Please don't list this on a work's page as a trope. Examples can go on the work's YMMV tab.
Nightmare Fuel: Once Upon a Time
Just in general, the concept of having one's heart ripped out as it is presented in the show. It looks painful to under go and once a person has your heart you are their complete slave with only enough free will to be aware there is nothing you can do to resist them. It also leaves you cold and emotionless, unable to feel happiness but vaguely remembering what it's like. On top of all that they have the ability to kill you on a whim and if getting your heart ripped out in the first place doesn't look painful then having it crushed definitely does. It's like all the worst parts of becoming a Nobody from Kingdom Hearts and being possessed by a Goa'uld from Stargate with a hint of the Death Note thrown in for good measure.
Just what the heck is The Dark One? Other than the fact that its a powerful malevolent magical force that turns the meek into monsters, we don't know what it is or why it was created.
An early one from the first episode: Rumpelstiltskin's positively bone-chilling description of The Dark Curse:
Rumpelstitskin: Your prison...all of our prisons will be time. Time will stop and we will be trapped. Some place horrible where everything we hold dear, everything we love, will be ripped from us while we suffer for all eternity while the queen celebrates, victorious at last. *beat* No more happy endings.
Many ones involving parents and children, as listed on the main page : losing your child to someone else, by their own will, by amnesia, because you had a moment of weakness, because you need to to save them, or because he is sick and you can hardly find a cure...
Also, losing someone and being unable to bear it, and do anything to avenge them / find them, for a long time without any success.
Having a genius trickster manipulating your life on a way you judged beyond human talent before, not knowing why, but being aware that he will do anything to achieve his goals.
Rumplestiltskin going all crazy murdering after becoming the Dark One. It's little wonder his son became afraid of him soon after.
Snow's friend and mother figure turns against her and she doesn't even understand why at first. She only finds out what Cora did to Daniel years later.
Regina can be rather unsettling in the pilot at times. In part because before we got to know The Evil Queen better, Lana Parailla plays her villainy very close to the surface in her sinister intents, especially her parting words. "I shall destroy your happiness, if it is the last thing I do."
Cinderella's punishment in Storybrooke is being pregnant for twenty-eight years, unable to give birth.
In "That Still Small Voice", Jiminy's realisation that his parents have duped him and given the potion he intended to use on them to the friendly couple they conned. And then finding out what's happened to them...
The witch in "True North" is beyond terrifying. The blind groping she does as she searches for the kids and the creepy mantra: "Gravy or butter?"
The entire episode "Hat Trick" is terrifying. First there's the present-day situation of Jefferson drugging Emma and trapping her and Mary Margaret in his house and refusing to let them go until Emma, at gunpoint, gives in to his insane demands. And then there's Wonderland, which is just plain creepy, especially the court of the Queen of Hearts and the Queen of Hearts herself, who is shrouded by a red veil and, contrary to how she's normally portrayed in stories, speaks only in whispers. The line "Off with his head" is made genuinely frightening when she says it, and it's just as scary when the deranged Jefferson repeats it as he's preparing to shoot Emma. The shot of him sharpening his shears looks like something out of a horror movie.
Hell, his almost constant invasion of Emma's personal space is pretty creepy all on its own. Being Alone with the Psycho would be bad enough without being stalked around a room and manhandled: at one point, Emma looks like she's wondering if he'll break her neck.
Even worse if you realize who else Sebastian Stan is famous for playing.
Even though he's a jerk, Gaston's fate is truly horrifying. His grand rescue of Belle from the "beast" lasts all of six seconds before Rumplestiltskin turns him into a rose, then presents to her as a token of his affection. Made even more worse than we don't actually know if this killed him or if he's still self-aware?! If so, he heard Belle basically admit she never felt anything for him, which she does whilst pruning bits off him!
Made even worse by Rumplestiltskin's expression during that scene. He's noticed what she's doing and he's trying not to smirk.
