This section is in alphabetical order by series. Before you add examples here, check the index above and make sure the series doesn't already have its own page.Advertisements and PSAs go in the NightmareFuel.Advertising section.
The Adventures of Black Beauty was a gentle, family-friendly British series in the early 70's, comparable in tone to Little House on the Prairie. It was geared toward children, mostly young children. In an episode entitled Out of the Night, two of the teenaged characters, trying to get home before full dark, cut through an abandoned Priory, and encounter a figure in a long cloak and hood with the face of a skull. Of course, the episode has a Scooby-Doo ending, but it's a safe bet most young children probably weren't expecting to look into the face of Death while watching a show about a sweet family and their pretty horse.
Afterlife, probably the UK's answer to Medium, had some seriously disturbing moments. One of the biggest stand out moments was an episode where a couple were being haunted by a ghost which kept talking to their baby through the baby monitor. The episode ended with the wife putting the baby in the bath, then leaving her baby in the bathroom alone while she got a towel. Just as she was walking back to the bathroom, the door slammed shut, and splashing sounds began to come from inside. The wife hammered and pushed at the door, but to no avail. When it finally opened, she entered to find that her baby had been drowned. Cut to the baby monitor which now has cries emitting from it, accompanied by the ghost whispering, in a comforting sort of way, "Ssh, ssh, I've got you..."
Alien Planet, a Discovery Channel Speculative Documentary based on Wayne Barlowe's Expedition. If you thought his artwork was scary, see the creatures in action.
Discovery Channel has a terrifying series named Animal X, a cryptozoological documentary series detailing mysterious occurrences around animals. Just one episode is just enough to make it difficult to sleep at night afterward. Watch it here and enjoy.
Series 3 of Ashes to Ashes has brought us the Body Horror that is PC Where's-the-rest-of-his-face. Crows cawing will never sound the same again.
PC Where's-the-rest-of-his-face? He's a 20-something year old Gene Hunt who was killed after a week in the police force. In an attempt to stop a robbery on coronation day 1953, he was shot in the head with a shotgun and buried in a shallow grave, where he remained until his body was discovered by police in the present day.
What about Viv's death scene, when Jim Keates just holds him and watches him die in pain and terror. Terrifying enough before you find out the latter's true identity and purpose! Keats is either Satan or one of his minions come for the souls of the failed coppers.
Caprica has, in the pilot, Tamara Adama's resurrected Digital Avatar unable to feel her own heartbeat. That freaks the shit out of her, her father, and the audience. Made worse when, after momentarily putting her out of sight and mind, the show revisits her character a few episodes later where we learn she's been trapped in the pitch-black virtual prison she was created in for days, causing her to doubt that it's all a dream. She seems to have mellowed, though it seems more out of exhaustion than out of acclimation.
The "alien abduction" scene in the 12th episode in Carl Sagan's Cosmos. If you're going to debunk something, it's not a good idea to present it as absolutely terrifying first.
Deadliest Warrior. Yes, this show doesn't seem scary, but some of the descriptions (e.g. the Viet Cong's shit-covered spikes and the Nazi's flamethrower having tar to stick to the victims) are regular Nightmare Fuel...but where it really gets scary is telling how Vlad the Impaler impaled his victims...: "It's a 9-foot pole going through someone's rectum all the way out through their clavicle." And the victims were alive.
Not on the show proper, but some extra scenes filmed for the show and posted online. For Saddam Hussein vs. Pol Pot, we get to see a demonstration of electric torture and acid bath on pig carcasses. And for Ivan the Terrible vs. Hernan Cortes, we get a demonstration of garroting and drawn and quartering.
The episode Saddam Hussein vs. Pol Pot is terrifying when you listen to the stories of Sabah Khodada (a former Iraqi general) and Kilong Ung (a Cambodian Genocide survivor), and imagining what it was like for them.
DelocatedKinda silly, but Sergei, the Russian assassin, sending a tape to Jon which shows his brother's dead body, and then drinking Jon's Mom's ashes? Watch the episode, it's genuinely frightening.
The skinwalkers and the lycanthropes in The Dresden Files. Skinwalkers are a Nightmare Fuel concept in and of themselves with a nice side of Paranoia Fuel, but it's one thing to read about them and another thing to see a graphic portrayal.
