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Series / Tales from the Crypt

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Ah! Hello, kiddies!
"Welcome, boils and ghouls!"

A critically acclaimed horror anthology series that ran from 1989 to 1996. Every week, the show featured the Crypt Keeper telling horrifying tales based on stories from the gruesome EC Comics of the 1950s. Because the show was on the premium cable channel HBO, it was not subject to FCC censorship and featured lots of gore and sexual situations. The Crypt Keeper, a gruesome undead puppet voiced by John Kassir and performed by Patty Maloney, served as the host and narrator in a manner similar to that of Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone (1959), providing lead-ins and closing comments... which were filled with Incredibly Lame Pun after pun of a macabre nature. The show was very influential, and helped bring along more anthology horror shows to come in the 1990s and 2000s, both for adults and for children. The show still currently holds the distinction of being the longest running original series ever to run on HBO.


It was announced that the show would return on TNT in 2017 as part of a new horror block, helmed by none other than M. Night Shayamalan. However, due to arising copyright issues, the planned reboot was unceremoniously nixed by the network in mid-2017.

Related loosely to the 1972 anthology film of the same name, as both had stories based on comics from the same company (and three episodes of the series adapt stories that had already appeared in the film). There were also three full-length movies (which were direct adaptations of the show, complete with the Crypt Keeper) titled Demon Knight, Bordello of Blood and Ritual (though that last one was a Dolled-Up Installment). There was also a Saturday morning game-show called Secrets from the Cryptkeeper's Haunted House. In 1995 the Cryptkeeper became the very first icon for Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights; advertisements with his face on them labeled the event as "The Curse of the Cryptkeeper", and the Dungeon of Terror haunted house was revamped into Cryptkeeper's Dungeon of Terror. He returned the next year in charge of the the house The Crypt Keepers Studio Tour Of Terror and the Crypt Keeper's Festival of the Dead Parade. A Tabletop RPG called The World of Tales from the Crypt published by West End Games using the Masterbook system. For the animated adaptation, see Tales from the Cryptkeeper.


Has a Recap page.

This show provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer:
    • Winona, in spades.
    • Charlie in "Dead Right". Kathy puts up with him due to a prophecy that he will die and she thereby expects to inherit a huge amount of money. Of course, it doesn't quite work out the way she expects.
    • In "'Til Death", Margaret becomes one. A similar arch occurs in "Loved to Death".
  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: In "Cutting Cards", Reno and Sam hate each other so much that each is willing to risk life and limb (literally) for a chance to force the other to leave town forever.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The original stories in the comics were very short, and most have been expanded a fair bit for their respective TV episodes.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: Downplayed. The Crypt Keeper looked like a ghoulish, vaguely medieval, Ambiguously Human but probably still living man in the original EC Comics, while in the show he looks like a decaying undead thing with a missing nose and such. In the cartoon spin-off, his updated look thus contrasts with the Vault Keeper and the Old Witch who are closer to their old designs.
  • Adaptational Villainy: As noted in the Asshole Victim entry below, the salesman in "Death of Some Salesmen" is made a conniving scumbag— in the original comic, he's not even a particularly pushy salesman, and he only visits the crazy couplenote  because his car broke down and he wanted to call a tow truck.
    • Also, the husband in "Lover Come Hack To Me". In the show, he was a Gold Digger who was planning to kill his wife from the start, only to have the tables turned on him. In the comic, he was a completely innocent, unsuspecting Nice Guy.
  • Affably Evil: Some of the episodes' main characters like the narrator of "You, Murderer".
  • Alas, Poor Villain: In some episodes. One example is "Staired in Horror", where an antebellum widow's house is cursed so she gets older upon descending the stairs, but any man ascending the stairs age terribly. A killer who meets up with her flees much higher into the house to hide from a police dog, and is rendered a completely helpless old humanoid in the attic.
  • Ambiguously Human: It's not entirely clear just what the Crypt Keeper is supposed to be. Genetically, he's human — the son of a two-faced man and an Egyptian mummy — and was considerably less decayed as a baby. But on top of being undead, he doesn't refer to himself as human, and may very well have ceased to count as one.
  • Amoral Attorney: "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime".
  • An Axe to Grind
  • And I Must Scream: "You, Murderer" is completely from the point-of-view of the protagonist, even when he dies shortly into the story. Thing is, he is still in his body afterwards, but no one can hear him, and he can still feel pain. Only the last one is of any concern to him (because he finds it annoying), as he has the unfolding story to narrate and concern himself with.
  • Anti-Hero: In a rare instance of this trope in Tales From The Crypt, the narrator of "You, Murderer" continues to have our sympathy in spite of being a wanted criminal who has killed, robbed and cheated many people. One of the very, VERY few instances when an amoral character is actually portrayed sympathetically on the show.
  • Artifact Title: "Forever Ambergris." The main characters of the original story were an old sea captain and one of his men, and ambergris was very important to the actual plot. In the TV adaptation, they're war photographers — and nowhere near any whales.
    • "What's Cookin'." The original comic story had nothing to do with squids, cannibalism or a landlord.
    • In the comic, "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime" was about a group of townspeople figuring out that the reason their kids were so interested in having a pretend funeral was because they'd learned about the concept of capital punishment and had electrocuted one of their friends for "kidnapping" a little girl's doll.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry:
    • The woman who reduced her ulcer-prone husband into bathroom soap, then she got burned by his 'stomach acid' by using it in the shower. (Soap-making requires some lye, which would actually neutralize the pH.) Though as listed under Hollywood Acid below, this may be a subversion.
