Some of you may skip this review out of sheer hatred of All Things Roseanne, but if you’re into Halloween, avoiding Roseanne a huge mistake. Few have done Halloween better than her.

I started watching the TV series mainly out of necessity. Growing up, remember how the last cartoon would air at 4:30 on weekdays, followed by a slew of regurgitated sitcoms beginning at 5? Well, for a while, Roseanne got the entire 5-6 PM block. I’m guessing this would’ve been in 1991? I don’t know, I’ve done a lot of drugs.

Those reruns made me a fan, and soon enough, I started watching the first-run episodes on Tuesday nights, or whenever the hell they were on. Even today, my DVR contains more of that show than anything else.

The first few seasons were as popular with critics as they were with fans, but even when the show started going off the rails (the emergence of “Fred” kind of signaled the Great Turn for the Worse), I still loved it. Hell, I can even gut through the final season, even if it was terrible, and even if it turned Dan Conner from one of the best-ever TV dads into the one of the worst. The final episode still makes me want to kill everyone responsible for it, but aside from that, there isn’t an episode I won’t watch.

Whether you like the show or not, there’s no denying that it produced some of the best “holiday special” episodes ever. This was especially true for Roseanne’s Halloween episodes, which became an annual thing, and with very few exceptions, were the biggest Halloween brouhahas seen on any prime time sitcom.

Today we remember the first of them — and if going by popular vote, the best of them. From the second season, the episode’s official title is Boo. For purposes of this review, I’ll use a title that’s more representative of its unforgettable plot: Roseanne’s Tunnel of Terror.

It’s no understatement to say that this episode helped shape my love of Halloween, and taught me that it could be so much more than I thought.

I’m going to ignore the episode’s side stories, because this is meant less to be an episode recap and more to be a tribute to one of the best “Halloween ideas” you’ll ever see. The Conners had something special in store for 1989’s trick-or-treaters, and if you’ve seen this episode, you’re already picturing Undead Ninja DJ mouthing along to a cassette tape. We’ll get to him, I promise.

Leading up to Halloween night, the Conners are in all-out prep mode. Their house is saturated in Halloween decorations, and though some fans have called this unrealistic (the Conners were perpetually poor), I disagree. If you look close, you’ll notice that many of the decorations were homemade, turning simple things like bottles and coffee cans into tools of death. This episode always makes me want to do crafts.

Roseanne’s sister, Jackie, arrives with a key component for the night’s activities: THAT SAME ORANGE “SPOOKY SOUNDS” CASSETTE TAPE THAT EVERYONE HAD. At least, I know I did. In its time, that was “the thing.” I think I got mine from Hallmark, and Jackie is helping to reinforce this belief, because her little googly-eyed skull button was definitely a Hallmark product. I had that, too. Basically, I was Jackie. Swap our heads, and you’d have me in 1989.

As night draws near, the family remerges in their costumes. Roseanne becomes a witch, and man, she did NOT skimp. She even busted out the Blackjack gum, and that shit tasted awful.

The kids have their own costumes too, of course. It’s hard to choose, but I think Darlene wins this round. She’s basically dressed like Pinhead, but it’s more like Pinhead at a slumber party, and actually more like Pinhead at a slumber party that was attacked by cowboys and swordsmen. Darlene was awesome even before she dyed her hair.

I also have a soft spot for DJ’s ninja costume, which was so true to the times. Ninja costumes became a huge thing for a while. To this day, I have no idea why that happened. Perhaps realizing that so many of his friends were bound to be ninjas, DJ took it one step further. With a little face paint, he became a ninja zombie. Having seen every episode of Roseanne, I can confirm that this was DJ’s best moment of the entire series.

…for one very specific reason:

Finally, the trick-or-treaters start knocking. Finally, the Conners can debut their TUNNEL OF TERROR!

Here’s how it worked. Each trick-or-treater could only get their fun-sized Snickers bar by surviving the Tunnel of Terror – or, in layman’s terms, a stroll through the Conners’ kitchen and living room.

Introducing the victims to their fate is Undead Ninja DJ, who mouths along with an unseen stereo (badly) to deliver the goods:


Michael Fishman is in my will, and this scene is the reason why. So many future events on Roseanne made us hate DJ, but we could never really embrace that hate, because…well, he gave us the Tunnel of Terror intro. Achievements like that are like licenses to steal.