Flash Forward. Every person on the planet lost consciousness at the same time. Just thinking about the all the car accidents, let alone all the other accidents... millions of people dead, for sure.
Passing out and drowning in a urinal thanks to the flashes.
Ghost Writer had some pretty heavy situations, but by far the worst was the purple puppet. The damn thing would appear in random places for no reason, and the story one of the characters was writing for a contest sponsored by the toy's creators turned into extended nightmare sequences, including one where his sister is suffocating under a coating of gum (which the toy itself could produce). It didn't help that the puppet looked like Ivan Ooze in biker gear. It turned out to be so scary, I never managed to see how the story (five episodes) ended.
There was an ad shown on The Gruen Transfer for a French Pay TV crime channel, which showed a puppet alligator walking through a forest, ripping to shreds every creature he encountered and leaving guts and eyes behind him (The point was that that would be how they would make a kid's show, should they ever want to.) Many were Squicked, many more amused.
Harper's Island. The initial plot premise is bad enough, with a serial killer's supposed copycat showing up seven years after the initial killings. Then you get to the finale only to find out it's all because the main character's best friend, Henry, is trying to hold her to a promise she made when they were kids that they'd live on the island by themselves, and trying to do it by killing everyone else on the island off, one by one.
Oh, and the original serial killer that was supposedly shot and killed by the sheriff? Still alive.
Animal Planet's show The Haunted can get downright creepy at times. One of the creepier episodes involved a family of four moving into an old home that was a couple centuries old. When they moved in, there was a note welcoming the family into the home. Included in the note was something along the lines of "if you hear strange noises, that is just the essences of those who passed away welcoming you." These "essences" turned out to be a malignant entity, possibly a demon, that named itself after the deceased sister of the home's original owner. Once paranormal experts were called in, cue an entire twenty minutes of pure Oh Crap footage: growling, turning lights on and off, creating a suffocating atmosphere that nearly caused several people to pass out, and finally possessing one of the paranormal experts and driving him to tears before finally departing.
Animal Planet has another show called Lost Tapes, which is about people being attacked by cryptids. All of them manage to be scary, but the episodes about vampires, the Jersy Devil and Wendigo really take the cake.
Infested. Imagine finally getting the house you always wanted at first the house appears clean, organized and it seems like the perfect house but soon you discover that your house is infested with tons of pests that not just harm the house but also you and your family! What's scary is that sometimes the pesticides don't work which is terrifying when you think about it.
Hoarders. Those who are a little messy can be disturbed at how easily it can get to Collyer brothers-level clutter. How it happens: Say you have a favorite toy, one that you can't throw out but its value is purely sentimental, or you grew up in a deprived/poor environment and you had to save clothes and other objects to extend their use. Now, imagine if that sentiment extended to everything in your house, including food; add that obsessive-compulsive feeling that if you ever do throw something out something bad will happen and you're stuck in a firetrap of your own making. Hoarders also uses a lot of Soundtrack Dissonance, Heartbeat Soundtrack, and white-on-black typewriter font to give everything that Room Full of Crazy effect.
There was a woman on the show whose daughter started talking about how, among other incredibly disturbing things, one day she took the top off the butter dish to find a dead, dehydrated squirrel where the butter should be.
In the HBO movie If These Walls Could Talk, Demi Moore's attempts to get an abortion in the pre-Roe vs. Wade 1950's. Two Nightmare Fuel moments were when she tries to induce an abortion using a knitting needle, and the ending after she has gotten an illegal abortion. She is on the phone trying to call an ambulance while she slowly loses consciousness and collapses into a pool of blood.
In Search Of... was a documentary series that had a combination of a spooky music score and Leonard Nimoy's narration of supposedly "real" paranormal ideas guaranteed to induce nightmares.
The Discovery Channel used to have a show called I Shouldnt Be Alive, which of course was Exactly What It Says on the Tin. People recounted real-life instances of being marooned in the wild and nearly dying, with actors reenacting the horror. Nearly being eaten alive (whether by crocodiles, sharks, hyenas, or driver ants), extreme sunburn, hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration, you name the Body Horror, this show had it. Making it worse were the Squicky x-ray views of how the above conditions were crippling the body from the inside and nearly killing the protagonists slowly.