    • The end of "Oil's Well that Ends Well" has the con artist Kill 'Em All by tossing her cigarette butt into crude oil and causing a massive explosion. The stuff is flammable, but not by that much, and a lit cigarette won't even ignite gasoline, let alone crude.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: The Trigger Happy husband from "Judy, You're Not Yourself Today" is depicted as a die-hard NRA member, even though his extremely careless gun handling would have easily gotten him kicked out of those meetings he attends.
  • Artistic License – History: Several in "Escape," but most of all, German prisoners of war would certainly not be wearing rank insignia on their clothes, as they are no longer considered soldiers.
    • Also, the war ending would not result in the immediate release of prisoners. That would take months of repatriation proceedings.
  • Asshole Victim: Oh, so many - and sometimes they're the main character of an episode.
  • The Atoner: The main narrator of You, Murderer attempted to be this in a bid to try and put his criminal past behind him. It backfires on him horribly.
  • Awful Wedded Life: The majority of couples on the show are murderously dysfunctional; It wouldn't make for good stories if they were happy, after all. The only couples to avert this are the ones from "Judy, You're Not Yourself Today" and "The Assassin". It's not clear if the wife from "The Assassin" genuinely loves her husband, or if it's her maintaining a cover, though.
  • Bad Humor Truck: "People Who Live In Brass Hearses"
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Given this is a horror series, this happens at times. Notable examples include:
    • A very tragic example occurs in the episode "People Who Live in Brass Hearses" where brothers Billy and Virgil seek revenge on Billy's former employer, a jolly ice cream man, for reporting the criminal behavior that landed Billy in jail. Billy and Virgil fail initially, but finally break into the ice cream man's home and murder him, albeit by Virgil accidentally shooting him. In the end, it is revealed that the man they seek revenge against is one of two conjoined twins who promptly murders Billy and Virgil in revenge. But at the episode's end, the ice cream man is dead, his rotting corpse will likely lead to his conjoined brother's death, and the ice cream truck's wares are shown to be 50% off, indicating a failing business. Which means Billy ultimately got the revenge he sought.
    • "The Third Pig" features poor Dudley Pig getting framed for the Wolf's murder of his brothers by a rigged wolf jury. His dead brothers bail him out of jail and lead him to create a Frankenstein's Monster pig that devours the Wolf alive. But Dudley, feeling guilty for creating another monster to combat one, goes to kill the Frankenpig, succeeding in electrocuting it. But then the Wolf, reanimated by the electricity, emerges from the dead pig monster's body and devours Dudley alive.
  • Bad Santa: "And All Through The House"
  • Batman Gambit: In "The Reluctant Vampire", the owner of the Blood Bank announced that business was bad and he needs to start retrenching his staff. As he anticipated, Longtooth (the titular character of the episode) started a killing spree to add on to the supplies of the Blood Bank, and the owner attempted to coerce him to continue killing.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In "Last Respects," a trio of sisters gets a hold of The Monkey's Paw itself. Delores tries to use the Three Wishes and her first one is for one million pounds. It turns out Marlys had a big life insurance policy, so she dies in a car accident. Thinking she can beat the Paw, Delores uses the second wish to restore Marlys to before the accident. It turns out that Marlys was really shot by the third sister Lavonne, meaning the second wish simply undid the cover-up and exposed the truth to Delores. Delores does find a way to beat the Paw in the end. She wishes that her last wish go to her sister... but doesn't say which sister.
    • In "Loved To Death" Edward uses a love potion to make his neighbor fall in love with him. It works but comes to the point where the love potion makes her unbearably clingy and never stops bothering him.It gets to the point where Edward even in the afterlife is stuck with her.
    • "Top Billing" Barry wants to get the role in the stage production of Hamlet to the point of resorting to murder. Barry ends up getting the role but unfortunately for him was what he didn't know was that the play is actually being conducted by murderous mental asylum patients and the role they want him for was to be the skull of Yorick.
  • Berserk Button: Don't hurt Anita's pets.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Longtooth from "The Reluctant Vampire" really doesn't like to kill people in order to satisfy his thirst for blood, but he will still bite your neck if you try to mess with him or his heart-crush or, in a lesser extent, if you are a criminal.
    • "Split Second" HOLY SHIT Snazz, Artie and the rest of the lumberjacks...
  • Big "NO!": "Let The Punishment Fit The Crime" and "About Face" each end with one.
  • Bittersweet Ending: "My Brother's Keeper": Frank watched his Siamese twin brother Eddie murder the love of his life, but (before both blacked out) he managed to sign the release for surgery. When they wake up, they're "free," with Eddie taken away by the police and Frank planning to live his life to the fullest. Although this can actually be viewed as a Downer Ending when you consider that Frank "living his life to the fullest" involves acting quite a bit like his brother used to.
    • "Lower Berth." Enoch the two-faced man wanted a normal life and a family with Myrna, the mummy he fell in love with. Myrna was apparently killed at age 16 and never had a chance at life, let alone love. In a morbid way, they got their happy ending for just a little while. And together, they made the Crypt Keeper.
  • Black Comedy: The episode "Cutting Cards" is a particularly vivid one, as a game of Russian roulette devolves into a round of "chop poker" that goes nowhere good in a hurry.
    • Of course, the Crypt Keeper himself specializes in this.
  • Black Comedy Rape: In the episode "Death of Some Salesman". Counts as both Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male and Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male, since Winona is quite obviously played by a man (Tim Curry, no less!). Technically he agreed to it...but it certainly wouldn't have been any better if he hadn't.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Than the comics, which were 'plenty' gory enough on their own.
  • Blood Is the New Black: Every episode ends up with someone getting gorily dismembered, if not the main character.
  • The Bluebeard: None but the Lonely Heart.
