They’re Baack: 25 Terrifying Characters From Your Childhood

High on acid, plotting your “accidental” drowning in the chocolate river.

The first time I watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory I was confused. Candy is good. Yes. Chocolate river, better still. But Willy Wonka and his freakish Oompa Loompa minions terrified me. Still can’t watch that movie without feeling like I’ve somehow overdosed on hallucinogenic drugs, which, perhaps was the intention? Who’s to say?

And so it was that most of the entertainment of my childhood inspired intense fear ostensibly while providing wholesome childhood enjoyment. Sleeping Beauty: wonderful. Maleficent: horrifying. Gizmo: so cute! Spike: nightmares for weeks.

Really, who didn’t sleep in their parent’s bed for weeks after watching Poltergeist with your big brother when your parents were gone? Just me? Doubt it. That clown (Don’t ‘what clown?’ me. You know which clown) has inspired a worldwide terror of clowns that pretty much rendered clown parties obsolete. Clowns in cartoons, movies, theme parks and TV shows should be discontinued FOREVER. And writers (I’m looking at you Stephen King) should never, ever be able to write about them ever again, free speech be damned.

Here is the list of the top 25 most terrifying characters from your youth. Do you agree? What’s missing? Coming soon: Top 20 Freaky Characters From Your Teenage Years including more from the insane membrane that belongs to Stephen King, Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers and the rest of the gang.


