It has now been eleven years since the Winchester brothers went full-time into the family business of saving people and hunting things. During this time we’ve seen the dynamic duo battle everything from angels and demons to fairies and Paris Hilton, while going to hell and back multiple times – metaphorically and literally. Supernatural‘s ability to combine comedy and drama with its supernatural elements is undoubtedly the reason for its record long run (it recently surpassed Smallville as longest running show on The CW), along with the brotherly chemistry between its two leads, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.
As Supernatural has developed over the years, it has also shifted its focus away from its horror roots. With so many first-rate comedic and dramatic episodes, it’s easy to forget that the show actually produced some genuinely scary ones as well. So with horror season closing in, and Supernatural returning to the small screen for its 12th season (premieres October 13), we thought it was time to list the 15 Scariest Episodes of Supernatural Ever.
15. Repo Man (Season 7, Episode 15)
Faithful fans, who have stuck with the show during its eleven odd years, tend to be clear on which seasons they favor. Season 7 is not usually one of them. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the show was still trying to find its feet after creator Eric Kripke stepped down as showrunner following season 5 (when he had intended it to end) – or simply because the new big bad, the Leviathans, failed to impress. That said, even the less captivating seasons of Supernatural has its gems. Take “Repo Man” for example.
Sam and Dean are alerted to a case where women are being murdered in a way reminiscent of a demon they exorcised four years earlier. They recruit the demon’s former “meatsuit”, Jeffrey (Russell Sams), who’s now living in a halfway house and can barely tie his own shoes, to track the demon down. So when it turns out that the demon is still trapped in hell, and it’s in fact Jeffrey who has been killing these women all along, it sure freaked us out. What made this episode so scary is that harmless-looking Jeffrey had us all fooled, and that despite the inclusion of a demon and Lucifer himself (in the form of Sam’s hallucination), it was just a seemingly ordinary man who was the psychopath all along.
14. No Rest For The Wicked (Season 3, Episode 16)
In the season 3 finale, we were faced with the scariest scenario possible: the death of Dean Winchester. And even though we (and Sam) have had to go through it over a hundred times since, this traumatizing moment is hard to forget.
With 30 hours to go before his deal with the crossroad demon is up, Dean is starting to lose hope, whereas Sam is determined not to let his brother go to Hell. Having learned that boss-demon Lilith, who holds Dean’s contract, is on “shore leave”, the brothers see an opportunity to catch her off guard. Lilith, in the body of a little girl, uses her time off to play house and torture the girl’s family, killing off whoever doesn’t entertain her anymore (like grandpa and Freckles, the cat).
Watching Lilith terrorize this poor family is definitely unsettling, but it is the terrifying and heartbreaking ending, where Dean is being torn apart by hellhounds and dragged to hell, that puts this episode on the list. We just can’t get over that horrific final image of Dean in Hell, calling out for his brother in agony.
13. Provenance (Season 1, Episode 19)
Season 1 did certainly not lack for scary episodes, with most of them playing out like mini horror flicks. While focused on familiarizing the viewers with the Winchester family, it was also the season that introduced us to many of the supernatural phenomena out there. Like a painting that kills, for instance.
When a string of unexplained murders occur, Sam and Dean find out that all of the victims once owned the same family portrait, dating back to the early 20th century. The story goes that Isaiah Merchant killed his wife, two sons, and adoptive daughter before killing himself with a straight razor (we are still asking ourselves why anyone would want to buy this painting in the first place). When everyone who acquires this “work of art” gets their throats slashed, the Winchesters assume it’s Isaiah on a killing spree. With the whole Merchant family having been cremated, it first appears as though his spirit is trapped inside the painting. Until one night, when they see the portrait and notice that the razor is missing from it – and so is the little girl. Sca-ry!
12. Scarecrow (Season 1, Episode 11)
There’s a lesson to be learned here, people. If you’re planning a road trip through an idyllic small town, don’t be fooled by the friendly smiles and delicious pies. The townspeople are just trying to fatten you up before they sacrifice you and your other half to a pagan god who takes the form of a Jeepers Creepers-y scarecrow.
Every few years, young couples disappear mysteriously while traveling cross-country. Dean and Sam manage to narrow down the search to Burkitsville, Indiana – a happy small town that prospers, despite the misfortune suffered by neighboring towns. Little do the brothers know that this is all due to the townspeople feeding a pagan god that resides in the apple orchard. At night, the scarecrow comes to “life” and climbs down from the pole to eat the two poor souls who happen to wander around due to car problems. It’s more frightening than it sounds.
11. The Kids Are Alright (Season 3, Episode 2)
We all know that there are few things more disturbing than creepy children – and despite having seen it a million times before, it never ceases to be scary. So when “The Kids Are Alright” presents us with a whole town full of them, it’s bound to be an unsettling episode.