The most horrific episode featured some friends stuck in a dinghy after their yacht sank in a storm. One of them got a huge gash on her leg, and the dinghy partially filled with water. Pus and blood from her wounds polluted the water, as well as the group's waste (they were being followed by sharks), so they all started becoming painfully infected, covered with bloody sores. They had no water, and eventually two of them started drinking seawater, which can turn you crazy. Sure enough, they soon started gibbering and howling like lunatics (with a warped Through the Eyes of Madness depiction), and eventually just walked off into the shark-infested water (one said he "just wanted to make a run to the 7-11"). Then the really injured one finally succumbed (one of the survivors said the night before, she started speaking in tongues), leaving just two left out of five. By the time they were finally rescued, the survivors were covered in horrible bleeding sores and scabs. They had drifted over a 100 miles out to sea, but for some reason had been reported arriving safe into port before the storm, so the Coast Guard was never alerted.
Noseybonk from the BBC kids' tv show Jigsaw. There's been no official word on whether Jigsaw from the Saw franchise is based on Noseybonk, but they have more than a passing resemblance. Stuart Ashen plays on this creepiness in his own Noseybonk videos.
Law & Order: An early episode, "Indifference," is so obviously inspired by the Lisa Steinberg case that it concludes with a long disclaimer both displayed and spoken about how the real case differed from the story just shown. It is easily the creepiest moment of the entire series considering they used the same title sequence narrator, reading white text on a pure black background to tell the audience that the horrific case and the depraved criminals involved have some basis in real life. The fact that such sickos exist to make their children living in virtual hell for all their short, terrified and miserable lives in North America behind respectable doors will shake your soul to the ground.
Also the scene where the mother is about to scald the other child for no reason while the detectives are pounding on and then breaking the door open to stop her.
Also when the detectives learn that the boy was returned to those murdering child abusers, you see them charge to the condo while the camera follows them with the show's ominous music score to stop whatever horrors are going on.
See also the episode "Bad Faith", which predates the Catholic Church sex scandal by over five years, yet manages to predict it down to the "shuffling parishes". Though it should be noted it was probably based on a similar Canadian scandal that predated the US one.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Want". It was based on the Jeffrey Dahmer case, so that should tell you something. One of the victims survived, but suffered "permanent" damage to her speech and cognitive functioning. The doctor tells them the victim has a hole in her head, likely created by a common household drill. Not only that, but her spinal fluid was hypertonic (diluted), and she had slight scalding on her brain tissue. In the word of Eames, "He drilled a hole in her skull, and poured hot water on her brain." Oh, yeah, the killer also ate part of one of his victim's calf muscles after cooking it with potatoes & onions. Now that's good eatin'!
Oh, and the killer himself? He just wanted some cuddling. He's usually much better with women, unless a raygun is involved... or mysterious meat pies.
The Malcolm in the Middle episode "The Red Dress" has Lois take the boys' TV out of their room, but after they manage to get it back in their room without her looking, this occurs.
Decades later, Chile has the "night telenovelas" which are regularly aired around 10/11 PM to have the plot go either Darker and Edgier or Hotter and Sexier without Moral Guardians whining on them. And sometimes, these "soaps" are fucking scary. Some of the scariest moments are here:
Monk: "The Girl Who Cried Wolf". The episode hinges on Sharona losing her mind, going from her losing her checkbook to having hallucinations of a man covered in blood with a knife in his chest and a screwdriver in the side of his head, telling her that her father (who is dead) is worried about her. Of course, it was really just a ploy by the villain, who had been hiding her things and having her boyfriend pretend to be the dead guy, so Sharona's evidence that she murdered her husband would be discredited.
A show originally from the 80's called Monsters. One episode has a Stretch Armstrong finger that comes out of the drain and at the very end after the guy cuts off the finger, a four-fingered stretchy hand comes out of the toilet. At first it doesn't seem like much, but then when you start thinking about what that stretchy arm is attatched too...
Mystery Diagnosis: Imagine having one of the bizarre diseases that show up on House, only you've been suffering from it for decades.