  • Body Horror: One episode features a woman wearing what appears to be a porcelain mask, but it's apparently her real face because it bleeds when the villain tries to take it off; she ends up removing his "mask" instead. And then there's the adaptation of "Forever Ambergris" where the main character's nose and body parts drop right off.
  • Bookends
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • "The Man Was Death" Niles Talbot the protagonist in the episode constantly address the camera and talks to the audience through out the episode.
    • The wraparound segments for "Oil's Well That Ends Well" is this to a T, with the Crypt Keeper playing the "Tales from the Crypt" pinball game (at the start), and watching the episode itself at the end, even going so far as to comment on how Larry (played by, of course, John Kassir) seems familiar to him...
    • A variation occurs with both "Korman's Kalamity" and "Whirlpool", which both have the original Tales from the Crypt comic as part of the plotnote , with the Crypt Keeper even mentioning how it led to this very show in the beginning of the former.
    • "Whirlpool" has an independent example itself near the end, where Vern utters an "Oh, shiiiiit..." to the camera after his boss, Rolanda, orders him into her office.
    • "The Third Pig"'s opening wraparound segment had the Crypt Keeper doing auditions for potential story editors. It's the series finale, btw.
  • Brain Food: The Great Zambini's fate in "Food for Thought." Shouldn't have pissed off the man-eating gorilla by killing the only guy who was nice to her, dude.
  • Buried Alive: The ending of "Dig That Cat... He's Real Gone."
  • Cannibal Larder: In "What's Cookin'," Gaston hangs Mr. Chumley from a meathook in Fred & Erma's restaurant freezer. By the end of the day's business, there's not much left of him (Chumley, that is).
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Standard, with one or two Karma Houdini subversions.
  • Cats Have Nine Lives: In "Dig That Cat... He's Real Gone," a homeless dude (Ulric) is offered a chance at (gruesome) fun and profit after he has a cat's brain gland implanted into him; it gives him the mythical extra lives, which allow him to die repeatedly as a circus performer. Too bad he forgot to count the death of the cat to begin with before pulling his final stunt...
    • Also played with in the episode "Ear Today, Gone Tomorrow".
  • Christmas Episode:
    • "And All Through the House" with a maniac Santa.
    • "The Pit" was aired at Christmas and had a Christmas-themed segment for the Crypt Keeper, although the story itself has nothing to do with Christmas.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Bobby from "Fitting Punishment".
  • Circling Vultures: An episode (inspired by the "Carrion Death" example in comic books) ended with an escaped convict paralyzed in the middle of the desert and getting eaten alive by a vulture.
  • Companion Cube: The skeletons the Crypt Keeper shares his crypt with, though at least some of them appear to be sentient. He spends his days playing with them, torturing them, and on occasion, having sex with them.
  • Compilation Movie: The first three episodes were edited together as one movie for some airings. Notably, though, there is no new linking footage. The episodes appear together as they would separately.
  • Conjoined Twins: The episode "My Brother's Keeper" is about completely opposite conjoined twins. This is also used in a twist in at least three other episodes: "The Ventriloquist's Dummy", "People Who Live In Brass Hearses", and "About Face".
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Steve Dixon in "Split Second" rapidly becomes one after getting married, and unfortunately for him, his wife has no intention to remain faithful.
    • Mitch Bruckner in "The Thing from the Grave."
  • Creator Cameo: Not unusual, especially if a given director happens to have an acting career of their own. Michael J. Fox plays a prosecuting attorney in "The Trap," Arnold Schwarzenegger helps get the Crypt Keeper in shape in "The Switch," Tom Hanks shows up in a bit part in "None but the Lonely Heart" and even gets killed, and Bob Hoskins is in the opening to "Fatal Caper."
  • Creepy Blue Eyes / Icy Blue Eyes: And they are the Crypt Keeper's most human feature.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Roger in "Came the Dawn" by way of split personality.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: A few episodes. "Three's A Crowd" being the most notable.
  • Darker and Edgier: The final episode, "The Third Pig", gives this treatment to Three Little Pigs.
    • The whole show in general is Darker and Edgier than the comics, although they weren't exactly family-friendly to start with: The lack of censorship allowed them to basically throw in as much sex, violence and swearing as they liked.
  • Death by Materialism: This is a recurring theme.
  • Demonic Dummy: Subverted in "The Ventriloquist's Dummy". "Morty" is actually Ingels' vestigial twin brother underneath a dummy costume.
  • Didn't Think This Through In "Dig That Cat... He's Real Gone" Ulric realizes he forgot that the death of the cat that gave him the gland counted as a lost live which means he had already used up his extra lives.
  • The Dog Bites Back: If someone committed an immoral act, you can be absolutely certain that he will meet his end by the end of the episode — often in a spectacularly gruesome manner.
    • A literal example occurs in "Curiosity Killed" with the bitter old woman who berates her husband's dog with the implication that she regularly mistreats it. During the story, the old woman sabotages her husband's friends' plan to make a youth potion to spite her husband, which leads to them dying via Rapid Aging while she takes the untainted youth potion for herself. She doesn't get to enjoy her youth for long when her husband's dog, who has also taken some of the potion, leaps up and violently avenges his master.
  • Double Entendre: Tons of it in "Spoiled" between the housewife and the cable man, before they begin an affair of course
  • Dr. Jerk: "The New Arrival"
    • The murderous Dr. Trask in "Mute Witness To Murder".
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the first season The Crypt Keeper while still jokey is portrayed as a much more sinister figure then he is in the following seasons where he is far more comical and goofy.
  • Eat the Evidence: "The Assassin" ends with Janet, revealed to be the missing assassin (she has had a sex change to disguise herself) serving up the remains of the CIA agents to her husband, though he doesn't know what he's eating.
