Casper the Friendly Ghost
There’s Good Boos Tonight (1948)
Written by Bill Turner and Larry Riley
Directed by Isadore Sparber
Horror certainly comes in many forms. It can be the visceral sudden fright of someone jumping out and helping boo. Or it could be the slow dawning realization of watching a story play out and it is not about what you thought it was supposed to be about.
These days we can have immediate access to our childhood. Not since the days of sugar-laced breakfasts and Saturday morning cartoon marathons could you binge on the cartoons of your youth like you can now. But, these strolls through our childhood memories can turn on you. It is October and we are in 32 Days of Halloween and you have been warned.
My pick for a spooktacular horror cartoon is none other than fan favorite, Casper the friendly Ghost. He’s the friendliest ghost you know. Or do you? The cartoon “There’s Good Boos Tonight” is ranked as horrific because of the slow realization of what is coming down the line.
Young dearly departed Casper is lonely and desperate for connection and friendship. In later cartoons we the viewers are introduced to his odious roommates. The kind of roommates that one reads about in a Best of Craigslist entry on bad roommates, only in this case they are cartoon spirits. He wants no part of their scare tactic antics; he is different. But, that is another story. Back to this episode, Casper wanders away from his tombstone home in search of friendship only to find that animals of all kind run in terror of being so close to his non-malevolent aura. (I thought animals can judge people well…I guess that changes when you are a spirit.) Lonely and very dejected, he cries. His wails are answered by a little friendly fox, which Casper promptly names Ferdie. Fun and frivolity between Casper and Ferdie ensue, until the hunters with horses and dogs appear. Naming any animal in a ten minute cartoon does not bode well. You have been warned again.
I will not spoil this for you but, (I will go on record and state, I, Rox of Spazhouse do in fact ruin stories and TV shows consistently by not warning people that I am going to give away the ending…) I will warn you, this will wreck you. Without getting all psychological in this entry, this episode elicits the horrific emotions in little children facing loss. As an adult watching this cartoon, the horror comes from that dreaded feeling that the writers actually went there.
This is a type of cartoon that certainly could not be made now. This cartoon was created years after the movie code was installed and yet, this cartoon made it past censors who may have said “sure kids love Casper, just give it a pass”. In the present climate this cartoon would have a cadre of children psychologists and a review board being assigned to the production of this project. Not to mention warnings. It is fortunate that YouTube allows people to glimpse into past entertainment, where it still has the power to shock and surprise us. Today, we are a society that is told ahead of time that horror and mayhem will be forthcoming at the beginning of shows on multiple networks. But in the past, horror was hiding in plain sight…in the creation of a very friendly ghost.