How Punky Brewster Traumatized a Nation
Most people will be too young to remember this Punky Brewster episode, the Punky Brewster phenomenon, or Punky Brewster at all. It’s possible the videos I have linked below won’t seem as psychologically crippling as they were when they were first broadcast to an unsuspecting audience of children who were inundated by positive “Punky Power” week after week. All I know is that the nightmares continue.
In the mid 80’s, a Punky Brewester Halloween special entitled “Perils of Punky” aired during its second season. It was a two parter. The end of Part One had us shitting our Underoos due to a scary monster with a freakish scream popping up out of nowhere. That was more of a startle than anything else. However, when Part Two aired a week later, we were treated to more of a psychological scare as Punky’s friend Alan was presumably killed and turned into a head-mount zombie of sorts. Rotten teeth…face poking out of a rock…looking like the face was pealed off of Alan’s skull and reanimated somehow. It was a taunting, grotesque and horrifying thing really. Nothing about it made sense. There was a David Lynch quality about it which turned our safe, morally-supreme Punky Brewster universe on its head. Soon enough, all of Punky’s friends, as well her dog, were presumably killed or deformed by a mysterious evil spirit. By the end of the second episode, Punky does eventually vanquish the evil spit (you know…with LOVE,) but by that point the damage had already been done. I remember my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Maloney, standing in front of our class and denouncing Punky Brewster the very next day. Normally she would use that time to applaud Punky for saying no to drugs or something like that.
Thinking back on all of this in my adult years, I was left wondering if I had imagined or dreamed this whole thing up. It seemed too bizarre to be real. Thanks to the magic of the internets, I was able to seek out this Halloween episode on youtube. Alas, my fears and confusion have been confirmed. This first clip mainly just sets up the story. The only scary parts happen right at the end:
The scariest part of this next clip is at 4:10 (which is what stuck with me all these years):
It’s interesting how many people have left comments on these youtube videos, admitting to having had nightmares because of Punky’s perils. They too have wondered whether this whole thing was a figment of their imagination or not. We are bonding over our shared trauma. To those who still live in silent horror, I just want you to know that you’re not alone. I understand how difficult it’s been having no one to turn to…no rational explanations to be comforted by. If you believe that group meetings might help you deal with your PBTSD, I will look into organizing something.
Now that I look at a picture of Alan juxtaposed with a picture of me when I was a kid, I think I understand part of why this disturbed me so much.
Love conquers all,
SAGE “also freaked out by Large Marge” FRANCIS
this is the best.
archived whatever, it's the first I'm seeing it and it cracked me up! that is hysterical
I had a similar thing happen to me with the film Return to Oz. For years I thought it was a nightmare and my friend Joel experienced a similar phenomenon until he randomly rented it from Hollywood Video last summer. Its the sequel to the Wizard of Oz that came out in the 80s.
I was also creeped out by large marge!!! In Pee Wee's adventures, large marge gives pee wee a ride in her truck, and when the ride is over, she drops us all off with TWO helpings of "AHHHH! OMG! Why did her face do that?!? MOMMMMYY!!!"
-Dena (also freaked out by Howard the Duck, and Willow)
I just stumbled upon this by searching "punky brewster evil spirit episode." I saw it when I was 5 and still had nightmares about it until I was 12. Unbelievable that someone else remembered it.
Totally scared me as a kid and I don't think I watched punky for a long time after, thanks for this post!!
I was seriously frightened by this episode. I'm so glad I found your post. I was just saying that this was the scariest thing I ever saw on t.v.
I remember watching this episode vividly. I was in my parents room and when that awful face appeared in the rock, I screamed blood murder. I have never been so scared.
Dude, I am what many would consider a big and tough dude, and I still got chills from the screen-shot of that kids messed up face! I remember being so traumatized by this when I was little, also by large marge and also by the bear's nightmare with frog from, "the bear"... I watched scary movies growing up, yet the scariest things I remember are from stuff that was supposed to be kid-friendy!
I saw this as a child and will never forget it. I remember being in shock. From that point on scary Alan's face was forever burned in my memory.
I was thinking about this episode today and thought I'd search for some clips... that's how I found this post. I thought I was the only one shaken up by this. Apparently it really did traumatize a nation :) Thanks for sharing!
This episode still haunts me,as evidenced by the fact that it randomly popped into my head and caused me to google "Punky Brewster Halloween Episode" and find this blog post. I'm so glad to discover I'm not alone. And I agree with the commenter above about Large Marge. The stuff of nightmares.
oh my god I am so glad I found this!!! when i saw this, i was home alone and ran down the street screaming bloody murder!! i was scared to death of this episode, and always remembered it, and I'm 27 now! you are awesome for writing this!
You know it says
This. Scared. Me. Senseless. This was the first time TV ever scared me. I wasn't this scared again until I saw IT. There was no warning! No indication this was a dream sequence... just... horrible things happening to Punky and her friends! Really happening! SCREAMING GREEN SPIDER!!
