Ah, Hey Arnold. I might’ve mentioned in “Arnold’s Christmas” how Hey Arnold is perhaps a rare cartoon in that it only has one episode for each holiday, so they don’t have 3 Halloween episodes and 5 Christmas episodes even though the show only takes place over the course of 10 months. The show even has episodes for April Fool’s Day, Friday the 13th, and a very touching Veteran’s Day episode, the moral of which was “you don’t have to punch Hitler in the face to be considered a hero.”
Though this show has just the one Halloween episode (which I don’t feel like covering this year), it has several other episodes that are spooky-themed, and could definitely qualify as a Halloween episode if they actually took place in October. One is the aforementioned Friday the 13th episode, one involves a headless horse-drawn cab driver and may or may suggest one character gets killed after the end of the episode. Two more are the episodes we are covering today – season 2’s “Four-Eyed Jack”, and season 5’s “Ghost Bride.”
“Four-Eyed Jack” begins with Gerald sleeping over at Arnold’s house. They’re reading a bunch of old Purdy Boys Mysteries books (a parody of the Hardy Boys) that they’ve pulled out of a box they probably got out of the basement. Then Arnold finds a pair of glasses. Weird. Arnold’s grandpa comes in to bring them milk and cookies, and when Arnold asks about the glasses, boy does Grandpa have a story to tell.
A long time ago, the boarding house had a tenant everyone called Four-Eyed Jack, “on account of the glasses.” He was big on bean recipes, always tinkering away in the basement on baked beans or whatever, until one day there was a big explosion and he died. So now his ghost haunts the boarding house, bumping around all over the place, looking for his lost glasses, especially on dark and stormy nights such as this one! A few more keys to this story is that his ghost is accompanied by a terrible groaning sound, and a foul stench.
Arnold decides it’s his mission to return the glasses to Four-Eyed Jack. Gerald thinks it’s stupid to try to give glasses back to a ghost, but he goes along with Arnold anyway. Grandpa tells them good luck, and also mentions having an upset stomach due to the raspberry cobbler Grandma made earlier.
Arnold and Gerald head out into the hallway after Grandpa leaves. They run into lazy, terrible Oskar in the hallway, in the midst of a fight with his wife. They explain they’re ghost hunting – or Arnold does, at least – and asks if he’s heard any noises lately. Oskar hasn’t, but right after that they hear a strange gargling sound.
Oskar joins the boys on their ghost hunt, because he doesn’t want to stay alone in the hallway if there’s ghosts. They then run into Ernie Potts, who tells them not to mess with the supernatural, and he also adds that he’s heard some very strange sounds coming from downstairs over the last few days.
On cue, more gargling sounds start up. They all creep downstairs, Ernie armed with a small hammer, Oskar clutching the lucky horseshoe he keeps in his pants (but he insists he’s not the least bit superstitious). They head downstairs, and find the source of the gargling – in the kitchen!
It turns out it’s just Mr. Hyunh, though. He tells them that if you’re dealing with a ghost, you should prepare an offering, to appease it and get it to leave you alone. Gerald, who’s been very skeptical and annoyed this whole time, insists there’s no ghost. Then this happens:
They then hear a moaning sound coming from the basement, and all five – Hyunh now carrying a fish to please the ghost – head down there. We rarely see the basement on this show, but it looks especially creepy in this episode, sort of like a medieval torture dungeon. The moaning continues, and Gerald’s starting to get nervous. Then they realize… there’s a horrible smell! Just like the one that’s supposed to signal the coming of Four-Eyed Jack!
Arnold is about to open the door the moaning is coming from behind, but Gerald stops him. If he opens the door, Gerald reasons, it will turn out one of them is wrong – “And what if it’s me?” Gerald asks. Arnold’s only response is to roll his eyes.
He decides to turn the knob anyway, but before he can, the knob starts turning by itself! The moaning is intensifying! Oh no, it’s…
It turns out there’s a second bathroom in the basement, which Grandpa has always used as his private bathroom, and he was down there, moaning and stinking up the place due to the raspberry cobbler that didn’t agree with him. Gerald’s happy to be right, and that there isn’t actually a ghost, the three tenements are upset that there’s been a second bathroom this whole, Grandpa’s upset that now his secret is out, and Arnold’s disappointed he didn’t get to help out a ghost that he’d never heard of before despite living in the same place for 10 years with a guy who has lived there since the 1920s.
The next scene has Arnold and Gerald sleeping. Arnold’s still clutching the glasses in his hand. And something’s sort of weird with the scene. The “camera”‘s sort of floating and darting around, and everything’s really blurry.
We pan over to Gerald, lying on Arnold’s fold-out couch with his blanket down around his butt. An invisible hand moves the blanket so it’s covering all of Gerald. Gerald is disturbed by this, and awakens from his slumber. And he sees this:
I’ve always loved this episode. It’s good at setting up the mood, and you don’t really see either twist coming unless you’ve seen the episode before. Plus, ghost!
