The Lost Episode Of Sesame Street That Was Too Scary For TV

It's pretty comforting to know that "Sesame Street" has been accessible to generations of children across 52 years of television and shows no signs of going away. The educational program has been an invaluable learning tool as the youngest of kids are taught the alphabet, manners, eating healthy, how to count, and a slew of important life lessons. Everyone is welcome on Sesame Street, which means guest stars often pop in once in a while to help out Elmo, Big Bird and all the other puppet residents.

Robin Williams, Ray Charles and even Brett Goldstein of "Ted Lasso" has come on down to "Sesame Street" at one point or another, but one guest star made quite a kerfuffle after her first and only appearance on February 10, 1976. Perhaps best known as the Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz," actor Margaret Hamilton reprised her role as the iconic screen villain, who inadvertently ends up on Sesame Street after losing her broomstick mid-flight.

"Banned" isn't exactly a word I would think to associate with "Sesame Street," but apparently enough finger-waving parents sent so many complaints to PBS about Hamilton's "frightening" guest appearance that the episode only aired once. But the thing about the internet is few pieces of media are ever truly lost. Thanks to an anonymous Redditor, we can now see the episode (#0847) PBS had attempted to lock away for decades.

A windy thing happened on the way to Sesame Street

The episode's wraparound segment sees "Sesame Street" resident David (Northern Calloway) stepping outside of his store to a strong gust of wind and catching a broomstick that falls out of the sky and into his hands. The Wicked Witch attempts to take it back, but she realizes she can't regain control while someone else is holding it. David says he'll only give it back to her after she shows him some "dignity and respect." Manners, they go a long way, folks.

Does the Wicked Witch ask politely? Nope! Not only does she make it rain inside David's store, she threatens to turn him into a basketball (which is just a lot to unpack), and Big Bird into a feather duster. I have to note a hilarious image of Big Bird shortly after, guarding the store with a baseball bat and a hockey stick. At one point he even says "Where is that witch? I'll fix her," which feels so weird to hear come out of the character's mouth. The '70s were wild.

Having realized she's not going to get anywhere as her witchy self, the Wicked Witch transforms into a sweet, kind old lady. But David isn't stupid and sees right through her unassuming disguise. He figures if she's going to make another attempt for the broomstick, he's going to trick her into asking for it nicely. The way the Wicked Witch goes about asking politely makes it appear as if she'd rather be splashed with a fire hose. Upon getting it back, she exclaims how excited she is to get home to Oz and leave "Sesame Street" for good. But the cycle repeats itself as the broomstick once again falls out of the sky into David's hands, which breaks him down.

You see this? This is my broomstick!

What makes all this so interesting is, despite never airing again on television again, Margaret Hamilton's episode had been safely stored in the Library of Congress this whole time (via The A.V. Club). That, of course, explains how shockingly great this looks and sounds. It's been properly taken care of.

Even though Hamilton had been over three decades removed from playing the character, barring a few other television appearances, she didn't lose a step. Sure, the makeup isn't up to movie quality, but she acts through the thin layer of green face paint as if she were. It was so strange to hear Hamilton's iconic cackle while she looked just like herself. Her performance is akin to Robert Englund reprising his role as Freddy Krueger in "The Goldbergs," where you can tell they're still dedicated to playing the character as people remember them, albeit in a sillier context.

By today's standards, no, this isn't exactly scary. But then again, you have to view it through the lens of the time in which it aired. What scares the children of today is different than what would have frightened children in 1976. At the time, "The Wizard of Oz" pulled in huge ratings every time it aired on NBC and CBS. "Star Wars" was a year away from making Darth Vader the big bad childhood villain, so naturally, the Wicked Witch of the West was the feared baddie a lot of kids recognized growing up. And without the internet at their disposal, they rarely saw the kind soul behind the green makeup.

Unlike the Wicked Witch of the West, Hamilton loved children

In what must have been an eye-opening experience for younger viewers, a year prior, Margaret Hamilton made a guest appearance on PBS' "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" as herself. Within seconds, you can see her sense of kindness come out. Together, the pair humanized the Wicked Witch by talking about what the character might have been feeling. "Not all witches have to be bad," said Fred Rogers.

The interaction of the episode I find so interesting is when Mr. Rogers dresses Hamilton up in her witch's garb, piece by piece. For a lot of children, this would have been their first time getting a peek at the person behind the curtain. The big scary witch lived only in a land of make-believe. While children had gotten a glimpse of Hamilton in her human form in "The Wizard of Oz," it doesn't really count given she's still playing the mean Ms. Gulch.

Hamilton's turn as the Wicked Witch feels so out of sorts, given she was the antithesis of the big green meanie. Not only did she help run children's theater, she also taught as a kindergarten teacher (via Bratenahl Historical Society). Even with the episode pulled, she often played the role, especially with educational programming, to show the person behind the monster. "Sesame Street" may have banned Hamilton's Wicked Witch from syndication, but her impact has held strong nonetheless.

"Sesame Street" is currently streaming on HBO Max.