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Nightmare Fuel: Criminal Minds
Warning: Spoilers ahoy! (And major squick)

The profilers of Criminal Minds have to deal with the most deranged and dangerous criminals ever seen in the United States. So, no wonder that the series has managed so far to provide us with a good amount of Nightmare Fuel.

It should be also noticed that one of the most terrifying parts about the show is that they didn't make this stuff up. Most of the cases are Ripped from the Headlines.

Don't say you weren't warned about the spoilers and the squick. Sweet dreams.
Season 1
  • "The Fox": The team finding the wedding rings in the final scene, implying that there were more families slaughtered that the team didn't know about. This was the episode who introduced us to Karl Arnold.
    Karl Arnold: Wives wither, children perish... but me? I'm an excellent father.
  • "Natural Born Killer": After torturing his victims, the UnSub would occasionally leave them to be eaten alive by rats. The crime scene — ugh, so much blood everywhere. And how the three victims were killed —thank god we never see the act. The aftermath is just scary enough.
  • "The Popular Kids": A body is found in a place that looks like a Satanic ritual site. It's later explained that the body was a tourist who fell down an incline and hit his head on a rock. The thing is, there was a group of kids who regularly went to see the body because it was something their parents didn't know about. And nobody knew apart from them for a year. That tourist probably had family and friends who spent a year wondering where he was because a group of kids thought it was fun to keep a corpse secret.
  • "Poison": A guy (whose been slipped a cocktail of drugs) at the beginning of the episode has a nightmarish hallucination involving dozens of shadowy figures swarming him in the woods near a secluded road, in the middle of the night. One of the hallucinations had a freakish, constantly shifting face that goes from looking like something vaguely demonic to nothing but a giant, glowing red eye. In the throes of his hallucination, he beats his own son nearly to death with a tire iron.
  • "The Tribe": most of the victims were skinned alive.
  • The UnSub's monologue near the end of "Somebody's Watching" is really creepy, not helped by the fact there's at least 3 mirrors showing her increasingly deranged face all throughout.
    • The way the UnSub caresses Lilah during the standoff.
    • Hell, just the idea of your best friend from your childhood ending up obsessing over you to the point that she's willing to kill anyone she thinks is a "threat" to you. Lilah is clearly shell shocked once Maggie is subdued.
  • Mark Gregory's Villainous Breakdown in "Charm and Harm", if only because its a darkly realistic take on a serial killer's potential devolution.

Season 2
  • "The Boogeyman": Had a terrifying UnSub who beat children to death with a baseball bat. And is a child as well. When Gideon asked the UnSub why he murdered those children, the response was "Because I wanted to."
  • "North Mammon": Three best friends were kidnapped and got locked in a room. The UnSub not only made all three girls choose who had to die, he made them kill her themselves... with hammers.
  • "The Big Game"/"Revelations"
    • There was the part where a woman was tied up and then eaten alive by rabid dogs.
    • Reid is handcuffed to a chair, drugged and helpless, having just been forced to watch a double murder he feels partially responsible for on a video feed, and Gideon appears on the same screen after the team arrive at the victims' house. He tries to talk to Reid, to reassure him that he's strong and won't break, and Reid just stares catatonically at the screen like he's not even really there.
    • The UnSub in this episode in general. He's got multiple personalities. One is Tobias, a surprisingly sweet guy who tries to help Reid—but "helps" him by drugging him. Another personality Raphael, an angel who is completely without emotion, but just views his murders as God's will, and forces Reid to play Russian Roulette. The last one is Tobias's father, who's absolutely terrifying. He's a religious fanatic who apparently burned a cross into his son's forehead when he was young—and he actually kills Reid. Yes, he's resuscitated, but seeing one of the protagonists actually die was downright chilling.
  • "Open Season": Involved people getting taken into the forest and hunted for sport.
  • "No Way Out": Crazy Jane has those wind chimes outside her house. They were made out of the rib bones taken from Frank's victims, because he loves her and and flowers just aren't his style. Then there was the rib bone she used as a whistle. Every single thing that came out of Frank's mouth was pretty creepy.
  • "No Way Out Part II": Frank's return is pretty much the most horrifying thing ever. There were victims that came back from previous episodes only to be killed. The victim from the "Fisher King" two-parter had a rough life. Long and spoilered rotten explantion 
  • "Ashes and Dust": Pretty scary episode overall, but one of the murders is up there as one of the scariest in the whole show. A father and his two kids are leaving their house and get into their car, where the UnSub appears and begins pouring petrol over the vehicle. We see the father and kids screaming for help as they realise they're locked inside, and the UnSub sets the car on fire and leaves. Cut to outside, the entire garage explodes in a fireball. An aversion of Infant Immortality.
  • "Legacy"
    • The M.O. of the UnSub was taking street people and dumping them in a slaughterhouse/meat plant he converted into a Death Course for a few hours, before recapturing and vivisecting while in surgical/butcher garb and with absolutely nasty looking tools.
    • It also features a scene where a woman blindly runs through door after identical door, and winds up tripping and falling into a room filled with broken glass, which she has to crawl through... barefoot.
    • This episode also had something that's actually pretty frightening on the part of the good guys. The killer's accomplice is sitting in an interrogation room, plotting his defense. Hotch walks in, deconstructs the accomplice's life and motivations, utterly breaks his will to resist, and walks back out with all the information he needs from the man in under five minutes. No raised voices, no threats of jail time, never laid a hand on him. Aaron Hotchner can make someone turn against everything they've done just by talking to them.
    • Also, at some point, Hotch criticizes the police's indifference because the people missing are prostitutes, junkies and/or vagrants. Now, I was just wondering how many people like them could disappear in Real Life before someone even noticed it.
    • It's Truth in Television, so a LOT.