“Ghost Bride” begins with Arnold, Gerald, fat, stupid bully Harold (yeah, I don’t know why there’s three characters with such similar names on this show), skinny southern-accented hick Stinky, cowardly jerk with the weird nose Sid, eternal optimist Eugene, crazy nut Curly, and the tough-as-nails bully with a big crush on Arnold, Helga (oy try deciphering that sentence), all walking past a cemetery for some reason.
Harold mentions being creeped out by all the dead people, and Stinky comments that they’ll all be in the cemetery too, some day. Way to keep things light, Stinky.
Somehow they segue into the tale of the Ghost Bride. Curly really wants to tell the story, but they tell him no, Gerald should tell it. Curly insists that he knows the story well enough to tell it instead, but Sid tells him “Gerald is the keeper of the tale” (Gerald was always the go-to guy for urban legends, except for the times Arnold’s Grandpa wanted to mess with the kids).
The story goes, back in the Middle Ages – the 1980s – a woman was totally in love with a man. They were supposed to be married, but on the day of the wedding, she waited and waited and he never showed up. She found out later that her fiancee had gone and fallen in love with her sister, and they had gotten married that day. I just… dang, that’s cold. The woman finally snapped after a few days, put her wedding dress back on, got a hatchet out of her basement, went to the home of her former fiancee and her sister, and murdered them in their sleep. When the police arrived (I don’t know who called them, since presumably they didn’t make much screaming noises as they were murdered in their sleep), the woman was sitting in a rocker, next to the bodies, throwing rice and humming the wedding march. Before the cops could do anything, she jumped out the window to her death. They buried her in her wedding dress in the very cemetery the kids are standing next to, and her ghost apparently haunts the place.
That is a remarkably dark story for a kid’s cartoon. They didn’t really mince around the murder/suicide parts, either, like saying “downtown” as a metaphor for, you know, the fiery underworld.
The kids all think it’d be cool to come back at night to see if there’s a ghost. Harold doesn’t want to go, but he’ll go anyway so no one calls him a chicken. Curly leaves, still mad about not getting to tell the story. Helga’s all for it, though, and asks what time they should meet up. They tell her she can’t come, Harold adding that girls scare too easily. Remember, Harold was the only one who expressed any fear at going to the cemetery at night to see a ghost, but Helga’s the one who will get scared because she’s a girl?
Helga’s all “Fine, then,” goes home, and puts together a plan. Later the boys show up at the cemetery, find the bride’s tombstone, decide that just before sundown counts as night, and try to leave.
But the gate is locked. They try to leave through another exit, but on the way, they hear someone humming the wedding march. Arnold tries to keep a level head, but you can’t argue with humming that doesn’t seem to have a source.
Although it’s just Helga, of course.
Helga has a few more tricks up her sleeve, such as rigging another cemetery exit to appear to close on its own. Finally Helga’s satisfied, until she hears someone humming the wedding march. She turns and sees… another ghost bride!
This finally scares Helga and she runs to catch up the guys, explaining that all the other stuff was her BUT THERE’S A REAL GHOST AAAAAUGH.
They find a good place to hide from the ghost in a… mausoleum. I don’t know, axe-wielding ghost versus being directly next to dead bodies and coffins?
Whatever. Eventually Arnold decides to venture outside to see if they can find another exit, and Gerald goes with him. The ghost goes to the place the others are hiding in, and that’s when Arnold notices something fishy. The ghost breaks down the door (which I’m sure is a felony or misdemeanor, breaking cemetery property) and is about to kill everyone, or something, but Arnold pulls the ghost’s veil off.
Turns out it’s Curly. He was so angry at never getting to tell the story! None of the other kids are amused, and decide to “get him.” The kids, minus Curly, leave the cemetery, and Arnold reveals he knew it was Curly because he saw the ghost wearing the same socks Curly had on earlier, and it seemed like something Curly would do. Someone asks if maybe they should go back and let Curly out, but Arnold, showing an unusually cruel side, says he figures it shouldn’t take more than half an hour for Curly to realize the door only locks from the inside.
We then cut back to Curly. He’s tied up in the mausoleum.
I can’t remember if Curly ever shows up in the show again. But this was the first half of the second-to-last episode of the whole series. If he’s not in the last three half-episodes…
I don’t have much to say about “Ghost Bride.” I mean, Curly is straight-up insane on the show, but I guess they’re too young to learn to either just humor him or make sure they never hang out around him. But he does have a point – why does Gerald always to get to tell the cool stories?
Next time, we’ll have at least one more spooky Hey Arnold episode. And I promise regular Boy Meets World recaps will return soon. Especially since the “original air dates” have almost synched up with our current time. I just like when that happens, is all.