The climax of the episode "Meat Puzzle" from NCIS. Ducky is Strapped to an Operating Table, gagged, and gets an IV needle inserted into his neck to make him bleed to death. The camera keeps cutting from Team Gibbs and their race against the clock to rescue Ducky to the sight of his blood flowing down a drain. Thankfully, they do save him in time, but one of the culprits decides that he can't handle going back to prison and slits his own throat while his mother screams in agonized horror.
Night Visions, a horror anthology with two different stories each episode. Two chances to be scared. The one thing that terrified me the most was the one about a radio DJ who, for Halloween, lets listeners call in to tell a scary story on the air. The first caller's story is basically Gorn, so the DJ calls him "disgusting" and shuts him off. As the night goes on, he starts getting more calls, this time from a young woman who claims several things: people are in her house, there's blood in the carpet and she doesn't know how it got there, her roommate is missing...and then the next call has the woman screaming that she found her roommate's body in the closet. Shaken, the DJ disconnects her and plays some music, but the electricity starts acting up. The door bursts open later, revealing a large man with wide-open eyes, screaming in a woman's voice "YOU DIDN'T LISTEN TO MY STORYYY!" In the end we see a couple in their car, listening to the show, as the DJ tells a scary story of his own, about a killer. The DJ, however, has to sign off because it's getting late. The couple sighs that they wish they could hear the ending... And it is revealed the the intruder has imitated the DJ's voice, tied up the real DJ, and is going to kill him. Eventually. Even after that story is over, the host wraps up by staring at the audience and saying "For all you pains-in-the-asses out there, remember—you can only irritate so many people before you piss off the wrong one...."
Another episode stars Luke Perry. He plays a guy who cures people of mental instability by absorbing their afflictions into himself. Or something, the show was vague on that. His friend warns him that he's going to get hurt, but he thinks it's worth the sacrifice. Then he deals with a small boy who keeps staring at nothing and going "Now he's coming up the walk, now he's coming in the door, now he's coming up the stairs, now he's coming up the walk..." etc. Perry's character absorbs the boy's hurts, and the boy runs to his mother. Perry starts taking anti-psychotic meds when the boy goes "Now he's coming up the walk!" And...there's actually someone, unseen, coming up the walk. "Now he's coming in the door!" Someone comes in the front door. "Now he's coming up the stairs!" A heavy tread is heard on the steps. Cut back to the room, where the boy is holding his mother, and both are watching Perry staring at nothing, muttering "Now he's coming up the walk, now he's coming in the door..."
An episode of NUMB3RS featuring a bombing attack at a car dealership. It wasn't a bad episode (and it even had a cameo appearance by none other than Bill Nye the Science Guy!) but also had an unpleasant close up of the burned remains of a bombing victim.
The Australian miniseries version of On the Beach shook and shocked me more than anything else has. It's not enough that the entire population of Earth dies, but the final moments are dedicated to scenes showing how each of the main characters are killing themselves, including a family of a couple and kids who proceed to inject themselves with cyanide syringes before all falling into eternal sleep on their bed. There's no gore involved at all, but emotionally it's just destroying, especially if you make the same mistake as me and end up relating yourself and your beloved to the events; even typing about it gives me very unpleasant memories of it.
Wildlife documentaries can sometimes show you the more unsettling side of nature, but few have so affected me as much as this sequence from BBC documentary Planet Earth concerning ants infected by the parasitic Cordyceps fungus. The intimate macro view of these creatures' distress as the fungus spreading through their brains modifies their behaviour to suit its needs makes it seem far more personal than simply a bunch of minute insects, and that's even before the Body Horror kicks in as the fungus sprouts from the deceased ant's head, growing until it can release its spores across the colony below. And then, because that's simply not horrifying enough, they go ahead and show a montage of various other insect species' Cordyceps-sprouting corpses whilst the eerily haunting background music plays, the camera rotating slowly around each one to ensure that no detail is missed. David Attenborough's matter-of-fact narration over the whole thing does nothing to mitigate its effect.
And if that's not enough horror for you, this concept was used in The X-Files episode "Firewalker" which had as its premise "What if there was a Cordyceps fungus-like organism that targeted humans?
And now Naughty Dog has taken this concept for their new videogame The Last of Us.
