This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.
Nightmare Fuel / Welcome to Night Vale
Poor, beautiful Carlos's terrified voice mail messages.
Cecil in Desert Bluffs, describing his hideous, blood-spattered surroundings, stands out as particularly frightening in a series full of rather scary things. Similarly to Carlos's voice mails, it's scarier than most things because he's an outsider to the situation and therefore gets freaked out.
Kevin, the news host at Desert Bluffs, seems at first to be like a much peppier version of Cecil. His voice is warmer, he discusses happier topics, and he even has a kind word to say about Steve Carlsberg. Much like Desert Bluffs itself, he originally appears to be sunny and cheerful. However, after Cecil stumbles into the Desert Bluffs news station and describes the picture of Kevin sitting on the desk… Hearing Kevin return to the mic later on and resume his cheerful banter is just a little bit disconcerting, to say the least.
The proverb for the Night Vale version of that episode was the usual sort of Ice-Cream Koan: "Step one: write down the names of everyone you know. Step two: rearrange the letters. Step three: this will reveal a great secret of time." The Desert Bluffs version?
This post plays Kevin's dialogue in Night Vale and Cecil's dialogue in Desert Bluffs side-by-side, and it really, really highlights the terrifying dissonance between the two and how afraid Cecil is.
And of course, as of Episode 32StrexCorp are in Night Vale now.
Then after all of the above, Kevin and Lauren cheerfully redecorating the Night Vale radio station. With the Shauns.
Street Cleaning Day, an event so terrifying it even makes the City Council run in fear, and sends the usually unflappable residents of Night Vale into bunkers.
The ending of "A Story About You."
The ceremony for the induction of the Eternal Scouts, complete with hordes of creepy children that drag people off, never to be seen again.
To say nothing of the outcome of the Eternal Scouts induction ceremony, where apparently the two young men who completed all their badges are now completely encased in crystal. Let's keep in mind that these boys weren't volunteers; registration into the Boy Scouts is 'mandatory and random' according to an earlier episode.
At first, listening to the Desert Bluffs version of "The Sandstorm," you wouldn't think that it's much worse than Night Vale. In many ways, it sounds somewhat better, if slightly more Huxleyan than the Orwellian Night Vale. Then the vortex switches Cecil and Kevin, and we find out that everything is covered in,or made out of, viscera. Suddenly, Cecil's hatred of Desert Bluffs makes sense.
The vague, yet menacing, government agency, which is constantly watching you and can disguise themselves as shrubs, trees, doors, windows, and even a passing breeze.
There's something unsettling about learning in "Valentine" that the state government reacts to Night Vale's pleas for help as bizarre practical jokes.
StrexCorp's takeover of the Night Vale Community Radio station. Considering what we learned about Kevin and Desert Bluffs... yikes.
Episode 32 is generally nightmarish. From the coach's tongue to Josie's angel's disappearing to the Strex take over... it's unsettling all-around.
What makes that last bit even more unsettling is the way the music changes: it gradually becomes something like the acoustic background music for Kevin's show in 19B: The Sandstorm as Cecil reads, implying that Strex are wasting no time on getting to work on Night Vale.
Cecil's voice, while talking about how everything is safe and fine. He sounds absolutely horrified, like he's trying to not panic and barely managing it.
Then in episode 34, Cecil seems normal for most of the episode, which he's broadcasting live from the elementary school gym, except for the ad he must have pre-recorded in the now StrexCorp-controlled studio, in which he has a forced cheeriness that sounds disturbingly similar to Kevin.
Makes you kind of wonder why Cecil even broadcasts from the school gym and not from the studio as usual. Perhaps StrexCorp is redecorating the studio?
The muffled noises of... whatever happened to the younger Cecil in "Cassette". As in "Sandstorm", it's all the worse because even Cecil is afraid - and because here we don't even have his description of what's so terrible, only that it's been moving closer and closer for some time.
His mother covers up all the mirrors in their house after he becomes an intern at Night Vale Community Radio. Later, after his mother and older brother (his mother being an Empty Shell, and his brother, who Cecil doesn't even remember, described as hollow-eyed and howling) mysteriously disappear, all the mirrors are uncovered, and he has no idea who did it. Then, as he's looking into one of the mirrors, the something described above arrives, we hear choking noises, the recording is cut off, and present day Cecil, clearly freaked out, destroys it and resolves never to think about it again, remarking that he's thankful all the radio station mirrors are permanently covered. This is just made even more disturbing when you realize that it's a subtle Continuity Nod to something his mother told him when he was younger:
Someone's going to kill you one day, Cecil. And it will involve a mirror.
