Sometimes criticized for depicting an idyllic life in the prairie (when the conditions were actually very harsh), Little House on the Prairie didn’t lack the scenes and moments when it instilled genuine terror into the viewer’s mind.
And the best one to make you jump from your seat was by far Michael Landon, who probably drew inspiration from his own childhood experience when attempting to scare the others. A chronic bed-wetter, the actor endured extreme humiliation from his own mother, who hanged his bed sheets where everyone could see them.
So it is obvious, I believe, how some horrifying scenes from Little House on the Prairie came into existence. One particular episode comes to mind when talking about this, the 5th episode of the 3rd season: The Monster of Walnut Grove.
A Halloween special episode, this one was thought more like a situational comedy, with the humor coming from a misunderstanding: Laura peeks through a window and sees Mr. Oleson chopping Mrs. Oleson’s head with a sword!
Of course, we are aware of the Halloween prank which develops under our eyes. However, this happens only if we are adults when watching the show – but if we are children, everything changes. A new perspective appears, in which a horrifying murder actually happens, a brutal murder which has only one witness: a little girl.
And this has an immediate effect on Laura’s subconscious: she begins having nightmares. And these dreams increase in intensity as soon as she realizes that nobody believes what she saw: something that would scar even an adult. And these nightmares will leave an even bigger mark on any child watching The Monster of Walnut Grove.
Of course, by the end of the episode, the prank is revealed and everybody that scared little Laura receives the proper punishment. However, even if now those children watching the show know that it was just a joke, some images cannot be unseen (as it is said nowadays).
And this isn’t the only episode in which the young viewer witnesses such horrific events. Another episode would also be The Music Box, in which Laura has yet again nightmares (as a symbol of her guilt, nightmares in which she is constantly subdued to psychological forms of torture), while another episode would be Sylvia (more on that in another article).
So yet again I can say that Little House on the Prairie didn’t just idealize the life of those ages, but it was being honest about it. Of course, nowadays, such episodes wouldn’t be considered fit for a younger audience. But then again, since we have watched them as children, we know now how to pull the most terrible Halloween pranks.