The ‘90s marked a golden age for cartoons, bringing endless waves of creativity and a serious glut of selection come Saturday morning. It was a time where just about everything received a cartoon, from toys, to boy bands, to even horror movies. Enter Tales from the Cryptkeeper, an animated, kid-friendly counterpart to popular HBO series Tales from the Crypt.
Like the HBO series, Tales from the Cryptkeeper was based on the ‘50s EC Comics horror anthologies, shared the same executive producers, and John Kassir also voiced the Cryptkeeper. The animated series ran for two seasons from 1993-1994 on ABC, and received a third season revival five years later titled New Tales from the Cryptkeeper on CBS. But, uh, stick to the original two seasons- the animation, sound, and overall quality dropped quite a bit.
Tales from the Cryptkeeper did something the HBO series never did; introduce the other horror hosts of the EC Comics world that included sister series The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror. Season two of the animated series brought in the Old Witch and the Vault-Keeper, both of whom terrorized the Cryptkeeper to vie for story hosting duties. As a result, the Cryptkeeper often migrated from the mansion to find new spaces to tell his tales in the hopes his counterparts wouldn’t find him.
Being that this was a cartoon aimed at little boils and ghouls, the episodes were much lighter in tone than the live-action HBO series, obviously. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t afraid to get dark sometimes. This cartoon also exemplifies why horror holds value and meaning, too, as the morality-based tales all imparted wisdom and life lessons – so much so that season three was deemed educational by the new content ratings system recently introduced at the time.
If you missed this fun cartoon series during its initial run, are feeling nostalgic, or simply want to introduce your kiddies to horror in a more age-appropriate manner, the entire series is available for free on streaming service Tubi. But if the idea of bingeing all 39 episodes is intimidating, these 5 essential episodes serve as the perfect introduction.
“The Sleeping Beauty” – Season 1, episode 5
A retelling of the classic fairytale, but in that twisted way that’s perfectly Tales from the Cryptkeeper. Chuck Charming embarks on a quest through the dangerous, thorny forest to wake the cursed sleeping beauty, with his nerdy brother Melvin at his side, much to his chagrin. When they finally arrive, Charming and Melvin find that this sleeping beauty is a vampire that uses promises of riches as a lure for her dinner. This episode teaches that maybe nice guys really do get the last laugh.
“The Works…In Wax” – Season 1, episode 6
Young Craig is a huge fan of his local wax museum, particularly the monster-filled chamber of horrors. But his constant visitation is threatened when the current owner dies and the mean Mr. Bostwick plans to buy it out and dismantle the place. Those plans may change when Craig steps foot inside the exhibits and discovers his favorite monsters come to life. Think a lighter, animated version of ‘80s horror movie Waxwork, only this time the monsters are the good guys.
“The Weeping Woman” – Season 2, episode 4
Paranormal investigators Camille and Mildred mark their return from season one’s “Fare Tonight episode to investigate the ghostly sightings of a woman haunting a seaside inn. While the Weeping Woman can be downright aggressive and spooky, the core mystery behind her haunting shares a lot in common with ‘80s haunter Lady in White. Meaning that while Camille and Mildred may have bitten off more than they can chew with this investigation, it ends on a sweet note.
“All the Gory Details” – Season 2, episode 5
The Vault-Keeper usurps the Cryptkeeper to tell this episode’s tale, which follows a pair of reporters trying to track the whereabouts of an old mad scientist. “All the Gory Details” is a Kolchak: The Night Stalker meets Dead & Buried type of episode in tone and plot, and serves as a perfect example of how this series favors the monsters. Which, depending on your perspective, may make the end of this episode very, very dark.
“Uncle Harry’s Horrible House of Horrors” – Season 2, episode 10
This epic episode sees grumpy Uncle Harry, a man with a serious inability to have fun, accompany his six-year-old nephew on an amusement park dark ride. Much to Harry’s horror, though, this particular carnival ride seems a bit to real for comfort. Through perilous swamps to ghoul filled cemeteries, Harry will have the fright of his life. More importantly, this creature filled ride teaches Harry how to have fun in life.