Ever since its second season, The Simpsons has released a new Halloween special, known as the “Treehouse of Horror” specials, in honor of the spooky season, even if it ends up premiering in November. Traditionally, each special is broken up into three stories, give or take a few shorts and framing devices, where anything can happen. Not being canon, the supernatural is real, and the Simpsons and their friends might not survive the night. Of course, they’re always back on their feet by the next episode, if not sooner.
The Simpsons‘ characters have occasionally been reimagined as monsters and other Halloween icons, in addition to the unique characters created for these stories. Sometimes, they’re spooky, and other times, they’re kooky. Some of these characters have effectively become mascots for the “Treehouse of Horror” specials, often appearing in the series’ Halloween-related merchandise, comics, and The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Some have also made repeat appearances in later Halloween stories. In fact, some of these characters have appeared in canon episodes.
15 Snail Lisa
“Dial “Z” for Zombies” starts up with Bart having to do a make-up book report after doing one on a book meant for preschoolers. While at the school library, he notices the occult system for the first time. While there, a cursed spell book grabs his attention. Meanwhile, Lisa is mourning the anniversary of her cat’s death. While reading a chapter about zombies, Bart gets the idea to raise the cat from the dead. Bart casts the wrong spell, unleashing a horde of zombies upon the town. To make matters worse, their victims rise from the grave as zombies, too.
Returning to the school’s library to find a way to break the spell, Bart once again reads the wrong incantation, turning Lisa into a giant snail. When asked why he’s giving her a strange look, Bart just says he hadn’t noticed how beautiful his sister is becoming. Fortunately, the spell that returns the zombies to the grave also conveniently changes Lisa back to normal. Although the transformation only lasts a few seconds, Lisa as a snail has appeared in Halloween-related merchandise and books.
14 The Leprechaun
“Hex and the City” sees Homer offend a fortune-teller with supernatural powers. She curses him, or, rather, his loved ones, causing them to either mutate, die horribly, or both. Shortly before they’re killed, Homer’s drinking buddies advise him to catch a leprechaun. Homer does just that and sicks him on the witch, only for the two to fall passionately in love. While the leprechaun is technically on Homer’s side in his first story, he’s proven himself to be a villain by the episode’s end, having kidnapped guest star Pierce Brosnan during the credits.
The Leprechaun has appeared in other episodes, including ones not set on Halloween, implying he exists in canon, despite being a supernatural being. Of course, he’s also appeared in later Halloween stories, notably the opening to “Treehouse of Horror XXVII,” where he briefly joins forces with Frank Grimes’ ghost, Sideshow Bob, and Kang the alien to kill the Simpsons.
13 Witch Maggie
“I’ve Grown a Costume on Your Face” sees the town come together for a Halloween costume contest, where an unfamiliar witch is chosen as the winner. When it turns out that the witch is a real witch, meaning she’s not technically wearing a costume, she loses her prize. The incensed witch casts a spell on the town, transforming the attendees into their costumes. Bart becomes an Eddie Munster-esque werewolf. Marge becomes a skeleton below the neck. Even Hans Moleman, who wasn’t wearing a costume, turns into a literal mole.
The transformation proves to be an adjustment, as some of the townsfolk, like Bart, like their new identities, while others are desperate for a way to break the spell. It comes to light that Maggie, who was dressed like a witch, now has magical powers and can reverse the spell. However, the town seems divided on whether she should. Maggie finds a compromise: she turns everyone into talking pacifiers. She proceeds to fly off, casting her shadow over the moon, while the Bewitched theme song plays. She later ends the episode mimicking Tinkerbell.
12 Disney Princess Homer
Halloween isn’t just a time for ghosts and goblins. People get to pretend to be everything from superheroes to storybook princesses. “Into the Homerverse” sees Homer encounter various parallel versions of himself, most of which are shout-outs to various animation styles, such as an anime Homer and an 8-bit Homer. One prominent visitor is a Disney Princess Homer, who comes crashing down in a pumpkin carriage. In true Disney Princess fashion, she convinces Lisa to sing her explanation of what’s causing the problems in the multiverse. She also appears to have magic powers, complete with a wand.
Disney Princess Homer pokes fun at Disney’s acquisition of the series. However, Disney Princess Homer is a Homer just as much as she is a princess, helping the others to empty out family buffets and start a doo-wop group. The Burns from her universe turns out to be a parody of Maleficent, who subdues her with poisoned beer when the more classic poisoned apple doesn’t work. In the end, however, Mr. Burns ends up sending everyone back to their own realities. She also appeared in The Simpsons: Tapped Out, where she is known simply as “Princess Homer.”
11 Nightmare Willie
One of Groundskeeper Willie’s biggest claims to Halloween fame is a running joke in “Treehouse of Horror V,” in which he is killed with an axe in the back in each short while trying to help the Simpsons, with his reward being getting to appear in the surprise musical finale. The following year, however, Willie got another reward: a chance to be a “Treehouse of Horror” villain. In “Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace,” during a parent-teacher conference, Homer accidentally kills Willie by touching the thermostat. Swearing revenge, Willie threatens to return from the grave, and target children in their dreams.
