90s kids TV shows that literally gave us nightmares

We're still traumatised

Rosie and Jim

by Marianna Manson |
Updated on

When you consider the kind of stuff under the umbrella of “kids' entertainment” over the years, it’s a wonder more of us haven’t wound up with severe psychological trauma.

Punch and Judy is the age-old heart-warming tale of domestic battery, and DON’T EVEN GET US STARTED ON NOSEY BONK.

But there’s a special place in hell for '90s children’s TV.

The decade that brought us Art Attack and the actual best Blue Peter presenters of all time (don’t @ me), as well as the timeless TV formatting of Live & Kicking and SM Live, was also responsible for more than its fair share of unspeakable horrors.

Best make room behind your sofa – things might get scary…

CHECK OUT the most terrifying '90s kids' TV shows


Terrifying '90s kids' shows

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CREDIT: Ragdoll Productions

Tots TV

Don't be fooled by the happy butterflies in the cutesy animated opening credits – behind the unassuming red door lives a sinister cult of puppets ruled by a donkey overlord and kept in check by a grotesque 'dog' called Furryboo.

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CREDIT: Hanna-Barbera Cartoons/Warner Bros TV

Cow and Chicken

The MOST unnerving thing about Cow and Chicken, the names of both a cow and a chicken respectively, is that they were born to human parents. The OTHER unnerving things about Cow and Chicken were its questionable antagonist Red Guy who looks like a giant red scrotum and Cow consistently rubbing/referencing her udder and making some horribly grown up comments about her "teets". Eugh.

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The Demon Headmaster

OK so this one was supposed to be scary, and CBBC really knew how to give kids the heeby-jeebies. In The Demon Headmaster, brothers Lloyd and Harvey Hunter along with some school friends fought the powers of their evil headmaster, who hypnotised pupils into submission with his v. creepy eyes. The peak of '90s special effects and some seriously creepy casting to boot.

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CREDIT: Ragdoll Productions

Rosie and Jim

Widely regarded as one of the most loved kids' TV shows of all time, we beg to differ: Rosie and Jim was low key TERRIFYING, and not just because the poor kids had been kidnapped and held hostage on some old bloke's boat. The jerky puppetry, staring lidless eyes and Rosie's inexplicably middle-aged voice? Weird.

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CREDIT: Seven Network/BBC

Round the Twist

The pilot episode of this Australian offering saw the Twist family move from their metropolitan existence into an old lighthouse (past a cove called Suicide Leap) where they soon learn that their dunny is haunted. The last episode sees Princess Arial from the Island of Dreams arrive to bring the Gribble and Twist kids home with her. Everything in between is an eerie, disturbing blur.

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CREDIT: Anglia Television/ITV Studios


The graphics, the sinister dungeon-master Treguard, the claustrophobia-inducing dungeons: Knightmare was, well, the stuff of nightmares. You could say it didn't quite nail the laugh-out-loud, soft-play aesthetic of other kids' gameshows like 50/50 or Get Your Own Back. This was the one show we definitely weren't in any hurry to go on.

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CREDIT: Cosgrove Hall Films/BBC

Noddy's Adventures in Toyland

Few kids' TV shows had villains quite as scary as the goblins in Noddy. Before Noddy became computer animated in 2002, he and his Toyland pals were animated in stop motion which made Sly and Gobbo all the more terrifying – and that Clockwork Mouse was a pretty shifty character, too. Even PC Plod was corrupt. The moral of the story: trust no one in Toyland.

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CREDIT: La Fabrique/BBC

The Animals of Farthing Wood

It had all the makings of an enchanting tale of woodland creatures working together to overcome the threat to their homes that the evil human characters had inflicted – a noble message for kids. Instead it was a TOTAL blood bath averaging one savage death per episode that blew Bambi out of the water (and through the head, then impaled on a tree stump).

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CREDIT: The Yorkshire TV Company/ITV

The Riddlers

So we've been traumatised by pretty much all of the creepy puppet characters from the '90s, but these weird orange troll things take the cake. Consisting of a cast of two inoffensive human characters and two terrifying humanoid "Riddlers" called Mossop and Tiddler, if the scary AF theme tune didn't freak you out enough (it wouldn't have been out of place in Mordor, tbh) then Tiddler's tragic tale of her entire family's suspicious deaths when she was a baby should do the trick.

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Back in the days when Dr Who was a kid's programme and Watership Down was a family film, a bit of daytime telly terror was simply seen as character building.

And there were few series to strike fear into the hearts of children quite like The Demon Headmaster – the show that ran for just three seasons but left lifelong trauma (#mems).

Based on books of the same name by Gillian Cross, the series centred on a group of valiant kids who attended a high-school run by A Very Bad Man, who used his powers of hypnosis to discipline and ultimately control the kids under his charge.

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