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4 Non-Horror TV Shows That Aired Unexpectedly Horrifying Episodes

Finding horror in unexpected places.

night terrors from star trek tng
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  • Photo Credit: Paramount

When it comes to television, horror fans are fortunate to have an abundance of riches. From The Twilight Zone to The X-Files, and Tales from the Crypt to American Horror Story, there’s no lack of amazing episodes of horrifying television.

But how about those shows that aren’t necessarily horror at all but that produced some truly frightening episodes?

For your horror-loving pleasure, I give you four of the creepiest episodes of TV from shows that aren’t part of the genre but will give you chills anyway. 

“Mystery Date” from Mad Men

still from "mystery date" mad men
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  • Photo Credit: AMC

If you follow me on social media, you likely already know I’m a major Mad Men fan. The entire series teems with an undeniable vibe of existential dread, so in a way, I consider Mad Men as a whole a bit more of a horror show than a casual fan probably would. That being said, every once in a while, the series crossed genre lines and went straight for genuine shudders.

“Mystery Date” is absolutely one of those disturbing episodes. The backdrop of the action involves the infamous Chicago nurse murders in 1966, and while none of the characters are involved in that—beyond seeing some particularly gruesome images of the crime scene—they still have some terror of their own, in particular when one of the preteen characters becomes obsessed with how such a mass murder could happen.

And in one of the show’s most violent sequences, protagonist Don Draper becomes fevered and hallucinates that he’s murdered one of his former mistresses. It’s an utterly distressing episode in a series that capitalizes on a pervading sense of anxiety, and one that’s worth a watch if you crave more horror, especially set in vintage eras. 

“The Beast in Black” from The Greatest American Hero

the beast in black from the greatest american hero
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  • Photo Credit: ABC

Many horror fans probably know William Katt best from his turn as Tommy in Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Carrie or possibly even as Roger from the 1986 film, House. That being said, his most famous role is arguably the eponymous hapless superhero of the 1980s series, The Greatest American Hero.

The series was a broad fantasy-comedy about a man who received a superhero uniform from aliens, but as luck would have it, he lost the instruction manual, so he doesn’t know quite how to use it. Hijinks invariably ensue.

Most of the episodes are fairly light-hearted fun, but in the second season, “The Beast in Black” turns out to be more than a little weird. Katt’s character Ralph is helping to clear out an old house that of course turns out to be haunted. Except this particular haunting includes bizarre psychedelic portals to hell and an odd but still very creepy possession.

The low-budget effects work surprisingly in the show’s favor, making the scare factor surreal and at times wholly unnerving. Definitely an episode that’s worth viewing, even if just for the nostalgia of the early 1980s. 

“Night Terrors” from Star Trek: The Next Generation 

Dr Crusher Star Trek Night Terrors Morgue Scene
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  • Photo Credit: Paramount

Growing up, The Next Generation was always my go-to Star Trek series. And while the show has its fair share of fantastical episodes, “Night Terrors” from the fourth season is by far one of the creepiest.

The Enterprise comes across another ship where all but one of the crew members have killed themselves or each other. Soon, the same kind of inexplicable paranoia and violent tendencies strike the crew of the Enterprise. This one apparently isn’t a big favorite of critics, often landing on lists of the show’s worst episodes. But if you’re willing to take a leap of faith, this ends up being one of the more disturbing installments of the series.

If nothing else, the sheer number of dead bodies aboard the Enterprise is astounding. Truly, that morgue scene is one for the ages, so run, don’t walk to your streaming queue and add this episode ASAP. 

“The Terrible Tunnel” from Fraggle Rock

The Terrible Tunnel in Fraggle Rock

Fraggle Rock is a true stalwart of many of our childhoods. The gorgeous puppetry from the Jim Henson Company is undoubtedly charming and beautiful. In general, the series tended to be more upbeat fun. That is, until you come across the segment titled, “The Terrible Tunnel.”

According to Fraggle legend, there’s a strange tunnel that exists in their subterranean world, and if a Fraggle happens to go exploring there, they will get sucked into a void, never to be seen again. Needless to say, some very unfortunate Fraggles get to be on-screen examples of this untimely doom. It’s some very eerie stuff for a show that’s typically fairly jubilant. Plus, the awesome song that recounts the tale is so fabulously well written, which only makes the whole episode that much more worth a watch.

An absolute must-see for horror fans as well as anyone who loves the unique world of Jim Henson (and seriously, who doesn’t love the Henson universe?).