  • The Child Catcher 1 of 25
    Who isn't horrified by The Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Nobody, that's who. Freddy Krueger ain't got nothin' on this guy. To refresh your memory click here. Mwahahaha. FUN FACT: The Child Catcher was the inspiration for Marilyn Manson's Smells Like Children EP. He even dresses like the Child Catcher on the cover.
    Photo Credit: virginmedia.com
  • The Poltergeist Clown 2 of 25
    It's on screen for seconds, really, and yet the Poltergiest clown has dominated much of my life by initiating a lifelong fear of clowns. Let's face it, clowns are inherently evil and should be eliminated from society. Don't agree? Watch this. It's seconds long. SECONDS. And I'll have nightmares over it, without question. FUN FACT: It's not so fun, but many people believe there is a Poltergiest curse because people who starred in or helped make the movie died. The actress who plays the big sister, Dana, in the first movie was strangled to death by her boyfriend right after its release and Heather O'Rourke (Carol Anne) died of septic shock while still making the third movie.
    Photo Credit: geekenfreude.com.
  • Spike 3 of 25
    No water after midnight. DAMMIT, Billy! It was the one rule of Gremlins! Was it really that hard? FUN FACT: In the original screenplay the cute and lovable Gizmo turns into Spike but Steven Spielberg thought that would upset viewers so they kept Gizmo as a cuddlebug throughout the movie and made Spike a separate character. Good call.
    Photo Credit: allgeektome.com
  • Darkness 4 of 25
    Tim Curry as Darkness is the early Tom Cruise movie Legend is brilliantly evil. He plays bad so good. Still scares me. FUN FACT: It took nearly 7 hours to put on all that make-up and an hour and a half to take it off.
    Photo Credit: zap2it.com
  • Gmork 5 of 25
    Oh my but I love The NeverEnding Story. I mean, seriously, how hot was Atreyu? Gmork was a werewolf and a servant of The Nothing and damn but he was scary as hell all hiding in his cave and growling. And he almost kills my boyfriend in the Swamps of Sadness. Gmork bad. Interestingly, when asked, a lot of my Facebook friends said it wasn't Gmork that scared them, but Falkor, the flying luckdragon. What? Falkor is awesome. Are you people crazy? FUN FACT: There is much confusion over the name Bastian gives the princess at the end of the movie because it's hard to hear. The name was deliberately obscured, maybe so readers could infer what they wanted or maybe because "Moon Child" sounds silly in English. The movie is based on a German novel and in the book Bastian names the princess Moon Child and no mention of his mother is made. In the movie he doesn't exactly say he's naming the princess after his mother, just that he's giving her a beautiful name, just like his mother had. Only a Neverending Story junkie like me will understand the above.
    Photo Credit: thecarnivoreproject.typepad.com
  • Sloth 6 of 25
    Sure it was all great at the end of the movie Goonies (HEY YOU GUUUUYS!) but at the beginning when he's all chained up in the dark, before you know he's a good guy. Terrifying. FUN FACT: The actor who played Sloth's sidekick, Chunk, Jeff Cohen, is now a big time entertainment lawyer in L.A. He's pretty cute, too.
    Photo Credit: www.toptenz.com
  • Willy Wonka 7 of 25
    The original acid trip, man. Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka when he takes the gang onto the chocolate river and heads the boat into the tunnel. "There's no knowing where we're rowing or which way the river's flowing..." Make it stop, MAKE IT STOP! He also yells at Charlie at the end of the movie. Never liked Willy Wonka. Total dick. FUN FACT: The kid who played Augustus Gloop was German, spoke no English, and learned his lines phonetically.
    Photo Credit: thegeorgetownindy.com
  • The Wicked Witch of the West 8 of 25
    God bless Margaret Hamilton for playing the hell out of that role in The Wizard of Oz. But dang was she scary. I remember being 5 or 6 and I spent the whole movie stressed out, waiting for each scene with the witch. FUN FACT: Here's Margaret Hamilton playing the storekeeper in a Maxwell House coffee commercial from the 70s. She also spent some time hanging with the least scary man in the world, Fred Rogers.
    Photo Credit: weheartit.com
  • The Flying Monkeys 9 of 25
    The only thing freakier than the Wicked Witch was her pet flying monkeys. FUN FACT: The head flying monkey, Nikko, was played by actor Pat Walshe, who stood 3 feet 8 inches tall.
    Photo Credit: brian.carnell.com
  • Bozo The Clown 10 of 25
    I'm sorry but Stephen King had to be watching old episodes of Bozo the Clown when he wrote the book It featuring Pennywise the clown because they look exactly the same, which is to say they look scary as hell. FUN FACTS: There was a ten year wait for tickets to the Bozo the Clown show and Ronald McDonald was adapted from Bozo. Bozo is considered the most famous clown ever.
    Photo Credit: allgeektome.com
  • Gargamel 11 of 25
    Yeah Smurfs was a cartoon about little blue critters but Gargamel was a little too evil for my 7-year-old liking. He was so vengeful. "I'll get you, I'll get all of you if that's the last thing I ever do!" FUN FACT: Smurfette was created by Gargamel to distract the smurfs and exact revenge. She was made in his lab out of "sugar and spice and nothing nice." Smurfette wasn't the blonde bombshell you know today. She had stringy dark hair until Papa Smurf gave her successful plastic "smurfery."
    Photo Credit: smurfsanon.com
  • Maleficent 12 of 25
    I remember being 10-years-old and babysitting my neighbors, who were 4 and 6. We put Sleeping Beauty on and even I was freaked out when Maleficent first appears. Something about her combined with her theme music is just pure evil. That music is so deliciously freaky. She's almost too much for Disney, if you ask me, but maybe that's the allure, that she induces such terror in little kids. Fear is adrenaline and excitement. FUN FACT: The movie, when released in 1959, was the last fairytale produced by Walt Disney because it was such a box office disappointment. Disney didn't go back to making the movies until well after Walt Disney's death. The first movie was the 1989 release of The Little Mermaid.
    Photo Credit: ragnell.blogspot.com
  • Skelator 13 of 25
    The antagonist of the He-Man cartoons is almost like the blueprint for the super scary killer from the Scream franchise. He is a freaky-ass wizard with powers beyond our puny mortal comprehension. FUN FACT: Skelator only appeared in 70 of of the 130 episodes of the 80's He-Man cartoon. This surprised me as he is the character that most stands out to me.
    Photo Credit: comicvine.com
  • Bumble 14 of 25