Realizing that he could never top that bit, DJ steps aside and allows Rosie to play host. God knows what those kids were thinking as this enormous witch dragged them through her torture chamber. At that age, I’m not sure I would’ve been willing to go through so much trouble for eighteen Skittles.

This is one of my favorite parts of the episode, simply because we get such a good look at the Conners’ living room. There are too many Halloween decorations to count, but there is NO WAY to watch this episode and not want to fuck up your house.

Aside from the major props (a noose, a skull-headed scarecrow and so on), there were so many tiny touches that made it even greater. Even the simple tilt of the framed picture added so much.

Also note the table full of supposed “mad lab” equipment, using plastic tubing, Corona bottles and a cocktail shaker. I’m trying to avoid making this review longer than it needs to be, but God, even as I sit here now, the Conners’ method of decorating inspires me to pieces. When I think about all the times I was inspired enough to really decorate for Halloween, it’s easy to see how much this episode influenced me.

The first big scare belongs to Dan, covered in blood and with an ax in his head. Given that we were only in the second season, Dan was still THE MAN. It’d be several years before they’d make him so unlikable that I had to keep watching Arachnophobia just to shake the Dan stink off of John Goodman.

Somehow, even by this point, the trick-or-treaters didn’t turn back and run out of the house. I know that this was only a TV show, but those trick-or-treaters were essentially extras, and they probably had few experiences on set. I’d like to believe that Dan scarred them for life, and that they ultimately turned to murder in a form of misguided rebellion. But does that make me a bad person?

The tour continues into the kitchen, and the scares are even heavier, here. First, Roseanne gives everyone heart attacks by unveiling Head-on-a-Platter Jackie, stuffed with demon teeth and surrounded by corn and grapes. Over twenty years later, and I’m only now realizing how strange it was to have a platter with corn and grapes on it. Stranger still, I think those were real grapes mixed with fake corn. The hell?

Ah, Becky. I forgot to mention Becky. After spending most of the episode pouting about her flat-leaving friends, Roseanne persuades Becky to get into the spirit. She does so by dressing as a one-armed stewardess. I think more problems could be solved by dressing like that, and I nominate myself as the guinea pig.

Becky cooks up some green slop, but as the trick-or-treaters approach, a hand rises from the soup and tries to drag her into it.

In my circles, that hand is a point of contention. To me, it’s obviously Darlene’s hand, but others theorize that DJ quietly slipped into the kitchen for a second role. I suspect that there are twenty-page forum threads dedicated to this very topic. Well, it’s time to put a nail in that coffin. I just watched the scene for the billionth time, and it was DEFINITELY NOT DJ. The only way that hand belonged to DJ is if there were two DJs. And okay, there were, but Sal Barone had already killed himself by 1989.

At the end of the tunnel, Lonnie (Crystal’s son) pops out of a washing machine and shoos the trick-or-treaters into the Conners’ garage. We never see what went on in there, but I imagine a quieter, safer environment, where Crystal served hot cider and explained to the kids that the ax in Dan’s head was a phony.

Actually, there was one small hint of the garage activities, occurring near the end of the episode:

With the Halloween festivities over, we see Roseanne taking down the garage decorations – and there seems to be plenty of them. Maybe I should research this, because I smell a cut scene.

Of course, there was more to the episode than this. Actually, the whole Tunnel of Terror thing was essentially a backdrop to the real story: Dan and Rosie’s quest to outscare each other. Still, it was the backdrop that mattered most, and for years (even to this day, really), I’ve pined to do something like this for Halloween.

Unfortunately, I can’t shake the notion that inviting strange kids into a house full of playtime murder might be a little awkward.

For many, this was the most beloved episode of the series – and I don’t just mean the “Halloween” episodes. I doubt I’ll ever let a Halloween season slide by without a rewatch, if not several. For me, this is as iconic as a Michael Myers movie or the Charlie Brown special.

If you’re curious, videos of this episode seem to be all over the Internet. You could also buy this DVD, featuring all of Roseanne’s Halloween specials. Best $5 you’ll ever spend, at least until I tell you about the new holiday edition Chips Ahoy cookies. Give it a week.

