Eight of the creepiest tv shows ever made – to get you in the mood for Halloween
In the absence of the long-awaited series four of Stranger Things, here are eight TV shows to creep you out this Halloween.
1. The Signalman (1976)
Based on a short story by Charles Dickens, this is a classic ghost story. Set in 1866, it tells the tale of a traveller who encounters a nervous looking railway signalman, while he is out for a walk through the English countryside. The two begin talking and eventually the signalman shares with the traveller the reason why he is so on edge: a spectre has appeared before him twice – both times preceding two separate disasters. The signalman is haunted by what he has seen; the traveller tries to reassure him, but things soon reach a dramatic conclusion.
2. Black Mirror (2011 – present)
The Twilight Zone for millennials; Black Mirror consists of a number of stand-alone episodes that are both thought-provoking and disturbing. It is unflinching in its depiction of the worst side of humanity and our obsession with technology. My favourite episode is Nosedive, where Bryce Dallas Howard plays a woman preoccupied with her ratings on a system similar to social media. As the title suggests, her ratings for one reason or another, take a downward turn.
3. The Haunting of Hill House (2018 – present)
The snob in me wants to say: “It’s not like the book”. Yes, it takes some liberties with the plot of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel, but this is the only television show to literally make me jump off the sofa more than once. It is visually arresting and there is every chance that it will give you nightmares. You have been warned.
4. Children of the Stones (1977)
This classic British show is frequently referred to as the scariest programme ever made for children – and it is instantly clear why. An astrophysicist and his son move to the quaint English village of Milbury, where everyone seems very happy. Almost too happy – after all they greet each other by saying “Happy Day”. It soon becomes clear that not all is as it seems; there is more than an air of The Stepford Wives about Milbury…
This seminal show was filmed on location in Avebury, Wiltshire – which is famous for its pagan standing stones – the earliest of which dates from 3400 BC. This, combined with the haunting, megalithic ritual chants of the Ambrosian Singers, gives the whole series an uneasy feel.
5. Century Falls (1993)
Written by Russell T. Davies who went on to make his name with the reboot of Dr. Who, this terrifying 90s children’s show had me longing for Wednesdays (the day it was initially broadcast on CBBC). A young girl called Tess and her mother move to the village of Century; they are the first new residents since a mysterious fire in the 1950s. The people of the village are very guarded – but what are they hiding? Like Children of the Stones, this was written for a younger audience but underestimate its power to disturb at your peril.
6. M. R. James’s – A Warning to the Curious (1972)
A Warning to the Curious was the second in the BBC series A Ghost Story for Christmas. It tells the tale of an amateur archaeologist who believes he knows where one of the long-lost crowns of East Anglia is buried. Unbeknownst to the archaeologist, the crown is protected by a supernatural guardian, as legend has it that should it be removed, England will be invaded. Filmed on the bleak East Anglian coastline, this is one of the most atmospheric television shows of the past 50 years.
7. Inside No. Nine (2014 – present)
Brought to you by two members of The League of Gentlemen; Pemberton and Shearsmith specialise in combining the macabre with the absurd and the outright hilarious. Each 30-minute episode is a stand-alone story. Like Black Mirror, it reflects the worst aspects of humanity, however the majority of the episodes are easier to watch than Black Mirror, as it is more light-hearted (mostly). If you like this – check out Psychoville too (also by Pemberton and Shearsmith).
8. Alfred Hitchcock Presents… (1955 – 1962)
From the master of… suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock presented this weekly dose of horror – winning two Emmys along the way. And when he couldn’t persuade a studio to fully fund a film of his – he employed his (considerably cheaper) tv-crew to shoot it. You may have heard of it – it’s called Psycho.