I, too, wasn't entirely certain this episode really happened. It's buried deep in my psyche with that time my closet opened up and the drawers started singing. (I was around 17 when I finally admitted to myself that had probably been a dream. It was that and the @$$%ed up Punky episode.)
Anyway. It took me a few tries to find this. Then I saw a headline that said "PUNKY BREWSTER TRAUMATIZES A NATION" and said yep. Found it. Thanks.
haha I just recalled seeing a scary episode of punky brewster... all I could remember was it was a to-be-continued, and there was a purple glowing thing I think... (I associate it closely with the floating thing in amityville 3)... anyway, Im 30, this must have been 23 years ago, and it just popped in my mind today. so I googled punky brewster scary and bam... here I am... and yes I remember being scared and never even saw the second part!
Dude I've mentioned this episode a few times in the last 20 years and nobody knows what I'm talking about. I have had a clear photographic memory of the episode since I was like 4 years old. I would try to describe it the best way I could remember and still I get nothing. Even seeing it now at 25 I would describe it the same way.This is so funny that you did this website haha. Kinda funny but even just looking at it still gives me the creeps
So true! This episode is f*ing scary. Just linked it to my post in which I talk about "The Perils of Punky" too. http://mrjotabedice.blogspot.com/2011/04/traumas-de-infancia-i-punky-brewster-se.html
This episode 25 years later still scares the hanes of my hiney. I never forgot this episode and recently purchased the 2st 2 seasons for my 6 year old. I am 30 now and it still freaked me. Alan's demon cave wall head forever etched in my memory. But boy did I love me some Moon Frye...
I thought I had dreamed the episode. I am 31 damn years old and this effed uP episode has haunted me for years. I LOVED punky & this episode brought me to tears in fear and anger. WTF were the writers thinking? They must have been smoking some super crack to think emotionally scarring a nation was a good thing!
Oh, the '80s...
I felt the exact same way. And I never got to see how it ended, cause the moment my dad saw Alan's groteqsque face, he turned it off in anger! It freaked me out as much as anything I ever saw as a kid. I didn't get to see teh conclusion until like 20 years later with the dvds! Love that you had the EXACT same experience.
Matt Johnson says
First time I saw this was when it was posted on myspace... Glad you reposted... I was actually telling a friend about it the other day & now I can show it to them... Large Marge freaked me the hell out...
robert hendricks says
Im gonna kill you,and every1 like you? Wat the hell did i just watch? Lol
I remember this episode VIVIDLY, and I think it's one of the reasons I'm deathly afraid of spiders to this day.
Nail on the head "They too have wondered whether this whole thing was a figment of their imagination or not. " until I just found this, I really thought I had made up the freaky parts. Thank you for sharing why our generation is just a little bit "loopy". I can put this to rest now :P
Gabriel Paladino says
OMG! It was so scary! I'm 25 now and I have this trauma yet.
Spanish guy says
Traumatized a nation? You must be kidding, i'm spanish and i slept with my parents during months, this traumatized the whole world.
Oh thank goodness, I'm not insane! I too was traumatized by this episode as a kid and at 34 it still will pop into my head. All I could clearly remember was Cherie's floating head with glowing eyes. The rest was a terrifying blur.
I've always lived in Chile and I when talking about scary films and such, I always asked people about Punky Brewster. No one ever seemed to remember the sitcom! I searched the web a thousand times, but I think I always mistyped it. I KNEW I hadn't imagined it! Now I know why I'm scared of spiders! YAY!!
Chloe Macarole says
Today was the first time I ever saw Punky Brewster! Kind of made me giggle.
I LOVED this episode. I was about 6 when it aired. I ALWAYS had to watch this episode when it was on during repeats. My ABSOLUTE favorite. Scary films were big during the 80s. I loved all the horror films. Poltergeist was awesome! This show was by NO means scary. It taught that LOVE conquers all even in the scariest situations.
Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou! I just finished a long rant online about 80s sitcoms with extremely dark content. I expanded to the made for Tv movies as well. And, for years now, I've told people how uncomfortable some TV episodes could get--How they really left a lasting mark on my Psyche. A lot of people are either too young to have lived it, or they just don't remember (or the 3rd--they've blocked it out!) As a kid I remember gleefully tuning into the bubbly and colorful sitcom only to be frozen in fear by what I had just experienced--totally ignorant! And, I'm not just talking about Punky. Sure this one might take the cake, but it seems every show had a child burn victim, or a kid dying of cancer, or a kid getting Molested! These were real life problems that could happen to you! I believed at least one of these afflictions or incidents would certainly befall me! Adult TV producers had some serious issues back then.