Another David Attenborough doctumentary Africa features a sequence of giant carnivorous crickets (with copious close-ups) attacking helpless quelea chicks. The little beasts even squirt their own blood at the eyes of the parents. There is no God.
The horror in Poltergeist: The Legacy has an unfortunate tendancy to end up in Narm territory. But there is one episode featuring a cursed Cabbage Patch-like doll turning its head and telling a little girl not to talk in a demonic voice that's pretty freaky stuff.
The Pretend Time episode "I Just Got Voodoo'd" has a man getting cursed with voodoo and cried spiders. It's supposed to be funny, yes, but this will be jarring to the arachnophobic audience.
The Rovers from The Prisoner. Imagine, if you will, a large, white, bouncing balloon, that constantly emits a low, quavering whistle, and which roars mouthlessly as it attacks, lunging at its target and pressing against his face. Imagine seeing the impression of said face from inside the Rover. Now imagine seeing this at night. As a child.
Add in the fact that the remains of anyone who is "captured" by Rover are never seen again...
In the first episode, "Arrival", Number 6 is captured by Rover but survives. Presumably most escaping prisoners are captured alive as well. The only character ever actually killed by Rover was Number Six's duplicate in "The Schizoid Man".
Additionally, a recurring theme in the Prisoner is that there are no constant characters at all (except for No. Six, the protagonist, and No. Two's midget butler, for some reason), so you rarely saw characters for more than one episode.
The Quantum Leap Halloween episode was just unsettling as all get out, but then we have Satan in the guise of Al trying to strangle Sam while the room whirls around them. Imagine your best friend trying to murder you...
Recorded Live: a thing by S. S. Wilson was used as filler material on HBO in the late 70s and early 80s. In it, a man goes to a job interview at a film lab and finds something... horrifying... S. S. Wilson would later bring us the Tremors films.
Rescue 911 That show can really scare you straight as they'll show the injuries with great detail. You will never look at hot water the same again after "Baby Bathtub Burn".
In Rizzoli & Isles we have the Ax-Crazy sociopath Charles Hoyt. In particular, the way he preys on and tortures his victims, most notably Jane, is uncomfortably and disturbingly reminiscent of rape. He also threatens to rape Maura at one point. The guy is just so unsettling and unpredictable in his behavior, it's scary.
The season two episode of Rome which featured two exstensive torture scenes gross beyond words. The worst part was the first victim's pleading, and his young age. There is also a season one episode where a man is tortured by ways of being flayed alive, though it mostly happens off-screen and only his screams of agony can be heard.
Seaquest DSV: Episode "Knight of Shadows". When Bridger and the command crew are watching a film of the passengers and crew of a long-sunken ship they just found at the bottom of the ocean. He stops the projector because of a sense of foreboding and after the meeting ends wnen everybody leaves the room, the image from the frozen, single frame TURNS AND LOOKS AT HIM - GLARING! The ghost inhabited the image on the wall and was threatening him.
That Latin American priest wasn't the only one terrifed when Puddy on Seinfeld painted his face to "support the team" the New Jersey Devils and did this.
The Sonny With A Chance episode "Sonny With a Secret", has two fairly freak things. The first is when you discover Penelope's plot: to have Sonny light up the cheese cannon at her former high school with the bomb she was given by her, which could kill her. The second was when Chad, Nico, Zora and Grady are in the plane, and Penelope opens the door and escapes with both parachutes in hand, leaving the four on a plane with its hatch open in the darkness while wind is blowing outside.
Spartacus: Blood and Sand - Since it's about gladiators, of course we get some decapitations, dismemberings, slashed throats and whatnot. That's all par for the course. But when the writers decide they want to shock their hard-to-shock audience, they raise to the challenge.
The episode The Thing In The Pit features a gladiator who cuts of the faces of his victims (onscreen) and wears them as masks for the next match.
The episode Mark of The Brotherhood features a slave who does something that's very frowned upon, and so is emasculated (the results shown onscreen) and crucified as a punishment.
The episode of Spooks with the disaster simulation, where the characters are walled up together in their office becoming less and less certain that there hasn't actually been a major nerve-gas attack on central London; intellectually, one knows the writers aren't going to wipe out the entire country halfway through the season, but watching the characters start to go off the deep end, one by one, had me climbing the fucking walls.