  • Everybody Lives: A rare example with a macabre Black Comedy twist in "Cutting Cards".
    • Another rare example is "Spoiled" about a scientist who's on the verge of working a new anesthetic while his wife has an affair with a cable man. Everybody lives but the scientist gets revenge on his adulterous wife by performing an operation that switches the heads of her and the cable man.
    • Yet another example is in "Operation Friendship" about a computer programmer and his imaginary friend. Everyone's still alive but the imaginary friend takes over the programmer's body in the end.
    • One of the earlier episodes, "The Switch", has no one dying. In fact, aside from one physical altercation, it is arguably the least violent episode in the entire series.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Crypt Keeper. Although, since he doesn't seem to have another name, this could be a case of His Name Really Is "Barkeep".
  • Evil Laugh: The Crypt Keeper's trademark.
  • Evil Uncle: "Fitting Punishment"
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Combined with some In-Universe Fridge Horror and more than a touch of Didn't Think This Through, "Dig That Cat... He's Real Gone" ends with Ulric (after being Buried Alive as part of his last ever stunt) bemusing on how, after that, he's going to be set for live while also sadly remarking on the fate of the cat that the gland he was given came from. Said fate being that it died. Meaning it lost a life. Cue Ulric realizing he only had 8 lives, not 9... and that he's going to die permanently in his last stunt.
  • Eye Scream: Relatively often, but "Carrion Death" is by far the most notable (and Nausea Fuel-filled) example.
  • Fake Twin Gambit: "Split Personality".
  • Faking the Dead: In "The Trap," a deadbeat Jerkass decides to fake his own murder for the insurance money - getting his abused wife to tell the cover story, and his little brother (a doctor) to fake an autopsy and cremation. It works, so he skips the country and gets a little plastic surgery. He returns to find out why his wife never came out to join him, though. He finds his wife and brother now married and "unaware" of who he is, as well as police eager to know why his fingerprints and blood are on the murder weapon.
  • Fate Worse than Death: "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime".
  • Faux Affably Evil: Several main characters and the Crypt Keeper himself.
  • Fingore: "Cutting Cards" has its two gambler protagonists engage in a game of "Chop Poker", where the guy with the losing hand gets a finger chopped off by a meat cleaver.
  • Flanderization: The Crypt Keeper is far more subdued, more ominious in Season 1, whereas he is more tongue-in-cheek in the rest of the series. According to John Kassir, production always wanted the latter approach, but budget constraints required the Season 1 approach (specifically, the Crypt Keeper's mouth couldn't fly as fast as it needed to). Renewal and a budget increase allowed production to make the Crypt Keeper the way viewers remember him.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Ever noticed how near the end of "For Cryin' Out Loud", after Marty jams a bunch of swabs into his ears, we never see the left side of his head again? Well, that's because they didn't want to reveal that he ruptured his eardrum right away!
    • From "The Assassin", we have this gem of a line: "So? Did she go out sniveling or did she take it like a man?"
      • And yet another one from "The Assassin", mere moments before The Reveal:
        Janet: I'm your worst nightmare; a woman with balls.
    • "Mournin' Mess" in a Freeze-Frame Bonus moment shows a plaque with the full name of the Grateful Homeless Outcasts and Unwanted Layaway Society.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: "The Third Pig".
  • Friend to All Living Things: Anita from "Collection Completed." She has many pets of different species and is always willing to take in strays. Her husband would define her as a Crazy Cat Lady instead.
  • Friend Versus Lover: "Operation Friendship". More like Imaginary Friend versus Actual Lover.
  • Friendly Rival: Aaron and Felix in "The Pit" are martial artists with a professional rivalry, but they actually get along fine. It's their wives who despise each other and push them to go at it.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: The main character of Let the Punishment Fit the Crime is a lawyer that specializes in these. Gets a massive deconstruction, as she's revealed to be responsible for several deaths because her lawsuits shut down legitimate medical companies and force doctors to charge more to cover their malpractice insurance.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The episode "Mournin' Mess" revolves around a reporter investigating the mysterious deaths of several homeless people, which he believes are connected to a charitable organisation called the "Grateful Homeless Outcasts and Unwanted Layaway Society". What do you think their secret is?
  • Fur Against Fang:
    • The ending to "The Secret".
    • And "Werewolf Concerto".
  • Gambit Roulette: Lampshaded in "A Slight Case of Murder". The old woman behind everything admits that things didn't work out exactly the way she planned, which genuinely surprised her.
  • Genre Anthology: Of modernised horror stories.
  • Gold Digger: Several. And then they get what they deserve.
  • Groin Attack:
    • Joe Pesci starred the most gruesome example in "Split Personality".
    • The greedy wife in the episode "And All Through The House" throws a swift kick in the family jewels towards the killer dressed as Santa Claus in their first confrontation.
    • How Enoch strikes back at Mr. Sickles in "Lower Berth".
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: "Whirlpool" features a comic artist, Rolanda, who experiences the same day of getting fired for a story her boss, Vern, doesn't like and a confrontation that kills her boss which ends with her being killed by policemen. It's revealed to be a story created by an employee, Vern, featuring his Jerkass boss, Rolanda, as the female protagonist. And his final words suggest he's trapped in one of his own.
  • Guest Host: One episode had William Sadler 'reprising' his role as The Grim Reaper to co-host with the Crypt Keeper.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be:
    • The ending of "Split Second" where loggers help a new employee blinded by their Hair-Trigger Temper boss get revenge by having him chainsaw the boss in half while he's bound and gagged inside a hollow log.
