The 13th Floor

Exploring the Banned Nickelodeon Halloween Special CRY BABY LANE

For a sizable chunk of the population, the cable network Nickelodeon was a significant part of our childhoods. Whether your adolescent years include fond memories of YOU CAN’T DO THAT ON TELEVISION from the 80s, SALUTE YOUR SHORTS from the 90s, or my young daughter’s current love of PAW PATROL, many of us have warm recollections of Nickelodeon’s programming. And for the most part, Nickelodeon has always maintained a balanced image of seemingly fun and edgy but still safe and clean. Then there was that banned Nickelodeon Halloween special…

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Back in 2000, Nickelodeon ordered a made-for-TV movie. Their hopes were that it would be a kind of feature-length version of the Nick show ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK, a scary anthology-style show that had been immensely popular with preteen audiences several years prior. The movie, called CRY BABY LANE, was shot over a few weeks in New Jersey. And on October 28th, 2000, it first aired on Nickelodeon. Then nothing happened. It aired once, and that was it.

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It was not until almost a decade later on a Reddit board that people were discussing this incredibly frightening Nickelodeon movie that they recalled from their childhoods called CRY BABY LANE. But no one could find a copy of it or any sign that it had ever been shown again. Someone, at this point, supposedly reached out to Nickelodeon about the movie and was told that it had in fact been banned for a number of reasons I’ll discuss shortly. But another source from Nick said it hadn’t been banned at all; the network just forgot they owned it. But then the Nickelodeon website claimed that it was in fact banned. So who knows. But, the Internet did what it does best, and the legend CRY BABY LANE was born. Eventually, someone located a VHS tape of the only broadcast and put it on the internet so everyone could see this banned dark secret.

At this point, Nickelodeon, likely noticing the online fervor and hype surrounding the “banned” film, decided to re-air it. The film was shown on Halloween night 2011 as part of the TeenNick’s programing. It also later re-aired as part of a 90s themed programing block on Nick and again on Halloween 2015. Apparently it is no longer banned.

The movie opens with Frank Langella (who plays the world’s worst undertaker) spinning a truly terrifying tale. Long ago, a farmer and his wife gave birth to conjoined twins. Embarrassed by their disfigured sons, they locked them away in a secluded room and told no one in town about them. As the twins grew older, it became clear that one was good and one was evil. Eventually, one of the twins got sick and died. The other, connected to his twin brother by some organs, soon got sick and died as well. The farmer then sawed the two twins in half. He buried the good one in the town’s cemetery and buried the bad one on a rural stretch of dirt road. The road is now called Cry Baby Lane because you can still hear the twin crying for his lost brother. Ok, now let’s remember this was a Nickelodeon movie. Yeah, that’s some pretty messed-up shit. But that is just the start of this tale.

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The movie focuses on two brothers, one older high school boy and one younger who is just starting to develop an awkward adolescent interest in girls. One night the two boys join a group of friends and have a séance on a grave in the cemetery. Wouldn’t you know, it was the twin’s grave, and he gets released. His now freed spirit possesses people in the town and turns them against the young boy. He also, at points, get transported into the grave with the dead twin who is really quite terrifying and eats live worms. It’s not hard to see why this one might have been banned. It does boast some seriously morbid subject matter.

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But there is a far more mature tone at work here. As I mentioned before, our protagonist is just starting to clumsily take interest in girls. The bulk of the terror sequences in the movie involve possessed teen girls threatening him, and somehow this seems far scarier than any ghost or worm-eating evil twin. They catch him naked and throw stuff at him. At one point, they trap him and force him to kiss a girl whose mouth contains a huge spider, just before another girl comes along and starts beating him up. These sequences, clearly rooted in puberty and sexual fears, are far more chilling than the dude underground eating worms.

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So was this banned or not? There still is no definitive answer! Nickelodeon supposedly later referred to it as a “banned movie” in some of their marketing for the re-airings, but that could easily have been a smart advertising maneuver to play into the Internet hype. The Internet brouhaha also spurred a number of very questionable and unsubstantiated rumors-

  • Some sites report that the version of CRY BABY LANE that was used for the re-airs was edited, cutting out some of the scarier moments.
  • There was a rumor that there is an original version of the script where the twins were locked away and forgotten, forcing one to eat the other to survive. But this rumor was later linked to a fictional CreepyPasta.
  • Some sites report that Nickelodeon made an attempt to cover up the movie’s existence entirely, supposedly destroying copies of movie and for years denying that it had ever aired- but again- nothing is substantiated.

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Regardless of what is actually true or false, Nickelodeon now regularly screens CRY BABY LANE. Be sure to check out their Halloween programming so you can witness the potentially banned film first hand. As for all the rumors and hoopla, we may never know what is true and what is the stuff of Internet-born folklore, but it makes for a great legend and has brought a lot of attention to this other-wise forgotten bizarre and spooky film!

For more info on CRY BABY LANE and the stories surrounding it, check out this episode of the Canceled Too Soon podcast.

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