Punky Brewster was a kids TV show from the 1980s that starred Soleil Moon Frye as a precocious tween who was adopted and had a wacky bunch of friends. There was one episode in particular that traumatized the kids who were watching it and became infamous as one of the most terrifying moments in children’s television. It was called “The Perils of Punky” and it was a two-part Halloween special.
In the episode, Punky goes on a camping trip with her friends. The kids wander off into the woods and when they wind up getting lost, they decide to take shelter in a cave and wait for the adults to find them.
Inside the cave, they tell ghost stories and meet some friendly indians who inform them that the cave is haunted by an evil spirit. The kids head deeper into the cave and have some adventures with a sentient rock and a giant spider.
As they continue through the cave, Punky’s friends begin to vanish one by one. A deep, booming, disembodied voice begins to taunt her. It’s the evil spirit and she demands that it give her back her friends.
That’s when things go crazy and every child who was watching TV at the time began to flip out at the next 30 seconds of insane nightmare fuel.
All of a sudden, the decapitated head of one of Punky’s friends emerges from the cave wall. His eyes are glazed over and his mouth is full of grotesque, misshapen teeth. Her starts screaming her name in a demonic voice and laughing hysterically.
Then, she is confronted by the floating, disembodied head of another one of her friends. Her eyes are glowing red and she is screeching.
As if that wasn’t enough, Punky’s third friend falls from the ceiling. She is just a skeleton with a zombie head. She starts screaming Punky’s name and looks ready to devour her friend’s soul.
“I blocked this episode from my memory. For years, every time I thought about Punky Brewster, something at the back of my mind told me there was something about it that terrified me as a child, but I couldn’t exactly remember what. The only reason I can think of for why this was aired is possibly because it was the ’80s and most kids were already into gory horror movies, so the show’s producers and writers thought this was a way of keeping up with their tastes. Either that or they were all sadistic creeps.”
“I vaguely remember that cave, and the other kids calling Punky’s name in some evil voices. That totally spooked me out as a kid. I have a friend who is still scared of Alan coming out of the wall at the end of the second half.”
“It’s funny, when I watched that episode I had to be about 4 or 5 years old, and I remember being seriously petrified of that episode… I thought it was so scary… It cracks me up because it’s suposed to be a G-rated show…”
“This episode was one of the few things that really scared me on TV. It caused nightmares aplenty. I remember the cave and some weird faces on the walls, and being scared out of my mind. There was some unusually freaky stuff back then on TV that wasn’t suitable for children.”