After Martin is killed, the Simpson siblings decide to take on Willie, having risen from the grave as a Freddy Krueger-inspired ghost. After cornering Bart and Lisa in a dream, Willie is defeated in the form of a giant bagpipe thanks to Maggie plugging him up with her pacifier. Interestingly, after waking up, it turns out that Willie has somehow come back to life, but still wants revenge. Fortunately, his return to mortality has made him much less of a threat, as he’s last seen chasing a bus, losing a shoe in the process.
10 Werewolf Flanders
In “I Know What You Diddily-Iddily-Did,” while fleeing some vampires, Marge accidentally runs over Ned Flanders. The family has no choice but to stage a fake accident with Ned’s corpse to avoid suspicion. After seeming to get away with murder, some figure starts stalking the Simpsons with the knowledge that they know what they did. The shadowy figure chases the family back on the road and turns out to be none other than Flanders himself, who explains that you can’t kill someone who’s already undead.
Initially taking this to mean he’s a zombie, Flanders reveals that he was attacked by a wolf shortly before the hit-and-run. This changed him into a werewolf, who was actually trying to kill the Simpsons before running him over. Shortly after this explanation, Flanders changes back into his lupine form and attacks Homer, presumably killing him. This form notably appears in merchandise and The Simpsons Tapped Out game, where he’s given the unlock message, “Hi-dee-howl!”
9 Witch Marge
A parody of The Crucible, “Easy-Bake Coven” takes place in an alternate version of Springfield, reimagined as a colonial-era town besieged by witch hunts. Eventually, suspicion falls on Marge after she tries to bring order to the town. She is sentenced to be pushed off a cliff to see if she is indeed a sorceress. After seemingly falling to her doom, Marge flies up on her broomstick looking like the Wicked Witch of the West, revealing she was a witch after all.
Having to leave her family, she joins up with her sisters, Patty and Selma, to eat the children of the town. After capturing Rod and Todd Flanders; however, Maude convinces them to take some gingerbread children instead. This works, inspiring the witches to ask for treats instead. In fact, the idea works so well, that they decide to come back every year to ask for more goodies. According to the story, this is the inspiration for Halloween, as well as the “Caramel Cod.”
Over the years, Marge’s witchy alter-ego has sometimes appeared in “Treehouse of Horror” merchandise, as well as making a brief cameo in “Treehouse of Horror X.”
8 King Kong Homer
“King Homer” is a parody of King Kong, complete with black-and-white animation. Homer is cast as the giant ape, with Marge as the Ann Darrow analogue, whom Mr. Burns and Smithers want to use as bait to catch the titular monster. Burns brings the big ape back to the States, using him as a vaudeville attraction. Unfortunately, Homer breaks free and goes on a rampage, even eating Shirly Temple. King Homer tries to climb a skyscraper, but falls off in exhaustion.
Unlike the film, King Homer survives, with Marge promising to take care of him. The story then cuts to their wedding, where Homer ends up eating his father-in-law. Homer’s giant alter-ego has appeared in other episodes, notably the couch gag for “Jazzy and the Pussycats,” where he actually makes it up the skyscraper. Homer would also appear as giant monsters in later Halloween stories as well, such as a parody of Godzilla. In the same year the episode was released, Homer also appeared as a King Kong parody in the video game, The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare.
7 Devil Flanders
In classic Faustian tradition, “The Devil and Homer Simpson” sees Homer sell his immortal soul for the thing he loves most: a doughnut. Old Scratch appears and turns out to be none other than Ned Flanders, claiming that he’s always the person one least suspects. Once Homer finishes the forbidden doughnut, Ned has Homer dragged off to hell while Marge tries to get legal help. Ned schemes against Homer, using history’s greatest villains as Homer’s jury, but the plan fails when Marge reveals Homer once promised his soul to her. Defeated, Flanders curses Homer with a doughnut head.
Ned also appears as a devil in “Heck House,” though, this time around, he’s technically working for the other side. When a few of the kids are starting to prefer tricks to treats, Ned tries to scare them straight with a “hell house.” When that fails, he begs God for help, who proceeds to turn Ned into a muscular red demon, complete with hellish powers. After scaring the kids into good behavior, he sends the kids on their way and transforms back.
6 Grim Reaper Homer
In “Reaper Madness,” the Grim Reaper appears at the Simpsons doorstop, wanting to collect Bart’s soul. After a chase around the household, Homer eventually subdues him by bashing his skull with a bowling ball, avenging both Snowball I and President John F. Kennedy. This briefly creates a world without death. However, upon donning the cloak, Homer becomes the new Grim Reaper, much like in The Santa Clause. Homer initially enjoys the perks of being the new Angel of Death, killing people with the touch of his new skeletal hand.