When Regina visits Belle in the insane asylum. Imagine being locked in a room for 28 years without knowing why. You never get any visitors except for one mysterious woman who just shows up randomly and stares at you for a while with an evil smirk on her face.
In Universe example: Regina's fears of the whole town finding out who she is and everyone trying to kill her.
In the Season 2 premiere, the Wraith, a monster that can best be described as a even more demonic version of a Harry Potter Dementor. Its arrival in Storybrooke is announced by an earthquake which causes the town to shake and car alarms to go off. Did I also mention it happens at night? Sure, it was sent by Mr. Gold to kill Regina and failed, but it did suck the soul out of Prince Phillip.
Gold's bone chilling conversation with Regina while she's locked up, as he describes what he intends to do to her. His barely controlled anger makes the whole thing creepy as hell.
Seeing the mother who raised you attempting to murder your grandfather certainly counts.
Sneezy's lost all his Fairy Tale memories again, possibly permanently this time - which is practically the same as him dying.
Rumpelstiltskin's Freak Out after being kissed by Belle. It's the first time he's really, truly been terrifying. Talk about deconstructing the Love Redeems trope...
From the same episode, Mr. Gold's beatdown of Moe French. Gold is screaming at him, blaming him for what happened to Belle, and after a while, it starts to sound like self-blaming. "YOU DROVE HER AWAY! IT'S YOUR FAULT! YOUR FAULT!"
Everything about Cora. Cora can take the form of your loved ones? No thanks.
She can make zombies.
There is something deeply unsettling about hearing Aurora speak, then realizing that Cora is speaking through her. Then you remember how many hearts Cora has/had in her vault and trusting anyone becomes just a bit harder...
Regina and Rumplestiltskin speculate on whether or not Cora's powers can match that of the Dark One. Rumplestiltskin seems confident but Regina isn't.
Whenever Cora is visibly angry. She usually sounds like a psychotic kindergarten teacher (which is bad enough) but when she sounds angry...
Cora's concept of love with regards to Regina and vise versa. As far as we know, it's been years since Regina pushed Cora into the mirror to Wonderland and she still has power over Regina. Being abused messes you up. And Cora deciding that the kindest thing to do is wait until the Curse is broken and Regina is broken with nothing in the world and then step in. So that Regina will need her.
Cora ("Mother of the Year" as Hook so wonderfully put it) making it her goal in life to make sure Regina is evil and miserable for the rest of her life. She goes as far as murder. She thinks this is a good thing.
And, of course, we can't forget that her magnum opus of making Regina watch her mother literally rip her boyfriend's heart out and be powerless to stop her is incredibly terrifying and naturally did a great deal to shape Regina.
Cora was banished to Wonderland. Then she took over Wonderland.
Ogres. Specifically, imagine being no more than maybe 12 years old and being conscripted to fight something the size of a small giant. Yeah, no wonder Baelfire's friend seemed so wise. If she survived a tour of duty, she'd have to have quite the intestinal fortitude and tactical smarts for a kid.
Storybrooke!George watching David/Charming play with Henry. From his car.
From "Red Handed", walking up (completely out of it) and discovering you've in fact eaten your one true love. Doubles as a Tear Jerker.
Red having to choose between to save Snow White or her mother. A Tearjerker when she ends up killing her mother to save Snow
The death of Billy/Gus, whose body was found it two pieces. It was bad enough when it seemed he was killed by a werewolf, but finding out he was killed by an ax and split in two...
Cora showing everyone how to really use the hearts of people. Turns out, Regina was just too nice (such as it may be) to use the hearts to make them puppets or raise the dead.
Rumplestiltskin writing out Emma's name over and over was incredibly creepy. Until it turns out that he had just saved them all.
Hook was being a murderous creepy bastard in "Queen of Hearts". The fight with Emma was less Ship Tease than it was predatory. Not to mention almost killing Belle in cold blood.
