Calling all horror fans, can you remember what it was that first gave you an appetite for the genre? For many, it will be watching episodes of Goosebumps or seeing movies like Hocus Pocus or Casper. However, your passion for all things spooky may just have begun to blossom with Treehouse Of Horror.

The Simpsons debuted season 1 in December 1989, but it wasn’t until the second that audiences were treated to the very first Treehouse Of Horror episode in the series, complete with Kang and Kodos. The special episode premiered in October 1990, offering the whole family the perfect Halloween-themed viewing.

The Simpsons family sit on the couch in a haunted room in a screengrab from the episode Treehouse of Horror XXX.
Via Disney + Media

We’re invited into Bart’s treehouse while he sits with Lisa and Maggie. They begin swapping scary stories and the installment reveals itself as an anthology, riffing on iconic horror movies like The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist.

It went down an absolute storm with fans and it became obvious that there was potential to deliver a new Treehouse Of Horror every season, crafting three short stories and rolling them into an episode. Seizing the golden opportunity, the writers began to do just that, and season 3 returned with Treehouse of Horror II in October 1991 to suggest a new tradition.

Looking back across all of the Treehouse specials, this season 3 one actually still has one of the show’s most iconic, which is the story of Homer bringing home a magical monkey’s paw from Morocco that grants wishes. You’ll likely have great memories of laughing along with it, but can you remember how the episode was woven together?

Each of the three stories is a dream, the first experienced by Lisa, the second by Bart, and the third and final by Homer. They’re referred to as The Monkey’s Paw, The Bart Zone, and If I Only Had A Brain, respectively. However, you wouldn’t know that watching the episode… It’s the only Treehouse Of Horror that doesn’t announce the stories with titles.

It’s likely that they thought lending titles was unnecessary because they have the ‘nightmare’ narrative device, and admittedly we feel it would’ve interrupted the flow of the episode. They were perhaps finding their feet too, experimenting with which format works best.

Ultimately, the third Treehouse Of Horror in season 4 resumed using titles to make the stories distinctive and the rest is history.

After Lisa experiences her nightmare with the monkey’s paw in Treehouse Of Horror II, she heads into Bart’s room to ask if she can sleep in his bed after a bad dream. She bribes him with a candy necklace and we’re plunged into Bart’s nightmare of having the whole town think good thoughts or fall victim to his imagination.

Bart awakes screaming and, like when Lisa’s dream ended, there’s a fade to black. The two then run into Homer and Marge’s room and sleep in the bed with them, right after Homer makes sure they’re “toilet trained.”

In Homer’s, Mr. Burns puts his brain into a worker robot and he wakes up when Burns’ body is crushed. Believing everything’s back to normal, Homer goes into the bathroom and sees Mr. Burns’ head grafted onto his neck in the mirror, ending the episode.

Without the titles and having the wraparound story, the episode stands out more than any other Treehouse episode since, evidence of experimentation in the early days of the series.

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