The Brown Stone Spire, in Episode 24 "The Mayor", which can solve all your problems if you're so desperate that you're willing to pay any price. Something about Cecil's nonchalant reading of "I can assure you, it does not cost any money! It costs... other things."... just... CREEP FACTOR TEN! CREEP FACTOR TEN!
Every time Cecil says the words "The Brown Stone Spire", they are accompanied by an unsettling electronic echo effect. As the segment goes on, the effect starts triggering at more and more erratic intervals and eventually just activating at random with Cecil completely oblivious. It edges the line between funny and disturbing.
Unless the echo effect was produced electronically by Cecil himself. At which point it just becomes funny as it seems like he's just playing around with the filters.
"The Brown Stone Spire has a slogan. It cannot be pronounced." The audio distortion on that last phrase makes it even creepier.
On that line Mr. Baldwin was being accompanied by an uncredited female actor (or feminine computer generated voice) who had also said another distorted line in the Joseph Fink intro for that episode, which sounded like "you will never escape".
Speaking of "The Mayor", appearances from the titular mayor, Pamela Winchell, tend to run on Nightmare Fuel. While it's often played for laughs, there have been statements that claim that she has lots of disturbing powers, that she has six arms, cries Tears of Blood and tortures people for NO reason. The most disturbing thing about her is the overall fact that this woman is completely and literally insane... and Night Vale voted her into office!
No, they didn't. Remember that the votes are all ignored in favor of an outside proclamation. Let's just say the council is out on whether that makes it better or worse.
As of Episode 37, "The Auction", Cecil's been sold to someone and we don't know who it is. Upon discovering that Lot #37 is 'Cecil Palmer', he drives to the auction house as fast as he can to bid for himself, but in his terror forgets to raise his hand. Only one person bid, and they won, and Cecil has no idea who it is.
In the next episode, we find out absolutely NOTHING about the matter.
You might wish that you still had a corporeal form, only so that you could make your mouth move to express your terror, to make the universal form of a terrified scream, the form of a letter O. But you won’t be able to. You just won’t!
John Peters' (you know, the imposter) oranges, which would randomly disappear anyone who ate them.
In Episode 39, Cecil slips in and out of what can only be called a trance several times as he recites a creepy poem about the titular Woman from Italy. What makes this even more terrifying than usual is he says it in a rasping voice that is extremely jarring compared to his normally smooth tones, and he doesn't even realize he's saying this.
She follows no logic, exists solely for spite.
But you are safe for now, dear listener, so good night, Night Vale, good night!
In Episode 40, the description of the contents of the submarine from Nulogorsk. Most disturbing of all is the mystery of who—or what—Night Vale has been communicating with for all these years, since Nulogorsk was apparently destroyed in a nuclear accident.
As of Episode 41, there is something coming, and that something is only known as the unraveling of all things.
In the live episode "CONDOS," the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives In Your Home tells us that she's learned a new trick: skittering across your ceiling above your bed while you sleep.
And, of course, the condos themselves, which are pitch-black cubes of black material that suck people into them where they hung suspended, then sink into the ground with the victims still in it. The creepy tone of Carlos' voice while he narrates this to Cecil over the phone also counts, as is Cecil's horror when he realizes what's happening to Carlos.
Episode 43, Cecil's "birthday present" from StrexCorp.
The episode's sign-off also reminds us all that Cecil himself can be very, very horrifying.
Not to mention Kevin's return. He does a PSA about the Smiling God... the terrifying... perfect... Smiling God.
Kevin brings nightmare fuel everywhere he goes, but special mention goes to his serene description of Intern Vanessa's fate in "The Debate." We aren't actually told what happened,note Whatever incident he's referring to seems to be something completely unrelated to Intern Vanessa's (possible) death in the "The Sandstorm" at the hands of Intern Dana, because Kevin says it happened a long time ago, and he didn't seem fazed by her death-by-stapler at the time. but we do know it's so horrible that even Kevin was traumatized by it.
Some of us could never sleep again... Some of us never woke up again.
The ending of "Parade Day". The second episode to end with Cecil in danger is suitably terrifying. The first of course being "Station Management."