    Still striking horror in the hearts and minds of footie-pajama clad kiddos is the snow monster from the long-running Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special. I didn't even realize the monster had a name until my husband told me this year. I don't know why dude is so freaky, I think it has to do with stop motion and claymation itself, which is super creepy, not to mention his googly eyes and shark teeth. FUN FACT: Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer is the longest running Christmas TV special in history, airing every year since 1964.
    Photo Credit: the cimmerian.com
  • E.T. 15 of 25
    Yeah, I know, it's E.T. He's so lovable! But the first ten minutes of that movie are terrifying. Not to mention E.T. rustling around in the corn when he first encounters Elliot, who I had a smoking hot crush on, by the way. FUN FACT: There are a million awesome fun facts about E.T. A few include: in the scene where E.T. and Elliot are hospitalized Steven Spielberg appears as a doctor, E.T. is 900-years old, the movie was originally called "A Boy's Life" then "Night Skies" then "ET and Me." And finally, M&M was first offered the marketing deal to be E.T.'s favorite food in the movie but they passed. The honor went to Reece's Pieces, which turned the virtually unknown candy into a household word.
    Photo Credit: wpb.org
  • Large Marge 16 of 25
    You know, the truck driver from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. "And when they finally pulled the driver's body from the twisted, burning wreck, it looked like THIS!" Let's just say I wasn't expecting what happens next. Pee-Wee wasn't either. FUN FACT: During the entire time Large Marge tells her story she never blinks.
    Photo Credit: davelandblog.blogspot.com
  • Mumm-Ra 17 of 25
    Mumm-Ra, in case you don't know, is the antagonist character from the 80's cartoon Thundercats. He's the self-proclaimed "ever-living source of evil" and damn is he evil. He must return to a stone sarcophagus to replenish his energy even though he is considered immortal. FUN FACT: Mumm-Ra was the name of a British indie band named after the cartoon character.
    Photo Credit: cartoonphotocollection.blogspot.com
  • Chucky 18 of 25
    Dolls are creepy enough without turning them into deranged serial killers, amirite? FUN FACT: Don Mancini wrote the Chucky character and based it on Cabbage Patch Dolls, which were popular at the time. He wanted to "write a dark satire about how marketing affects kids." Oh he affected kids all right.
    Photo Credit: characters.wikia.com
  • Jabberwocky 19 of 25
    The Jabberwocky from the 1985 Alice In Wonderland TV movie... Holy crap did this scene terrify me when it first came out (skip to 3 minutes in.) I was so freaked it pretty much ruined the whole movie for me. Oh yeah, kids. Gather 'round. Let's watch Alice In Wonderland! It'll be great. NOT. I defy you to watch it now and not get creeped out. FUN FACT: Lewis Carroll coined the words "chortle" and "galumphing" in the original Jabberwocky poem.
    Photo Credit: youtube.com
  • Beetlejuice 20 of 25
    Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Michael Keaton fan (Mr. Mom, anyone?) but this movie just wasn't my bag even though I'll watch Alec Baldwin in anything. Maybe it's not so much Beetlejuice as the whole death thing that my 11-year-old brain wasn't ready to contemplate, I dunno. But it scared me. FUN FACT: Director Tim Burton originally wanted Sammy Davis Jr. to play Beetlejuice. Also, shooting for the famous dinner party dance sequence took five days to complete. Actors listened to the song hundreds of times to get the vibe down.More fun facts here.
    Photo Credit: varnishedvalkyrie.blogspot.com
  • Cruella Deville 21 of 25
    Besides being cruel to animals, which I cannot abide, even in cartoon characters, Cruella is basically a smoking skeleton. Like supermodels! Okay, that was mean. But seriously, I'd definitely place Cruella at the top of the Disney villain list (and best named villain!) for sure. FUN FACT: The first public showing of 101 Dalmatians was on January 25, 1961. At the time of its release, it was the top-grossing animated feature of all time.
    Photo Credit: eggwork.com
  • Darth Vader 22 of 25
    Okay, I really should've put the Emperor here because he was the ridiculously terrifying one and we eventually saw the softer side of Darth. But Lord Vader was pretty damn scary too. I remember this video playing all through my childhood and I was always freaked out by Darth Vader, the Emperor and The Sand People. Scary stuff for little kids. FUN FACTS: In 1973 an unknown director named George Lucas approached Universal Studios about a movie called Star Wars. In what turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes ever made by a studio, they turned him down. James Earl Jones (voice of Vader) was so convinced the film would flop he refused to allow his name in the original credits. In early scripts, Luke Skywalker's name was Luke Starkiller. More fun facts here.
    Photo Credit: starwarswikia.com
  • Skeksis 23 of 25
    What? You don't know Skeksis from The Dark Crystal? Proof muppets can be scary as hell. Because, let's be honest, the Gelflings are pretty freaky too. But yeah. Skeksis. Part reptile, part dragon, part bird. Oy. FUN FACT: Jim Henson was inspired to design the Skeksis by an illustrated edition of a Lewis Carrol poem showing two elegantly dressed crocodiles in a bathroom.
    Photo Credit:
  • Dr. Claw 24 of 25
    Maybe it's because we never see his face and only hear his garbage disposal of a voice but Dr. Claw looms large in the scary characters from my childhood. "I'll get you next time Gadget!" FUN FACTS: The voice of Dr. Claw is that of Frank Welker, an actor who specializes in voice work. He is the voice of dozens of recognizable cartoon characters including Fred and Scooby Doo, Transformers and a bunch of other totally recognizable characters. Seriously, the list of stuff he voices is insane. As of March 2012, Welker had voiced or appeared in 96 movies with a combined gross revenue of over $6.4 billion making him the top grossing actor by this standard (and almost $1.3 Billion ahead of the next highest grossing actor, Samuel L. Jackson.)
    Photo Credit: tumblr.com
  • The Furnace From Home Alone 25 of 25
    In closing, I submit to you that the furnace from Home Alone features prominently in the list of scary characters from my youth. FUN FACT: In the scene where Harry attempts to bite off Kevin's finger, Joe Pesci actually bit Macaulay Culkin, leaving a scar on his finger. More Home Alone fun facts here.
    Photo Credit: thefw.com

You can also find Monica on her personal blog, The Girl Who.

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