'90s Kids Horror Shows That Are Scarier Than You Remember

Gateway horror has waned in recent years. Several decades ago, it seemed that every network had at least one or two distinctly horror-themed shows aimed at young audiences. Currently, the vagaries of genre have shifted more toward fantasy and dystopia, though the advent of digital streaming has reignited interest in several classic pieces of '90s horror media.

These are the shows that an entire generation grew up with. Along with classic television movies such as "Don't Look Under the Bed" and "Cry Baby Lane," these shows gave young '90s horror fans their genre fix, all but guaranteeing a lifetime of horror loyalty. Some of these shows are animated, some are live-action, and some aired for years. Others were cut short far too soon. There are ghouls, goblins, ghosts, and monsters to be found in both overarching narratives and anthologies of terror. In retrospect, these 10 shows are considerably scarier than audiences might remember.


"Goosebumps," adapted from the R.L. Stine's series of books of the same name, is arguably the most famous '90s horror show for kids. It's been so popular, that there have even been two quasi-remakes of the material for contemporary audiences: 2015's "Goosebumps" and its sequel, "Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween." That's not all. Disney+ is currently developing another live-action series with the "Goosebumps" moniker.

What made the series so popular was its adroit balance of family-friendly pathos and some serious scares. Sure, it never pushed boundaries too far, but the likes of such episodes as "Stay Out of the Basement" and "Night of the Living Dummy II" were bonafide scare fests, rivaling adult-oriented fare with their perfect pacing and truly nightmarish imagery. "Goosebumps" ran for four seasons, and while some of its luster was lost the longer it went on, there are few — if any — better gateways for young horror fans.


"Gargoyles" is practically dripping with nostalgia. An animated series airing on the Disney Channel of yore (and what a time that was) "Gargoyles" follows a group of gargoyles reawakened in modern-day New York City. Consequently, they become quasi-superheroes, protecting the city at night from all manner of menaces, including biker gangs, cults, and monstrous hybrids of eels and bats. It's truly scary stuff.

"Gargoyles" has enjoyed a favorable legacy, with IGN even listing it as the 45th best animated show ever made. With layered storytelling, mature themes, and a dollop of Shakespearean tragedy, "Gargoyles" was truly ahead of its time. It is a show that introduced young audiences to superhero mythos, Scottish folklore, and the harsh realities of the real world — all bundled together with stellar animation, fantastic heroes, and engaging narrative arcs. While it currently enjoys a cult following, nothing can match the sheer '90s' pleasure of plopping down in front of the television with a bowl of cereal in the early morning to check in on everyone's favorite stone guardians.


"Ghostwriter" was sort of like an adolescent "Murder She Wrote" if Jessica Fletcher was a spirit and Cabot Cove was a middle school. A group of friends from Brooklyn discovers the titular Ghostwriter, an invisible spirit who can communicate with them through the manipulation of text and letters, in a basement. Together, they become a kind of detective agency, solving crimes around their neighborhood and school alongside guest appearances from none other than the inimitable Samuel L. Jackson.

While not strictly scary, "Ghostwriter" more often than not followed innocuous crimes, including backpack theft and baby arson. Still, there were times when "Ghostwriter" got considerably darker than audiences might have expected, such as the time the crew had to save an actress from a violent homicidal stalker or when they stumble upon a kidnapping plot. Plus, the central conceit, a ghost who solves crimes, is innately scary in and of itself. Good for the "Ghostwriter" crew for keeping it around. Others might have been quick to exorcise a spectral detective from their lives and few could blame them.

So Weird

"So Weird" premiered on the Disney Channel in January 1999, airing until its cancellation in September 2001. Teenager Fiona Phillips (Cara DeLizia) tours with her rock-star mom (Mackenzie Phillips) while fancying herself a young Dana Scully. With clear nods to Fox's "The X-Files," "So Weird" was a pitch-perfect gateway for conspiracy-tinged horror fans not quite old enough for some of the truly terrifying "X-Files" beats.

There are gremlins, ghosts, girls escaping adolescent angst with astral projection, and even wormholes and immortal cults. Leaning hard into its forebearer's monster of the week template, "So Weird" practically guaranteed a new fright week-to-week, appealing to fans of all manner of science fiction and horror. It was the kind of procedural horror series for kids that audiences don't quite get enough of these days. Luckily, the series is currently streaming on Disney+, marking the first time it has been available since it aired.

AAAHH!! Real Monsters

"AAAHH!!! Real Monsters" is really stinking cute. The monsters, Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm, are ugly enough to be rendered lovable. Following the Pixar template, they're frightening while remaining accessible, ensuring that young audiences are more attuned to their hijinks than genuine terror they might impart. The trio attends an underground school for monsters, and most episodes follow their escapades traveling to the surface to scare humans as part of various class assignments.