As it happens, this was a case the Winchesters stumbled upon when Dean decided it was time to pay a surprise visit to an old flame, Lisa. On top of being less than thrilled to see him (come on, it was eight years ago), Lisa now also has a son, Ben, who is a mini version of Dean. What was supposed to be a fun getaway got even more complicated when the brothers realize that the children in town have been replaced by changelings – beings that kidnap children, kill the fathers, and feed on the mothers. Kids, right?
10. Roadkill (Season 2, Episode 16)
Each year, on the night of his death, Jonah Greely haunts Highway 41 in Nevada, in search of someone to punish for running him over 15 years earlier. Only this time, Dean and Sam are there to stop him. While driving, they come across a woman on the road, Molly (Tricia Helfer), searching frantically for her husband, who has gone missing from their crashed car. Naturally, the brothers agree to help her – especially since it turns out Molly is Greely’s chosen victim. The story has many elements of a typical slasher flick, but all is not what it seems.
“Roadkill” is a ghost story with a twist – in between pissed off ghosts and guts spilling out, it’s also a very tragic episode, and a rare case where haunting spirits are presented as more than vicious supernatural beings. We never saw the twist ending to this frightening and sad episode coming. “Roadkill” completely earns its spot as no. 10 on this list.
9. Playthings (Season 2, Episode 11)
There are so many ways in which this episode gives us the creeps that it’s hard to know where to begin. How about a century old hotel, terrifying porcelain dolls, and a psychotic imaginary friend? Those are just some of the goodies that “Playthings” has to offer.
Sam and Dean hear of a suspiciously high number of deaths occurring at an old inn up for sale, and decide to investigate. They meet the owner, Susan, who lives in the hotel with her two daughters (the brothers assume), Tyler and Maggie, and her mother, Rose. With everyone involved in the sale of the place ending up dead, it is obvious something’s up. It’s only when a confused Susan explains that she only has one daughter that it becomes clear who the culprit is. You see, Maggie is Tyler’s imaginary friend. Although she isn’t really. She is actually Rose’s sister who drowned in the pool as a little girl. Grandma Rose had been protecting her family from Maggie’s spirit using hoodoo all those years, until a stroke prevented her from doing so. Maggie’s only wish is to have someone stay and play with her forever, and she’ll do anything, and kill anyone, to make that happen.
8. Home (Season 1, Episode 9)
In this episode it’s not only the viewers who have to face their fears. When Sam dreams of a woman crying out for help, it takes the brothers to a place they had sworn never to return: their childhood home in Kansas.
Flickering lights, clapping monkeys, and a toddler in the fridge lead to the conclusion that there is a poltergeist in the house. The brothers team up with their father’s old friend and psychic, Missouri (Loretta Devine), and together they try to exorcise the spirit.
“Home” played out like a classic horror film and, although we’ve seen it before, still made us check our closet before going to bed. When Missouri announced there was more than one spirit present, it got even scarier – until that emotional moment when we (and the brothers) realize that it’s their mother, who died in that house 22 years earlier. There to protect them, she eventually fights off the evil spirit, but does so at the expense of her own ghostly existence.
7. No Exit (Season 2, Episode 6)
A word of caution, if you’re a pretty, blonde girl you might want to skip this one. In “No Exit”, Sam and Dean are accompanied by aspiring hunter Jo, who has proudly dug up her first case. Why she chose this particular case, where all the victims were spitting images of herself, we have no idea.
When young, fair-haired girls keep disappearing at a steady rate from an apartment building, with no other trace than some black goo (i.e. ectoplasm, which equals one pissed-off spirit), the team decides to move in. They find out that the building next door used to be a prison, and the ground where the apartment building now stands was where they hanged the prisoners. Consider us scared. Enter H. H. Holmes, a notorious serial killer (supposedly the first serial kiler), back from the dead to kill his favorite type of victims. Be prepared for some claustrophobic scenes as Holmes drags his victims down to the sewers and puts them in boxes, taking some hair samples when he feels like it, and peeking lustfully at his trophies through holes in the “coffins”.
6. The Benders (Season 1, Episode 15)
If you thought ghosts, changelings, or living scarecrows were scary – think again. While investigating yet another case of missing people, the brothers unwillingly get separated as Sam goes missing, and Dean teams up with a local police officer to find him.
Originally assuming they are hunting some sort of supernatural being, the Winchesters were as surprised as we were to learn that the kidnappers were monsters of a kind closer to home: a family of cannibalistic hillbillies, whose favorite hobby is hunting humans for sport. The Bender family is unbelievably disgusting, and it’s almost as if you can smell the stench through the screen. Having developed a taste for human flesh, they kidnap men (mostly), put them in boxes, and when it’s time to play they trick their bait into thinking they can escape, only to hunt them down. It’s then up to Pa Bender to chop the body up and cook it for dinner.