63 Responses to Roseanne’s TUNNEL OF TERROR.

  1. great review!!! Tales of the Darkside marathon on Chiller!. 7pm-10 pm eastern tonight

  2. I am charmed by a world in which it is totally cool to lure trick or treaters into your house.

    Also, John Goodman was the greatest real-life celebrity sighting I ever had. I witnessed a very hungover looking Goodman staggering to his car in the French Quarter in New Orleans once. He was carrying a duffle bag. What could it have contained???

  3. There’s a house at the end of my street that pretty much does this, they have a pretty huge yard, and so they have trick or treaters walk through gauntlet of fog machines, fake torture devices, and people who moan and wave their hands in your face. It’s actually a pretty big production that has a few different families get together to stage it, and there is always a lineup to go through it.

  4. Is Roseanne’s “tunnel of terror” a vagina joke?

  5. Oh man, I am so ordering that DVD on payday! Unless Roseanne is on Netflix or Hulu +, then I’m already paying for it.

    I miss the time in TV history where we had all these sitcoms that did awesome Halloween episodes…. However, I think I may have enjoyed the Halloween episodes of Home Improvement more.

  6. Jerrod: that’s what I thought at first, I still don’t know.

  7. Those vampire teeth on Jackie are perfect fit for her. I wonder if they were specially molded for her.

    I had the green skull decoration. In fact, I think everyone had that green skull, along with the others it came with it, like the pumpkin next to it. In fact, I think you can find those in every dollar store today.

  8. Is Roseanne’s sister holding the Hallmark Halloween soundtrack tape from ’91? If so….I had it.

    Edit: just read the full article. Matt, you are just awesome.

  9. FYI I’ve noticed complete seasons of Roseanne on DVD popping up in the Walmart 5 dollar bins.

  10. Ah, yes the great days before television went “reality” and sitcoms were your evening babysitters! I DO own this DVD and have watched it for the last 2 years. My favorite, also the last respectable “Halloween” episode for the Connors, was in season 5 when Roseanne’s Halloween “spirits” are down and she refuses to participate in festivities any longer. In a classic twist of A Christmas Carol, Roseanne goes through he life to figure out why she loved Halloween.

    I won’t ruin it, but the part that I appreciated the most was Darleen dresses as an innocent victim of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and even has a plucked out eyeball from a hungry crow. D.J. is then shortly ushered out to a dance in his, Hannibal Lecter costume!

    Just the mere fact that Roseanne would allow her children to dress in gory and bloody costumes made me want Roseanne for my Mommy!

  11. I remember another one with a talent show or something like that. Roseanne and Dan were a ventriloquist and the dummy? Maybe it was all just a beautiful dream…

  12. I did something similar in my garage a few years ago. Turned out that was the year I’ve had the least amount of trick-or-treaters and most of them were of the 5-7 year old variety where we had to “go easy” on them. The few teenagers and tweens we got did seem to enjoy it. I was the final scare right next to the bowl of candy. I made one little girl cry and several run off without their candy. All in all, it was a good night!

  13. I think I’ve said this before, but I just want to say it again: I. Fucking. Love. You…………………..and Roseanne!

  14. ..Cookies you say?

    I love this, I was watching some of the other roseanne halloween specials today.

    Our house is the only house on the street that really does Halloween like that.
    And we scare the shit out of these kids man.

    I chase kids around covered in blood with my chainsaw.
    I’ve made so many children cry, and even scare the parents.
    One woman ran away and left her baby in its stroller behind.

  15. Oh, thanks for the info about the Roseanne Halloween DVD. I had no idea that existed. Looked online and see one copy is available at our local HMV.
    Tonight I aim to watch Beetlejuice. I hated that back in the day, but I want to see if I like it now as an adult. Plus the blu-ray has three episodes of the animated series, which I loved, and includes my favourite one, “Spooky Bootique”. I’m more excited about that than the actual movie.

  16. I LOVE the Roseanne Halloween episodes. I watch watching the “tunnel of terror” episode earlier today…so good!

  17. I believe CMT of all places had a Roseanne Halloween episode marathon this afternoon, but considering I already have this DVD I’m able to make my own marathons.

