10:30 am EDT, October 31, 2018

Have a very ‘Supernatural’ Halloween marathoning the show’s spookiest episodes

For the brothers Winchester, every day is Halloween. For us, it’s just plain old October 31. Want to spend all day — or all night — watching Sam and Dean kick monster butt? With this specially curated marathon, we got you.

When your whole life has been dedicated to fighting the forces of darkness, and you know the truth about all the things that go bump in the night – werewolves, vampires, ghouls and ghosts, not to mention angels, gods, demons and parallel worlds – the idea of indulging in a farcical celebration that makes light of the very real terrors of your life is somewhat laughable at best, and dangerously misguided at worst.

The show’s pilot actually lampshades this within its very first act – when we first meet Sam Winchester at Stanford, his civilian college friends are hyped for the weekend’s Halloween festivities, and Sam, less enthused, is forced to admit, more than once, that he’s really not a fan of the holiday. Hmmmm. I wonder why.

Supernatural has never made much of Halloween specifically, and for good reason. This is a fairly common angle for most monster-based horror shows (those in the know in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer took a similar attitude) and the Winchesters, with their transient, isolated childhoods bereft of opportunities to innocently enjoy such things, have even more reason than most to feel completely detached from the “normal” experience of many folks’ favorite holiday.

Aside from the pilot, Supernatural has featured exactly one (1) episode that was set on Halloween. This was season 4’s “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester,” which initially dealt with the murderous consequences of some Halloween legends and traditions (apples in razorblades and so on) but then unfolded from a case of the week into a much bigger and more significant turning point for the show, as the brothers discovered that situation they were facing – the rising of Samhain – was actually a Heavenly test of Dean’s worth.

We would later learn what the angels were priming Dean for – to accept his destiny as the Michaelsword – but the episode is most memorable for including the first real conversation that challenges Castiel with the possibility of free will, and we all know how that turned out. Needless to say, the Halloween aspect was not the biggest takeaway from that whole experience.

But this year, Supernatural is actually celebrating Halloween on screen for the first time in a decade. Penned by Davy Perez, who shares his birthday with the holiday, “Mint Condition” will see Dean nerding out over a collectible of Hatchet Man, the villain from his favorite horror movie (the fictional flick All Saints’ Day) and then fighting for his life when he comes face to face with the killer for real on Halloween. Never one to hold back, Perez has already provided us with Lovecraftian tentacles, cowboy celebrations and a Tarantino twist, so you can expect his homage to the 80s slasher flicks that Dean has long adored to be equally as indulgent.

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Unfortunately this year the holiday itself falls on a Wednesday, so we won’t spend Halloween with the Winchesters until November 1, Thursday – the real, liturgical All Saints’ Day. (For the record, the one time that Supernatural actually synced up an October 31 airdate was in season 8, and while “Blood Brother” was an excellent offering, a deep dive into the history of the fascinating Benny, it had zero correlation with with Halloween.)

However, Supernatural is still, at its core a paranormal horror show. While it’s never really been one for jump-scares, tonally it runs the gamut from chilling to campy, so it has something for everyone, no matter how high or low your freak-out factor is. Its frequent return to the procedural format makes it the perfect show to marathon random episodes of in order to get your Halloween kicks without falling down a 300 episode rewatch rabbit hole or leaving you too terrified to fall off the lights.

Given that 13 is not only the spookiest number but also the number of seasons Supernatural has aired in full, here’s our suggestion for a fright night marathon. Some of these picks are truly the show’s most terrifying, but we’ve left some space for decompression, where the fear is farcical and fun – all in all, a creepy but still ultimately digestible standalone every season to help make yours A Very Supernatural Halloween.

Season 1 – “Bloody Mary”

Kicking things off with a classic, this episode represents the initial idea that creator Eric Kripke founded Supernatural upon – urban legends, and the way they’ve influenced the mythology of the United States. Bloody Mary is, of course, an iconic example of this type of folklore – though the story often ends up tied to local superstition, the ghostly game transcends countries and generations with a central permeating concept: that standing in front of a mirror and chanting her name three times will cause Bloody Mary to appear.

