13 Scariest TV Shows of All Time
Scary movies are sexy, but they’re fleeting — just brief, terrifying moments in our lives. A few may cause lifelong impact (e.g., searching open water for a dorsal fin), but they cannot compare to that of TV shows. After all, TV shows have weekly opportunities — some for years at a time — to wreak psychological damage. Yet, when I asked people what they thought was the scariest TV show, many didn’t have an answer. But when I followed up by asking what show — currently or as a child — freaked them out, the list came pouring out. Some were standard (True Blood, Dark Shadows). Others, not so (Law and Order: Criminal Intent). Still others, though not traditionally scary, are no less disturbing (Toddlers and Tiaras). So this Halloween weekend, be different. Fight the urge to watch a scary movie. Instead, set your DVR or scroll through Netflix, Hulu, On Demand, or iTunes and catch an episode of a scary show—either new or old. To help you get started, here are my choices for the 13 scariest shows of all time.
Hoarders (2009-Present, A&E)
Scary images, yes. (Anytime you find a squashed cat corpse behind a desk, I’m going to scream) But because it’s real and that it makes us question if we are or someone we know could be that hoarder, it is truly terrifying.
Unsolved Mysteries (1987-2002, Several Networks)
Robert Stack. Stories of murderers and the supernatural. A generation of adults who twitch when they hear that synthesized theme song (which is vaguely reminiscent of Halloween’s theme song).
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003, WB & UPN)
If you’ve watched it a thousand times or have never watched it before, the writing for this show was genius. Even in the scariest of episodes, the creep-tastic “Hush,” there were moments of comedic brilliance.
Supernatural (2005-Present, CW)
Basic premise: two brothers travel the country to battle creatures that go bump in the night. But, the characters and the special effects is what sets this show apart. Did I mention that one episode is about murderous clowns?
American Horror Story (2011-Present, FX)
Only four episodes have aired but what’s quickly become obvious is that this haunted house likes sex. Is she carrying the Leather Fetish Ghost’s baby? Will the red-headed, twin ghosts attack? Will Dylan McDermott show his ass again? Only time will tell.
Masters of Horror (2005-2007, Showtime)
Honestly, I’ve never been able to get through any of these episodes. Why? Because this series of mini-horror movies, directed by horror elite John Carpenter (The Thing), Dario Argento (Suspiria), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), to name a few, is bloody disgusting.
Dexter (2006-Present, Showtime)
A serial killer who kills serial killers? It is a beautifully made, well-acted, completely disturbing and gruesome show. But it is John Lithgow’s Trinity Killer in Season 4 that might keep you up at nights.
The X-Files (1993-2002, FOX)
Not every episode of Chris Carter’s X-Files was scary. But when the show turned to darker material, it was petrifying. Like “Home,” which involved deformed babies and a woman living under a bed—and banned from replay.
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
The Twilight Zone has intrigued audiences for decades. Each episode oozed with menace. I can still vividly recall episodes I watched as a child, but it is this line, from “Living Doll,” about a possessed doll, that is seared into my brain: “I’m Talking Tina and I’m going to kill you.”
Twin Peaks (1990-1991, ABC)
Anytime David Lynch is involved you know it’ll be weird. But combine his sensibility with a ’90s prime time series and you get the insanely brilliant, demented Twin Peaks. But why did this show earn the top spot? One word: BOB.
Honorable Mentions: V, Outer Limits, America’s Most Wanted, Millennium, Are You Afraid of the Dark?
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