Season 3
  • "Scared to Death": had the psychologist who killed his patients by using their fears. It makes viewers start thinking about how they could die from their own fears.
  • "Lucky"
    • The episode opens with the UnSub locked away safely in a mental institution with the head of the asylum begging the board of directors to keep him in.
    • During the raid on the UnSub's house they find industrial cookware, a freezer full of bodies which have been dismembered and had their throats slit and a demonic altar, the walls of which are covered in blood, disturbing paintings and shelves crammed full of books on the nature of evil and homemade cookbooks about how to properly prepare human limbs for consumption.
    • The scene at the end:
    Father Marks: "God is in all of us."
    • What's really terrifying about it is the complete change in demeanor. At first, Floyd is quiet, meek, won't make eye contact. Then Father Marks talks, and it's like Floyd is an entirely different person. He makes eye contact, his voice changes, and he smiles in the creepiest way possible. Any Supernatural fans watching this episode probably went for their holy water.
  • "True Night"
    • Frankie Muniz's character, Johnny, suffers a catastrophic mental breakdown in response to witnessing the brutal rape and murder of his girlfriend by a gang of serial rapists ("gang-bangers"), and being left for dead with his intestines hanging out. As a Frank Miller-style comic-book writer and artist (Miller is in fact quoted by Garcia at the end of the episode), he begins drawing some horrifyingly dark comics about a shadowy warrior that kills evil demon creatures by disemboweling them and slicing them up. The plot twist of course being that members of the gang are turning up in suspiciously similar poses to those that appear in Johnny's art. In the end, it turns out Johnny character has gone out and slaughtered every single one of the bastards that ruined his life - whether this is a Crowning Moment Of Awesome or not is for the viewer to decide - with the agents finding the final body so gored it's not shown onscreen. Prentiss is visibly shaken by the whole thing, which leads to some Paranoia Fuel - any one of us could end up as hopelessly insane as Johnny did. Johnny is now locked up in a padded cell with his girlfriend's mobile phone, incessantly listening to her voicemail, hoping one day she'll pick up. End episode. Have some Kleenex and/or vodka ready.
  • The UnSub's sociopathic apathy after she's found out in "Seven Seconds".

Season 4
  • "Normal":
    • Seeing A.D. Skinner go from guilt ridden househusband to... that. Not because of the way he kills, but because of what the reveal said he did after his first strike.
    • There's also some Nausea Fuel in that the agents enter the house and can smell the decomposing bodies of Norman's family.
    • Let's not forget the fact that Norman then hallucinates the fact his whole family is in his SUV with him as he tries to make a getaway, telling him that the death of his youngest daughter is his fault. The most gutting part is when he staggers from the empty vehicle realising what he's done and starts uncontrollably sobbing "What did I do?!"
  • "Bloodline". While a less creepy example, the ending of this episode with the revelation that there are more families out there kidnapping young girls and killing their parents is creepy. The entire episode becomes creepy, too, when you stop to wonder what happened to daughters born in that family...
    • Speak for yourself. To me, the fact that they show an entire dynasty of... uncaught serial killers, was one of the most horrifying moments of the entire series.
  • "Demonology": It's not outright terrifying, but it is probably one of the eeriest episodes of the show. There's just something so horrible about the atmosphere, and the brutal exorcisms, and the uncertainty over who's evil and who's not.
  • "A Shade of Gray"
    • The Reveal was the worst part. When you realize that the UnSub was the six-year-old victim's ten-year-old brother.
  • "Amplification" The very last scene with the anthrax strain being locked away in containment "With all the other bio-agents people don't know about". A soldier in a Haz-Mat suit lock a small metal box into a vault in the wall. As he closes the door the camera moves back and shows that there are more vaults in the wall. The camera just keeps panning out and it's a huge facility filled with possibly thousands of other bio-weapons.
  • "To Hell..."/"... And Back"
    • The UnSub killed people and then gave them to pigs. Anyone with pigs will tell you that pigs will eat anything.
      Reid: Pigs are omnivores, they'll eat anything. Anything.
    • Made even worse by the fact that the murders were based on real-life serial killers in Canada.
    • At the very end of "... And Back" has the death montage of both the Turner brothers. The black ex-soldier who got the BAU team to come in and investigate because the Turners got his sister, only to find out by the time they get to the farm she's already dead, calmly picks up a rifle and comes into the house to shoot Mason. And Mason... smiles at him.
  • "House on Fire". The fact that literally the entire population of a town banded together to systematically destroy the life of a preteen orphan. All because of a rumor they had no way of proving was true or not.

