To celebrate Halloween, we took a brave look back at some of the children's TV characters that terrify us to this day.
Gonzo, The Muppet Show
Gonzo isn’t the weirdest or wildest muppet, but the case could be made that he’s the edgiest.
He’ll do anything for a stunt. He’ll eat a tyre. He’ll wrestle a brick with the tenacity of Andy Kaufman. He shares a name with the style of journalism that favours substance abuse over objective fact.
In short, you never know what Gonzo’s going to do next. Add in his determination to meet the demands of the stunt, however colossal, and he becomes a wild, creative, dangerous blur. Fear him.
Or don’t: it makes no difference to Gonzo. — JM
The Way of the Warrior, Raven
We could've easily chosen the warriors' adversary Nevar and his cloaked army of grim reapers, but the 'last life' level of the adventure game show was so notoriously difficult, and took so many child casualties, that it was almost as if a demon possessed its crushing boulders, slicing axes and gnashing teeth.
What's worse is that, if they failed (and most did - only 4 completed the challenge in the entire original 10 series run), they were instantly wiped off the face of the earth.
Sometimes the camera would even pan to a human skull - a not so subtle hint at human remains. So tell us, Raven, where did the children go? — HB
The Numbertaker, Numberjacks
What’s scarier, the overly-80s shoulder pads, the claw hand, or the rampant kleptomania? The Numbertaker is part of Numberjack’s ‘Meanies’, a gang of enemies all in varying shapes of nightmare fuel, and all trying to ruin the lives of the anthropomorphic numbers.
Although The Numbertaker’s comrades include Spooky Spoon, The Puzzler, and a glob of slime called “problem blob”, the Numbertaker is perhaps the most sinister, due to his barely changing expression, complete silence, and ‘number-sucker-upper’ that he uses for number-based-kidnappings.
The Numbertaker doesn’t just include abducting Numberjacks in his hobbies, he is equally interested in stealing certain amounts of inanimate objects. For instance, four shopping bags, four menus, or the four wheels off your child’s pram – no one is safe! — ECS
Rio Wellard, The Story of Tracy Beaker
The scorn of Maroon 5 CD thieves everywhere, one crosses Rio Wellard at one’s own peril.
Rio is just one of three Wellard siblings. His half-sisters, Roxy and Chantal, are every bit as scheming and formidable.
While the trio hatch plots to sow discontent across the Dumping Ground, they ultimately care for each other deeply. Don’t let them hear you say that, though.
Away from his distinguished career in mischief, Rio is also a fashion icon, leading the way in bandana-based attire. Billie Eilish, eat your heart out. — JM
The Empty Child, Doctor Who
This time there was no alien monstrosity terrorising the Doctor, just a poor boy looking for his mummy during the 1941 London Blitz.
And yes, horror has seen its fair share of 'creepy kids', but the familiar anonymity of the World War Two gas mask moulded a kind of zombie that was much more uncanny than your typically grotesque walking dead.
That's one way of pretentiously justifying my lingering fear of a boy in a gas mask. As with the best of Doctor Who's ingenious low-budget creations—stalking statues (the Weeping Angels), genocidal salt shakers (the Daleks), masqueraded killer clocks (the Clockwork Droids)—it sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud, but you'll be watching through your fingers. — HB
The Voice, Trapped
The fantasy game show begins with a group of children, nicknamed ‘the Unfortunates’, being winched up into the top floor of a rickety tower. ‘The Voice’ – a purple lipsticked mouth set in a blanched white face - narrates the journey of these poor Unfortunates as they travel down the tower completing challenges at her behest.
Through an earpiece, known as ‘the whisper clip’, ‘The Voice’ will select a child, announcing with in a whisper-shout : "do not react YOU are the saboteur.” She then unscrupulously uses them as her pawn to ruin the challenge for everyone else.
If they manage to do this undetected by their teammates, they will pass through, leaving another unfortunate TRAPPED, allegedly forever, and only ‘The Voice’ echoing in their ears for company. — ECS
The Nekross King, Wizards vs Aliens
In this series created by Russell T Davies and Phil Ford, the ruler of the extra-terrestrial race terrorising Earth’s sorcerers is, essentially, an evil face.
Not just any evil face, however: this one takes up an entire wall, and is voiced by Brian Blessed (I, Claudius), having the time of his life.
The Nekross kind come to Earth to drain wizards of their magic, on which the aliens can feed.
“The Nekross will feast!” the king promises ominously, securing his place in this list (and our nightmares) forever. — JM
Baron Silas Greenback, Danger Mouse (1981)
“The meanest greenest villain this side of Willesden Green.”
How terrifying! A villain with the staunch hubris to rhyme green with green, and which also begs the question, what is happening in NW11?
Baron Silas Greenback is primarily bloodcurdling due to the very throaty cadence, reminiscent of Darth Vader or a Dalek. Alongside his henchman Stiletto Mafiosa (who is a very tall crow in a trench coat), Greenback spends his time tormenting Danger Mouse, his crimes including flooding the earth with exploding custard, gaining control of all the washing machines in London, and creating a museum dedicated to Barry Manilow. Dastardly! — ECS