In Praise of ‘Lost Episode’ Creepypastas

I admit, being a bit of an, ahem, timid child, I came late to enjoying horror. As an adult, I enjoy it much more (though I’m picky; my favorites tend to be slasher-style ones with very few supernatural elements). Honestly, EC Comics and Tales From the Crypt put me on the turn to appreciating horror. Though I still think of horror as mostly the domain of movies and comics, creepypasta — or internet horror stories — can be fun, And of all the genres of creepypasta, my favorite is the “Lost Episode.”

A “Lost Episode” creepypasta is pretty simple. “Hey, did you hear that there’s an episode of [show] that [channel] will never air? Yeah, apparently a scriptwriter/storyboard artist/producer/director/best boy was going through some tough times and made their own episode where [character] [slowly goes insane/dies horribly/slowly goes insane and dies horribly] and it was so scary that everyone quit and [channel] put it in a vault and vowed never to air it, but then this one guy was at a swap meet and found a weird VHS of it and took it home and it was really staticky and the lights flickered and shortly after writing down a recap of everything that happens in the episode he went insane and is currently in the insane asylum singing [theme song] over and over!”

One of the most popular ones is “Squidward’s Suicide” where SpongeBob’s cranky neighbor, well, commits suicide. (Fair warning: this is, as you might expect, pretty gory, with graphic descriptions of violence.) Though not one of the best Lost Episode creepypastas, it hits a lot of benchmarks for the genre: inserted photographs of crime scenes, cartoons with extreme detail (SpongeBob and Squidward have “hyper realistic eyes. Very detailed. Clearly not shots of real people’s eyes, but something a bit more real than CGI. The pupils were red.:), long takes of characters doing nothing but crying, the show’s creator watching upset and declaring that the episode must be buried, and so forth.

Of course, the TV shows in “Lost Episode” creepypastas are never real. Though there are actual lost episodes — sometimes a show gets held back because a network’s Standards and Practices department won’t approve it, sometimes a show is held back due to a real-life incident that casts the episode in poor taste, and sometimes, as is the case with early BBC shows or the near-entirety of the DuMont Network’s catalog, the tapes are erased or destroyed due to budgetary issues. But for an episode like “Squidward’s Suicide” to exist is basically impossible; above all else, animation is expensive and time-consuming, even with a crew. You’re not going to get a situation where someone’s just made a broadcast-ready SpongeBob by themselves. For more info on why an episode like this can’t exist, check out Frederator’s Cartoon Conspiracy episode about the story:

Other popular lost episode creepypastas include “Dead Bart” about The Simpsons, “Mickey’s Best Friend,” a “lost” Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1929 and “The Things Without Feelings” about Care Bears (this one is actually pretty well-written). There are also lost episode creepypastas about shows that aren’t real. I have a soft spot for the admittedly kinda dopey “Happy Appy” — though that’s more about a creepy kids show that goes off the rails. And, of course, the big one here is Kris Straub’s brilliantly clever Candle Cove, about a half-remembered nightmarish kids’ show. This was adapted into a TV series, and, to be honest, the show couldn’t capture the magic of the original, brief story.

Why do I love this genre of creepypasta? I imagine it’s because a lot of my actual nightmares involve this. I’m always having dreams about collage videotapes — in the dreams, sometimes it’s a lost Negativland VHS, other times it’s an off-brand compilation that’s in the vein of TV Carnage or Everything Is Terrible. They generally start out with bizarre public-access TV type footage, nothing out of the ordinary for these types of compilations, but soon go into Faces of Death style footage, like the R. Budd Dwyer [Link to Wikipedia, no graphic images] suicide tape and whatnot. (Oddly enough, something like this did happen in real life once; on one of the Subgenius DVDs, there’s a short film, “Something New to Die For,” which includes surgery footage and the R. Budd Dwyer tape, so, uh, yeah.)

An aside: In case it’s not clear — there aren’t any real TV Carnage or Everything Is Terrible compilations that do this. It’s all the fun sort of weird stuff. In fact, I recommend the real thing very highly. I’m especially fond of the TV Carnage compilations.

But anyway, as strangely accurate reflections of the darkest bits of my subconsciousness, I’ve always liked “Lost Episode” creepypastas. Even when they’re not well-written, the best are still fun when they don’t devolve into cliche. Though my nightmares tend to be more related to the counterculture, it’s unsurprising most of these stories are about children’s shows. Even though we’re in a world where YouTube has most everything that exists, the half-remembered shows of our past are generally kids’ shows, and for those of us of an age to still remember local kids’ shows — Ranger Charlie and Roscoe for me! — the idea that these cheaply made and often unarchived shows could have had terrible ends resonates with people, and plays off the cynical idea that no kids show could actually be that nice and something sinister must be lurking beneath the smiles. And even more disturbingly, though it’s very rare, sometimes they’re right.

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