What more appropriate way to start off a Sesame Street list than with a word of the day? Today’s word of the day is “fridge horror.” That’s when something seems normal enough at first glance, but after you stop and think about it, you realize it has some unsettling implications that you didn’t notice the first time. Basically, “fridge horror” is something that’s not initially scary or disturbing...until you stop and think about it!
One example of “fridge horror” that I can think of is the Sesame Street sketch “Surprise!”
The sketch is fairly straight forward. The Amazing Mumford wants to demonstrate the word “surprise” by hosting a magic act.
He calls a woman on stage as a volunteer. He makes her disappear. He makes her reappear.
He does this again: makes her disappear, and then reappear.
He does this one last time: he makes her disappear, but when he tries to make her reappear…
…Harry Monster appears, yells surprise, and frightens Mumford off stage.
Now, on the surface, this is hardly a scary sketch—unless you truly consider Harry Monster “scary”! (In which case the other “monsters” on this list are going to give you a conniption!)
But, again, this sketch isn’t really scary, unless you really think about it.
Ask yourself this question: whatever happened to that woman?
We see Mumford make her disappear and reappear, but the very last time he does this, he makes her disappear, only for Harry Monster to reappear in her place. So where did she go? We never see Mumford bring her back because Harry scared him away.
So we’re left with two possibilities: either the woman was transformed into Harry Monster, or she’s stuck in some magical limbo. Either way, the implications are rather horrific when you think about it.
While this sketch never really “scared” me, it did creep me out and make me worry about that poor woman’s fate. Oh sure, you could assume that Mumford later brought her back, but you can also assume the worst.
This reminds me of the old gag where a magician would saw a person in half. Everything seems to go well as he cuts the person in half, but when he finishes his act and puts the person back together again, he opens the top of the box, only to slam it shut, his face flushing white, and for him to ask if there’s a doctor in the audience.
This sketch left such an impact on me as a kid that whenever I tried to remember it, I could have sworn that the woman was crying out in agony whenever she disappeared, as though the entire disappearing process was causing her pain. Her very being is inevitably dissolving into nothing, so that can’t be a pleasant experience.
Watching this as an adult, I admit that it’s extremely tame, but if you stop and think about it, admittedly, it no longer seems that way.
This sketch didn’t scare you? Don’t worry. Things get much, much more smegged up later in this list.