13 Scariest Ever TV Logos
With tomorrow being the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere, we're all having thoughts of cooler weather, beautiful foliage, the MLB playoffs, and all things pumpkin spice. However, there's another mainstay of autumn that will also be kicking into gear pretty soon. Of course, we're referring to Halloween. Before you know it, the TV schedule will be packed with horror movies, grocery stores with candy, and homes with spooky Halloween decorations. Since our most recent article was surrounding the best promotional products for Halloween, we thought we'd shift gears this time around and focus on a topic that'll really give you the creeps and stir up some old childhood memories.
Anyone who grew up with television is sure to remember certain tv network, production company, and station logos that would appear at the beginning or end of shows or during commercial breaks. The lion's share were pretty benign and non-threatening. However, some of the tv logos from the 1950s all the way to the 21st century have found a way to be bone chillingly scary to kids, even to the point where they still creep us out a little as adults. Make sure you're not alone in the dark, as we're about to show you 13 of the scariest logos ever to haunt your tv screen.
13. ABC - We're the One You Can Turn To - 1978-1979
This one ranks at #13 because it's one of the less memorable logos on the list as well as one that won't seem too off-putting to adults. Regardless, some children of the late 1970s definitely did NOT want to turn to ABC when their 1978-1979 network ID commercials would air. The specific one we're talking about was as gaudy an example of disco culture as one could imagine. While this campaign had a few different versions, the basic design was pretty much the same for each one.
Cuts of current TV shows were spliced with clips people carrying gaudy, rhinestone-encrusted letters around city streets. Ultimately, a large clapping audience would appear, followed by the screen growing black, bursting into a rainbow, and then showing a pyscadelic ABC logo surrounded by rapidly spinning colors in an outer-space style background. To an adult, it might feel a little disorienting and even a tad nauseating, but for many kids growing up in the late 70s, it was decidedly terrifying. Take a look at the video below if you want to share their experience. Also, if you're interested, here's a video summarizing ABC network logo history (opens in a new window) from the 1940s through the 2010s.
12. Fragical Productions - 2005-2008
This is probably the most obscure logo on the list. As far as can be determined, this is a production logo that was only used at the end of Adult Swim's cult classic series Moral Orel. The show was certainly a hilarious one, though by the end of the series, the tone had become increasingly dark, but still humorous. The one thing that was disturbing about the show from its very first through its very last episode is the Fragical Productions logo sequence which would air at the end.
This particular ID spot featured a wheelchair-bound fairy who was supposed to be either really young or really old - the jury still seems to be out on that one. She'd streak through an outer space seen wielding a rainbow wand, shriek a curt, "Hello, Goodbye!" and speed off into the distance, with only the stars and the words "Fragical Productions" remaining. It was weird, confusing, disorienting, and mildly scary, yet still perfect all the same.
11. CPTV Heartbeat ID - 1989
This one is a bit of a tease. We say that because this creepy commercial only aired very briefly in 1989 and there does not seem to be any available footage of it out there. CPTV, which stands for Connecticut Public Television, is the Nutmeg State's PBS network. Its logo went through a major redesign around 1992, as can be seen in the progression of the video below. At the 1:18 mark, you'll see the logo and background that were in place when this AWOL piece of uneasiness aired.
More or less, it just consisted of the logo against a gray background with the sound of a steady heartbeat. There was no narration, no explanation, and no, well - anything - other than the ominus heartbeat for the 30 second duration of screen time. While that's the scariest incarnation that can be recalled, the very first logo display in the CPTV logo history video, located below this paragraph, is a bit unnerving in its own right.
10. NET (National Educational Television) House Logo - 1968-1970
Before PBS, there was NET - the National Educational Television network. It had the same viewer-funded and family-friendly programming that would later become hallmarks of PBS. While the commercial below aired fron only 1968 through 1970, NET enjoyed 16 years on the small screen before the Corporation for Public Broadcasting switched to the PBS brand. NET will always be remembered for having a paritcularly goosebump-inducing ID sequence. As you'll see in the video below, a black background plays host to red, yellow, and blue vertical bars. The bars eventually start to turn toward the middle of the screen, accompanied by decidedly morose music. They soon morph into the letters NET, with a roofline and antenna growing from the top of the blue T.
As this takes place, a deadpan voice proclaims, "This is NET, the public television network." As you can see in the clip below, this appeared immediately after the ending of Sesame Street, and unintentionally managed to terrify tots nationwide.