Season 5
  • Hotch and Foyet's very intimate little torture scene, shot and scripted like a rape scene performed through Foyet's knife instead of through his body. So terrible that Hotch pretends not to remember it because he can't handle talking to his teammates about it.
  • "Cradle to Grave": Think of it like the most gore and foul horror hentai being filmed. Young women are kidnapped, locked in a prison, impregnated, left alone when she's about to labor and the only possible help is from the other prisoner. Either she will be killed if she doesn't give birth to a baby boy or the unsub will impregnate her again until they can find a substitute. Even though the viewers know this by description of one of the victim, the mental image of it is devastating.
  • "The Performer": Imagine you're a goth rock star who really doesn't even like his persona anymore, and people (including some of your fans) start dying in ways that point right to you. You're innocent and have no clue what's happening... and then the UnSub is your close friend and manager, who's manipulating a mentally ill fan of yours that's obsessed with your persona, killing people to get you publicity that you don't even want since you're sick of making events instead of music anyway. Poor guy...
  • "The Eyes Have It"
    • The melon baller used to gouge out the victims' eyes, and the UnSub's taxidermy shop.
    • There was the irony shot of Reid talking about how some ennucleators eat the eyes of their victims and the UnSub eating hard-boiled eggs.
    • Also, what the Buddist family of one of the victims believed had happend to her soul because of the removal of her eyes. The Grandmother of the victim claimed to have seen her blind, tormented ghost. And if the victims eyes could never be recovered, she would remain that way forever.
  • "Uncanny Valley"
    • The childlike UnSub drugs her victims, and she dressed them up as dolls. The victims are still aware of the world but can't move at all.
    • The woman who had a wig stitched into her scalp while she was fully aware of everything.
    • The dream sequence where the most recent victim breaks from her chemical paralysis and tries to escape, only to have her limbs turn to mannequin parts and fall off.
    • The UnSub's father raped her after her mother died, then subjected her to electroshock therapy at the age of TEN!!
  • "Mosley Lane": This one isn't as gory as other episodes, but has a high creep-out factor. The female UnSub (creepingly portrayed by Beth Grant) is enough to give you goosebumps. If that's not enough, there are child abduction, heavy abuse, a nightmare-like setting and the young victims being burned alive!!! And the cherry on the cake is the suicide-by-hanging. The song "Illabye" is used once again after "The Fox". And it's terrifying once again.
  • Tim Curry as the UnSub in "Our Darkest Hour/The Longest Night" falls squarely into this. It's a far cry from his more popular roles, and it works.

Season 6
  • "With Friends Like These...": The UnSub had schizophrenia, and was constantly tormented by three hallucinations who said they would leave him alone if he killed people. At the end, he's in a mental hospital and for a second you think he's better and can't see them anymore. But nope, they're still there, mocking him. They also imply that they've been with him his entire life, which adds a whole new level of scary.
    • Then there was the part where he lays down to try and sleep and sees the dead, bleeding bodies of his hallucinations sticking to the ceiling.
    • The part where the UnSub is hallucinating that Reid is telling him to stab him in the neck and that will solve all his problems while smiling cheerfully was either Nightmare Fuel or hilarious.