When Sam and Dean hear of a slew of deaths connected to the Bloody Mary urban legend, they head to Toldeo to work the case, and discover that a real vengeful spirit is killing people of a certain profile in the vicinity of a mirror she was summoned to. In an attempt to get revenge for her own murder, her targets are those who harbor lingering guilt about their responsibility for another death – which ends up including Sam. “Bloody Mary” also leans heavily on The Ring in terms of its visuals, so an all-around horrorshow.

Season 1 in general is probably the show’s scariest – before dedicating itself on to a wider mytharc than simply “find Dad,” it relied heavily on these self-contained cases and constructed each one like a short horror film in its own right. “Asylum,” “Scarecrow,” “The Benders,” “Hell House,” “Provenance” and of course the pilot are just a few early episodes worth revisiting if you’re in the mood for a scare.

Season 2 – “Playthings”

You may remember this episode for its dozens of vintage porcelain dolls with their glassy thousand-yard stares, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. When the brothers check into a historic New England inn as undercover guests, hoping to crack the cause of the mysterious deaths that are forcing to close down, they find their host Susan and her daughters Tyler and Maggie perfectly charming.

The thing is, though – Susan really only has one daughter. Though Tyler and the audience can see Maggie and Sam and Dean, via Tyler, initially believe her to be real too, Susan claims that Maggie is merely Tyler’s imaginary friend. Great, creepy dolls AND phantom children. This is all frankly Victorian. Did I mention the old lady hidden away in the attic? Yeah, there’s an old lady in the attic – Susan’s mother Rose, whose little sister Margaret drowned in the hotel’s pool long ago…

Season 3 – “Ghostfacers”

The eponymous Ghostfacers – Harry Spengler, Ed Zeddmore and their team – are attempting to shoot a pilot for a new reality show (much like this world’s Ghost Hunters) and they’re way out of their depth. Sam and Dean first met the wannabe paranormal investigators in season 1’s “Hell House,” and instead of doing the smart thing and staying out of trouble, Harry and Ed use their newfound real supernatural knowledge to seek fame and fortune. The subject of their pilot is the Morton House, which allegedly becomes the most haunted dwelling in the USA every leap day.

The actual Supernatural episode “Ghostfacers” is presented as this in-universe pilot, shot in a hand-held style, like Ghost Hunters or the Blair Witch Project, and the combination of this style and the modus operandi of the big bad lead to some really freaky moments. Always worth rewatching the guest appearance of a young Dustin Milligan (a brilliant, chameleonic Canadian actor who stars in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and Schitt’s Creek) as Corbett, the intern whose soul is saved by the power of gay love piercing through the veil, but that aside, this episode is both one of the show’s most comedic and its most creepy – quite the achievement.

Season 4 – “Family Remains”

When Sam and Dean travel to Nebraska to investigate a case where a man was found murdered inside a locked room, they find a few family preparing to move into the same house, which was naturally a fantastic bargain… yeah, you see where this is going. Something is living in the walls, and it does not take kindly to being disturbed.

There’s a good handful of Supernatural episodes where the chain of events are more of a reflection on the most sick and twisted behaviours of humanity than any paranormal spooks. If you haven’t seen it before, I won’t spoil all the details, but be aware that “Family Remains” is the most horrific of these, and it’s to this day arguably the darkest, scariest and most dispiriting episode the show has ever produced – it is a serious night-ruiner.

If that’s too much for you, check out season 4’s meta “Monster Movie” instead – shot entirely in black and white, it’s a clever a story involving a shapeshifter that’s an homage to early horror films in golden age of cinema.

Season 5 – “Fallen Idols”

Season 5 is not really a monster-of-the-week sort of year – it’s extremely dedicated to throughlines and mytharc, and given the big climax, that’s no surprise. However, it has a few traditional horror-story gems, and this one has a special meta connection. “Fallen Idols” is a twisty little thing – when murders in a certain town appear to be committed by the ghosts of a variety of famous people, the correlation between killer and victim seems to be one of fannishness – all the vics had been superfans of the person who took them out.

