Today’s college students grew up in what many consider to be the golden age of children’s and teens’ television programming. We were blessed with shows like Drake & Josh, iCarly, Wizards of Waverly Place, Spongebob Squarepants and more—all of which I still find hilarious and enjoyable, even in my 20s.
Because Halloween is right around the corner, I decided to celebrate some of my favorite childhood shows by ranking 7 of their Halloween-themed episodes according to their spookiness and memorability.
- Hannah Montana: 1×17, “Torn Between Two Hannahs”
In this episode, Miley’s cousin—who looks exactly like her—comes for a visit, but Miley doesn’t trust her seemingly sweet attitude. Miley’s intuition turns out to be right: her cousin ties her up, tricks everyone into thinking that she’s Hannah Montana, and goes to a Hollywood Halloween party dressed up like Hannah. At the party, Miley’s cousin embarrasses Miley and threatens to reveal her secret identity as Hannah. Luckily, her plot is uncovered just in time, and Miley’s secret is saved.
I put this episode in last place because the spookiness factor just wasn’t there for me. Although much of the episode took place at a Halloween party, the plot itself wasn’t really centered around Halloween, and I didn’t feel that this was a particularly strong or memorable episode.
- The Suite Life On Deck: 3×11, “The Ghost and Mr. Martin”
This episode of The Suite Life On Deck features the spirit of a steamship captain who died 150 years ago when his ship crashed. When Zack starts noticing paranormal activity around the S.S. Tipton, he’s convinced that the late captain is trying to recruit his help to reveal what really caused the shipwreck. Zack, Cody and Woody then work together to uncover clues and discover the truth.
The ghosts and talk of a fatal shipwreck add an element of spookiness to the episode, but the ghost is quickly revealed to be friendly, so it wasn’t actually scary. I also didn’t find this episode to be too memorable, but it was definitely entertaining.
- Wizards of Waverly Place: 3×2, “Halloween”
In “Halloween,” the Waverly Place Merchants Association tells the Russo family that they have to make their annual haunted house scarier, or else they could lose it. To help achieve this goal, Alex gets real ghosts from the wizard world. At first, she gets three ghosts that aren’t scary enough, so she goes back and finds Mantooth, a much scarier ghost. Unfortunately, this backfires since Mantooth turns out to be too scary, and the haunted house gets shut down after all.
Wizards of Waverly Place was one of my favorite shows growing up, but I always felt that they could have done better in their Halloween episode. For a show about a supernatural family, they could’ve probably had more than ghosts and a haunted house. Still, there’s a decent amount of spookiness in this episode, and it’s one that I’ve remembered throughout the years.
- iCarly: 1×7, “iScream on Halloween”
Carly, Sam and Freddy decide to record their Halloween episode of iCarly from apartment 13B after Lewbert tells them that it’s supposedly haunted. They promise their viewers that they’ll be live on air for the entire night in the haunted apartment, but things soon get weird. They hear someone yell “Get out!” ominously, they’re trapped in the apartment when the doorknob falls off, the lights flicker and glass shatters. At the end of the episode, they find out that someone actually lives in the apartment and that all of the things they witnessed had perfectly logical explanations.
This episode freaked me out a bit as a kid; unlike some of the other episodes on this list, it actually tries to scare viewers a little. At the same time, it manages to be funny, and I think it’s pretty memorable as well.
- Spongebob Squarepants: 1×13, “Scaredy Pants”
SpongeBob has had many Halloween episodes throughout the years, but “Scaredy Pants” was the first, and it’s undoubtedly a classic. Mr. Krabs introduces the Flying Dutchman for the first time in this episode as he tells the story of a ghost who goes around stealing souls on Halloween. SpongeBob is teased for being terrified, so he proceeds to dress up like the Flying Dutchman and try to scare people around town. Eventually, the real Flying Dutchman shows up because he doesn’t appreciate SpongeBob’s impersonation, but SpongeBob manages to scare him away.
This episode is spooky and silly and fun all at the same time. It is a great introduction to the Flying Dutchman, who became a recurring guest character on SpongeBob, and it’s a very strong episode overall.
- A.N.T. Farm: 1×14, “MutANT Farm”
“MutANT Farm” answers the question many of us have asked while watching A.N.T. Farm: what would Webster High School look like if all the A.N.T.s were monsters and all the older students were humans? We’ve all wondered about that, right? In this episode, we get to see the A.N.T.s reimagined as vampires, zombies and mad scientists (oh my!). Chyna is Medusa, and she tries to bridge the divide between the humans and A.N.T.s by proposing that humans should be invited to the “MutANTs Only” Halloween dance.
I always thought that this episode was extremely creative, and it absolutely nailed the Halloween theme. There was a ton of spooky spirit, but it wasn’t done in a way that was meant to be scary. “MutANT Farm” also gets a perfect score for memorability because it was the episode that gave us “Calling All the Monsters,” China Anne McClain’s iconic 2011 song.
- The Suite Life Of Zack and Cody: 1×19, “The Ghost of Suite 613”
In this episode, Zack and Cody (along with London, Maddie and others) explore suite 613 of the Tipton Hotel. The suite is said to be haunted by a vengeful ghost who died decades ago after finding out that her husband had cheated on her. Throughout the night, strange, ghostly things start happening. Esteban decides to conduct a seance, and the ghost’s spirit takes over his body. Zack becomes terrified and tries to leave, at which point it’s revealed that the whole thing was orchestrated by Cody to get back at Zack for scaring him all the time. But later on, Zack and Cody have an encounter with the real ghost (who actually turns out to be quite nice).
When I think of Halloween episodes from my childhood, this is the one that immediately comes to mind. I remember it absolutely terrifying me as a kid (though, when I recently rewatched it, all of the “scary” parts were actually just hilarious). This episode has even inspired several memes and is referenced to this day, so I think it’s safe to say that it deserves the number one spot on this list.
Most of these are easily accessible online or on streaming services like Disney+. So if you’re looking for something spooky and nostalgic to do this Halloween season, I recommend watching a few themed episodes and reconnecting with your childhood.