These Vintage Public Service Announcements Will Haunt Your Dreams

Public service announcements have the unenviable job of focusing on big issues in a short period of time. Extreme tactics are often used to ensure that potential viewers don’t drink, do drugs, leave their kids unattended, talk to strangers, or trust creepy puppets (it happens). Sometimes, the message being delivered can get lost if the PSA over-utilizes scare tactics or takes the creepiest possible approach to say what it has to say. As a result, people often tend to remember PSAs not so much for their content, but the emotions they evoke. Hands up if you’ve ever cracked an egg while saying “this is your brain on drugs, any questions?” Keep them up if you did that while high.

Clearly, you missed the point.

As we go through Halloween scary-stuff withdrawals, we figured it’s a good time to look back on the creepiest PSAs to ever exist. All of these ads are uniquely disquieting, but they share the common trait of being unforgettable. Take a look.

The Black Water

An entire generation of British kids were traumatized by the above PSA in which the Grim Reaper (voiced by Halloween‘s Donald Pleasance, natch) wants to drown everyone who comes in contact with seemingly any body of stagnant water in the U.K.

Surprisingly, a man in a police box is nowhere to be seen.

Hanna-Barbera Presents: Fever Dream

From The Flintstones to The Jetsons to other cartoons that weren’t just The Honeymooners set in the past or future, Hanna-Barbera was responsible for some of the greatest cartoons of your childhood. Yet all of the fun you had watching Yogi Bear or Huckleberry Hound couldn’t possibly prepare you for Hanna-Barbera’s dark side. As seen above, this trippy PSA from the production company is a 30-second innocence ender that shows the ravages drugs can have.

You listening, Shaggy?

Guts And Guitars

Remember in The Fly when Jeff Goldblum turned his monkey all inside out while experimenting with his teleporter? Imagine if that happened to a man who hangs around with sh*tty low-rent Muppets and enjoys Hee Haw and that will explain the vibe emanated from this bizarro PSA featuring nightmare provider Slim Goodbody. If the sight of a man whose organs went all flippety floppity wasn’t distressing enough, hearing his Johnny Cash-ian caterwauling certainly is.

Can’t Drink, Too Busy Screaming

From Finland comes an anti-drinking PSA that features sadistic clowns, horrible bunny monsters, an evil Santa Claus and other horrifying imagery. It’s an effective ad to be sure, and one that was so controversial that it spawned the above CNN segment.

Rats Take New York

David Lynch has made a career out of making people feel uncomfortable, so it was inevitable that he would get around to making a public service announcement. The moral of this story: Rats and wannabe Fonzies run amuck in NYC.

Beware! Child Driver

Travel back to the 1970s for this PSA that shows off the dangers of leaving your keys in the car i.e. A CHILD WILL IMMEDIATELY JUMP BEHIND THE WHEEL AND DIE. Yikes. The message at the end of this is a bit outdated: “Always take your keys out of the car!” How about, take your kids with you or go to prison?

Surprise Smokey

We mentioned this in our list of weird PSAs, but it is reappearing here for a reminder of the most terrifying 30 seconds that ever aired on television. For those not brave enough to watch this, here’s the lowdown: A sultry beauty (Joanna Cassidy of Blade Runner and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead fame) rips her face off to reveal that she is actually Smokey the Bear. Yep, this is pure undiluted terror.