One of the spookiest and most memorable Halloween episodes I remember from my childhood was from an unexpected source: “Little House on the Prairie.” The episode was titled “The Monster of Walnut Grove.”
Right from the start, the show brings on the creepy: Following the traditional happy opening credits with Pa and Ma Ingalls pulling up on the wagon to watch their girls come running down the hill, the scene cuts to the darkened night outside the Oleson’s Mercantile and pans in eerily on a jack o’ lantern.
Laura is then reading “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” to her little sister as her older sister Mary waits for her to go “soaping windows” in town. As a youth familiar with the tradition of “Mischief Night” (Halloween’s eve when kids were known to get into well… mischief – throwing eggs and such) merely putting soap on windows struck me as such a tame prank.
The crux of the episode centers around what happens when the young Laura actually gets to the mercantile. Too late to get the good windows out front, she heads around back where she overhears Mr. and Mrs. Oleson in an argument over swords he purchased. Then in a “Rear Window”-style twist, she witnesses him swing the sword down and behead the seated woman in front of him.
No one believes her when she tells and the ensuing plot turns only serve to feed into Laura’s suspicions. Her nightmares, a cemetery scene, candlelight, locked doors, screams and the actions of the hitherto-innocent-seeming Mr. Nels Oleson add more great bits of spookiness with a fun cameo to conclude.
Watch the full episode yourself below.
Fun fact: Star/producer Michael Landon (Charles “Pa” Ingalls) was born on Halloween night Oct. 31, 1936.