9. NBC Snake - 1959-1975
This is one of the longest running and widely remembered frightening tv logos on this list. While the NBC Peacock has been a television icon for more than 50 years, NBC has had a few other logos mixed in on and off throughout the years. Aside from the large N accompanied by the peacock in the lower corner, the alternate logo that saw the longest era of screen time was the "NBC Snake".
Though no actual snake appears in the logo's animation, it's the actual movement of the logo itself that is snake-like in nature. First to appear was the C, which then disappeared to create a B, and then an N, with the logo winding back around to create the full NBC sign. Considering the fact the second most common phobia in the world is the fear of snakes, it's no wonder why so many people, especially young children, would shake in their boots when they saw the NBC Snake. If you'd like to see a history of NBC logos from 1926 through the 2010s (opens in a new window), click on the preceding link, which will open in a new tab.
8. CBS Eye - Early 1950s- Present
While it may not look all that threatening today, the earlierst incarnations of the CBS eye were downright menacing. It's softened to the point that today, many people don't even realize that it's meant to depict an eye until it's pointed out to them. Back in the 50s though, there could be no doubt. Black and white television, which was pretty much exclusively what was available at the time, had a way of making the eye look a whole lot creepier. Additionally, it had a more almond-like shape with sharp angles than the more rounded version we know today. Sometimes the eye would take the center of the screen and blink, with some instances containing a camera shuttering effect for an extremely disconcerting experience.
An interesting thing about the eye is that despite its popularity, it almost was killed off before it could ever hit the airwaves. The video below depicts a brief history of the CBS Eye logo, as well as providing some examples of its spookier early designs.
7. Screen Gems "S from Hell" - 1964-1974
This is one of the most common logos to appear in any list or article describing memories of scary tv. Screen Gems is a company that is now owned by Sony, but has changed hands many times through the years. In 1964, it was owned by a company called Brishkin Productions, which was airing cinematic big screen short subject presentations (most notably the Three Stooges) on television. Since tv was viewed as a threat to the film industry at the time, Brishkin Productions chose to represent themselves with the Screen Gems logo, sort of blurring the line between tv and movies, in hopes that they wouldn't be seen as a threat to their Tinseltown competitors. While they may have been successful in that, they inadvertantly scared thousands of children who saw their on-screen logo between 1964 and 1974.
After a Screen Gems syndicated tv show ended, the "S from Hell" logo would make its appearance. Against a faded pink background, two red bars made their way on to the screen and then awkwardly twisted around a red dot to form what vaguely looked like the letter S. As this happened, some queasy synthesized music would play. The music increase in both pitch and intensity as the words "SCREEN GEMS", presented in all capital letters in black font pushed its way toward the front of the screen. If you've never seen it before and don't think you'll be at least a little shaken by watching it, we dare you to click play on the following video.
6. DiC "Kid in Bed" 1987-2005
Our pick for the sixth scariest logo in television history was put out by Belgium-based production company DiC. It's one that any child of late 80s or early 90s surely remembers, as it would show at the end of cartoons such as Inspector Gadget, Heathcliff, and several other popular children's shows of the era. Once again, this one involves outer space, or at the very least, an extremely starry sky. It begins with a child lying in bed (sometimes, but not always, with a dog) with an open bedroom window.
The scene then pans into a dark night sky iwth a bright spinning orb. This orb eventually grows several spiky points, forming a star of sorts which served as the dot for the lowercase i in the DiC logo. Once the logo was fully assembled, a lone "DiC" (pronounced "deek") was uttered in the voice of an unseen child. It's one of those things that doesn't really contain a particularly scary element, but just brings all of its parts together to create a network ID that sends chills of fear down the spine.
5. A Current Affair - Circa 1989-1993
This one isn't for a network or production company, but rather for a long-since cancelled tv series. A Current Affair started out as a serious journalism program, but rapidly devolved into a tabloid show on the level of Hard Copy. It's sort of like the late eighties/early 90s equivalent of TMZ. It was at one time hosted by Maury Povich, so you probably get the general idea by now. What many people, especially those who were young children at the time remember about the show was its logo ID sequence.
At the beginning of each show and at the return from each commercial break, a purple and blue pyramid would tumble onto the screen, eventually topped with the show's title in Gold Letters. The pyrmaid looked rather similar to the answer face inside of a Magic 8 Ball. When it appeared on the screen, a very low pitched electronic note would play, making for one of the creepiest five seconds possible. This logo became known as the "Ka-Chong", due to the aforementioned note. Some claim it sounds more like "Wong". Take a listen and decide for yourself.