Yay, Archie isn't dead! But now he's tied up on Hook's ship with Cora making it clear that they intend to torture him. What makes it worse is that this is happening to the adorkable Archie Hopper.
What really makes it worse for Mass Effect fans watching is that Cora's attack on him greatly mirrors the attack on the character he voiced, Kaidan Alenko, near the start of Mass Effect 3, where Kaidan nearly died. Thanks guys, needed those traumatic flashbacks!
What's worse than suddenly waking up handcuffed in a mining cart in a dark tunnel with no memories? Suddenly waking up sprawled on the ground, in the middle of the night, with a gunshot wound in your back and a complete stranger alternately panicking over you and screaming at another gloating stranger, with no memories. Oh, and then the other gloating stranger gets hit by a huge moving thing, and you and the first stranger nearly get killed. God, Belle cannot catch a break.
And then the first stranger tries to kiss you. No wonder Belle freaks out!
The Yaoguai. On one side, it's a lion-like monster with a mane made of fire. On the other, imagine being cursed to become one, only able to communicate by writing, then sent to a country where no one understands your writing.
Depends on if this is "nightmare fuel", it's pretty startling. In the title card for "In the Name of Brother", we have the Frankenstein themed background (black-and-white, lightning), the music...then all of a sudden, Rumplestiltskin comes out from behind a tree, IN COLOR!
Also in 2.12, "In the Name of the Brother," we find out the fate of Dr. Whale's brother: he is the monster Whale/Frankenstein raised from the dead, who is not in his right mind and brutally kills their father. He has just enough sanity to beg his brother to kill him again—but Victor can't do it and ends up locking him up "for his own good." This reaches Nightmare Fuel proportions when you realize that Whale's homeworld was NOT ever subject to Regina's/Rumplestiltskin's curse, so time continued to move forward there. That means the brother has been locked up, alone and insane, for twenty-eight years.
Gold being forced to take off Bae's shawl to go through airport security, not knowing whether constant contact is needed to keep the curse broken outside the line. And it's implied that he would have been cursed if he'd gone much longer without touching it.
Kids, take it from your buddy Anton - don't make new friends or trust strangers because they'll kill your entire family and steal all your valuables.
Even though you know Anton's a friendly giant, the title card in "Tiny" WAS rather creepy. There's a forest...and then Anton is showed from below the waist as he brutually rips a tree out of the ground.
From "Manhattan" The Seer. Christ almighty, THE SEER. A little girl with her eyes sewn shut and an eye on each palm of her hand, that can blink.
Also, when Rumpelstiltskin discovers that a boy will be his undoing, he simply says he'll kill the boy. That boy turns out to be Henry...
Which brings to Gold blaming Henry after Hook's attack in the scariest way possible. You read that right. Henry.
Mary Margaret manipulating Regina into killing her mother, sounding absolutely sincere the whole time that she just wants them to know love. You really get a sense of just how scary an Unfettered version of her would be.
Forget that, Ginnifer Goodwin's acting in "The Miller's Daughter" was itself creepy. She sounded psychotic or at least mentally disturbed with her whispery tone throughout the episode.
The preview for the next episode has eerie music and it ends with Regina about to rip Mary Margaret's heart out. At least we had the courtesy to know someone would die in "The Miller's Daughter."
The look on Regina's face as she realizes what Snow did. If you didn't think it was possible for Regina to hate Snow any more than she already did, then this episode proved you wrong.
Regina in "Welcome to Storybrooke", both the flash back and the present. The fact that she's sympathetic makes her more terrifying. Trying to steal a new family, mind-controlling Graham, then the scene when she puts back Snow's heart. She's not evil... she's insane.
A beloved fairytale character that everyone grew up with... renowned for her goodness... is now suicidally depressed because she murdered a bad guy in a particularly cruel way. She was begging Regina to kill her.
Plus she now has darkness growing in her heart, which is enough of a sentence of doom that Regina is perfectly content to just sit back and watch it happen.