  18. oh when heard the mention of the haunted house walk through…there is a documentary being advertised on Chiller during the Tales from the Dark side marathon. It’s 3 families and how they spend tens of thousands on mechanical halloween effects to make neighborhood haunted houses….I think it’s on tomorrow night at 8 est. Sorry for sounding like a commercial, but this discussion kind of made me want to get that info out there.

  19. In a neighborhood like ours with little to no trick-or-treaters, something like this would be awesome and completely unappreciated.

    When we were still living in our old neighborhood (tons of kids, thus tons of trick-or-treaters), my dad took off our front door and replaced it with a panel with a big Frankenstein-like dummy. It would just sit there, with a bowl of candy in its’ lap; what you couldn’t see from the outside was that the back of the dummy was open so that it could be worked like a puppet. One arm was for slipping your hand through to hand out candy; you would use your other arm to work the head (you could make it pop up and could work the mouth). Pretty awesome.

  20. @Jeremy: Last time I checked Roseanne was on netflix.

  21. I have the DVD and i watch it more than i probably should. I love it, but i have never watched the episodes beyond when they brought “Nancy” into the picture…. I refuse.

    A few things always bugged me about “Boo!” though…
    1) They prepared all that food for the trick or treaters and never gave it to them. The hot dogs? Caramel apples?

    2) Why are the Conner kids and Lonny so willing to skip trick or treat to work at Roseannes haunted house?

    3) I hate how Roseanne goes around the garage taking down the decorations and throws them in the garbage. Who throws out decorations after one use??

  22. This is one of my favorite Roseanne Halloween episodes, Dan wearing the Jason mask with the chainsaw was classic!
    Also, that green skull decoration she’s holding in that last picture, still have mine from when I was a kid, and have it hanging up…along with about 59 other new & vintage old cardboard decorations haha,
    Green Skull can also be seen in Halloween 4, in the drugstore.

  23. Best. Article. Ever. I’ve been visiting your site(s) for many years, but the “Roseanne” mention has finally compelled me to comment. Thank you!

    BTW, a possible reason for the corn/grapes combo on the Jackie Head platter is this: during the first few seasons, corn is either displayed or mentioned in every single episode as a behind-the-scenes in joke. I don’t recall any other mention/display of corn in that episode… perhaps that’s it?

  24. Roseanne is one of my all time favorite television shows if for no other reason than it made me feel better about my slightly white trash childhood.

    My favorite Halloween episode is when DJ wants to be a witch and Dan is pissed because he doesn’t think it’s a masculine enough costume.

    And yeah, the final season is one of the most painful things Ive witnessed in my life. Goddamit, Dan. Why you gotta cheat on Rosie? SHE IS THE PERFECT WOMAN.

  25. Crap, this made my day. I use retro TV like most people use comfort food. The holiday episodes are usually the best of them. I so remember how I just could not miss the Halloween/T-givs Day/Christmas episode of whatever shows I watched as a kid. They always felt more special, like a major event.

    Also, a couple years ago after I got married and my new FIL realized I was such a holiday nut. He gave me all their family’s old decor since he is now a widower who spends the cold months down south. In the Halloween boxes were tons of vintage cardboard cutouts INCLUDING that skeleton that Rosanne is holding in the garage. It’s on my wall right now.

  26. Before I even go and READ this article, I have to comment. ‘Roseanne’ was one of my favorite shows growing up, because it showed a REAL family, one that fought, wasn’t always nice to each other, and most importantly – didn’t have a lot of money; much like my own family. I like it because it was the closest sitcom I could find on TV that was similar to my own life. AND, her Halloween episodes were so far superior to all other sitcoms’ Halloween episodes.

    Now? I appreciate that this show existed and I frequently show episodes of it in the Media Studies class that I teach, and students today (sadly) have usually not even heard of it, and even THEY are struck by how realistic the show was.

    Roseanne rules.

    Now, off to read.

    (PS) Matt– I hope you’re feeling better, and that you somehow managed to find and read the comment I made in the last comment thread. Lots of love, dude. Thanks.

  27. Awesome. Great article/recap- you chose the best screen shots, and I feel like I actually just re-watched the episode. I laughed out loud at the line about the 2nd DJ committing suicide….wait- shit, he didn’t really, did he?

    But, Matt– why all the Dan Conner hatred? I don’t get it and I am REALLY curious as to why you think he turned into this horrible dad…? I always liked Dan, and really liked the special relationship he shared with Darlene. I too, had a special relationship with my dad and had one filled with lot of yelling with my mom. Anyways, I really want to know!

