Name That Trauma :: Reader Christa T. on a Subway Scavenger Hunt

Hi there,

Okay, when I was a kid we would check out a rotating series of VHS tapes from the public library – mostly fairly benign things SHELLEY DUVALL’S FAIRIE TALE THEATRE or RAMONA, but there was one particular clip from some video that still haunts me and I can’t figure out what it was. For a long time I remembered it as 1980s CAPTAIN KANGAROO, but now I think it might have been from ROALD DAHL’S TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED. Just knowing how my parents are, I’ve always assumed it was something produced by or aired on PBS.

Anyway, in it this man is out on a dark foggy night and he runs into someone he knows. He is going to write something down for this person, but when he pulls out his family heirloom pen he drops it down the stairs of the subway. He runs down the stairs to get the pen just as the subway closes, trapping him on the platform. A mysterious man emerges and tells him that in order to get out, he has to collect a fork, spoon, and knife. (Bear with me; it’s been 20 years.) He gets into a subway car that is totally empty to travel through this foggy underworld (basically, empty sets with a lot of dry ice) to find the requisite silverware. The train would stop and he’d get out and find some strange character swinging from a soup ladle or standing at fork in the road (get it?).

The creepiest part of the whole story was that while on the train, the lights would blink on and off – sometimes the train would be full of mannequins sitting as passenger, and then the lights would blink off and then back on, with the train totally empty. It scared the shit out of me as a child. As a result I still prefer packed subway cars.

The guy eventually completes the tasks and emerges from the subway netherworld, just as morning breaks and the subway reopens.

If you have any idea what kids’ show series this is from, I would be so happy/terrified!


UPDATE: NAME THAT TRAUMA SOLVED! Believe it or not, it actually did come from CAPTAIN KANGAROO. Special thanks to Reader P. for emailing the confirmation!

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13 years ago

Wow, this one *does* sound freaky! I often find it’s the by-themselves-unthreatening, but uncanny-and-just-wrong things (like a mannequin appearing where it shouldn’t be, and then disappearing–the dummy wasn’t brandishing a knife at you or expressing a desire to eat your soul…just *sitting there*) are much more disturbing than the “jump out and stab the dude in the neck” scenes. If that makes sense.

Anyway, I don’t know for sure, but this *does* sound like the type of thing I used to watch “Tales of the Unexpected” every week for. And BTW, TotU is in NO way a kids’ show, despite its PBS and Roald Dahl credentials. Dahl was a dark futhermucker when it wasn’t writing about BFGs and such.

TotU is availabe on Netflix now, btw. Time to bump it up the queue!

christa t
christa t
13 years ago

Thanks so much for figuring this out! My brothers are going to hate me for making their nightmares more specific now. Looking at that NY Times article, I was reminded of the London fog/Easter bunny skit too. What was Captain Kangaroo doing dabbling in scary stuff?