Really, Owen and Kurt's experiences throughout Welcome to Storybrooke could just as easily belong in a horror movie. They're out camping in the woods when there's a huge and terrifying storm; the next day they come across a town that appears normal at first glance, but there's something subtly wrong with it. The lady that they befriend seems nice at first, but it gradually emerges that she might be controlling everyone in the town somehow, and she's growing more and more insistent about them staying with her. Permanently.Then, when they refuse, she tries to hold them prisoner; what's more, Kurt sees her talking to a glowing, bloody heart that seems to affect her henchman in some way. Scared yet? When they try to escape she chases after them with the sherriff; Kurt sacrifices himself to buy more time so that Owen can get away - and when he comes back with the authorities, there's no trace of the town, or his father. It's like something out of Supernatural or The Twilight Zone.
What's also unnerving is just how quickly Regina becomes fixated on Owen. The thought of a stranger who is clearly mentally unbalanced taking a sudden interest in your child is the epitome of Adult Fear. It's even scarier when you're stuck in a small town where the person is incredibly powerful. When Regina first called Kurt, asking to see his son, he probably wanted to refuse but accepted because he was afraid of angering her.
Mary Margaret slapping Gepetto after learning he lied about the number of people the wardrobe could transport. It seems perfectly reasonable, but then she insists she didn't want to do it, and it was actually the darkness in her heart beginning to manifest.
It turns out that Lacey...rather likes Mr Gold's dark side. And the episode ends with him continuing to beat a man when he's already well down. All while Lacey looks on with absolute giddiness. Eeeep.
The beginning of "Lacey": It's Henry's birthday and the Charming family (including Rumple and Bae) are celebrating it in Mr. Gold's shop. After the birthday boy blows out the candles, Gold tells him he can choose any one object in the shop as his present. Henry chooses a wand and Gold shows him how to wield it... and immediately turns him to porcelein. Then he tells everyone that he must do this because of the prophecy and then smashes Henry to pieces. AND THEN we find out it was just a nightmare of Gold's. A nightmare...but still really creepy.
Rumpelstiltskin skins Robin Hood. We knew Rumpelstiltskin was evil, but nothing had ever been said before about him doing torture; it seems intended to show us that no matter how funny or woobie-like he was, he was still evil.
And juding by the amount of blood on the towels Belle had to clean despite Robin Hood himself being relatively bloodless, he's been doing it repeatedly: using magic to un-do the damage before proceeding to do it again. We knew he was evil but no one had ever said about torture.
Just the way she justifies her actions, "As long as there are other people in our lives, you can never fully be mine" sounds creepy and possessive, especially since Henry is her son. What was she going to do when he grew up and wanted to leave her?
And then when she erased his memory of the entire conversation. Imagine if she'd had magic throughout all Henry's life. What would she have done to the kid once he discovered the curse...shiver
Maleficent's dragon form in the previous season was scary enough. The demonic beast that she becomes in season 2 that Hook has to face is another thing altogether. A shrieking, snarling, leaping incarnation of Nightmare Fuel.
The show's version of Peter Pan is perhaps the biggest piece of Darker and Edgier it has ever done or will ever do. He's a magical being so powerful that he can send his disembodied shadow to other worlds to kidnap little boys and bring them to Neverland. During the day they're happy as the Lost Boys, but at night their memories return and they all cry about missing their families, who Peter refuses to let them return to.
Everything regarding Pan is pure Adult Fear. As much as younger viewers will appreciate how creepy the Shadow is, it's the adults who'll best acknowledge just how utterly sinister the idea is, the thought of waking one morning to find your child has vanished, never to return. Even worse, the Shadow isn't Pan's sole method of taking children. He's also the show's version of The Pied Piper, and has been seen to draw potential Lost Boys to him with the music from his magic flute.
If the general premise isn't bad enough, the actual shadow just plain old looks very creepy.