The entirety of episode 47, "Company Picnic". All of it, before you even start the episode and are just reading the descriptive blurb, because Cecil is gone, Kevin and Lauren are running the show now. Needless to say it just gets worse and worse the more we hear.
Lauren: Snow is falling somewhere. Many things are falling, or will fall, or have fallen, but temporary triumph is still triumph. Welcome to the Greater Desert Bluffs Metropolitan Area.
Let's play a game of 'which is worse'? Kevin and Lauren 'redecorating' Cecil's studio with the innards of the murdered Shauns? Or all of Night Vale being locked up in a work camp and all dissenters tortured into complacency?
Kevin: People are touching the volleyball nets, which they should not do, but they're learning. Or not them, other people watching them are learning.
And then there's the Picnic Overseer's voice, which causes seizures.
Kevin: Their mouths are open. No one has ever seen smiles quite like that. What an interesting way to smile! Their legs are kicking, too, like they’re still trying to dance...
Don't forget about Carlos, who as best we can tell is still trapped inside the Year Inside, Hour Outside House That Does Not Exist, because his team of scientists (and Cecil) have been arrested, leaving no one to let him out.
Old Oak Doors Part B has Kevin describing the Smiling God's takeover of Desert Bluffs. He mentions how eventually, even the most defiant of the citizens gave in, mentioning a resistant radio host in particular. It's definitely frightening, and a little sad, to realize that at first Kevin and Cecil may have been Not So Different after all, and that Cecil could even have become just like Kevin. Since the terrible light is still coming for them, Cecil might not be out of the woods yet.
After becoming the new Mayor, Dana starts off determined to be a force for good, up to trying to open up the dog park. However, the City Council drag her away, and when she comes back she's spewing the same old rhetoric about things as all the other authority figures, and in a later episode is completely apathetic to everything. What did they do to Dana?!
The implication is that she has been inducted into the City Council's Secret Circle of Secrets, learning exactly why no one is allowed in the dog park, among other things. Making it appear as though the City Council's policies, while cruel and horrific, are unfortunately necessary.
In "Wheat and Wheat Byproducts", Cecil experiences "the following technical difficulties: the need for air, eye movement, and gooey stuff inside." While informing the listeners of these difficulties, he speaks in an unusual, pained voice, and it's never explained what exactly happened or why.
The Faceless Old Woman's rant to Chad in "The September Monologues" is so disturbing that even she gets freaked out because he summoned... something... in his living room and unleashed it upon the town.
Steve Carlsberg's description of the glowing arrows, circles, and dotted lines in the sky that tell him exactly what is going on. It could be simple Night Vale weirdness and he's the Only Sane Man, or we could be seeing a man with a genuine mental illness ostracized by his community because of it...
The absolute silence after Earl asks Cecil if he remembers what year they graduated in "Homecoming" is unnerving, and lasts just a bit longer than a usual pause in conversation would.
Episode 61 - BRINY DEPTHS: The reveal that literally EVERYONE in Night Vale (save for Cecil) is a sleeper agent for the Vague Yet Menacing Government Agency. Even Cecil seems pretty down and worried about the fact after he figures it out.
Episode 63 - There Is No Part 1: Part 2: Whoever bought Lot 37 at the Sherrif's Secret Police Auction has recently been using their prize - one particular radio host - to protect Mayor Dana against his will and without his memory. Cecil is visibly frustrated and unnerved by this, particularly when he starts thinking it was Dana herself who bought him. To be betrayed like this by a close friend seems to be too much for him to take.
Also, the fact that the Faceless Old Woman and Hiram McDaniels were responsible for the Monolith in front of City Hall, the disastrous Retirement of Pamella Winchell, and the release of the Antiques, all in an effort to discredit Mayor Dana and get one of them elected in her place. There's vindictiveness, but this is insane lengths to go to.
Episode 65 - Voicemail. No Cecil. Just his various voicemail messages. Such as Carlos, Dana, The Faceless Old Woman, Tamika, Josie, Steve, Earl, the daily weather service, "Frank Chen", Fey, and KEVIN. KEVIN IS STILL ALIVE. And he's apparently been working on something, that he says Cecil will be thrilled about. This cannot be good...
