The 10 Most Memorable Halloween Television Specials Of All Time

October 18, 2021 1:00 AM ‐ TelevisionHalloweenParanormal

This article is more than two years old and was last updated in October 2022.

Ghost Hunting Television Show

From kids TV shows to one-off dramas and special episodes of comedies, October 31 has brought us some memorable television moments over the years. When it comes to Halloween TV, it really does seem to boil down to trick or treat. While some shows were a treat to watch, like 'The Simpsons' annual Halloween special, there's a real theme of tricks with a string of Halloween pranks that aimed to dupe the audience.

10. Bottom - Terror (1995)

Although not originally broadcast on Halloween night, this episode of the classic British comedy is for many a must-watch every October. The episode sees Richie and Eddie, played by Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, go trick-or-treating to raise money for a party which will feature, in Richie's words, "plenty of booze and jugged-up babes". Armed with an electric cattle prod, the duo head out dressed in a devil outfit and a giant banana costume.

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9. Stranger Things - Trick or Treat, Freak (2017)

Dustin Stranger Things

'Trick or Treat, Freak' is the second episode of the second season of the Netflix smash, but you'd think that in Hawkins on a night where the barrier between our world and other worlds becomes thin, things wouldn't be that much different. Despite the looming threat of a nearby portal to the Upside Down, the boys were still able to carry on as normal for a bit and go trick-or-treating. The gang of four's costumes of choice were Ghostbusters outfits, complete with proton packs.

8. Derren Brown: Apocalypse (2012)

Who needs poor quality cheap plastic zombie masks when Derren can make you see the real thing? That's exactly what happened over Halloween in 2012. It was the mentalist's most audacious plan to date as he convinced an unsuspecting member of the public that he was one of a handful of survivors after a catastrophic meteorite strike devastated the country leaving hoards of terrifying zombies in its wake.

7. Friends - The One with the Halloween Party (2001)

With rerun after rerun, the 2001 'Friends' Halloween special is possibly the one you've seen the most on this list. The episode in the show's eighth season is most memorable for Chandler's pink bunny costume, which Monica bought him. Meanwhile Ross is dressed as "Spud-nik", a clever play on words combining the Russian satellite Sputnik and a potato.

6. Charlie Brooker's Dead Set (2008)

More zombies at No. 6, in an era when reality TV was king. Charlie Brooker, who's now best known for 'Black Mirror', turned the world of reality into the stuff of nightmares, albeit with a comedic twist. The five-part zombie apocalypse series, 'Dead Set', was originally broadcast over Halloween 2008 on E4 and used hints of dark humour and familiar faces from the world of television, including Davina McCall, to tell the tale of a zombie takeover from the perspective of contestants trapped inside the 'Big Brother' house.

5. Inside No. 9 - Dead Line (2018)

Inside No. 9 Halloween Special

In homage to the 90s classic, 'Ghostwatch', Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton attempted to recreate the immersive fear of a live television broadcast gone wrong. The episode featured live footage of the cast in the studio mixed with real and mocked up archive footage in order to tell a compelling story, which is based on the real-life stories of hauntings and mishaps at the famous Granada television studios in Manchester.

4. Paul Daniels Magic Show (1987)

Long before 'Ghostwatch' was fooling BBC One viewers, Britains' best-loved magician, Paul Daniels was. The illusionist, who died in 2016, pulled off one of the most controversial televised magic tricks on the night of Halloween in 1987. The trick saw Paul being locked inside of an iron maiden with deadly spikes inside. He had just seconds to escape from the device before the door slammed shut and impaled him. The trick didn't appear to go as planned, resulting in over 1,000 concerned viewers calling the BBC.

3. The Simpsons - Treehouse Of Horror

The long-running US animated series has been bringing viewers its annual 'Treehouse Of Horror' Halloween specials since 1990, amazingly this year will see Matt Groening's famous yellow family appear in the 32nd special. The first 'Treehouse Of Horror' was made up of three different stories, including 'Bad Dream House' which sees the Simpsons move into a new home where an evil presence is lurking, and 'The Raven', Lisa's interpretation of a classic tale of terror penned by Edgar Allan Poe. However the most memorable story was 'Hungry Are The Damned', which involved a tale of UFOs and alien abduction. It also brought us the now classic "how to cook for forty humans" gag.

2. Most Haunted Live!

Most Haunted Live Halloween

For more than a decade Halloween was all about 'Most Haunted Live'. Yvette Fielding took her team on live specials at several points through the year, but it was always the October shows that were the most special and memorable. Starting out at Dudley Castle in 2002, the events grew in size and by 2009 the team were out hunting ghosts across the UK live for eight consecutive nights.

Perhaps the most memorable of these was 'Pendle Hell', which aired over three nights in 2004. The October 31 instalment that year was the most watched non-terrestrial show of the night, attracting over 700k viewers.

The live show saw Yvette take her team to the home of the Pendle Witches in East Lancashire. During a live investigation of the Tynedale Farm house, which is said to be haunted by the ghost of the witches of Pendle Hill, several team members said they felt like they were being chocked and one-by-one left the location. Team member, Stuart Torevell was the first to experience difficulties breathing and left the house, he was followed by a further three crew members who also reported the feeling of being suffocated.

1. Ghostwatch

"No creaking gates, no gothic towers, no shuttered windows. Yet for the past ten months this house has been the focus of an astonishing barrage of supernatural activity," said Michael Parkinson as he welcomed us to 'Ghostwatch' a BBC Halloween special that has had a lasting effect on anyone who watched it when it aired live.

There's no contest over the No. 1 spot. It has to go to the 1992 supernatural drama, which now has such a cult following that each year fans re-watch the almost 30-year-old show, thanks to subsequent DVD release and the option to watch it on the horror streaming service, Shudder.

The programme was made to look as if it was being broadcast live on Halloween night from a council house in London. Throughout the actually-pre-recorded broadcast the show's roving reporter, Sarah Green, and the family living in the house encountered an escalating amount of paranormal activity, starting with knocking and mysterious pools of water, but building up to possession and demonic voices being spoken by one of the young girls who lived in the fictional house.

'Ghostwatch' went on to inspire real-life ghost hunting shows like 'Most Haunted' and eventually gave birth to the whole genre of "found-footage" movies, having inspired the makers of the American supernatural horror movie, 'The Blair Witch Project'.


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