    • Also in "Split Personality", where a guy pulls a Fake Twin Gambit in order to date two beautiful twin sisters at the same time. When they find out, they resolve the problem by sawing him down the middle so they can each keep half.
  • Happily Ever After: Rare all things considered, but not unusual for sympathetic characters to get what's coming to them.
    • "Four-Sided Triangle" and "Korman's Kalamity" provide reasonably happy, if bloody, endings for The Woobie. "The Reluctant Vampire" gives Donald a happy ending after all.
    • "The Trap" also ends quite happily for Irene and Billy. Irene's abusive husband Lou, on the other hand...
  • Haunted House: "Television Terror." Also the twist ending for "Surprise Party".
  • Heart in the Wrong Place: In the episode "Dig That Cat... He's Real Gone", a bear-shaped archery target has a valentine-shaped cutout on the left side of its chest. They do get it right on the occasions where somebody gets their heart ripped or cut out, though...
  • Hell Hotel: "Horror in the Night"
  • Henpecked Husband: Jim Korman in "Korman's Kalamity".
  • Hollywood Acid: Used as an ending twist in "99 & 44/100% Pure Horror" — apparently soap made from a human body is acidic enough to melt someone's skin right off. In fairness, the living, moving eye seen in the soap bar implies that it's not Hollywood Acid so much as a form of supernatural revenge from beyond the grave.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Has a fair share of nudity and explicit sex scenes, which weren't present in the 1950's comics.
  • How We Got Here: "Dig That Cat... He's Real Gone" has the cat-gland-implanted/coffin-housed protagonist, Ulric, tell the audience via flashbacks the tale that led to his being willingly buried alive prior to his ninth life. But then... well, see Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap! above.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The truly terrifying element of the show is the Crypt Keeper's awful sense of humor.
  • Idiot Ball: There's often an easy way to avoid the horrible fates characters either have in store or bring upon themselves, but a firm grasp on this keeps them from thinking of it.
  • If I Had a Nickel: "Only Sin Deep" has, "You know somethin' honey, if I had a dollar for every time you stood in the mirror admirin' your face, I could get off these streets and retire to the Bahamas."
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • "What's Cookin'", "The Assassin"
    • "Mournin' Mess" and "House of Horror" also touch on this.
  • Incoming Ham: "HELLO KIDDIES!"
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The Crypt Keeper is proclive to this, along with some of the episode titles.
  • Indulgent Fantasy Segue: A long and brutally tragic one makes up the second half of "'Til Death Do We Part."
  • In Name Only: While most of the earlier stories hewed fairly close to the original tales, episodes in later seasons had increasingly little in common with the comic stories, aside from the titles. Additionally, not all the stories came from Tales. Haunt of Fear, Vault of Horror, Crime SuspenStories and Shock SuspenStories also supplied material (and were acknowledged as such in appropriate episodes' credits.)
  • In-Universe Camera: The last act of "Undertaking Parlor" is from the perspective of the heroes' cameras as they film themselves trying to and succeeding in taking down the mortician after he killed Joshnote 's father.
  • Ironic Echo: There have been several.
    "I'd rather be dead than you."
    "You gotta have that killer instinct."
    "It wasn't lies, it was salesmanship!"
  • It Amused Me: In "Loved to Death", this is Implied to be the landlord's reason for helping Edward to brainwash his crush with a love potion. When the effects of the potion backfire on Edward, making his crush so sex-obsessed that it consumes their lives, the landlord expresses little more than a few chuckles, before handily offering Edward a potion to kill his girlfriend when the latter pleads for aid. Edward then notes that the landlord must have known things would spiral out of control, to which the latter simply replies (with a wicked smile) "I'm just here to help, kid".
  • Jerkass: Take your pick...
    • Both Reno and Sam from "Cutting Cards." Their mutual hatred is so extreme that they escalate from craps to Russian roulette to "chop poker", which they persist in playing until the two of them have lost all of their limbs.
    • Uncle Ezra from "Fitting Punishment." As well as being The Scrooge who nickel-and-dimes his customers for every little thing, he treats his orphaned nephew like dirt.
  • Joker Jury: "The Third Pig"
  • Just Eat Gilligan: At the end of "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime", the one thing the main character never thought of to do is pointed out to her - paying off the jury.
  • Kangaroo Court: "The Third Pig", "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime"
  • Karmic Death: Pretty much the whole idea. Someone horrible does something horrible and then has something horrible done in return. Rinse, repeat.
  • Karma Houdini: While it was common for the murderer to get away, the person killed was always the one the audience hated most. There are exceptions however, as this WAS a horror show, after all; generally, the less an episode centers around a despicable character, the more likely they are to succeed with their evil plans and get off scot-free in the end.
    • The Crypt Keeper himself is one, considering the occasions he's periodically tortured, mutilated, and/or killed people during the bookends. He occasionally gets tortured and/or mutilated himself, but then, he likes stuff like that.
    • The main character from "The Man Who Was Death" had a motive to hunt down Karma Houdinis who were found not guilty. Ironically, he was eventually caught and executed for his murders.
    • There are some instances of the Asshole Victim being killed by people arguably just as evil, if not more. An example would be the pageant host, his employees, and his audience in "Beauty Rest". They do give Helen, the Beauty Contest contestant who killed another, her Karmic Death, as they turn her into Miss Autopsy 1992. However, an offhand comment made by one employee hints that they have been doing it for a while and that they used to "pick them off the streets" in the past. It's a safe bet to say that not all of the previous "contestants" were Asshole Victims and they all presumably continue their murderous business after the end of the episode.
  • Karmic Twist Ending: Most episodes.
  • Knight Templar: Talbot in "The Man Who Was Death." After his state repeals the death penalty, he goes around killing people that got away with murder.