4. Stephen J Cannell Productions - 1970s -1980s
If you've ever watched the A-Team, Wiseguy, 21 Jump Street, Rockford Files, or The Commish, you're by no doubt familiar with the logo for Stephen J Cannell Productions. A staple of the ending of so many popular tv shows of the 70s and 80s, it provided a weird blend of frustration, anger, and disorientation to produce a pretty scary visual experience for many youngsters.
Whlie there were a few variations on this brief ID video, the one contained below is the most famous. In it, a stern looking gentleman is smoking a pipe as he sits in an opulent looking office. He's tapping away at a typewriter, which produces a result he's obviously dissatisfied with. He then rips the paper from the typewriter and casts it into the air. Immediately, the view shifts from live action to animation, with the floating sheet of paper first forming one "C" and then several more, sitting atop a pile of discarded papers. All of the graphics are ghastly white against a pitch black background. Shortly after this, "Stephen J Cannell Productions" appears at the top of the screen.
3. Viacom "V of Doom" Early 1970s-Early 1990s
Along with the Screen Gems "S from Hell", the Viacom "V of Doom" is one of the most famous logos when it comes to scaring the daylights out of American children. Whlie Viacom is now mainly known for being a giant media corporation, it wasn't always the heavy hitter that it is now. For children in the 70s and 80s, it was most famous for its truly terrifying logo animation.
As is the case with the Stephen J Cannell logo, there were a few different versions of the V of Doom, though most of the changes were very superficial ones. The classic version featured a somewhat blurry aqua blue background, from which a large dark blue capital V, cleaved in two by a slanted line, rushed toward the front of the screen, as it rapidly grew in size. A white font spelled out the message, "A Viacom Presentation". Even when watching this as an adult, it's hard to not feel at least a little bit intimidated and threatened by the huge, menacing V that comes at us, filling our minds with paranoid thoughts.
2. EAS Connecticut Evacuation Error - 2005
This one isn't a logo, but it's certainly scary enough to qualify for this list, even pulling in at #2. While the video below is quite understandably scary to people of all ages, one has to take into consideration the time in which it aired into context to fully appreciate its impact. As the author of this article very well remembers, the Emergency Alert System made quite a blunder on the afternoon of February 1, 2005. Television screens throughout the state of Connecticut abruptly switched from their regularly scheduled content to a red screen, commanding viewers to IMMEDIATELY turn to Channel 12 for emergency instructions.
Once one complied with this order, they were taken to a black screen that produced an ominus warning, stating the Civil Authorities and Department of Homeland Security had issued an order to immediately evacuate the entire state. Considering that the tragic World Trade Center attacks were less than 4 years in the past when this aired, people did not take it lightly. Panic ensued among all those aware of the message until around an hour later, when it was announced to have been broadcast in error and that no situation would ever require the evacuation of an entire state. Some of us didn't quite buy that explanation, and still continue to wonder if some sort of colossal disaster was averted.
Watch the following video and see for yourself how somber and intense the message was.
1. WGBH - Orange Script with Creepy Moog Music - 1970s-1990s
This utterly upsetting and terrifying station ID logo ranks #1 on the list, not only for its extreme longevity and presence on many PBS programs, but also because it caused this blogger recurring nightmares during the mid-80s. WGBH is a PBS affiliate statoin located in Boston, Massachusetts. It's a superstation of sorts, producing nearly 70% of the nationally syndicated programs that are aired on PBS. During the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, you could count on seeing some version of this fear-fetching visage at the end of This Old House, NOVA, Frontline, and several children's programs.
In these station ID animations, a black background was increasingly lit by a quickly moving set of orange laser lines, forming "WGBH" in block lettering. When the logo was complete, the screen would flood with near-blinding orange light, which would then recede to show the station's call letters, above the word "Boston." Aside from the bizarre visual effects, the rapidly trilling and loundening Moog synthesizer music provided a feeling of sheer dread and impending doom. Don't believe us? Just watch the video below and try to tell us it's not true!
That's our list for the 13 scariest television logos of all time. Did we stir up any nostalgic childhood memories or revive any nightmares from your toddler years? If it's the former, we apologize, but hey, it's Halloween, so being scared is a good thing, right?