Last week I covered the unspeakable horror that was the Wheel Steeler and his monstrous cohorts; today, I offer a selection of unsettling Muppet Mayhem from the early days of Sesame Street, before Jim Henson and company found the proper balance between cute and downright fucking scary. If you were born after 1980 or so, you’ve probably never seen any of these, since Children’s Television Workshop deemed them too intense for young impressionable minds and pulled most of them from reruns. But if you grew up in the ‘70s, you likely saw a bunch of these early raw sketches from the first season (1968-69), before Cookie Monster and Grover evolved into the cute and lovable furry friends we know today. And the dim lighting, monochrome colors, poor video quality, and slightly off-model Muppet designs and voices only add to an atmosphere of surrealism and dread — like an eerie mirror image of a sunny, benign environment.
DISCLAIMER: I am disavowing all responsibility for any childhood nightmare flashbacks you may experience as a result. Click at your own risk.
First up: An encounter with an early version of Grover, here conceived as a belligerent, passive-aggressive glue huffer (who, it should be noted, spent a lot of his time participating in confrontational urban monster theater with hippies). But the segment’s anxious tone is only compounded by a terrifying revelation worthy of Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith.
Next, our pal Ernie goes on an innocent rock hunting expedition, only to discover primal fear.
Kermit tries to teach the ironically-named Beautiful Day Monster how to pronounce the letter B, only to be faced with Apocalypse. The end of this one scared the living crap out of me when I was four. I thought everybody on the TV had just died.
Cookie Monster is terrifying when he doesn’t speak. Also he has a posse. AND THE DRUMS AT THE END OH GOD MAKE IT STOP
Kermit tries to explain the concept of sizes with a pair of spooky
shoggoths Snerfs. Then things get really dark. A good example of how the show’s tone could vary wildly from whimsical to downright ominous during its first season, often within the space of seconds.
Finally, Cannibal Cookie. There’s a reason why you’re never supposed to ask about what happened to the original Gordon. THOSE DRUMS AGAIN DEAR LORD WHAT WERE THEY THINKING
Special bonus segment from The Muppet Show, guest starring Vincent Price (1976). This one is only supposed to be scary.
Pleasant dreams, everybody!