  • Lampshade Hanging: John Kassir, who voices the Crypt Keeper, also plays a minor character in one of the main stories. At the end of the episode, the Crypt Keeper compliments that character's performance.
  • Large Ham: The Crypt Keeper's bombastic introductions provided as much entertainment as the actual stories.
  • Lemony Narrator: The Crypt Keeper, naturally. This is a guy who takes a Hurricane of Puns and works them into the Black Comedy and Gallows Humor he uses to introduce and analyze the stories.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Released by Data East in 1993. Click here for details.
  • Literal Metaphor:
    • "The Assassin" has "a woman with balls".
    • The scientist's wife and her paramour in "Spoiled" breathlessly speak of how much they want each other's bodies, so he grants their wishes by switching their heads.
  • Love Potion: Both "Til Death" and "Loved to Death" involve men who use this to win over otherwise unattainable women. This goes about as well as you would expect, given what show they're on.
  • Mad Doctor: Dr. Orloff in "Doctor of Horror", who steals corpses in order to extract their souls.
    • Another appears in "The Switch", who helps the protagonist switch bodies.
    • The doctor in "Ear Today, Gone Tomorrow" surgically implants animal characteristics into people, who are used as hosts, before killing them to harvest their newfound abilities for the Lawson crime family to inherit.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: A trifecta in the episode "The Assassins": The trope is Invoked when a team of government agents show a photograph of a rogue assassin to a housewife and it's obvious that the man in the picture doesn't look anything like her husband. It's Subverted when the rogue assassin proves not to be her husband and Doubly subverted when the mandatory twist ending reveals that the rogue assassin is actually the wife.
  • Mandatory Twist Ending: One for just about every episode. However, some were quite happy to the good characters, delivering well-deserved vengeance to the unsympathetic.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Leah and Angelica, the twins in "About Face." Angelica is the angelic, beautiful, "good" twin, while in The Bible Leah is the name of one of Jacob's wives, who is unloved and ignored by Jacob in favor of her sister (especially appropriate given that the twins' father is a priest.)
    • The weaselly Amoral Attorney from "Let The Punishment Fit The Crime" is named Geri Ferret.
  • Meta Fiction: Particularly notable in some episodes, such as "Korman's Kalamity" and "Whirlpool" which feature writers/artists of the Tales from the Crypt comic as their protagonists (with the Crypt-Keeper even holding a copy of the comic in the former). Another notable example is the end of "Oil's Well That Ends Well" where the Crypt Keeper rewatches the final two-three minutes of the episode and comments upon John Kassir's character for being a "great hacktor" and wondering where he's heard that voice before.
  • Monogender Monsters: A variant of this in "Lover Come Hack to Me", where every baby born into Peggy's family is apparently female.
  • Monster Clown: Played with in "Strung Along" where it appears Joseph's clown puppet Koko has come to life and murdered his adulterous wife. It's subverted in that it was all an act by his wife and her lover to make Joseph suffer a fatal Hollywood Heart Attack. It's then played somewhat straight when the Koko puppet, implied to be possessed by Joseph, murders the adulterous wife and lover in revenge.
  • The Movie: Technically six. Two films were produced in the 1970s by Amicus Productionsa self-titled movie and Vault of Horror. (Unsurprisingly, though, this series has a loose connection to those movies.) In 1989, a Compilation Movie was put together, consisting of "The Man Who Was Death", "And All Through the House", and "Dig That Cat, He's Real Gone". Three stand-alone franchise films were made in the 1990s: Demon Knight, Bordello of Blood and Ritual, the last of which was released straight to video. Note that Ritual was produced as a TFtC movie, but later edited to remove any connection to the franchise. This connection was later restored in an effort to increase awareness of it.
  • Mundane Utility: Several episodes feature their superhuman/supernaturally-powered protagonists using their abilities to accomplish daily tasks, most notable in season three episode "The Reluctant Vampire", in which said vampire uses his Classical Movie Vampire powers to... light the candles in his living room, squeeze and shake the blood out of a corpse (via I.V. to throw a roaming vampire hunter off the trail), and heave his unconscious (and obese) boss into a coffin.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: This pops up a lot, and it tends to be the specific Idiot Ball many characters latch onto.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: The Crypt Keeper constantly inflicts pain and torture on himself for his own amusement, but always comes out of it without a scratch on him. Obviously a factor of his undead state.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: The original comic of "The Pit!" had the couples running cockfighting and dogfighting rings, with the women bullying their husbands into trying to one-up their rivals. That probably would've been too brutish for modern sensibilities.
  • No Fourth Wall: At least as far as the Crypt Keeper is concerned.
  • Not in the Face!: On one episode which stars a pair of bandit lovers, the man is always paranoid about something happening to his visage. Predictably, there's more to this fear than simple vanity, as revealed by the twist ending.
  • Not Just a Tournament: There are a few episodes where a contestant murders the odds-on favorite, but finds out too late that the "prize" for winning is death. In one case, an actor literally kills for a chance to play Hamlet, but discovers that he was really auditioning to play Yorick, the skull. In another case, a Beauty Contest contestant kills another, but soon discovers that the pageant is called "Miss Autopsy".
  • Once an Episode: A somewhat loose example. The Crypt Keeper will make at least one "ghoul" pun, no matter how nonsensical or how much of a stretch. Any word with a G and an L in there is fair game, usually "girl" or "gal," but on occasion "goal" and "gill" have fallen victim.
  • Off with His Head!: Happens in more than a handful of episodes.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: John Kassir (an American actor) has the Crypt Keeper slip and out of varying degrees of a British accent so frequently, it's hard to tell which one is supposed to be sticking.