5. Asylum (Season 1, Episode 10)
Even the title of this episode, “Asylum”, gives you a hint that it’s not for the faint-hearted. A deserted mental institution draws the attention of the Winchesters, when they find that a number of unsolved disappearances are linked to the hospital’s South Wing – the area where they “treated” the criminally insane under the supervision of Dr Ellicott. Having been closed off since 1964, when the patients rioted against the staff (resulting in a massive bloodbath), the only people setting foot inside the building these days are thrill-seeking teenagers on very crappy dates.
This episode wins hands down for creepiest setting, as the brothers’ search for the killing ghost takes them through dark and mouldy corridors with ’60s “medical equipment” (think torture tools) lying around – as if the place had remained untouched since the riot occurred. Add that to the fact that there are multiple angry and insane spirits roaming the halls, and you’ve got yourself 40-some minutes of spine-shivering TV.
4. Everybody Loves A Clown (Season 2, Episode 2)
It’s not without reason that clowns scare the bejesus out of some people – heck, there’s even a name for it: coulrophobia. If you’re not already one of those people, this episode is sure to convert you. Following the death of their father, Sam and Dean end up at the Roadhouse in search of answers, and meet Ellen and Jo for the first time. But as we know, these guys don’t like to be idle, so while waiting for leads on the Yellow-Eyed Demon they take on a case linked to a circus.
As if the brothers don’t have enough on their plate, dealing with their grief and arguing with each other, they are now having to look for a clown that befriends children so that he can be invited into their homes and kill the parents. After some research the brothers figure out that they’re dealing with a Rakshasa, a Hindu creature that feeds on human flesh. Just lovely. There are so many bloodcurdling scenes in this episode, but what did it for us is when the little boy goes into his dad’s bedroom at night and says:”You were right, dad. He is my friend.” We will never sleep again.
3. Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1)
It’s rare that a show’s very first episode is also one of its best, which is the case here. With so much going on, it is remarkable how effortlessly Supernatural manages to provide us with the premise that would act as the foundation for many seasons to come.
The “Pilot” sets off the monster-of-the-week format, and does so extremely well with its “Woman in White”, hitchhiking along the road and killing anyone who picks her up. But it’s the story about Sam and Dean Winchester that really hits the mark. In a flashback to 1983, we watch their mother, Mary, go into Sam’s nursery, where she sees the figure of a man standing by Sam’s crib. Assuming it’s her husband, John, she thinks nothing of it until she hears the TV and sees John asleep in front of it.
We learn that Mary’s mysterious and terrifying death is what led John and his two sons to become hunters. To then see poor Sam having to witness that horrific scene once again, 22 years later, gives us insight into the tragic events that seem to follow these brothers around.
2. Bloody Mary (Season 1, Episode 5)
As is evident on this list, season 1 had some pretty scary episodes. However, none of them compare to the horror that is “Bloody Mary”. When a group of kids decide that it would be fun to say Bloody Mary three times in front of the bathroom mirror (don’t do it!), they set off a string of deaths where the victims get their eyes gouged out. But not before the dark silhouette of Bloody Mary terrorizes them by appearing in every reflective surface they see.
Sam and Dean trace the legend of Bloody Mary to the death of Mary Worthington, who, at 19, was found murdered in front of a mirror with her eyes surgically removed. Although she had tried to write the name of her killer on the mirror before she died, her murder was never solved. This could explain why all of her victims had one thing in common: they were responsible for someone’s death. Guessing that her spirit is trapped inside the mirror, the brothers decide that the best way to destroy her is to smash it. No one could have foreseen that Mary would actually climb out of it, and from that scene we have still not recovered. We’ll just say this: you will never be able walk past a mirror in the dark again.
1. Family Remains (Season 4, Episode 11)
Supernatural has treated us with some pretty frightening moments over the years, but out of the 240+ episodes that have aired so far, there is one that we believe stands out as the scariest of them all.
As the brothers investigate the death of a man who was murdered in a room locked from the inside, they figure there must be a ghost involved. So when a family buys the house, Sam and Dean do whatever they can to stop them moving in. Unfortunately, they fail, and the children in the family soon start talking about “the Girl in the Wall”. When the teenage daughter in the house wakes up one night from feeling the dog licking her hand, only to see the dog on the other side of the room, things get beyond creepy.
Turns out that the dead man had a wife who died in childbirth, and a daughter who hanged herself. Since the Girl in the Wall bears a striking resemblance to the deceased daughter, the brothers face a conundrum when they learn that she was cremated. When the Girl finally reveals herself and goes after the family, the Winchesters go for the standard circle of salt to ward off spirits – only to see the Girl step over the circle…”Family Remains” is a horrifying story about incest and cruelty, which makes us question the definition of being human. This is one episode that we recommend you do not watch alone.
Did we miss your favorite scary episode of Supernatural? Sound off in the comments!