Why is our generation so messed up? Look no further than the terrifying screen characters we grew up on, says Andrew Dickens.
Davros - Doctor Who (1975-present)
So, here you have it: the greatest childhood horror in screen history. Resembling a roast chestnut in a military-spec mobility scooter, Davros, the creator of the Daleks and planner of universal domination, was physically repulsive, but without a ‘great personality’ to compensate. In fact, he had no redeeming features whatsoever, and made the space behind the sofa a very crowded part of the nation’s living rooms.
The Tall Thin Man - Look And Read: The Boy From Space (1980)
Look And Read should have been Look, Read And Be Psychologically Damaged, introducing serials such as Dark Towers and The Boy From Space. The latter featured a character known as the Tall Thin Man, a silver-faced, mac-wearing, stiff-lipped stalker who appeared in pursuit of the young hero and promptly turned primary school pupils into agoraphobics.
Darth Vader - Star Wars (1977-83)
As scary as baddies come, you knew that when Darth Vader turned up, no nice things were going to happen. When he revealed he was Luke Skywalker’s father in 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back, part of you was urging Luke to join him because, frankly, under duress, that’s what you would have done.
Gripper Stebson - Grange Hill (1981-85)
Everyone had a Gripperat their school, which made Grange Hill’s most famous bully all the more frightening. He was the personification of all your schoolyard fears.
Noseybonk - Jigsaw (1979-84)
Jigsaw was apparantly an educational programme, but what were we supposed to learn from a man dressed as an orchestra conductor who wore a mask that most satanists would view as going a bit too far? Even after years of therapy, most still don’t know.
Death - The Spirit Of Dark And Lonely Water (1973)
It’s said that children have no real concept of death. Well, Public Information Films in the Seventies taught us. Death was a hooded figure who hung around swimming pools hoping kids would drown.
Skeksis - The Dark Crystal (1982)
Jim Henson, creator of The Muppets and heralded as a children’s entertainment god, is responsible for possibly the most grotesque creature on this entire list. Imagine Sam The Eagle possessed by demons and caught up in a horrific house fire.
The Child Catcher - Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
To juxtapose Dick Van Dyke singing jolly songs with a man employed by royalty to capture and imprison children is like selling candy floss at a public execution.
Zelda - Terrahawks (1983-86)
There’s a few hags in this list, but only one possesses her own spaceship and army of androids. Zelda had a face like a sun-dried kipper and a voice that was part Maggie Thatcher, part death throes of a weasel.
Mombi - Return To Oz (1985)
Mention Return To Oz and most people think of the ‘Wheelers’, crack addicts cast in Starlight Express. Far scarier was Mombi, a kind of super Gummidge with interchangeable heads, which she happily swapped in front of us.
The Groke - The Moomins (1983)
This near-silent creature glided along, freezing the ground below her. Apparently, she was a representation of the loneliness and depression of Scandinavian winters which, frankly, is a really messed-up thing to puton before Blue Peter.
The Coachman - Pinocchio (1940)
Disney’s most disturbing villain is a child-snaring ball of a man who lured his catch with the promise of beer, only to turn them into donkeys he used to pull his coach.
Tripods - Tripods (1984)
War Of The Worlds for kids, this mid-Eighties BBC show never ran its full course, possibly because it was too chilling – or possibly because, through the eyes of an adult, it was too kinky, with Earth’s skimpily-dressed population enslaved in a sub-dom scenario.
Abner Brown - The Box Of Delights (1984)
Despite the Eighties BBC special effects, magical adventure series The Box Of Delights was petrifying – with Abner Brown the scariest part. Not only was this cold-hearted villain a wolf, he turned into a vicar, someone kids trust.
Stripe - Gremlins (1984)
Looking back at the gremlins, they seem like amusingly psychopathic creatures. When we were kids, they seemed like psychopathic creatures that could actually exist and capable of turning up in your house at night to terrorise you in bed, led by the Charles Manson-meets-Yoda, Stripe.
General Woundwort - Watership Down (1978)
Talking cartoon animals are usually cute and funny.This enormous, one-eyed and decidedly not cute or funny bunny was the anti-Bugs – the kind of rabbit who ate your face in childhood nightmares.
Eva Ernst - The Witches (1990)
The worst thing about Eva Ernst was that she looked like your mum – then she removed her mum face to reveal a hideous creature with a head like a giant baby bird. She also wanted all children dead. Not an association you want with your mum.
Worzel Gummidge - Worzel Gummidge (1979-1981)
A scarecrow that not only came to life but would change his head. Walks in the countryside were no longer an option for an entire generation.
Vigo the Carpathian - Ghostbusters II (1989)
That sensation of a portrait’s eyes following you around? After watching Ghostbusters II, you didn’t shrug it off. You knew pictures could easily be holding the evil spirits of tyrants. And part of you probably still does.
Pennywise - It (1990)
Clowns are frightening enough. Clowns that are homicidal shape-shifting demons go right off the scale. But the presence of a ‘children’s entertainer’ meant many of us were lured into watching, only to regret it. For many years.