Like others on this list, "AAAHH!! Real Monsters" was never especially scary, though there were times when it straddled the line and resembled something akin to a full-bore horror feature. "Attack of the Blobs" has monstrous blob monsters hatching and trying to eat everything in sight. "Where Have All the Monsters Gone?" gets truly existential, suggesting monsters disappear when they are no longer capable of being scary. A nostalgic tentpole, "AAAHH!!! Real Monsters" stands among the best of what the early days of Nickelodeon had to offer.

Extreme Ghostbusters

While '80s kids might remember "The Real Ghostbusters," adolescent paranormal enthusiasts in the '90s might better recall "Extreme Ghostbusters." A direct follow-up to the original series, "Extreme Ghostbusters" presents a world in which ghostly activity has been on the downturn. It has become all but nonexistent. Consequently, Dr. Egon Spengler (Maurice LaMarche, reprising his "Real Ghostbusters" role) has been alone, caring for Slimer and waiting with bated breath for another sign of paranormal pandemonium.

Luckily, it isn't long before the ghosts are back, and absent the original Ghostbusters, Egon has no choice but to recruit a bunch of college students. Abounding with slapstick comedy and paranormal antics, "Extreme Ghostbusters" never quite reaches the heights of the original, though it still manages a few dark and spooky moments all its own. In "The True Face of a Monster," the show tackles frighteningly prescient antisemitism, and in "The Crawler," the show goes full "Mimic" with bug monsters. Like the movies upon which it is based, "Extreme Ghostbusters" is a worthwhile entry point for young horror fans.

Are You Afraid of the Dark

There's not a millennial alive who doesn't remember the sheer terror of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" The likes of "The Tale of Old Man Corcoran," and perhaps most famously, "The Tale of the Dead Man's Float," starring none other than Jay Baruchel, are horror staples for an entire generation. Throughout its first five seasons and before its revival at the end of the decade, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" was never afraid to get, well ... dark.

With its signature title card, roots in oral tradition (friends huddled around a campfire, telling stories), and bonafide scares, "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" might be the preeminent horror show for young audiences. Like "Goosebumps," "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" always went a little bit further, letting its scares linger for an additional beat to truly solidify itself as the stuff of nightmares. The legacy is so strong that Nickelodeon revived it for two additional miniseries in 2019 and 2021, reminding audiences everywhere why horror isn't just fun — it's necessary.

Courage the Cowardly Dog

"Return the slab or suffer my curse!" Originally airing on Cartoon Network, "Courage the Cowardly Dog" was preeminently concerned with laughs, with Courage, the titular pink dog, playing the role of the Bagges' straight man and responding to the absurdity around him while everyone else remains frustratingly dense. An entire list could be dedicated to some genuinely horrifying episodes of "Courage the Cowardly Dog." Inimitable and so unique to its time, the kind of content "Courage" spooled out regularly stands almost no chance of navigating modern censors.

In "Freaky Fred," Muriel's nephew, with a terrifying intonation, is intent on shaving Courage for being naughty. In "The Demon in the Mattress," "Courage" goes full homage in a love letter to "The Exorcist" after Muriel is possessed by a demon living in her mattress. There are homicidal cats, killer mermaids in rugs, and bonafide allusions to domestic abuse. In other words, "Courage the Cowardly Dog" was fun, funny, and often a stark reminder of just how terrifying the real world could be.

Eerie, Indiana

"Eerie, Indiana" didn't last long, and that's a genuine shame. Airing for one season from September 1991 until April 1992, its final episode remained unaired until 1993. While "So Weird" paid homage to "The X-Files," "Eerie, Indiana" was something of a kids-centric precursor, premiering two years before. Omri Katz stars as Marshall Teller, a teenager whose family moves to Eerie, Indiana, a virtual ghost town. As is always the case, the town is replete with strange sightings and weird happenings, and Marshall takes it upon himself to investigate the strange goings-on.

There are intelligent dogs with plans for world domination, bigfoot creatures hiding in the woods, gruesome accidents, possessed hearts, and all manner of other terrors. Had the show been given time to breathe, it likely would have developed into something truly special. As it stands, "Eerie, Indiana" is a hallmark of early '90s horror, a show as rooted in character as it is scares.

Tales from the Cryptkeeper

HBO's original "Tales from the Crypt" was replete with so much graphic nudity, gruesome violence, and foul language, it was never going to pass muster for a generation of young horror fans. Long before streaming, it was all but inaccessible to younger audiences. Luckily, Warner Brothers and Nelvana saw the potential, curtailing the more mature themes and content for an adaptation perfectly suited to burgeoning horror fans. Consequently, "Tales from the Cryptkeeper" was born.

While it never reached the horror heights of its predecessors on television and in print, it was a phenomenal gateway for young fans that told stories about vengeful fish, phantom pirates, and everyone's favorite — werewolves. Though the content was toned down, the show retained the original's charm, adopting an animation style perfectly suited to young children. Horror shows for kids are always worth getting excited about, all the more so when they're attached to a horror property as groundbreaking as "Tales from the Crypt."