Scooby-Doo and Mystery Incorporated have faced and unmasked many iconic villains in the 50 years that they’ve been solving mysteries, but not all villains are equal when it comes down to their level of “spookiness.” So, let’s countdown 15 of the Scooby-gang’s most iconic and scariest foes!
It’s been 50 years since Scooby-Doo! Where Are You! aired its first episode back in 1969, and the teenage sleuths are still solving mysteries around the world on televisions today. There have been many different incarnations of the show, but one thing that usually remains relatively the same is the fact that each episode features a brand new creepy monster the gang will unmask by the end.
There are some instances where the Scooby villains end up being real monsters (like Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island or Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated), but for the most part, the majority of villains end up being old guys in masks who are trying to scare people away for their own greedy attempts at making themselves richer.
None of that, however, detracts from just how truly frightening some of these villains are before they’re unmasked and carted off to jail by the police.
In honor of it officially being October and since we’re not so far away from Halloween, we might as well start getting into the spirit of things. So, I thought it would be fun to countdown through 15 of the scariest villains from the first few original Scooby-Doo television shows!
15. Phantom of Vasquez Castle
The Phantom of Vasquez Castle was a classic example of a “sheet” ghost, basically consisting of a white bedsheet with two eye holes cut out. That’s why this foe wasn’t exactly the scariest, visually.
However, what really did make this phantom creepy was its loud cackle of a laugh that echoed throughout the stone castle in the episode, as well as the fact that the phantom was able to “walk” through walls and solid objects.
By the time the episode ended (in typical Scooby fashion) everything was explained away. As it turned out, the unmasked villain was actually a criminal magician who was able to use trick mirrors and pulley ropes to pull off the illusions such as running straight through walls and disappearing when chased.
Episode: “Hassle in the Castle”
14. Charlie, the Funland Robot
The Funland robot ran haywire through an amusement park, making a complete mess of things and eventually chasing after Scooby and the gang when they tried to find some answers as to what was happening.
What made this villain so scary was the emotionless glowing eyes, the robotic way it speed-walked (brisk walked?) as it chased the gang as well as the creepy pulsing sonar sound that grew louder to let the audience know the robot was right around the corner.
Unfortunately, the Funland robot loses most of its “creep factor” by the end of the episode when it’s revealed that the robot is named “Charlie”. One of the amusement park’s caretakers created him to help run the park and entertain children.
As it turns out, the caretaker’s wife messed around with the robot’s controls to ruin him because she thought children deserved to come to an amusement park with real human attendants, not robots.
Episode: “Foul Play in Funland”
13. The Witch and Zombie
Driving through a foggy swamp in the middle of the night, the gang spot a man standing on the side of the road and decide to stop because they need directions. The only problem is that once they stop and roll down the window to speak with the man, they realize that the “man” is actually a zombie.
Later on, Scooby and the gang are relayed the information that the swamp is haunted by a Witch, who was the one that used her magic to bring the Zombie to life.
Now, these two are creepy for a few reasons.
- The Witch lives in a decrepit shack located deep in the swamp, which is lined with wooden signs that warn other swamp-goers to “turn back” and “beware the witch.”
- Inside the Witch’s house, she has voodoo dolls of the Scooby characters lined up on her fireplace mantle with pins already stuck into them.
- They actually kidnap Daphne and hide her away on an old leaking bayou boat.
In the end, it turns out the Witch and Zombie are bank robbers, Zeb and Zeke, who stole an armored bank truck and accidentally crashed it into the swamp. After being unable to successfully relocate their stolen money, they created the legend of the Witch and Zombie to scare people away long enough for them to be able to comb through the swamp waters and find their loot.
Episode: “Which Witch is Which?”
12. The Tar Monster
The Tar Monster was one of the villains that the gang faced internationally during a trip to Turkey. There was an excavation site that was being terrorized by a strange creature that emerged from bubbling tar pools and then proceeded to scare away workers.