Stephen Fry, on Stephen Fry In America, was one of the lucky people who got to visit and film in the Body Farm at the University of Tennessee. Not only did his tour guide remark that she can now guess what a person's skull looks like under their face (no, her name isn't Temperance or Angela), but according to Fry this is also the first time he's ever seen a dead body.
Survivor: The cameramen seem to have a fetish for spiders in some seasons, but the one that mainly qualifies for this trope is the scene in Tocantins with a close up shot of a ball of spiders reacting to thunder.
Tales from the Darkside is usually pretty campy and low-budget, so the attempted scares generally fall flat. A few of them come off as genuinely spine-chilling, though-the Cutty Black Sow, for example, is a fairly simple, straightforward story where a boy tries to fulfill his grandmother's dying wish and perform a rite to keep away a Celtic demon, the Cutty Black Sow, which claims the souls of those who die on Halloween. The rite gets messed up when his little sister disrupts the stone circle, and he spends the rest of the episode being stalked by the Cutty Black Sow, which only appears as a pair of yellow eyes in the darkness outside the window. At the end of the episode, it seems that it's over-the boy's fears were nothing to worry about. His father comes into his dark room to comfort him, then goes to hug his son. What follows is pulled off about as well as it possibly could have been and the low-budget cheese suddenly becomes profoundly creepy.
Actually, despite the campy and low-budget feel now, at the time of the show's initial run, the episodes were pretty creepy for its time. In addition, the title and end cards didn't help matters much to your average child.
"Taina" was a very tame, funny, and harmless show about a girl named Taina doing funny things and having fun with her friends and nothing scary in it all...but then out of nowhere comes a Halloween episode "Scary Legend"! The music teacher tells the kids about the accordian player who was on his way to the concert when he dropped his accordian he bend down to pick it up when someone runs him over chopping off his head making him the headless player! The story sounds pretty graphic for the kids show! An accordian music that plays in the school sounds creepy and out of tune even when the music stops all of the sudden making it eerier. But the most scariest moment is when the headless player is on top of the stairs above the girls! Thankfully, it was just a prank but still I bet kids had trouble sleeping after this!
Today's Special. Seriously, what the hell. A kids' show in which the performers stare into the camera and sing "I am slowly going crazy", backwards and forwards, in monotone? And then they start singing faster. And FASTER. It's like something out of a creepypasta, except it was real.
On a related note, the 1980's Nickelodeon sketch comedy Out Of Control had a skit that would classify as an example of this. In it, Dave visits a tech shop and witnesses a man demonstrating a large blow tube that could be used as a musical instrument. Another man walks in with his own invention: a hand buzzer, which he proceeds to use on the blowtube salesman. Suddenly, smoke erupts, and in the salesman's place is... a flaming grill with hot dogs and what was once the salesman's lab coat roasting on it. Seriously, WTF?
There's the speetle from Unnatural History. It has very acidic spit which it used to get out of a jam jar and a fridge.
Victorious: "Tori Gets Stuck" might leave you rather uneasy, mostly for the fact that a toy car has been stuck in Robbie's intestine for nearly ten years. As well as the thought of it moving and ripping through that intestine. Plus, the bully that forced the car down Robbie was a girl. And the fact that Tori is forced to give THREE pints of blood (one is painful enough, mind you). In short, this was pretty crazy.
The horrifying video Jade played at the prom in "Prome Wrecker."
"Locked Up". Being forced to stay in a one-star hotel in a second-world country in the middle of a civil war (as in, there are bombs going off right outside their window, and criminals jumping into said window in a futile escape attempt) is scary enough, and so is being bitten by a deadly insect with the only medical care being the doctor's eleven-year-old son. But being arrested in a foreign country under dictator rule is more than just a horrifying thought; there are places in the world where you can be locked up on one person's orders with no possible escape clause. If Sikowitz didn't have a tendency to sneak out of rooms to avoid trouble, they might all still be there.
The earthquake in "Andre's Horrible Girl" can certainly count within childrens' show standards, especially when Hope Quincy gets knocked into a concussion by a falling symbol.