I am equally horrified and amused to remember this!. Richard Matheson - author of another TV piece that freaked me out - the "Nightmare at 20000 ft" Twilight Zone episode - just passed. I started thinking of the most frightening moments of TV in my childhood, and Alan's face was right there staring at me. It is healing to know so many other people were frightened. After years, I too started to think I made up these images, and seeing them now is both creepy and justifying. Thanks for putting this up! That we're still commenting 5 years after the original post shows what an impact this episode had!
Hi! I remember when I saw this episode on Italian TV, I'm from Slovenija,... It was more than 25 years ago.
I was very frightened and immediatly change the TV channel!!
Very very scary. This scene is still in my memory. I culdn't beleive in an episode like that. Sitcom for kids... Really, what was thinking the writers of Punky?!?!
When I saw on your blog, the face of Alan again, it's make me still a strange felling. Now I'm 35 years old. I think to see again this scene on your link, but I changed my mind. No THX.
But thanks for the info :-)
I'm so glad I found this! Like you, I thought I had totally dreamed this up as a kid. The trauma!
Gillian Summers says
This traumatized me FOR YEARS!! I was six when this episode aired and Punky Brewster was a TV staple in our home. I never could finish this episode, though, because it terrified me so badly. I had nightmares and was regularly afraid of paintings or just about anything mounted to walls falling off and someone's zombified head growling my name at me. Horrifying.
Nicki P says
I too was sitting here watching a Halloween episode of a tv series I am rewatching and thought back to this Punky episode. I always wondered if it was just a nightmare. I did have nightmares about it consisting (from my vague memory) of the scary heads of Punkys friends. I decided to Google "scary punky Brewster episode" and sure enough! I am still in complete shock that there are so many people out there who were frightened and traumatized by this! I thought I was the only one and could never really talk about it because I couldn't explain it. Thank you so much for posting!! Now that I have seen this episode again 25 years later I can now see how fake it really was and can also move past my fear that I was alone in believing this even really existed.
I grew up on Punky Brewster I have 3 brothers and it was the only TV series that I can watch being the only girl and when I come across the episode then I remember why I stopped watching Punky Brewster growing up it was that episode
That scene was never erased from my mind.I was 6 or so and i used to watch very near the tv. I remember that it scared the sh** out of me, my sister was there and told me it was just a show but i was to afraid and she had to change the channel for me to calm down.I never saw the end of it until today,now 26 years later I finally watch the end :)
But still it is indeed a scary episode.
I was thinking about this episode today, after my sister and I were discussing shows that have gone too far. I didn't remember the face, but the monster stuck with me all these years! I never watched another PB episode again. Didn't buy any PB stuff. Nothing. That ruined it for me for good.
THANK YOU for sharing this! I thought I was an overly sensitive child because of my severe reaction to that scene. Scared the shit out of me. And worse, no one knew what I was talking about when I said, "Hey, remember that Punky Brewster episode...." Ugh, nightmares for years.
Thank you for this post! I'm another who has been traumatised by that punky episode all these years. I had so many nightmares; & like you said couldn't work out if it was on tv or a dream. I remember them all being stuck in the wall... that's why I can't stand those 'head night lights' the ones of super heros coming out the walls. Silly, but it reminds me of this... lol. What a relief 😅 no more therapy for me haha!!!
My god! I was reading about Soleil Moon Frye and this scene came to my mind. I typed "Punky Brewster" and "cave wall" on Google. I remember the kid´s face on the wall and also the dog-skelleton. I was born in 82 and this is a really, really early memory! Frightful as it is, thank you so much for the memory!
Just a few glances into these videos makes me happy I turned a mere one year old three days before this came out. I missed nothing but a bunch of mind fuckery!
Does anyone remember the school swimming pool episode from “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”?
Kate Keane says
Whatever happened to him? If you look up Casey Ellison, it is not the actor who played Allen who Google will show you...
Kate Keane says
Look up please Casey Ellison on Google. What you see will shock you. That pic ain't him.
Hawna Williams says
Is it just me or is Megan Markle Punky Brewster!?
Ben Quirk says
Omg. This shit terrified me as a child. For reals. I can't believe there's a whole generation of us decades later bonding over it.
Craig McCann says
I thought I was alone! This has genuinely haunted me for over 30 years. Thank-you for letting me know this is a shared trauma!
Kevin a says
I don’t know where to begin on this and I don’t normally comment on ANYTHING but I’ve had enough encounters explaining this traumatizing episode to people who also watched punky Brewster as a kid only to get a response of “that show was never scary, are you sure we’re talking about the same show?” Or something like that. I share many feelings of the comments below where I thought I dreamt this crazy sh!t up. The only other childhood memory where I get similar looks and responses similar to this would be when I describe action park in New Jersey in the 90’s and everyone that never experienced it says “no way a place like that ever existed” Excellent post and seeing this post was almost a god damn religious experience. Peace.
I seriously also doubted my memory of this and thought I had dreamed it up until I just (almost 40 years later) thought to investigate and found out it was real!
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