Sam and Dean follow leads to the local wax museum, which takes pride in the fact that it displays its figures wearing or holding a real possession of the model, from Gandhi’s glasses to Abe Lincoln’s stovepipe hat and it’s actually quite a difficult case to solve – as a viewer familiar with Supernatural lore, you might guess that a cursed object was responsible, or a spirit that chose a manifestation peculiar to the victim.

It’s neither – the killer is a pagan god, a Leshii, who relied on sacrifice from worshippers. The Leshii is played by none other than Paris Hilton, appearing as herself (thanks to a new piece of museum memorbilia) as a favor to her former collegue Jared Padalecki – the pair co-starred in the 2005 teen slasher House of Wax. You see what they did there?

Season 6 – “…And Then There Were None”

Thanks to Eve meddling with monsterdom, the gang – Sam, Dean, Bobby and Rufus, plus the boys’ relatives Samuel and Gwen Campbell, find themselves facing off against a brand-new evil parasite that they dub the “Khan Worm,” as it reminds them of the creature weaponized by the antagonist of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The worm enters a host through the ear (so gross) and is able to take control and access memory, “playing” the victim perfectly, increasing their strength, or even animating their corpse.

This is a tense psychological thriller of an episode – the atmosphere is sort of a cross between a hostage situation and a zombie epidemic in terms of it being constantly unclear who might be infected at any given moment. It also has quite a high body count in terms of recurring characters – three of the group die at the hands of other members, either because the killer or the person being put down was possessed by the worm. Let’s hope Michael doesn’t get wind of Khan Worms any time soon, hey guys?

Season 7 – “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie”

Oh yes. It’s scary clown time. When parents start getting killed by physical manifestations of their children’s worst fears, Sam has to confront his own biggest childhood fear when the case leads him back to the root of his terror. The Plucky’s chain is a clown-themed pizza arcade similar to say, Chuck-E-Cheese, and it’s apparently where a teenage Dean used to leave a younger Sam when he wanted some alone time. Unbeknownst to young Dean, this was a deeply scarring experience for Sam, who developed a “clown thing” that he’s never managed to shake.

This sounds funny, and it kind of is, but it’s actually a very realistic portrayal of the difficulties of phobia, especially when the episode’s bad guy – Howard, a Plucky’s employee – is able to use it against Sam, who is getting too close to discovering the truth. Howard takes his job very seriously and he genuinely loves children. He’s so protective of them that, through the practice hoodoo, he seeks revenge on parents who appear cruel or neglectful by cursing them with their children’s’ nightmares, as one does. Howard’s own childhood trauma is no small thing, but like, cool motive, still murder, y’know?

Season 8 – “Bitten”

Presented as a found footage documentary, “Bitten” is a tale of werewolf tragedy. When Sam and Dean burst into a sharehouse and discover a number of bodies and a laptop video saying “play me,” they, and the audience, watch as the story of three college students with a complicated friendship dynamic (Kate, Michael and Brian) unfolds to its bloody end.

It’s your typical boy meets girl, boy’s jock friend gets girl, jock gets accidentally turned into a werewolf but girl loves him anyway, OG boy gets intentionally turned into a werewolf in a fit of jealousy, everyone loses control and starts killing each other fairytale. You know, regular romcom stuff.

Given the structure, the episode remains largely free of Sam and Dean, but they do appear in the movie from the perspective of the students, who follow them around in an attempt to overhear more information when they realise the hunters are tracking a pureblood werewolf – the college professor who turned Michael and Brian. Kate, who is turned by Brian amidst his entitled whiteboy rage, managed to survive and completes the movie and leaves it for the hunters to find, hoping that they’ll recognize her innocence.

Season 9 – “Slumber Party”

If you need a breather, this one’s just for fun. Much like the upcoming “Mint Condition,” this episode sees our heroes face off against a notable movie villain. You can’t have Halloween without witches, and season 9’s “Slumber Party” features one of the most iconic – the Wicked Witch of the West. Blending fiction with reality and set entirely within the confines of the Bunker, the brothers and Charlie come to the realization that the Oz of L. Frank Baum’s novels is in fact a real alternate universe, that Baum was a Man of Letters, and that his daughter Dorothy became a freedom fighter and hero of Oz.