Now, I don’t know about you, but there’s something intrinsically terrifying about a shapeless blob of oozing goop that crawls out of murky lakes of hot tar and only leaves behind puddles.
What made the Tar Monster so frightening was the fact it only seemed to come out at night and blended well into the darkness. At one point, Shaggy sits up in bed and switches on his flashlight, only to find the Tar Monster at the foot of his bed.
On top of that, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the gurgling growls the Tar Monster made as it walked through the excavation site.
Episode: “The Tar Monster”
11. The Creeper
In the very beginning of the episode, The Creeper lies in wait on the side of a lonely country road and then attacks a bank guard who gets out of his car to check out a downed tree. After ransacking the guard’s car in search of a photograph, The Creeper knocks the guard unconscious and leaves him in the middle of the road.
Luckily, Scooby and the gang find the guard and help him out. The only problem, however, is that the heroic act puts them on The Creeper’s radar.
Despite being described as a “phantom” who robs banks, The Creeper acts more like a zombie. Throughout the episode, he stalks the gang. He crashes their barnyard school dance by knocking out the power and then proceeds to chase them around the countryside, all while repeatedly muttering two words: “Creeper! Paper!”
See, The Creeper is actually after the photograph from the bank guard’s car the gang recovered after helping out the unconscious bank guard. Knowing how the photograph had the ability to reveal the true identity of The Creeper, he wanted it back.
Episode: “Jeepers, It’s the Creeper!”
10. The Headless Specter
I don’t think that there’s anything more classic than the Scooby gang investigating a haunted mansion. It’s an element that seemed infused within the DNA of the mystery-solving formula.
What seriously amps up the spook factor is the gang investigating a haunted mansion and then running into a headless ghost that proceeds to chase them.
The scariest part about the Headless Specter is obviously the fact that the villain appears to have no head. That alone is the stuff of nightmares. But what also adds to the creepiness of the character is the fact that he plays mind games with the gang throughout the episode.
For example, once inside of the haunted mansion, the Headless Specter rigs floating ghost candles and a painting of a man whose head disappears from the picture. Also, at one point in the episode the gang finds a mysterious box sitting alone in a room. When they open it up, the Headless Specter’s missing head is inside.
Unfortunately, the Headless Specter loses a bit of his scare-factor at the end of the episode when he’s “unmasked” and it’s revealed he’s actually a good guy. No, he’s not actually headless, nor is he a ghost.
In fact, he’s the owner of the haunted mansion and is trying to locate his great-great grandfather’s fortune that’s hidden somewhere in the house. Since there are greedy people who try to steal it, he invented the legend of the Headless Specter to keep them away from trying to take his rightful inheritance.
Episode: “Haunted House Hang-Up”
9. The Skull Island Vampire
The Scooby gang dock on Skull Island to visit Daphne’s friend, Lisa. She’s turning 18 years old and is set to inherit the big hotel that’s on the island. The only problem is that the hotel is now being stalked by Lisa’s long-dead vampire grandfather, who is trying to fulfill his mission of turning his own granddaughter into a vampire, as well.
The vampire in this episode is arguably the scariest vampire villain the gang faces. His laugh still gives me chills.
The set-up for the episode only works to make the villain more frightening. The hotel that everybody is staying in is completely empty (they’re practically the only guests). Once settled in their hotel rooms, the phone keeps ringing, but whenever it’s picked up, there’s nobody on the other line— just the sound of a high-pitched buzzing.
But the scariest part of the episode is when Velma and Daphne are asleep in their room and the vampire breaks in through the ventilation system. Velma wakes up, only to see that the vampire is standing at the side of Daphne’s bed, reaching for her neck. I don’t know about you, but there’s something super creepy about staying in a hotel and waking up to see a vampire standing right above you.
Episode: “Vampire Bats and Scaredy Cats”
8. Miner 49er
When the gang misread their map and end up lost, they settle on stopping their travels for the night in a newly abandoned ghost town. And since nobody else is coming into town, there’s an abundance of vacant rooms at the local motel.