Also, it's not just his own shadow. According to the Lost Boys, the reason he's able to keep people in Neverland is that if anyone dares attempts to leave, he rips their shadows from them. And apparently it's a very painful and fatal process too.
Not to mention Neverland itself. As the Shadow brings Bae closer, you can hear all the Lost Boys crying in the distance.
We finally meet him in person in the third season premiere, and he certainly lives up to the creepiness built around him. "Let's play."
Greg/Owen's Cold-Blooded Torture of Regina. Particularly when a magic spell causes Snow to start feeling the pain Regina is going through.
Crosses (oddly) into other territories since Regina barely screams... while Snow is basically rendered out cold. Whatever one may think about Regina, she's got something.
The Lost Ones are the definition of Creepy Children. Peter Pan as well, mostly because Hook's crew of hardened pirates talk about him as The Dreaded.
In the same episode, Gold goes to watch Henry playing. You think it'll become a heartwarming moment...but then the rope begins to snap...
Especially since he doesn't seem all that bothered by it. He mostly just looks like he's thinking "Hm...Could I get away with this?.....twist......I mean, he is my downfall.....twist.....I wonder how much more strain that rope can take.....twist....."
An in-universe version for the rescue team, when Tink gets frustrated with their lack of an escape plan and reveals what Pan did to Greg and Tamara. Sure, Tamara was actually killed by Rumpelstiltskin, but they don't know that, and there's a definite 'Oh, Crap' vibe starting up.
"This is what Pan does to people he employs; what do you think he's going to do to you?"
Pan attempting to corrupt Henry in a very Rumplestiltskin-Regina-esque way. The sword fight is particularly disturbing because Henry was in the same powerless position Regina was and used magic to fight back...
The start of this corruption was a very chilling scene in which Henry, finally hearing Peter Pan's pipe music (that can only be heard by children who feel abandoned), begins dancing around the campfire, mindlessly happy, as Pan watches on in cold satisfaction.
Ursula. She is no mere witch, but the goddess of the seas. Even after a hundred year absence, people still hold regular balls for her. And if you try to impersonate her? She will know. And she will find you. And unless she's feeling merciful, she will strangle you to death with her tentacles no matter how powerful your magic is.
Pan has imprisoned Wendy Darling for many years and is using her to make her brothers do his dirty work.
The Dark Hollow, where everything has a harsh red light and you can be swarmed with shadows at any moment.
The original Neverland shadow, with the genius casting of Marilyn Manson making it even creepier than the others.
Also, the truth that Peter Pan is a Psychopathic Man Child turned back into a real child just makes him all the more disturbing.
The whole scene where young Rumpel is snatched by the shadow and rather than save him, his father grabs his hand and tells him that the shadow is "his friend" with whom he made a deal: he'll abandon Rumpel in exchange for becoming a boy again, a boy who will never grow up due to being one with Neverland. His father rationalizes this action with "I was never meant to be a father", but also tells Rumpel that he doesn't want his child around to remind him of being an adult. The poor child is hearing from his own father that he values his own youth more than being a parent to him. Then his father lets go of his hand and as the shadow takes the crying, screaming Rumpel up into the air, it forces him to look down to see his father transform into a boy before his very eyes. And that's the last he sees before getting taken away from Neverland. Just imagine how that would absolutely emotionally scar a kid having to go through that! It was simply horrifying.
The Reveal that Pan swapped bodies with Henry just before being sucked into Pandora's Box.
Jared Gilmore's bone-chilling portrayal of Pan. Hearing Pan's cold, remorseless words coming out of his mouth is just shudder-inducing.
Especially in Going Home, when he casually and emotionlessly rips Felix's heart out to power the Curse. It's just downright disturbing to see Henry doing that.
In Going Home, the Blue Fairy is revived when the Shadow is destroyed and her own shadow returned. That's great for our heroes, but is there a time limit or did the same happen to everyone who was killed by having their shadows removed? Did Greg just suddenly come back to life in Neverland with no way to escape? And is he alone or are there others?