This changes when his magic scroll demands Marge be the next to die. Presenting Marge’s remains to God, Homer begs to return to his regular life. After God grants his wish, it turns out he just stuck Marge’s hair on her sister Patty, whom he sacrificed instead. A grateful Marge, with a new haircut, thanks Homer for not killing her with an extra pork chop. Notably, in the following segment, “Frinkenstein,” Homer breaks the fourth wall to muse that he misses being Death.
5 Count Burns
Mr. Burns is one of the most prominent antagonists on The Simpsons, so he naturally gets to step in the shoes of various famous villains and monsters on Halloween. In one of his most famous appearances, he was the vampire Count Burns in “Bart Simpson’s Dracula.” He invites the Simpsons to their doom at his Pennsylvania estate. Lisa becomes suspicious of what’s going on and drags Bart along while she investigates. Unfortunately, Bart gets caught by Burns’ coven, and Burns himself transforms him into a vampire.
Now a member of the undead, Bart spreads his curse to the local children. The family realizes the only way to save Bart is to slay the head vampire. They return to Burns’ castle and slay him. Unfortunately, this does nothing to save Bart. In fact, the whole family, except for Lisa, has become vampires. As it turns out, the head vampire wasn’t Burns at all, but Marge, who apparently has a colorful “unlife” outside the house. Count Burns also appears as a boss in the video game The Simpsons: Night of the Living Treehouse of Horror.
4 The Grand Pumpkin
“It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse” has the Simpsons parodying the famous Peanuts Halloween special. On Halloween night, Milhouse decides to skip eschew the school Halloween party to wait in the pumpkin patch for the “Grand Pumpkin,” even though Bart admits he just made up the character to mess with him. Despite this, the giant, talking pumpkin arrives to meet Milhouse, brought to life by his magic tears. However, upon learning what humans do to pumpkins on Halloween, he goes on a rampage of revenge, even eating Homer and Nelson.
Lisa figures out that Milhouse’s imagination is what created the giant gourd, and so she waxes on about Tom Turkey, a mascot for Thanksgiving. The turkey indeed appears and saves the children. Having a giant pumpkin for a head, it turns out the Grand Pumpkin’s victims have survived being eaten. Unfortunately, Tom Turkey isn’t too happy about what happens to turkeys on Thanksgiving Day, either.
3 Steven Johnson (& Shinigami Lisa)
“Death Tome” gives the Simpson family an anime makeover in a parody of the Death Note series. Lisa comes across the titular book, which has the power to kill someone after their name is written inside. Along the way, Lisa obtains a guide in Steve Johnson, the shinigami, a Japanese version of the psychopomp, who implies his name was spookier back when it used to be less common. When “El Barto” learns about her killing spree by reading her diary, Lisa is compelled to use the book to kill her own brother.
At the last second, Lisa comes to her senses and writes Steve Johnson’s name in the book. However, this comes with the unintended consequence of turning Lisa into a shinigami herself. Bart comforts her by saying that, as a “god of death,” at least knows she can get revenge on her school bullies. Interestingly, The Simpsons comics also parodied Death Note in the story, “Murder He Wrote,” where Krusty played Bart’s shinigami guide.
2 Raven Bart
The original “Treehouse of Horror” ends with a tribute to a classic horror writer: a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” with the kids reading it as their final ghost story for the night. The whole family gets involved: Homer is the protagonist, Marge is the late Lenore, Lisa and Maggie briefly appear as angels, and Bart is the titular talking bird, who taunts Homer by saying “Nevermore.” Some slapstick is added to the story as Homer actually tries to force the raven out of his home.
While the kids aren’t too afraid of the story, Homer is left terrified by it, even asking Marge to leave the lights on at night. Homer is briefly taunted by a raven looking just like the one in the story, somehow implying there’s some truth to the horrors of Halloween. Homer, who opened the special by saying he loved Halloween, ends the episode bemoaning how much he hates the holiday.
1 Kang & Kodos (Also Serak The Preparer)
The alien siblings Kang & Kodos are the de facto mascots of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes. They made their debut in the first Halloween special in the second segment, “Hungry are the Damned.” A parody of The Twilight Zone episode, “To Serve Man,” the aliens, joined by a third figure, Serak the Preparer, abduct the Simpsons, claiming they are taking them to their home planet. Along the way, they serve the family lavish meals, while not eating anything themselves. Growing suspicious, Lisa finds a cookbook “How to Cook Humans.”
However, the aliens reveal it is indeed a cookbook, “How to Cook for Forty Humans.” Hurt and betrayed by the suspicions, the aliens send the family back home, costing the Simpsons paradise. Allegedly, Lisa was originally going to be right, until the writers felt it was funnier if she was wrong. Despite this, in their subsequent appearances, Kang and Kodos are often portrayed as genuinely evil.
In fact, they appear in a non-Halloween episode, “The Man Who Came to Be Dinner,” where they actually take the Simpsons to their planet to be eaten. They also manage to succeed in cooking most of the family in the Halloween short “Keepin’ it Kodos (Starring Kang),” although they end up adopting a surviving Bart.
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