Season 7
  • "Proof": The UnSub is a mentally-ill serial killer fixated on his sister-in-law, with the mentality of a child. He narrates all his thoughts into a camera, talking cheerily about scarring, raping, and killing women. He then kidnaps his niece, who has recently dyed her hair to look like her mother, and threatens to rape her. He gleefully confesses to burning her hands and wanting to blind and burn his brother so he could hear his daughter scream. The disconnect between the cheerful side of him and the fact that he gouges out eyes, rips out tongues, and pours acid in the mouths of women is just chilling.
  • "Hope": The entire episode was creepy in general.
  • "Painless" - The idea that someone could break into your home and plant a bomb into your alarm clock.
  • "Closing Time": Aside from the fact that the serial killer cut off some of his victims' genitals, there was also the part where he accidentally knocks a man into a car compactor... and then intentionally starts it while he's still alive. Thank God they didn't show the body... but the screams were certainly audible, though.
  • "Foundation": Finding out that the UnSub bit his victims, who by the way were all children. He'd hold them in captivity for years. The worst part was that he was also able to kidnap a very low risk eleven-year-old boy. The UnSub also would give stuff from the victim to his daughter, who had no idea that the gifts she got actually belonged to other children.
    • Oh, and the Unsub's method of disposing of the kids he's grown tired of? Burying them alive.
  • "Heathridge Manor"
    "I've been waiting for you for so long, Lara. You have to come with me now."
  • "The Company." A ring of men kidnap, attain through human trafficking, or otherwise break women down into being slaves. They convince the women that any attempt to escape will result in their families being killed. Then if the women have children, they can only see their children once a year.

Season 8
  • Jason from "The Pact". The part where he digs up the skull of one of his victims, than informs the victim's mother (who wants to know where the rest of her daughter is) that they have "some more holes to dig."
  • "God Complex." A man is kidnapping people, taking their legs, and attempting to transplant them onto others. Any time the victims are kept alive is acutely creepy, let alone when one "walks into the emergency room on a leg that wasn't his." If that's not creepy enough, he's played by Ray Wise.
    • It gets even worse when we discover that the man isn't a psychopath - he has a fully functional social life and a family to whom he is genuinely devoted; he has just distanced himself so much from his work that (like the Nazi "doctors" to whom he is explicitly compared,) he sees no contradiction between being a loving husband and chopping up strangers. He is so convinced he's not doing anything wrong that when a victim actually survives he proudly takes his wife (who thought he'd been experimenting on mice,) in to see it, and was actually surprised that she was horrified.
  • "The Good Earth." It involves an hypochondriac woman that believes that her (non-existent) skin disease can only be cured by eating crops fertilized with human remains, so she kidnaps fit young men, strips them, holds them captive in her barn, forcefeeds them a strange soup made of soil additives and animal feed via tube, and chops them one-by-one into little pieces that she later fertilizes her tomatoes with. At one point she also kidnaps a pregnant woman, slices her belly open with a knife while she is still conscious, takes the placenta, and attempts to feed it to her daughter. Nausea Fuel doesn't even begin to describe it.
    • This gets worse if you're a reader of STFU Parents and have seen what some people actually DO with their placentas.
  • "Perennials," in which the victim-to-be-saved (a tweenage boy) has to look over his shoulder for a very long time after the serial killer tells him that he'll come back for the boy in twenty years.
  • "The Lesson". HUMAN. MARIONETTE. PUPPETS!
    • Particularly the masks and their voices feebly pleading for help.
      • The scene with the audience of toys at the end is just... unsettling. Hell, the sheer, childish insanity of this particular unsub is incredibly creepy.
      • The scene where he dislocates their limbs, and the way they flop around afterwards.
      • Thanks to this episode, you'll never think of the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind?" the same way again...
  • Reid's nightmare in Zugzwang where he maries his girlfriend and discovers she has no face.
    • Maeve's stalker is motivated because Maeve rejected her thesis due to poor sample-structure (she'd included her own parents' suicide in it). That's it. Maeve even said it wasn't that bad, she just needed to do more work on it.
  • "All That Remains." Imagine that your wife mysteriously disappeared during a blackout when a separate identity from yours takes over and your two daughters vanish immediately a year after. Later you learn that your oldest daughter killed both your younger daughter and wife and had planned everything out, including framing you for your wife's disappearance.
    • Something small, but given the identity of the Unsub, it becomes terrifying: After the Unsub's arrest, JJ looks through her mother's real estate book and finds a pearl necklace and wedding ring. Reid walks up behind her and says something that makes the Unsub even creepier.
    Reid: Trophies.
  • Broken: when we learn what the camp did to turn gay teens straight: they take their belongings, erase everything they don't deem "masculine" enough, put them in jump-suits like they were in Guantanamo, force them to follow a time-table that leaves no room for individual time, take away their mean of communication with the outside, force them to watch straight porn while God knows what substance is being put in their bloodstream, pay a female child molesting prostitute to rape them, all of this with the aknowledgement of the kid's parents . The episode unsub manages to kill and mutilate six people, try to force his best friend to rape his father before murdering them both and he ends up looking more sympathetic and less creepy that the camp
    • And when this story is finished, we're shown that The killer who's been taunting the BAU by imitating the MO of people they had arrested was watching Alex Blake's lesson
  • The hallucination scenes in "Alchemy".
  • Strauss' death in the season finale. After seven seasons of being a tough as nails, but fair badass, her final moments have her Dying Alone, desperately begging for her life, all while in agonizing pain as her insides are dissolved by the poison the Replicator gave her.
    • And then the Replicator uses the same poison on Rossi. The resulting hallucinations and confrontation in Morgan's office are chilling.