  • Origins Episode: "Lower Berth" establishes how the Crypt Keeper came to be. Appropriately, the episode was directed by Kevin Yagher, who helped the Crypt Keeper come to be in real life.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The vampires in "Comes the Dawn" are nonverbal and truly hideous goblin-like humanoids that sleep in fleshy cocoons.
  • P.O.V. Cam: "You, Murderer" (with the added bonus of being from the POV of Humphrey Bogart), "Abra Cadaver"
  • Precious Puppy: Played for Black Comedy at the end of "Curiosity Killed" when a couple discovers a cute little puppy with its Asshole Victim hidden a few feet away.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: From "For Cryin' Out Loud", right before killing Ms. Kielbasanote , who wants half of the "Save the Rainforest" money he's stealing:
    Marty: (while picking up a guitar) You know who gave me this guitar?
    Ms. Kielbasa: No, who?
    Marty: (raises the guitar over his head) Pete... TOWNSHEND! (bludgeons Ms. Kielbasa to death with the guitar)
  • Product Placement: Curiously, Perrier-Jouët champagne turns up in several episodes, with its distinctive painted bottle always clearly visible on-camera. Whether this was a deliberate plug or just what the prop department happened to have handy isn't clear.
  • Prophecy Twist: A fortuneteller assures a greedy woman that she will soon marry a man who will inherit a fortune from a rich relative and die himself soon afterward. No points for guessing that one important bit of information was left out of that. Namely, she was the rich relative, having won a large sum of money for being the millionth customer at an automat. When she went to rub it in his face, he killed her and was executed for it.
  • Pungeon Master: The Crypt Keeper.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: "Mute Witness to Murder" ends with Susan finally killing the murderous doctor by denying him his heart pills. But said doctor killed Susan's husband, got away with murdering his wife, and Susan, if the Crypt-Keeper's comment at the end is any indication, likely becomes fully insane.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Grunwald in "Revenge is the Nuts". It's not enough that he steals the home's funds to spend on himself while the blind inmates starve and freeze, but what's presented as the Moral Event Horizon is his sexual harassment/abuse of a new female arrival.
  • Rapid Aging: In "Only Sin Deep", a vain prostitute "sells" her looks to an eccentric pawnbroker, only to start quickly looking like an old woman. "Curiosity Killed" features this happening when a Jerkass old woman sabotages her husband and his friends' attempt at creating a youth potion. Also a version of this appears in "Staired In Horror" with any young man who goes up a staircase in a cursed house aging tremendously, while the woman who lives there goes from young to elderly when she descends the stairs, and vice versa.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: In the episode "Judy, You're Not Yourself Today", a husband points his rifle at a random solicitor, and pulls the trigger while pointing it at his wife to prove to his wife the gun was unloaded. In the end he ends up trying to physically subdue his wife's body snatcher (an old witch traded bodies with her) while holding the gun, and ends up shooting his wife.
  • Revenge Fic: The end of "Whirlpool" In-Universe implies that the whole episode was this, with Vern putting his Jerkass boss, Rolanda, in a "Groundhog Day" Loop story.
  • Rewatch Bonus: A number of episodes have this, but "Three's a Crowd" bears special mention. Pretty much all of the dialog in the episode has a different meaning once you know the ending.
  • Rule of Scary: In full force, just like it was in the EC comics that inspired it. Admittedly, the stories and plot twists don't usually make a whole lot of sense, but if someone who watches the show complains about them they're doing it wrong.
  • The Scrooge: Uncle Ezra from "Fitting Punishment".
  • Self-Deprecation: Between the Crypt Keeper occasionally deriding the audience for watching too much of the show, and characters in the actual segments tending to have a low opinion of it (or its namesake comic) whenever it was bought up, it seems Tales from the Crypt had no problem poking fun at its own low-brow appeal.
  • Seven Minute Lull: Subverted in "For Cryin' Out Loud".
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Stella King in "Creep Course" for the majority of the episode is pretty mousey and okay looking in baggy clothing and thick glasses. After encountering the mummy, she is smoking in revealing Egyptian garments and eyeshadow.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: In one episode, a pair of twins come to live with the lecherous priest who fathered them. One twin is attractive, sweet-tempered and generally kind to him, while the other is a deformed and violent religious fanatic who deeply resents their father for abandoning them.
  • Single Specimen Species: The Crypt Keeper is the offspring of a two-faced carnival freak and an ancient undead mummy so the jury is out on what kind of being he actually is. Regardless we never see another creature like him in the series.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: The big twist of "Surprise Party." It's pure luck that the ghosts' victim ended up being a murderous arsonist just like his father, because they make it clear they were going to exact revenge on him either way.
  • Something Completely Different:
    • The final episode, a re-telling of "The Three Little Pigs", was animated.
    • "Lower Berth," too. Whereas most episodes are set in the present-era, "Lower Berth" takes place in the early 1900s.
    • "Yellow", "Showdown", and "King of the Road" are rather tonally different from the rest of the show. This is because they were originally part of a pilot for a planned TV version of Two-Fisted Tales instead. Of these, "King of the Road" stands out the most for being a completely straight action yarn with no grisly or macabre themes whatsoever.
    • "The Pit" isn't based a Two Fisted Tales story, but also has zero horror elements, being a martial-arts themed action piece.
    • "Fitting Punishment" is notably the only episode with an entirely black cast.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • In the original story of "The Reluctant Vampire", Longtooth is discovered and staked in the heart. In the episode of the same name, it's the Jerkass who harasses Longtooth that gets staked in the heart after being mistaken for a vampire. Given the In Name Only reputation of the episodes, this probably isn't the only example.
