10 Obscure Spooky Commercials to Keep Your Halloween Spirit Alive

scary commercials

Horror tie-in commercials should really be something that happens all year, instead of the usual merchandising bombardment that hits us every October. Scary action figures and sugar-coated, monster-themed cereals spilled across the airwaves in the 1980s and 1990s giving kids toothaches and forcing parents to empty their wallets.

There’s a great wave of nostalgia for horror-themed commercials that movies like Psycho Goreman have tried recently to recapture. But there’s nothing like going back to the source of some of the most memorable (and weirdest) horror promos from an era when consumerism was at its cultural height.

The rabbit hole of commercials from the late ’80s and ’90s is truly bottomless, so we’ve pulled some of our favorites from the archive to highlight the golden age of horror-inspired TV ads. Admittedly, some of these products should probably never have been made. That doesn’t mean we can’t take a moment to celebrate that they actually existed and someone is probably selling them on eBay right now for an exorbitant amount of money.

Stamps! Collect Them All

You should never talk to strangers in a movie theater. However, if some horror nerd was going to bother me it might as well be this guy telling me that I can buy special edition stamps featuring some of the Universal Monsters. The United States Post Office offered these stamps of Lon Chaney, Jr., Boris Karloff, and Dracula back in 1997. Horror fans are usually avid collectors, so why not add stamp collecting to the list? What? Too geeky? Of course, you would never actually send these stamps in the mail. That would defeat the purpose of collecting them. The ad men who made this commercial definitely understood their customers with the tagline “Some stamps you just can’t lick.”

The Goosebumps Ice Cream Cake

I’m not positive, but the voiceover guy in this TCBY Goosebumps cake commercial from 1997 sounds an awful lot like John Kassir, the voice of the CryptKeeper. In any case, it’s fun to pretend that it is him. R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps is having a bit of a resurgence as of late with a new live-action series on Disney+ planned. So, maybe it’s about time to bring back the Goosebumps ice cream cake. I can almost feel the brain freeze and cavities forming now.

Matchbox Cars with Surprise Parasites!

Back in 1985, Halley’s Comet was absolutely a part of the cultural zeitgeist. Its regular 76-year journey around the Sun was leading up to one night when it would again be visible to humans across the night sky. This Matchbox commercial ties in Halley’s Comet to great effect, blaming the celestial event for creating evil parasites that hide in toy cars! Can you collect them before they collect you?

Polaroid Camera Captures a Monster Under the Bed

No other camera back in the early ’90s allowed you to see what was lurking under your bed in an instant. Two adorable kids in this old Polaroid commercial are relieved to find out that there isn’t a monster hiding directly under them. Unfortunately, they’re wrong. A puppet monster is, in fact, hiding under the bed. In a cute moment, it’s blinded by the Polaroid flash when it takes a picture that could be the first monster selfie ever recorded.

The Mistress of the Dark and the Banquet Beer

The Coors commercials featuring Elvira are the most iconic horror ad tie-ins of all time. In the past, Elvira had done soft drink ads for Mug Root Beer and Slice (synergy!). Selling beer to the masses worked so well for Elvira that she went on to create her very own brand. Elvira’s Night Brew didn’t taste very good (I’ve tried it) but it was only $2.99 a six-pack when it hit shelves. Unfortunately, Coors wasn’t too thrilled with Elvira and nowadays, any signage or merchandise from Elvira’s Night Brew is hard (and expensive) to come by.

Need a friend? Call Freddy!

See, now it makes sense that Robert Englund directed 976-Evil. This Freddy hotline ad is from 1989, a year after 976-Evil was released. But that doesn’t mean that Englund had given up on the concept entirely. Brand new bedtime stories, or Deadtime Stories, were waiting for kids right on the other end of the line. Being able to call Freddy was an ingenious bit of movie marketing, given how iconic the tongue phone call scene was in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Scary Board Games

Milton Bradley’s connection to the horror genre dates back to the late ’60s with the Dark Shadows-themed game Barnabas Collins. In the ’80s, they had a glow-in-the-dark game called Ghosts! that sold well enough to launch Ghost Castle. As seen in season four of Stranger Things, Dungeons & Dragons was associated with the satanic panic craze that was sweeping the nation and scaring parents. So, Milton Bradley designed a much more family-friendly version seen in this vintage ad. They kept the glow-in-the-dark skull though!

A Truly Spooky Commercial for One of the First VHS Games

“Answer me!” The Gatekeeper featured in the VHS board game Nightmare is played by a genuinely frightening actor named Wenanty Nosul. I hope Nosul received some royalties for Nightmare because he probably gave a lot of pre-teens bad dreams. These VHS led interactive games are still widely sought after and films like 2016’s Beyond the Gates try and recapture what it was like to play them. This commercial is truly epic and a definite favorite on the list.

Go Creepy Bots!

This special “creepy” Go Bot was only available IF you bought four other Go Bots first. Then, you could cut out the barcodes, send them in, and receive the ultimate evil renegade creepy Go Bot. I’m sure parents were thrilled to pay four times over for this thing. Admittedly, it does look fairly menacing and, judging by the commercial, it is able to rip trees out of the ground with its super creepy strength.

I Need These Beetlejuice Toys in My Life

I don’t care if these removable heads from the Beetlejuice toy collection are potential choking hazards. The designs are so well done and tailor-made for collectors. Amazingly, it looks like they are still available to find and all the heads look to be intact. Buy them before we do!

Have any favorite commercials from this bygone era? Let us know on Twitter via @DreadCentral



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