    Thanks for this. I LOVED when sitcoms had holiday specials that didn’t suck ass.

  28. The early episodes of roseanne were ok, but when she turned into a raging, hateful political bitch, I stopped watching . The Halloween episodes are indeed great though. I’m not at all a fan of roseanne. The character and the actual one.

  29. Oh btw, Happy SNT.Only 4 more days till Halloween! Wooo! Make that 3 actually!

  30. Dan cheated on Roseanne. But by then it wasnt worth watching.

  31. I forgot how good this show was. They’re doing a marathon of the Halloween episodes on TV Land.

  32. I used to have a stream that would play Halloween specials of cartoons/sitcoms (Angry Beavers, Rocko, Pete & Pete, Quantum Leap, and others), and now I’m disappointed with myself for omitting this show for fear of backlash from internet people. Oh well.

  33. Well technically he didn’t. The final episode she explains that he died from the heart attack and making up a story about how he cheated seemed more tolerable. But yeah there is a storyline after they win the lottery that he cheats in California while he was visiting his mom in the mental hospital.

    Matt you might not of wanted to make a joke about him killing himself. Because the actor that played Mark killed himself in the early 2000′s. I am just sayin.

    I love this show. I have watched so many episodes over and over and I don’t get tired of them. I think they are so well written. I don’t relate to them being poor in the way that I grew up poor because I didn’t. As an adult I have been poor. And I enjoy the shows that they obviously were trying to bring certain political topics into it. Like when a woman kisses her. That was classic and well written. How she is confused after because she kind of liked it is a very human emotion.

    In a more Halloween related topic, one of my favorite lines is when Crystal comes over and says is my costume too over the top? And Roseanne says it’s way over the top that is why I like it.

  34. Oh and BTW most Roseanne episodes are on Youtube.

  35. This right here is why I love Dino Drac (and XE for that matter!) Matt, you’ve read my mind and the Roseanne Halloween episodes kick so much ass. Thanks for this awesome article, I’ve been lurking around both sites for many moons now and decided it’s about damn time to start commenting — Hope you’re all enjoying your Halloweekend \m/


  37. Just turned on the tv and it is this episode! This is the best DD Sunday ever. It’s meant to be.

  38. “Even today, my DVR contains more of that show than anything else.”

    That’s funny because my wife, who’s pretty much diametrically opposed to TV (especially given how many hours I log in-front of the thing watching cartoons and wrestling) has in the last few months rekindled her childhood love of Roseanne and has been clogging up the DVR with dozens of episodes daily! I have to sift through them to find things like Transformers Prime and The Ultimate Fighter. That being said, I’ve seen bits and pieces of the show now (I was only familiar with it by name growing up) and can totally see the charm. The kitchen which is showcased heavily reminds me a bit of mine from childhood and I noticed minutes into the first show I saw a giant Godzilla action figure in the background of the living room that I totally freaked out about.

  39. I was never really into Roseanne. I think it hit too close to home for me. The show made me uncomfortable as a kid and my parents hated it anyway. I really do remember it being pretty close to real life unlike so many family sitcoms of the day. I really should try giving it a watch as an adult. Sounds like Halloween episodes are the place to start! Thanks Matt!!

    I’ve only ever been to one house that did the haunted house thing (in a big way anyway). I wonder if it was inspired by this episode? The time period is just about right on. They had this really big yard (at least to my scared little girl memory) that was filled with hedges and large trees so it was beyond the usual pitch black of night and was made into a perfectly haphazard graveyard. They had that infamous sound track playing and you had to make it through the yard in complete darkness and into the garage where the real horrors began. I don’t remember anything jumping out or anything like that. I do remember realistic dummies that freaked me out and the dude giving out candy looking insanely freakish. He had the faux chemistry like Roseanne’s going on and fake eye balls and guts and what not. It scared the life out of me and I practically bolted back through the yard.

  40. Just started rewatching Roseanne yesterday, for the first time since I was 10-11. Loving it so far. Little shout out

  41. Yeah it wasn’t DJ’s hand in the soup. I have the Roseanne Halloween DVD too and watch this ep several times every Halloween season.
    If you watch the scene, you can clearly see DJ in the background. What makes it even funnier is that you can see him peeking around Roseanne and the trick or treaters to try to get a good look at what was going on on the stove when the hand comes up and Becky starts yelling.

