had a knack for taking fun concepts and twisting them on their head to turn it into something unsettling. Dunk tanks are usually one of the more fun games to play at a party, fund raiser, or carnival. Yet, this isn’t the case when it’s used on Fear Factor. On Fear Factor, during a special couples episode, one person had to dump their partner into a dunk tank where their partner would fall into a pool filled with “cow parts.” Apart from cow tails, no one knew what other “parts” could be in that pool and it’s probably best that they didn’t know. As for the cow tails, the dumped partner had to recover five of those cow tails and transfer them all to a bucket by mouth. Judging by the name, the showrunners knew exactly how nasty of a challenge this would be. It certainly lived up to its name, that’s for sure.
8. Bug Body Bag
This next entry may be less gross and more downright scary depending on how some people view it, but most likely it will be viewed as a mixture of both. However, the stunt made for such uncomfortable viewing that it deserves a place on this list. Each of the contestants were chained, zipped up in a bag, and locked in complete darkness inside of a morgue drawer. The contestants weren’t alone in the darkness, though, as each body bag was filled with several different bugs. The variety included maggots, red worms, super worms, stink beetles, and hissing cockroaches. From there, the contestants had to find a hidden key inside of their bag and break themselves out of the door. This sounds more like something more suited for a grotesque horror movie than a game show challenge with real lives at stake. The dense, claustrophobic setting made this nerve-wracking in itself. Adding crawling (possibly biting) bugs to the equation and this became a true horror show.
7. Fear Factor Wedding Cake
Boy, the guys behind this show really knew how to spoil a wedding. This special episode brought on newlywed couples competing for the grand prize. Fear Factor decided to celebrate these newlywed’s new beginnings the only way they knew how, by completely butchering food with gross-out gags and ingredients. On the outside, it looked like a regular, average wedding cake. Yet, on the inside, that cake’s sugary goodness was replaced by worms, beetles, and alligator eyeballs. Every member of each couple had to chow down on the cake using only their mouths and then spit what they ate into a glass cup before swallowing it all back down. If this challenge taught us anything, it is that we probably should not get anybody who worked on this show to help serve for any of our weddings. We might find something creepy and crawling underneath our cake if we do.
6. Bobbing In Cow’s Blood
The objective of the game was for contestants to bob their heads down into a big tank filled with cow blood until they retrieve a ring. The contestants with the most rings would advance to the next round while those with the least amount of rings were eliminated. Not only does the thought of willingly and literally diving head first into a 50-gallon pool of cow blood and grabbing a ring sound a little unsanitary, but it actually sounds like something that would be found in a horror movie. In fact, watching each of these contestants emerge from the pits of blood made them all equally look like an extra out of the Carrie film based off of the Stephen King novel. It all made them look like a creature from the deepest depths of our nightmares. If nothing else, the images of these people dripping in blood gave us all nightmares after the episode’s originally airing.
5. Fear Factor Sushi
Apparently, the Fear Factor Pizza was such a hit dish with critics, audiences, and those who ate the dish alike that two seasons later, the cooks behind the show had to try their hand at making sushi. Of course, those who ran Fear Factor can’t just make sushi. They had to add their own special, distorted ingredients to dishes most sushi lovers are familiar with. Contestants were given surprise dishes and no matter what was on the plate that the cook gave them, they had to finish it or risk being eliminated in one of the earlier rounds. Some dishes included maggots inside of a sushi roll and rotten squid guts. Of course, there was a special side dish of rice mixed with maggots as an added ingredient. All in all, any sushi lovers watching this episode would likely be put off enough to be turned off from ever eating sushi again, or at least take a hiatus from this traditional Japanese cuisine.
4. A Bull Feast
With Thanksgiving coming right around the corner, it’s about time to think about what we should serve to our guests or anticipate what our loved ones plan to cook for us on that special holiday. Hopefully, whatever we eat on that holiday isn’t nearly as bad as what these contestants had to endure for this challenge. If anyone thinks their loved one is a bad cook, be grateful that they never had to serve a bull’s spinal cord, bull snout, or a bull spleen onto your play. That doesn’t sound like the type of three-course meal to get any of us into the holiday spirit, but it did manage to gross out the contestants as well as the millions watching at home. While one contestant, in particular, did find a way to finish her plate clean as if it truly was a Thanksgiving plate, she did almost throw up in her mouth afterward.
3. Eat Horse Rectum
Over the last couple years, it has become a popular phrase and hobby (if you can call it that) to “eat the booty like groceries.” This phrase probably wouldn’t have the same mainstream appeal if it strictly referred to the “booty” of a horse. If you asked the two final contestants who competed in the final challenge of the 13th episode of Season 3, they’d probably proclaim that horse booty isn’t exactly what it’s cracked up to be. The challenge asked these contestants to eat 13 inches of a horse rectum before their time ran out. Only one of the contestants were able to finish their meal and walk away with $50,000 because of it. The sad part is that their opponent gave up eating their rectum once they reached 12 inches. If they were able to hang in there to eat an extra inch at a time faster than their opponent, she might have been the grand prize winner.
2. Milk the Goat
For this challenge, contestants had to suck milk from a goat’s udder, spit the milk into a glass until the glass was full, and then drink the milk along with their regurgitated saliva. Most people don’t like gulping and swallowing their spit or even back-washing behind a drink. This has to be a nightmare for some people to even imagine, yet alone do. To be honest, compared to what we’ve already covered on this list and most Fear Factor episodes in general, this may be one of the show’s more tame challenges. Yet, there’s still a sense of unease that comes with watching it. Not to mention, for all of NBC’s “No animals were harmed in the making of this production” warnings they show during episodes, this does look like some bizarre form of bestiality. With that in mind, it leaves us wondering how this made it past the censors. Unfortunately, our final entry wasn’t so lucky.
1. Drink Donkey Semen & Urine
We all know just how low reality TV and game shows can be sometimes, but most TV networks at least know when not to cross certain lines. NBC knew that even a show as crazy as Fear Factor had limits that shouldn’t be crossed, but perhaps they realized that when it was too late. During the show’s newly rebooted 6th season, the show’s crew filmed an episode titled “Hee Haw! Hee Haw!” where one notorious stunt challenged its contestants to consume horse urine and horse semen. It’s hard not to watch the footage and gag as badly as some of the contestants did. NBC’s parent company, Comcast, must have felt the same as the company demanded NBC not to air the episode on television. Instead, NBC aired a rerun of a previous Fear Factor episode opposed to “Hee Haw! Hee Haw!” Cancelling this episode from the airwaves was undoubtedly a catalyst for NBC’s decision to cancel the show entirely for a second time.