Season 9
  • The end of "The Inspiration" The cop who sighted the killer allowing Morgan and JJ to catch him actually id'd the killer's twin brother, and the killer is still loose.
    • The unsub's hallucinations are profoundly creepy. He sees his first victim everywhere even over old ladies at a restaurant by the end and over his own mother at one point. But worse is that the hallucination often takes the form of his conscience reminding him that his first victim did love him once, but he's the reason the relationship went south by going Yandere on her, and how she sporadically teleports from across the room to right in front of him during their "conversations".
  • More than halfway through "The Inspired" (follow-up episode to "The Inspiration") where you find out that the mother found the son she kept a disappointment, so she tried grooming the one she gave away to kill him and take his place to be the "perfect mother."
    • The twin, Jesse, is damn creepy too. He stalks down Wallace and captures him, ties him up, and demands to know why Wallace was kept when he wasn't. He then forces Wallace to take a sedative so Jesse has time to plan an escape to Canada for both of them so Wallace can get "help" despite Wallace not wanting to. Then we find out Wallace didn't take it and he's loose and it looks like he kills a woman... but nope, it was Jesse.
  • "To Bear Witness" is all kinds of creepy. The unsub kidnaps his sister and her boyfriend and lobotomises both of them, as well as putting cameras in their eyes so he can watch what they see and show it to the world if he wishes. This is because he's always felt overshadowed by his sister. Oh, and let's not forget that he practised lobotomy on another person before his sister and her boyfriend, before he then killed that person.
  • Strange Fruit has the killer having a flashback to when he was kidnapped by Klansmen, tied to a tree before getting castrated... the screaming and shrieking is the worst part because of how real the actor makes it seem.
  • "What Happens in Mecklinburg": The unsub's Uncanny Valley pig mask, a Victim of the Week's sodomy via fire iron and poisoning via hydrochloric acid, and said victim's own prior Moral Event Horizon of raping and poisoning the unsub's Dead Little Sister — with the unsub's other victims helping hide it. A rare case where the Sympathetic Murderer's just as scary as the Asshole Victims.
  • "Rabid": The unsub infecting people with rabies is bad enough, but then we figure out how. He started with one man, infected through an animal bite, then kidnapped someone else for that man to infect. Then he keeps the chain going by continually kidnapping new people to be bitten and infected. We get to see his latest victim of the disease in all her glory, spitting and foaming and ranting as she succumbs completely and eventually slips into a coma after she's rescued. And the unsub's motive? Nothing but pure sadism. He records his victims sufferings because he's obsessed with the disease.
  • "Blood Relations" has some of the most brutal on-screen killings of the season, with the unsubs preferred method being strangulation with razor wire.
    • He even attacks one man's innocent wife, tying her neck to the back end of a car and her feet to a deep freezer, then driving off. Her poor husband tries to save her, then has to watch as his wife is savagely decapitated.
    • The identity of the unsub - the bastard child of an incestuous relationship between two siblings, that left the guy horribly deformed. The girl gave him up for adoption, and now he's back all these years later to systematically murder her and her brother's family to get to her.
    • To top it all off, at the end of the episode he's still on the loose, and is implied to murder a perfectly innocent couple in their vacation home miles away.
  • The killer in "Angels"/"Demons" was the second in command of the police force, who had almost the entire force working for him controlling a massive drug ring. By part two the force gets suspicious of the Bureau agents and tries to kill Reid, who's already in the hospital, twice. The second time involves a crooked nurse who's implied to have killed a previous sheriff the same way he tries with Reid, giving them medicine they're allergic to. Garcia could only stop him by shooting him.
    • The killer kept the lead prostitute in line by threatening her son. And to be sure she'd know, another cop interrupts her meeting with JJ.

Covert AffairsNightmareFuel/Live-Action TVCriminal Minds: Suspect Behavior

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