A lot of us can remember Saturday mornings in front of the TV, a bowl of our favorite sugar cereal in hand, watching our favorite cartoons, and if you’re like me, it was usually something spooky. Since it’s A Haunting on Film Street month at Nightmare of Film Street, we have compiled a list of our favorite creepy cartoon ghosties that have visited our TV screens over the years. So break out the Count Chocula and grab the TV Guide as we search the local listings for the Spooky Specters of Toontown: The Top Ten Cartoon Ghosts!
10. Goober and the Ghost Chasers (1973) – Possessed Wax Mannequins
Goober and the Ghost Chasers was basically a Scooby-Doo ripoff by the very same production company that created it. I suppose Hanna-Barbera saw the massive hit that Scooby-Doo had become and wanted to capitalize on it, thus giving us Goober and Ghost Chasers. The concept was similar in that a group of teens and their dog investigated spooky mysteries. Unlike the Mystery Inc. gang on Scooby-Doo, the Ghost Chasers came prepared. They had actually gear in a ghost hunting arsenal, aptly called the Apparition Kit, which held such magnificent items as poltergeist powder and the Specter Detector. Did I mention that Goober the dog could turn invisible? Yeah, there was that, too.
They also featured the popular (and animated) Partridge Family (1970-1974) kids who would help out with various mysteries here and there with guest appearances. In Season 1, Episode 7, The Haunted Wax Museum, the Ghost Chasers, and the Partridge kids visit an old wax museum which happens to be the hangout of the ghosts of possessed wax mannequins. House of Wax (1953) homage or is it really just cranky old Mr. Willy Waxman trying to pull a fast one on unsuspecting customers? Whatever his motives, hats off to him for taking the ultra-creepy route à la Vincent Price.
9. The New Casper Cartoon Show (1963-1970) – Fatso, Fusso, and Lazo
Casper is old. Like, almost one hundred years old. Created in the 1930’s, Casper, the Friendly Ghost started scaring kids in the comics and made his way into theatrical cartoons in the 1940s and 50s. It wasn’t until 1963 that he got his own TV show where he went on many adventures, encountering many paranormal characters who themselves have gone on to be iconic characters, such as Hot Stuff the Little Devil, Wendy the Good Little Witch, and Casper’s cousin from Brooklyn, Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost… That’s a lotta littles.
Also introduced during Casper’s first cartoon series, are Casper’s uncles the Ghostly Trio, more specifically Fatso, Fusso, and Lazo. This trio of chaos is the exact thing you would expect them to be based on their unfortunate monikers. Fatso, a gluttonous overeater and self-proclaimed leader of the group would often find himself in mishaps because of his quick temper and brashness. Fusso, the thinner second in command, was the fussiest, with an eye for detail while Lazo, the tallest, laziest, and dumbest of the trio usually ended up getting the gang into some kind of trouble due to the dimness of his bulb. These names were changed in the live-action vehicle Casper (1995) where the trio’s names were changed to Stretch, Stinkie, and Fatso and are used to this day.
8. The Funky Phantom (1971-1972) – The Funky Phantom
It seems cartoon hitmakers, Hanna-Barbera was all about ghosts and goblins in the 1970s because aside from the above mentioned Goober and the Ghost Chasers and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You, the animation team presented kids with yet another spectral spectacle, The Funky Phantom.
For those that aren’t in the know, The Funky Phantom is about three teenagers out for a rip in the dune buggy when a storm hits. They seek refuge in a nearby old abandoned house and while inside, an old, still functioning, grandfather clock strikes midnight, unleashing two revolutionary war ghosts, an American Patriot named Jonathan Wellington “Mudsy” Muddlemore and his cat, Boo. Thankful for being set free by his new friends, Mudsy and Boo accompany Auggie, Skip, and April on many ghost hunting adventures.
7. Danny Phantom (2004-2007) – Danny Phantom
Danny Fenton, the title character in Nickelodeon’s Danny Phantom, is an adolescent kid who picked up ghostly powers through a mishap in his ghost-hunting parent’s lab. Danny soon takes on the alter ego Danny Phantom to save his hometown and ultimately the world from apparition assaults, all while battling the perils of being a teenager.
Due to ectoplasm fusing with his DNA, Danny has the ability to change into a half-human, half-ghost hybrid that allows him to walk through walls, turn invisible and fly. While he struggles with these newfound powers at first, he soon finds that he needs to use them, and fast as a ghostly portal has been opened and ghosts galore are pouring out to wreak havoc in his town. It’s up to Danny Fenton… er, Phantom to stop them.
6. Pac-Man (1982-1983) – The Ghost Monsters
Those of us old enough to remember the allure of video arcades back in the 80s will certainly recall flocking to a classic game where a little yellow dot gobbles up smaller white dots all while traversing a maze filled with ghosts who will kill you if they catch you. It was called Pac-Man and it was kind of a big deal.
