The 13th Floor

The Unsolved Mystery of THE SIMPSONS’ Infamous “Dead Bart” Episode

If you’ve been staying on top of our creepypasta coverage (if not, you can catch up quick with our list of the Ten Creepiest Creepypastas), then you’ve probably noticed how many of these nightmarish viral legends revolve around allegedly “lost” episodes or missing footage from children’s TV shows.

While many stories concern strange and obscure shows which hardly anyone claims to have seen on the air (like CANDLE COVE, MR. BEAR’S CELLAR a.k.a. “1999”, HAPPY APPY or WHERE BAD KIDS GO), some of the scariest accounts involve missing or unaired footage from extremely popular shows; for example, one of the most-shared creepypastas ever is the so-called “Squidward’s Suicide” episode of SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS.

Another hugely popular show to generate a fair share of urban legends (even before the Internet made these myths spread exponentially faster) is THE SIMPSONS. But despite its occasional brushes with censorship and controversy over the past quarter-century on the air, only one episode of THE SIMPSONS, dating all the way back to the show’s first season in 1989, is believed to have been pulled before airing. It has no official production number or title, and has never been released in any broadcast or recorded format since its production.

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This allegedly missing episode has since picked up the informal (but probably inaccurate) title “Dead Bart.”

There are hundreds of different versions of this story, but the most frequently shared account may have originated with the following clip, posted to YouTube by user SuperBobEntertainment, who seemed to have recorded some of it directly from their television screen, revealing about 4½ minutes of garbled and distorted footage.

Most accounts claim that SIMPSONS creator Matt Groenig wrote the “Dead Bart” episode under grueling deadline pressures from the studio, while the show was still trying to gain a foothold with audiences, and he was said to be unusually depressed and disoriented while working on it. For reasons unknown at the time, once the episode went into production, it was never mentioned again by Groening, and even the suggestion of it would cause him to become anxious and withdrawn. Word soon got out that the SIMPSONS staff was forbidden to even mention the episode.

The show was apparently withdrawn, possibly before production was complete — although other accounts claim it was indeed ready for air — and its production code number, 7G06, was also pulled, temporarily skewing the production number sequence (the code number was eventually assigned to the episode “Moaning Lisa”), and a few fans apparently noticed this inconsistency.

The dark cloud of secrecy overhanging “Dead Bart” became most evident at a convention during which SIMPSONS writer-animator David Silverman was giving a talk; after a curious fan asked about the missing episode, Silverman promptly exited the stage just minutes into his lecture. No explanation was given for the walkout.

Only one fan claims to have obtained a response from Matt Groening himself about the missing episode, but not in a conventional way — instead of explaining exactly what happened, Groening provided them with a private link from which they could download the show, insisting that they not share this link with anyone else.

If the garbled footage shown in the YouTube clip above is indeed that footage, then we have little more than their description to go on… and what they describe is pretty damned creepy.

“The episode started off like any other episode,” the anonymous fan reports, “but the way the characters acted was a little off. Homer seemed angrier, Marge seemed depressed, Lisa seemed anxious, Bart seemed to have genuine anger and hatred for his parents.”

The episode began with the family traveling by plane, and during the first few minutes of the flight Bart somehow breaks a window and is sucked outside to his death.

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It wasn’t just the depiction of Bart’s apparent demise on the show that the fan found disturbing (the series would address death and dying characters several times in subsequent seasons), but the odd way his corpse was depicted: it was, in their opinion, “almost photo-realistic.”

The second act began with the rest of the family mourning Bart’s passing by crying non-stop for nearly ten minutes of air time. Of course, such behavior would be expected given the circumstances, but in an animated cartoon, lengthy and realistic scenes of people sobbing hysterically becomes less somber and more… well, unsettling.

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Then the visuals began to change: the background seemed to soften and melt; the characters’ faces stretched and elongated; and creepiest of all, strange and unidentified characters’ faces seemed to drift in and out of focus.

After a bump to black, the show enters the final act, beginning with a title card reading ONE YEAR LATER.

Homer, Marge and Lisa Simpson, their bodies strangely gaunt and emaciated, are shown sitting silently at the kitchen table. Baby Maggie is nowhere to be seen. After this silence continues for several minutes, the family is then seen visiting Bart’s grave. During their journey, the viewer claims the entire town of Springfield appears to be deserted, for reasons unknown.

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When they arrive at the grave, we see not only the tombstone, but also Bart’s dead body leaning against it. The family reacts in horror… except for Homer, who seemingly cracks some sort of joke; the fan says the audio is partially obscured during this scene, so they were unable to decipher it.

The show ends with a slow pull back to reveal other headstones in the cemetery… each of which bears the name of a guest star on the show. That in itself would be creepy enough, but the viewer claims that most of the named guests had not appeared on the show yet (this was Season 1, after all).

The fan rewound and paused the show repeatedly in an attempt to read the names and dates on the headstones… and realized that, in the case of those SIMPSONS guests who had died in real life (including Michael Jackson and George Harrison), the dates of their deaths where all accurate.

Again, I should point out that this episode was allegedly produced in 1989… long before any of these celebrities had died in reality.

Following up on a hunch, the fan closely examined the headstones of celebrities who were still living… and discovered that all of their death dates were the same. However, the viewer did not reveal what date they saw.

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Without any substantive proof, it’s hard to prove or disprove the existence of this notorious episode; all we have to go on is an incoherent video clip (which could easily have been cobbled together from multiple episodes) and a very disturbing backstory. The “missing episode number” theory isn’t unique to THE SIMPSONS, and has happened for dozens of other series — so that explanation doesn’t really hold water either.

Some people might think it’s better not to know the truth… but I’m guessing you’re not one of those people. If so, welcome to the club!

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