  42. And I can’t believe I have broken down that scene to determine that it was not DJ’s hand in the soup.

    I have way to much emotion invested in this episode.

  43. Love love love roseanne. It was great when it was streaming on netflix but theybhave removed it. It doesnt matter what the episode is if i catch it even for 20 seconds I have to watch the whole episode!

    And yes i did immediately think of dj saying that.
    I also loved the puppet routine Rosie and Dan did at the lodge…

  44. Hurricane Sandy approaches! ooooOOOOooooOoo, batten down the hatches Matt! I am curious if you are going to blog about this spoooky storm! :-) the MTA is shut down so I might not even have work tomorrow… just went grocery shopping and I’m all stocked up.

  45. Goob, Glenn Quinn didn’t kill himself, technically. It was a drug overdose.

  46. The Roseanne Halloween episodes really are great, there’s only a few sucky ones. Off the top of my head, the only other sitcom that compares is the Home Improvement Halloween episodes. There was even a similar episode featuring the basement. … and Nanna-stein.

  47. daaaa daaa daaa daaa daa! daaaa daaaa daaaa! daaa daaa daaa daaa ddaaaa daaaaaaaaaaaaaa wonnwonnwa wonnwonnna wonnna waaaaa

  48. i thought roseannes holloween episodes were so fake because i know for a fact that working class poor ppl didnt have those elaborate costumes that take 99 production staff seemstressess to make like the be-headed-head-and-hoop-dress would show up at a poor people party. i went to them my whole life i would know. only costumes u can make easily from JOANNE FABRICS or torn goodwill clothes punkrocker costumes would have existed.

  49. Dude! Watched this yesterday and never gets old. They showed the Jerry Garcia tribute halloween special too….and that….that was different.

  50. yes! thanks about the Amazon link I used to love those episodes. On halloween week roseanne would come on about 1030pm and monday through friday they would play a different seasons halloween episode. now i can watch them all the time.

  51. Also Jelp….I dont agree, some people save/spend differently then others. I know at Christmas some people spend their whole tax return on decorating and those people never take vacations ect. instead. Some poor people spend their big purchases on season tickets, a concert ticket, or even halloween. My bro and sis in law dont make that much right now and they save mostly but they go crazy for halloween.

  52. Thanks Matt for paying tribue to one of the best Halloween specials out there.

    Your review of the Perfect Strangers Halloween episode in 2006′s countdown made me think the next time Roseanne was on tv, “at least the Halloween episode will be fun?”

    It was. The decorations on the set are magic!!!

    You have made me a huge fan of Roseanne and made me appreciate the wonders a Halloween special can do.

    Thank you.

  53. pizzaparty, that was awesome! nice!

  54. Great review! I loved this episode so much…and every year I want to go all out like this, but it hasn’t happened yet. one year. I did have that cassette tape…I wonder where it is now?

  55. Can’t believe I almost forgot about this. We used to watch this every year! Hunting for these right now so I can make my girl watch. Thanks!

  56. Good but It hink the Home Improvement Halloween episodes take the cake!

  57. This review takes me back a long way!!! Not only to the excellent TV of my youth but also old school XE! It has the same feel as your old episode reviews!

    LOVE IT!

  58. C’mon, that ain’t a stereo! It’s John Goodman/Dan saying that shit!

  59. Was deffinatly darlene’s hand as she was nowere to be seen durign the whole tunnel of terror scares

  60. Roseanne really did have some of the best Halloween episodes. The only shows that even come close are The Simpsons (of course) and the Halloween episode from the second season of Community.
    I hate that it took me so long to come to DD, Matt, because there’s so much stuff I missed, but every thing I’ve read has just been gold. I never would have thought it would be possible, but I think DD may be even better than X-E, though X-E will always be one of the best sites on the Internet.

  61. I found that Disney Haunted House record on vinyl in a dollar bin a few years ago, now I must hunt down this orange tape (or even better the orange vinyl version, if one exists).

  62. FYI: Roseanne has a home in our little hamlet on the Big Island (Hawaii). Every Halloween she goes all out decorating & opens her home to all.

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