The only problem is that as soon as they check-in, they’re told about the ghostly miner that haunts the underground mines. The Miner 49er is as iconic as he is creepy, so much so that he was even brought to life during the second live-action Scooby-Doo movie back in 2004.
What made the villain so scary in the original cartoon had to do with the fact he didn’t speak. He groaned and growled occasionally, but mostly stalked the gang in silence, hidden in the shadows of the old abandoned mine. Not only that, but he was practically giant compared to the rest of the characters, all thanks to the stilts the culprit was wearing underneath the miner costume.
Episode: “Mine Your Own Business”
7. The Ghostly Gondolier
If we’re being honest, the Ghostly Gondolier’s ranking on this list ultimately comes down to the fact that he is easily one of the scariest looking villains to ever appear on the show.
This is without mentioning the fact that this creep is supposed to be a hundred-year-old ghost. Legend says he rows his gondola through the canals of Venice during the middle of the night, popping out of the thick of fog to enact the revenge he promised all those hundreds of years ago.
Even though the Ghostly Gondolier ended up being a typical greedy “man in a mask” by the end of the episode, this didn’t do anything to ease the terror brought to the audience thanks to the character design. He didn’t even have a visible face, just glowing yellow eyes and mouth. You definitely wouldn’t want to accidentally bump into him in the middle of a foggy night.
Episode: “A Menace in Venice”
6. The Headless Horseman
Speaking of villains that you wouldn’t want to bump into during a dark and foggy night, the Headless Horseman is another Scooby villain that is even spookier than the ones that came before him on this list.
In the show, the famous “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is regarded as being “true,” as recounted to the gang by Ichabod’s great-great-granddaughter.
But that’s not necessarily what makes him creepy.
Throughout the episode, the Headless Horseman rides around on his horse and chases the gang whilst eerily chanting out the phrase, “I want a head.” As the show’s legend states, the horseman’s head was knocked off sometime during the revolutionary war and thus, his ghost rises every Halloween night in search of a new one.
But that’s not exactly what makes this villain so scary, either.
The scariest part is that halfway through the episode, the horseman actually gets a new head. Well, not actually. Of course, this is still a children’s cartoon we’re talking about. In reality, the costumed villain just removes his pumpkin head and proceeds to pretend as though he has finally found himself a suitable head.
Even though it’s all fake, what the audience is supposed to believe is what makes this villain one of the scariest.
Episode: “The Headless Horseman of Halloween”
5. Ghost Clown
I don’t exactly know when scary clowns became a phenomenon in popular media, but before there was It’s Pennywise the Dancing Clown, there was Scooby-Doo’s Ghost Clown. Now for obvious reasons, the Ghost Clown wasn’t a killer clown, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t completely terrifying.
On top of this villain being a clown and having a scary face-paint job, the man underneath the face-paint was actually a skilled hypnotist. His skills allowed him to hypnotize the various members of Mystery Inc., pushing them into doing dangerous circus-themed stunts.
For starters, he hypnotizes Daphne and makes her ride a unicycle up and down the backs of elephants. He hypnotizes Scooby and makes him do a high-wire act. And then he turns Shaggy into a lion-tamer, putting him in a cage with an angry lion.
Episode: “Bedlam in the Big Top”
4. Phantom Shadows
Mystery Inc. and a few other guests get called to attend the reading of a will, in which whoever lasts the night in a haunted mansion will inherit a small fortune. However, just as soon as the night begins, the gang cross paths with the iconic giggling green ghosts, otherwise known as the Phantom Shadows.
At first, the phantoms are portrayed as being nothing more than actual shadows that crawl along the walls of the mansion and laugh incessantly while everybody else is asleep.
But what makes these two foes number 4 on our list of scary Scooby monsters boils down to the threatening nature of their actions. At one point, the phantoms “get rid of” one of the other guests who’s supposed to be staying the night in the mansion, leaving behind a threatening message on a mirror that reads: “the first is gone, the rest will go, unless you leave the island, and row row row.”