What a great story for fans of Charlie Bradbury – a lifelong fangirl of swords and sorcery, she admits that she found the reality of the supernatural world much less fantastical than she’d have hoped for, so this episode begins a treat. But be careful what you wish for – when Dorothy and the Witch enter the Bunker via a portal, the night’s adventure takes a seriously deadly turn for our heroes.

Season 10 – “Ask Jeeves”

“Ask Jeeves” is an almost comical super-traditional murder mystery mansion whodunit: think Clue. When Sam and Dean receive a message on Bobby’s old cell phone notifying him that he’s a beneficiary of the will of Bunny LaCroix, a rich heiress, the boys decide to claim his inheritance as his next of kin. Upon arriving, they discover a whole clan of bickering WASPs and bitter servants, and a whole hamper of dirty laundry being aired.

When spectres of Bunny and her long-dead husband appear and bodies begin to drop, the hunters naturally suspect that they’re dealing with some vengeful ghosts, but there’s actually a really great twist to the nature of the monster at work here. “Ask Jeeves” is ridiculous, it’s farcical, it makes nearly no sense in terms of the wider arc of the season, but for some standalone spooky thrills, it’s genuinely unpredictable and just a little bit gasp-worthy if you’re the type to get caught up in the chase.

Season 11 – “Safe House”

This cross-generational episode sees Sam and Dean work the same case, in the same haunted house, that Rufus and Bobby, now both dead, tried to solve in the past – canonically, this case took place offscreen in around season 4, so about seven years back. It’s told in parallel, with the stories bouncing off of one another as each pair of hunters makes similar progress. Both teams discover that the monster is a soul eater, an undead being which hordes souls to feed off in a nest that it creates on a plane outside of time and space.

The victims are trapped in the soul eater’s nest – a dark mirror of the existing house – while their bodies waste away in the real human world. On Rufus and Bobby’s side, they were only able to find a sigil to trap the eater – this is what the Winchesters’ current victims disturbed – but Sam’s Men of Letters resources present a way to actually kill it – but someone has to voluntarily enter the nest to do so.

Season 12 – “American Nightmare”

Davy Perez, who, as mentioned, penned this week’s upcoming Halloween episode, is a true acolyte of horror, and he made his Supernatural debut with this nasty little number. Featuring plenty of gothic imagery, “American Nightmare” is a mystery surrounding some stigmata-like deaths connected to Magda Peterson, the daughter of a reclusive family, who was reported dead some years earlier, after the Petersons, viewed by locals as something of a religious cult, refused medical care for her.

Initially believing the culprit to be a witch or Madga’s ghost, the brothers discover that Magda is, in fact, alive – she’s an innocent but psychic girl who has been kept locked in a basement, tortured and abused by her mother, who believes she has the devil in her. Turning the tables on the show’s usual status quo – and opening up the wider theme of the season, this episode places the supernatural being as the victim the boys need to save, and paints the depravity of human behavior as Sam and Dean’s greatest threat.

Season 13 – “Breakdown”

Snatching the creepy crown once again, Davy Perez’s “Breakdown” is by far the most tense and disturbing monster-of-the-week episode of season 13. When Donna’s college-age niece Wendy is abducted by a serial killer known as the Butterfly in the Winchesters’ neck of the woods, they show up support Donna as friends throughout the FBI investigation, regardless of the lack of evidence that points to Wendy’s disappearance being in any way supernatural.

However, as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place for the hunters, it turns out this is a monstrous case after all – the Butterfly is another very human villain, butchering victims and selling the meat to a huge, hidden world of supernatural creatures who prefer not to hunt in order to try to stay off the grid, and when he realizes just who he has within his reach, he’ll stop at nothing to auction off Sam’s heart to the highest bidder.

All 13 complete seasons of ‘Supernatural’ are available on U.S. Netflix – sound off with your scariest episodes!

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