Episode 67 - [Best Of?]: When Leonard Burton gets to the tape of Cecil's The End? Broadcast, we are treated to a recording of Cecil reporting the event described in The Deft Bowman, namely the complete nuclear annihilation of Nulogorsk and the end of the world. And that's not the worst of it; after 1983 Cecil resigns himself to his inevitable death, there's a swish of perhaps a World-Healing Wave and Cecil perks back up, the music changes, and the show goes on to describe how Simone Rigadeau (the transient living in the earth sciences building) used to be the professor of earth sciences until she started seeing visions of the timeline where the world ended. Whatever happened in that timeline and whatever seemed to nullify it is going to be some serious business.
Not only that, but the final recorded broadcast, titled NOOOOOO!, details Leonard's death by apparently being ripped to shreds by something that could reduce him to a pile of flesh and bones. The only problem? He died during the Clinton Administration! So, if he's been dead since the 90's, then who's been broadcasting the show?
More Fridge Horror than anything, but the music played in Leonard's closing segment keeps playing after he finishes and into the Proverb Lady's bit instead of being replaced by The Ballad of Feidler and Mundt. She does her thing, signs off, and then there is the click of a tape player, the same one that had prefaced every one of the recorded broadcasts Leonard played. So, not only who is broadcasting the show, but was this even a real broadcast?
The WWII segment is pretty alarming too. Nothing scary actually happens, but the music and Cecil's tone of voice are pretty low-key ominous.
If this episode is to be believed, Cecil is older than both Night Vale and the invention of the radio.
Episode 68 - Faceless Old Women: Cecil's having some kind of very large insect crawl into his ears. My ears will stay safely stopped up from now on.
It's subtle, but he later mentions that the cotton swabs in his ears are "soaked". With blood, presumably.
There are apparently enough faceless old women who live in Night Vale for the Sheriff's Secret Police to arrest a whole bunch of them without getting The Faceless Old Women Who Secretly Lives In Your Home.
Episode 70A: In which we learn that Carlos' assurances to Cecil about Kevin turning over a new leaf were misplaced: from the blood-covered office to his barely concealed fury when Carlos keeps getting interrupted from finding out why the desert world exists and what drives it.
Episode 73 - Triptych: We finally get to hear from Kevin again, and it's from three separate times in his life; one Pre-Strex, where it becomes a horrifying Foregone Conclusion that this honest radio host with pride in his town is going to be warped into the Smiling God's mouth piece; one during the Strex Takeover of Night Vale, where we find out that it was the conversation he has with Cecil is directly responsible for Lauren and Daniel being sent to Night Vale and accelerating the takeover; and the final one some indeterminate time in the future where Kevin is wandering an endless wastescape as a broken shell of a man, possibly aged beyond his ability to tolerate it with only his own damaged psyche and the constantly ebbing influence of the Smiling God for company. This last one crosses over with And I Must Scream, since he seems incapable of death and is fully aware of just how damaged he has become under Strex's influence.
Then there's the part in the middle section where Kevin talks about how the Smiling God made him so much better. The ecstatic description involves being broken, being rebuilt, and having a man's throat in his teeth. It's... a thing.
Episode 75 - Through the Narrow Place: They're all stuck in the narrow place. Everyone. In the entire town of Night Vale. Normally the threat would go away at the end of the episode, but this time they're still there for who knows how long.
In Episode 77.they describe how a stranger might be outside your window. Or in your shower. Or around any corner. And we never figure out what them/he actually can, or will do to you. Chilling.
From the book,when Jackie and Diane go to the library.Highlights include great things like an arm oozing liquid through a bookshelf,a face with a grey,tongue like thing in it's mouth and a librarian choking Jackie till her neck extends and her face turns purple,while their JOINTS ARE AUDIBLE.
Episode 84 - Past Times: Everything that the ghost coach at the haunted baseball diamond says about how she died. Whatever happened to her, it is related to the mysterious crates from A Story About You, and if it's related to that then it's also possibly related to The Men Who Aren't Tall/Short. Not only that, but the Dark Planet Lit By No Sun makes its first reappearance in over a year-and-a-half, proving just as ominous as before and hinting at things developing.
Also, everything regarding The Strangers that now live in town. And no, they aren't the recent transplants from Desert Bluffs; those folks are decent hardworking people. The Strangers seem to be weird even by Night Vale standards, and can cause you to have horrific nightmares and cough up black tar-like bile before seemingly turning into one of them. And what do they do, pray tell? Nothing. Not a damn thing. They just stand there, stare, and breathe. Whatever they do or are here for, it's not gonna be good.