Later on in the episode, the gang stumbles upon coffins with wax dummies of the other missing guests, with one empty coffin left open in the shape of a dog. Talk about chills!
Episode: “A Night of Fright is No Delight”
3. The Phantom Puppeteer
Personally, I feel like puppets can be just as creepy as clowns, given the right kind of material. So, it’s not surprising Scooby-Doo decided to take on the idea of a phantom puppet master and run with it for an episode in the show’s first season.
The episode starts off with the gang stumbling upon a counterfeit operation, which leads them to a Puppet Theater. Like most Scooby villains, the phantom puppeteer has an incredibly creepy cackle that he taunts the gang with while chasing them through the theater.
What makes this villain, in particular, a notable foe is how threatening he is. At one point during the gang’s investigation, he pushes over a stage background and tries to crush Shaggy with it. Another time, he cuts a sandbag that’s hanging from the ceiling with his knife, causing it to fall down and nearly hit Velma. When the gang stumbles upon the counterfeit printing press, he pops up and proceeds to chase them, screaming, “You know my secret, now you can never leave!”
There’s a level of actual menace that isn’t necessarily found in all Scooby villains.
Episode: “The Backstage Rage”
2. Space Kook
Speaking of incredibly creepy cackles, the “Space Kook” sits at number 2 mainly because of his alarming laugh.
In the episode, the Mystery Machine runs out of gas right next to an abandoned airfield, which just so happens to be haunted by a strange being from space. As the gang decides to investigate, they end up finding themselves in the path of the Space Kook.
The Space Kook isn’t actually given a name in the episode. He’s simply called “it” and only really gets his name from the episode title.
What makes this villain the second-best spookiest villain is the fact he runs around the airfield after Scooby and friends with a creepy laugh. The “skull” portion of his costume also flickers rapidly between red and black and of course, as mentioned before- I cannot stress this enough- his laugh. His laugh!
Episode: “Spooky Space Kook”
1. The Ghost of Dr. Coffin
Alas, we’ve made it to number 1! The all-time scariest Scooby-Doo villain is none other than the Ghost of Dr. Coffin.
Now, throughout all of the werewolves, vampires, witches, zombies, and phantoms that Mystery Inc. faced in the early days of its existence, I have to say that the scariest villain (and episode, even) is the Ghost of Dr. Coffin. If not for the fact that there’s something inherently creepy about “mad” ghost doctors, then for the fact his name is literally “Coffin.”
Like some of the other villains on this countdown list, both the villain and episode’s premise combine to intensify the overall spook-factor. In this episode, the gang are on their way to Niagara Falls, but get caught in a violent thunderstorm.
They stop for the night at a psychiatric hospital. Thanks to Dr. Coffin’s old assistant, the gang is told the hospital is haunted by Dr. Coffin and that back when the ol’ doctor was alive, his patients would just… go missing.
If that’s not scary enough, throughout the episode the gang witness hospital orderlies carting out what are meant to look like dead bodies underneath white sheets on gurneys, out to available ambulances. But since this show is meant for kids (thankfully) the “dead bodies” actually end up being slabs of gold bricks, Dr. Coffin is attempting to smuggle across the U.S-Canadian border.
Episode: “The Harum Scarum Sanitarium”
Well, what do you all think about this list? Do you agree or disagree with the rankings of these Scooby-Doo villains? Did I leave out some of your personal favorites?
Let us know in the comments below!
Rodney has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. Aspiring to one day write television shows and novels, he’s an avid slash-shipper and enthusiast for all things gay. Rodney’s especially a lover of magic, mystery, and superheroes—holding Harry Potter, the X-Men, and Scooby-Doo close as his own personal favorites. But when he’s not fantasizing about how cool it would be to have magic, he’s busy writing fanfiction and re-watching old TV shows.
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