It gets even worse for Greg. Anyone from "the Real World" won't have memories of Storybrook's existence. Considering how Greg spent most of his adult life obsessing over childhood events in Storybrook, built his entire life on getting revenge on Storybrook, and considering how no ones going to give him nice new memories. Greg's now stuck in Neverland, all alone, with no memory of where he is, or why he's there to begin with
Tinker Bell said that Greg's body was rotting away when she stole from him. So if he were revived, he'd be a zombie. Yeah, let's hope he stayed dead for his sake.
In "New York City Serenade" (and most likely the rest of season 3), the flying monkeys.
The reveal that Walsh, Emma's boyfriend, is a flying monkey. Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently they also have the ability to take human form...
As "Witch Hunt" reveals, the opposite may be true. A majority of the flying monkeys, perhaps Wash himself, used to be ordinary people before begin transformed.
Turns out Walsh Is actually the Wizard of Oz, who Zelena turned into a "circus animal" so he'd obey unquestioningly.
Crosses into Funny in a twisted sense: Regina's crazed look as she tells Robin that she's found something that she hadn't had in a very long time. Someone to destroy.
As Little John chases a turkey towards the town line, we're led to believe he's about to lose his memories. Turns out this time, the flying monkeys will drag you away before you even reach it, and turn you into one of them.
"Feed the madness and it feeds on you, feed the madness and it feeds on you, feed the madness and it feeds on you...(giggles)"
Nightroot supposedly cures you of your worst fear. Turns out instead it makes that fear into a physical being that looks exactly like you, can move inhumanly fast, and will kill you if you can't summon up the courage to deal with it.
The scene where it's revealed that Zelena has Rumplestiltskin's dagger. She proceeds to emphasize her power over him by shaving him with it. The whole thing is creepy as hell.
Many viewers have noted that Zelena in present-day Storybrooke is generally much more frightening than her green-skinned appearances in flashbacks. The Wicked Witch of the West? Been there, seen that. A totally sadistic woman manipulating everyone and who has no qualms about killing to get she wants, all while posing as a kindly midwife? Brrrrrrr....
The scene where we see Zelena's skin turning green because of the intense envy she feels towards Regina. You can feel it coming off the screen.
Right now, we know what Zelena's motive is, and it's terrifying. She wants to undo all of reality and and turn back the clocks, not only so that she can become the favorite, but because she wants to ERASE Regina from existance. And not only that, but all of that screwing around with time would no doubt result in Henry, Emma, and Snow and Charming's unborn child being eradicated as well. The other villains of this show have never even attempted to do something this terrifying.
Eva remains a beloved graceful and benevolent figure. We thought that she had always been like that, before a flashback revealed that she had briefly been a mild Royal Brat. Another one proved that she willingly put an obstacle in the marriage of her former fiance, telling everyone that his beloved, who was sincerely in love, had lied to him. Then, while he was on the verge of crying, she droped this bombshell :
Eva: You will find a worthy wife who will give you a pure child. One pure as snow.
She might have been planning everything at that moment, and could never have changed.
Zelena's confrontation with Dorothy in "Kansas". As soon as Dorothy picks up that bucket of water, we all know what's going to go down, but the effects of Zelena dissolving into ooze are downright terrifying. It's all faked to traumatize Dorothy (and us), but still.
Rumpelstiltskin has an entire room in his castle filled with magical items that even he considered too dark, dangerous, and unpredictable to use. Think about that: An entire room's worth of items that even The Dark One, master of dark magic, didn't dare unleash. The very idea is enough to send chills down your spine.
From the fourth season: Marshmallow is back. He's a dozen times more terrifying than in Frozen, and just as readily ticked off.
Although Regina and Mr. Gold have somewhat reformed themselves a bit, it's scary to think that even with the second curse, there are still unreformed thugs and villains from the Enchanted Forest like Bo Peep and what appears to be the real Snow Queen played by Elizabeth Mitchell in Storybrooke.