    • Another example occurs with "My Brother's Keeper" wherein the original comic story featured the good twin committing suicide by slashing his throat and taking the evil twin with him due to their shared body. In the adaptation, both survive and are surgically separated, leaving the evil twin to be arrested.
  • Spin-Off:
    • The animated Tales from the Cryptkeeper and the CBS Game Show Secrets of the Cryptkeeper's Haunted House were aimed at a younger audience, but still horrifying.
    • There was also a brief audio series produced for Sci-Fi Channel's Seeing Ear Theatre and done as a Radio Drama. Kassir again returned as our horror host (even singing the opening lyrics) and several high-profile guests (such as Tim Curry and Luke Perry) took part.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror will seem very familiar to fans of this series, from the Black Comedy to the charismatic host to the godawful puns. The first segment will also seem very familiar to Death Note fans, but that's a whole different story.
    • Perversions of Science, a short-lived series that essentially replaced this one after the final season.
  • Straw Feminist: In "Oil's Well Thar Ends Well", Gina is an intelligent, if manipulative and downright evil, woman who despises almost all men.
  • Straw Misogynist: Also in "Oil's Well That Ends Well", the villains are misogynistic, opportunistic men who try to trick Gina out of her wealth.
  • Survivorship Bias: Averted in a number of stories.
  • Swallow the Key:
    • In "Carrion Death," a criminal and a cop are handcuffed together. The cop is killed, but he manages to swallow the key before the criminal can get it, forcing the criminal to lug the dead cop along as he attempts to escape across the desert.
    • Mr. Duvall swallows the black pearl to keep Red from the stealing it in "Dead Wait." Unfortunately, this backfires pretty gruesomely on account of Red having both a sharp knife and no moral compunctions against murder.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: In "The Trap", a physically and verbally-abused housewife conspires and becomes intimate with her brother-in-law to get revenge on her Jerkass husband.
  • Title Drop: Happened a few times, but perhaps the most (purposefully) blatant was by the Crypt Keeper in "Korman's Kalamity":
    "...because long before my eerie offerings appeared on your silver screen, they were a magazine called - get a load of this - Tales from the Crypt!"
  • Tomato in the Mirror
  • Too Dumb to Live: Richard's wife Della and his friend Alan in "Three's a Crowd." While trying to keep a joyous secret (he's gonna be a daddy!) from Richard so the announcement will be a surprise, both seemingly go out of their way to make it look like they're having an affair instead, with Della spending most of her time alone with Alan and then running to his arms whenever Richard tries to confront her about it. But what really makes them this trope is that when Richard finally snaps and moves to kill the two, and it dawns on each of them that he's seriously going to do it, they still refuse to just come clean about all the secrecy, even though it could have avoided the major Tear Jerker that ensues.
  • Transgender:
    • The twist of "The Assassin", where the wife of an AWOL assassin turns out to be the rogue "himself", who had more work done than "his" would-be killers initially assumed.
    • This is also the twist of "Fatal Caper", where the female lawyer turns out to be the father's disowned third son, which she reveals right after seducing him and disrobing.
  • Undead Child: "The New Arrival", coupled with Revenant Zombie.
  • The Uriah Gambit: In "Forever Ambergris", an aging photographer sends his young protege to a village that was ravaged by germ warfare, knowing the younger man will fall victim to the same flesh-rotting disease that killed the villagers, leaving his hot girlfriend for the older man's taking. Naturally, it backfires when the older man learns his protege sent some germ-infected flora to his girlfriend before he knew anything was wrong.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: On the odd occasion the Crypt Keeper leaves his crypt to mingle with the general public, no one seems to react predictably to the sight of him.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: Again, Longtooth in "The Reluctant Vampire".
  • Vigilante Man: "The Man who was Death".
  • Villain Protagonist: Most of the main characters of each episode.
  • The Virus: "Forever Ambergris"
  • Vocal Evolution: The Cryptkeeper's voice in the first season and roughly the first third of season two sounds noticeably different compared to his more usual one. It's a bit more quiet and raspier and slightly accented, like a sort of high-pitched Vincent Price impression. The Cryptkeepers voice actor, John Kassir, has said that this was due to the animatronic initially being unable to move its mouth very quickly so he had to speak more slowly to ensure that the movements synced up with the words.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lampshaded at the end of "Mute Witness to Murder":
    Crypt Keeper: I suppose you're wondering what became of Susan. If you give me a scream, I might just tell you! (laughs)
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Some of the Crypt Keeper's closing segments allude to what became of the characters after the end. The Dr. Jerk in "The New Arrival" eventually escaped his predicament and got a new radio show, though he was more careful about "screaming his calls". Charlie from "Doctor of Horror" opened a club and even sent our horror host a postcard about it. Clyde from "Staired in Horror" eventually managed to reverse his age by slowly shuffling down the stairs, but was then left waiting for Lily to grow up.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Dead Wait. The voodoo priestess (Whoopi Goldberg) tosses away a huge, valuable black pearl, because she finds the red hair on Red's (severed) head far more valuable. Based on the vignette of the same name in Vault of Horror #23.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The Crypt Keeper reassures us that the psychotic Santa from "...And All Through The House" didn't harm the little girl who let him inside, as "He preferred older women... in pieces!"
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Liz in "Split Second" seduces an unwilling young lumberjack and, when caught, tells her husband that he tried to rape her. She did this all because she was bored.
  • Yandere: The resident Gold Digger of "Lover Come Hack To Me" really picked the wrong woman to con.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Several stories feature adulterers, both male and female. By the end, they get their comeuppance. "Three's a Crowd" makes you think it is going to be this, only to subvert it in the saddest, most heart-wrenching way possible.


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