in Shocktober

The Scooby-Doo Show – “The Headless Horseman of Halloween”

Season 1, Episode 5
Airdate: October 9, 1976

Much like the entire run of The Addams Family, you could say that basically any episode of one of the various Scooby-Doo cartoons from the ’70s is spooky enough to feel like a Halloween episode. Perhaps it says something that The Munsters never even had a Halloween episode, since doing a Halloween episode of a show that’s basically already Halloween-themed is a bit redundant. Still, this was the first of several “official” Halloween episodes and specials to take place in the Scooby-Doo-niverse (sorry), though unsurprisingly there isn’t all that much in this episode that’s different from the tried-and-true formula of a Scooby-Doo episode. Regardless, it’s been god knows how many years since I’ve watched an episode of Scooby-Doo, so it was still kinda fun to watch these meddling kids solve a mystery.

The mystery in question starts at a Halloween Party at a fancy mansion known as Crane Manor, which Shaggy (dressed as a vampire), Thelma (dressed as a witch), Fred (dressed as a pirate), and Daphne (dressed as a fairy) have ended up at. As you could expect, Shaggy’s mostly interested in the food spread at the party, while he’s quickly joined by Scooby and his cousin Scooby-Dum (more on him later). At one point, Scooby and Shaggy make their way outside the mansion and notice a headless horseman sporting a jack-0-lantern for a head riding off in the distance. The gang then consults with Beth Crane, the owner of the mansion and the grandaughter of Icabod Crane. She fears that the Headless Horseman has come back to wreak havoc on the family before the gang discovers that the Headless Horseman is terrorizing the party guests.

After the Horseman escapes, the gang takes to roaming the mansion, looking for clues. This features your typical sequence of Shaggy, Scooby, and Thelma opening a bunch of doors, and this time not really finding much (other than a bowling ball that Scooby-Dum mistakes for a pumpkin). However, once returning back downstairs, Shaggy and the two Scoobies encounter the Horseman, who seems to be after their heads. However, a little while later, Mrs. Crane’s cousin Elwood explains that the Horseman is actually after the jeweled necklace that Mrs. Crane owns. Elwood then takes the necklace to bring to the bank (I guess at night?), though before he gets there he crashes his car and the gang then sees Elwood’s head on top of the Headless Horseman’s as he rides away.

After receiving a crucial clue at the scene of the crime, the gang returns to the mansion only to discover that the creepy butler has white on his hands (similar to the color of Elwood’s head atop the Horseman’s body), though he explains it’s because he was making a cake. The gang then heads to the graveyard to find another clue that has Fred putting it all together in his head. They then head to the local airport, expecting the Headless Horseman to show up there for an airborne escape. Sure enough, he does, though the gang’s plan to ambush him doesn’t go exactly as planned, as Scooby falls into the cockpit with the Horseman and ends up crashing the plane. Still, they’re able to detain the Horseman and after trying to rip the Elwood mask off of the Horseman’s head, they find it actually is Elwood who is the horseman. Daphne explains why, Elwood waxes how he would have gotten away with it, etc., and Scooby-Dum has a run in with a vengeful fish that he thinks is a clue, and the gang all laughs. Cut to credits.

I was not expecting to spend so much time explaining the plot of an episode of Scooby-Doo, though it is impressive how much story this show packs into roughly 25 minutes. I suppose it makes sense when you have to set up and solve a mystery in such a short amount of time, which gives the show a breakneck pace that I didn’t recall from watching it as a kid. Though the show’s bite-sized mysteries might explain why I was able to watch a then-20-year-old show as a kid and not be bored — there’s just a lot of shit going on. Both in terms of silly jokes and story details.

One thing I was not aware of was how complicated the Scooby-Doo chronology is despite being an extremely formulaic show. The Scooby-Doo Show was actually the third Scooby-Doo series produced by Hanna-Barbara, which was preceded by Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? and The New Scooby-Doo Movies (which featured The Addams Family as guest stars, fittingly enough). The thing that was distinctive about The Scooby-Doo Show was that it was paired with Dynomutt, The Dog Wonder to make the Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour. Also, it marked the first appearance of Scooby-Dum, Scooby-Doo’s grayer, dumber cousin, who is one of the very few dogs in all of fiction that I’ve seen regularly wearing a hat.

Keep in mind, this was a few years before Scrappy-Doo became a central part of another Scooby-Doo series, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo. The existence of both Scooby-Dum and Scrappy-Doo is odd to me, because Scooby-Doo is already a fairly annoying character. Why do we need him to be paired with an even more annoying version of himself? I suppose in the case of Scrappy-Doo it was to grab ratings, since the show started to wane in popularity at the tail-end of the ’70s. Still, Shaggy rules, Thelma’s underrated, and Fred and Daphne are fine I guess. Even if the Scooby-Doo formula was a little tired by this point, it’s hard to beat the general vibe of an episode of Scooby-Doo, which may explain the franchise’s staying power.