So much so, that it was given its own cartoon. In 1982 Pac-Man featured the Pac-Man family battling their only known foes, the Ghost Monsters: Blinky, Inky, Pinky, Clyde, and Sue. The Ghost Monsters work for Mezmaron, an evil corporation whose sole mission is to find and control the wellspring of Power Pellets which serve as an essential food and power source for the city. This was the deus ex machina in basically every episode, but that doesn’t mean that the Ghost Monsters weren’t a force to be reckoned with. Every episode they were up to something dastardly. From ruining Pacland’s World Series to obtaining superpowers and taking over the world, these ghosts could never be accused of being lazy.
5. The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991) – Killerwatt
Ghostbusters, the 1984 Ivan Reitman paranormal comedy was a massive hit thanks in part to the talented cast of characters but also in part to the ghost in which they were charged with, well, busting. It was such a hit that it has since spawned two sequels and remake but in the late 80s, it also launched an animated series that featured the ongoing adventures of the Ghostbusters team.
Naturally, there was a whole host of ghostly phenomena for the gang to rid New York City of but arguably one of the best phantoms in the series’ seven-season run was the awesomely named Killerwatt. Featured in Season 1, Episode 2, Killerwatt was a menacing presence who takes over the NYC power plant, plunging the city into literal darkness. Voiced by the late James Avery (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, 1990-1996), Killerwatt helped set the tone of things to come in the series and proved a formidable antagonist to the Ghostbusters.
4. Transformers (1984-1987) – Starscream’s Ghost
Who doesn’t remember the Transformers? It’s a franchise that encompasses a line of toys, films, comic books, video games, and of course, an animated series. In Season 3, Episode 9, Starscream’s Ghost, Octane is on the run from the Decepticons. Seeking refuge on Cybertron, he encounters the ghost of Starscream, who continues conspiring, even in death.
Starscream was always a formidable foe to the Autobots when he was alive, but he becomes even more ruthless in death. Not only does he trick the traitorous Octane into helping him take control of Cyclonus, but he also kidnaps the defecting Decepticon and puts a bounty out on his head. It seems Starscream isn’t done with either the Autobots or the Decepticons as he sets into motion a series of events that end in the death of Cyclonus and Starscream’s consciousness jumping to another body, that of Scourge, proving that you can’t keep an evil Decepticon down.
3. Beetlejuice (1988-1991) – Beetlejuice
Another cartoon based on a hit movie was Beetlejuice which ran for four seasons from September 9, 1989, to October 26, 1991. Developed for television and executive produced by Tim Burton, the show was loosely based on the 1988 hit film of the same name. The animated series focused on Goth girl Lydia Deetz and her undead companion Beetlejuice as they investigate The Neitherworld, a ghoulish but wacky supernaturalistic domain occupied by beasts of all kinds including monsters, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, and zombies.
Neitherworldly beings aside, the real star of the show is Beetlejuice. The ghost with the most gets up to all kinds of shenanigans as he and Lydia ply the trials and tribulations of The Neitherworld. While toned down from his raunchy film version for a younger audience, old Mr. B. proves episode after episode that he still has a few good scares left up his black and white striped sleeve. Aw, crap, I’ve gone and done it. I said his name three times. My deepest apologies for what’s about the come our way.
2. SpongeBob Squarepants (1999-present) – The Flying Dutchman
Our next choice makes his debut in a mere mention in Spongebob Squarepants Season 1, Episode 15, Squidward, the Unfriendly Ghost. The Flying Dutchman finally makes an appearance in Season 1, Episode 13, Scaredy Pants. This recurring character, with his distinctive green glow, his handbag marked “souls”, his trademark pirate hat with a bite taken out of it, and his West Country pirate accent, is anything but a friendly ghost.
The fact is, he’s evil incarnate, truly. He constantly changes in his appearances from sea demon to a restless soul to psychopompic judge to the dead and is reliably demonstrated to be blunt, noxious, and even full out savage. He terrifies individuals, stealing their souls just for the fun of it. In the Scaredy Pants episode, he endeavors to take the souls of everybody in the Krusty Krab just because SpongeBob’s dressed as him for Halloween which the Flying Dutchman saw as Spongbob frontin’. Talk about beef but the Flying Dutchman has it.
1. Scooby-Doo (1969) – The Phantom
It’s hard to believe that the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? series was only two seasons. I suppose back when it was in its original syndication, kids didn’t pay attention to the fact that they were watching the same bunch of episodes all that time. Sure, there have been several reboots of the series with new episodes, but some of those should remain in the vaults for the rest of time (honestly, does anyone like Scrappy-Doo?). It’s the original twenty-five episodes that everyone fondly remembers. Why? because their ghosts and monsters were the bomb, that’s why!
Season 1, Episode 2, Hassle in the Castle featured one of our personal faves, and to be honest, this writer still gets chills thinking about it. It was a simple take on the classic ghost look called The Phantom. A translucent sheet with a couple of holes for eyes floating in the air, keening out a chilling call to warn trespassers to stay away from Haunted Isle, but for those who choose the meddle, (hello, Mystery Inc.) watch out because The Phantom will stalk you, set traps for you, and scare the bejesus out of you!
The is ends our programming for the day. Our cereal bowl is empty, the TV has signed off the air and we have come to the end of Spooky Specters of Toontown: The Top Ten Cartoon Ghosts. What do you think? Did we include any of your favorites? Would you have chosen any others? Let us know at our Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook page. Until then fellow fiends… Stay creepy!