Episode 85: The April Monolgues - Whatever the hell Chad brought into the house in The September Monologues is seemingly worse than we could've imagined. How bad is it? Bad enough to drive The Faceless Old Woman out of his house! Hits some Mood Whiplash on the realization that this beast is just a Beagle that she gets to leave by throwing a tennis ball.
So, we're finally gonna get some closure on the trial of the century; the guilty will have their sentences rendered, Violet will get some recompense for everything his other heads have put him through, it'll all be great, right? WRONG. The Trial is a bit of a Kangaroo Court (as is to be expected in Night Vale), but the sentence handed down is death for the four conspirator heads via a bullet to the dome piece so as not to harm Violet. Only wait, it will absolutely harm and kill Violet since they exist as a single unit; Violet can't live without his other heads. The court pays him no heed and goes ahead with the sentencing, dooming an innocent being to die for the crime of sharing a body with four criminals. Also, the reactions of the other heads to the sentencing are this combined with Tear Jerker; Grey breaks down sobbing, Gold (in a rare dropping of his genteel manners) vomits on the floor, and Green lets out a roar unlike any he has ever given because it is laced with abject terror in addition to his fury.
And the trial in question has some serious Nightmare Fuel because halfway through the trial the entire jury (save the dragon AI), a good portion of the gallery, and the bailiff are all replaced with the Strangers, and it's hinted that they may have influenced the judge's decision. WHAT ARE THESE THINGS!?
Another bit of terror comes from one of Cecil's asides in between reporting on the trial as his voice slips into the one he had while being influenced by the Woman From Italy, and it's hinted that she's on her way back to Night Vale. Uh oh...
Dana tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so naturally the judge and jury covered their ears and the transcription of the trial will be burned, along with the court stenographer.
Episode 88: "Things Fall Apart":
In which we learn that former intern Maureen is leading the army of Strangers into Night Vale, under the direction of her 'boyfriend' Chad. In her voicemail message, she's pretty blasé about the fact that the Strangers are Humanoid Abominations from another dimension that's heavily implied to be ''Hell itself.
The fact that Cecil may have been possessed by the evil dog that Chad summoned at the end of the episode...
Episode 89: Who's a Good Boy? Part 1
So much of this episode is just downright chilling and extremely disquieting. Special mention goes to the part where Cecil asks the antique shop owner, Francis, how she escaped the mud cave and all she can do is repeat over and over again in a hitching voice, somewhere between screaming and crying hysterically: "I'm still in the mud. I'm still in the mud." Cecil delivers the line in an especially horrifying manner, so it comes out like "I'm! Still! In! The! Mud!" Chills.
The fact that this episode confirmed the two things the fandom were the more afraid of. 1) The Night Vale people are being turned into the Strangers...And the transformation is not pretty. and 2) That beagle puppy? It's not that he is an Eldritch Abomination (That was hardly going to be a surprise to anyone anymore) but that he is as horrible as the Smiling God...If not worse!
Oh, and their plans? Their "I want nothing" is completely literal. The government, the laws, the people's possessions and the people themselves...They want to destroy every single thing.
Cecil: But why?
Stranger!Francis: A ‘why’ is a thing! We destroy whys. We destroy explanations.
"“Woof!” he said, as Night Vale fell.". Leave it to Welcome to Night Vale to turn a cute little puppy into something nightmarish.
Episode 90: "Who's A Good Boy? Part 2"
Oh good, the strangers are gone after the weather, and everything's OK-ish again. Only... The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretely Lives In Your Home suggests that maybe, just maybe... they chose to leave. And they might choose to come back. At any time.
Faceless Old Woman: “They left because they decided to leave. And if they return, it will be because they decided to return. And it will be unrelated to anything we do.”
Episode 91: "The 12:37"
One of the people with a deer mask takes off the mask... AND IT STILL HAS A DEER FACE BENEATH THE MASK! Not to mention whatever the fuck's going on with them and The Men Who Are Not Tall/Short
Episode 94:All Right has a monster that can hide anywhere in your house and kill you at any moment.Normal Night Vale episode,right? Well,there's also the fact that,if you wear headphones,all of the episode intentionally plays from your right ear.Cecil says he made it this way so you can keep one ear on the brodcast,and one off so you can hear any small noise that might be the monster.