Blood and gore is a familiar trope to grab audience attention. But some television scenes go beyond shallow violence, instead imparting deeply haunting moments that are difficult to shake. Take a look back at 14 of the most bone-chilling moments in TV history.
“Twin Peaks,” BOB Crawling Toward Camera It’s one of the scariest introductions to a character ever to air on television: Body-inhabiting spirit BOB, in the form of a scraggly-haired man, scrambles over the couch and heads straight to the camera. The fade-to-black moments that mimic blinking, as well as BOB’s menacing gaze, make it seem as if he means to lunge through the TV and at the viewer.
“Hannibal,” The Human Mural In a show filled with images of grotesquely mutilated figures and mandolined human flesh, the most haunting visual comes in the shape of a fractal-like arrangement of naked bodies – uncharacteristically bloodless but nauseating nevertheless. From above, the giant, lifeless sculpture resembles the dappled pigmentation of a human iris. If the eyes truly are the windows to the soul, then this scene provides an unsettling look into the show’s titular character.
“Night Gallery,” The Changing Painting In the first part of the made-for-television film “Night Gallery,” a greedy inheritor responsible for his wealthy uncle’s death (Roddy McDowall) is haunted by a painting that displays a cemetery. But the painting keeps changing. He now sees an open grave. It keeps shifting until it shows his uncle knocking at the front door. Fun fact: A later segment in the 1969 anthology film starred Joan Crawford and was directed by a young Steven Spielberg.
“The Walking Dead,” Glenn’s Death Just minutes into the seventh season premiere, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) quickly offs fan favorite Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), with squelching blows to his head. Terror among the show’s fan community reverberated for days afterward. The shocking, barbaric send-off spurred legions of reaction videos that featured stupefied viewers and screams of disbelief.
“Game of Thrones,” Ramsay Bathes Reek It’s truly difficult to single out the most sinister act Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) has committed, but the intimate moment between him and his prisoner-turned-lackey sends cold tingles down the spine. In between flaying and hunting with his carnivorous dogs, Ramsay makes time to scrub Reek (Alfie Allen) while asking him if he loves him, to which Reek replies “Yes of course, my lord.” The true scope of Ramsay’s control comes to light as he rewards his despondent captive for his compliance.
“American Horror Story,” Bloody Face Reveal Arguably the most twisted and horrifying season of the anthology series, “American Horror Story: Asylum” unveils the true identity of masked killer Bloody Face: well-groomed and seemingly empathetic psychiatrist, Dr. Thredson (Zachary Quinto). When patient Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) finds herself trapped in his basement, he orders her to kiss her dead girlfriend, assuring her she doesn’t bite – because he has removed all of her teeth.
“Killing Eve,” Club Scene If Villanelle (Jodie Comer) has anything, it’s style. The deep-bass thumps, sweltering crowd, and chromatic lights that illuminate her foreboding smile create a chilling contrast to the gut-wrenching chase that ensues, culminating in her gleefully stabbing MI6 employee Bill Pargrave (David Haig) as clubgoers scarcely notice.
“It,” Pennywise’s Debut Nearly 30 years before Bill Skarsgård played the killer clown on the big screen, Tim Curry was terrorizing audiences as Pennywise in the 1990 TV miniseries, based on the Stephen King novel. And when he first peered out of the sewer — viewers everywhere jumped out of their skin.
“Dexter,” Rita’s Death Dexter comes full circle at the end of the Season 4 finale. Led by the ominous crying of his newborn, he enters the bathroom and sees his wife bathing in a tub of her own blood. Next to her, their child sits on the crimson-stained bathroom floor, and Dexter flashes back to how he was found “born in blood” after the gruesome death of his own mother.
“Black Mirror,” Dr. Dawson’s Demise The first of three vignettes in “Black Museum” follows Dr. Peter Dawson (Daniel Lapaine) when, after a technological mishap, he begins processing pain as pleasure. His agonizing descent involves chipping away at himself as the camera shifts from a blood-stained bathroom floor to the mirror, reflecting him extracting his own teeth from an unrecognizable face.
“The X-Files,” The Peacocks No list of disturbing TV moments is complete without the infamous “X-Files” episode that featured an inbreeding family, complete with a quadriplegic mother kept under the bed. The episode was so horrific that Fox did not show reruns after its first airing.
“Breaking Bad,” Todd Kills a Child at the Train Tracks At first Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons) was endearing, yet, intellectually limited in his role as the muscle for Walter (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse’s (Aaron Paul) meth operation. However, when a boy unwittingly bears witness to their train heist, Todd reacts by pulling out his gun and shooting him dead, despite Jesse’s cries of protest.
“Westworld,” Bernard’s Revelation The slow burn leading up to the realization that Westworld programmer Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) is actually a host generated disbelief mirrored by the character’s own reluctance to acknowledge that his memories are fabricated and he has been controlled by mastermind Ford (Anthony Hopkins) the entire time.
“Bates Motel,” Norman Digs Up His Mother After Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) kills his mother through carbon-monoxide poisoning, he digs up her body in the season finale and, in an attempt to revive it, glues her eyelids opens to reveal a petrifying gaze.