I’m going into this piece under the presumption…. no, the hopes that you watch Spongebob Squarepants.
If you do, hopefully, you’re already laughing at the immediate absurdity conjured up by the mere mention of the topic character. If you don’t watch the show, you might be wondering why I’d choose a one-shot character from an episode of a cartoon that is very decidedly “not horror”. With all of these other people writing about a vast array of “true” horror characters, why would I choose to close off this year’s series with a piece on “The Hash-Slinging Slasher“?
I could be educating the masses. Nay, the children. The real “future” of horror. Teach them well and let them lead the way, or some shit like that. I mean, they are the fanbase and the creative forces of horror 20, 30, 40 years from now…. and beyond. Instead, I’m focusing on a talking sponge.
For those not familiar with the show or this particular character, I will try to summarize as quickly (and painlessly) as possible the events of the episode entitled The Graveyard Shift. Ahem…
While closing up after a long day of working at the Krusty Krab, Spongebob and the ever-irritable Squidward are distracted by a hungry customer at the door. When he realizes that extra hours open = extra money, greedy ol’ Mr. Krabs forces the duo to stay behind to work the “new” graveyard shift.
Spongebob is highly (and vocally) fascinated with the prospect of doing each mundane part of his job….. AT NIGHT!!
However, when he shows hesitation about taking the trash to the dumpster (at night), Squidward seizes the opportunity to torment this bane of his existence with a tale of terror (at night). The tale of the HASH-SLINGING SLASHER!!!
And so the story goes…..
Long ago, on a dark and eerie night (such as this), a young Krusty Krab fry cook (just like Spongebob… only clumsier) was prepping patties and accidentally cut off his own hand…. and replaced it with a rusty spatula!! He was then… hit by a bus!! And to add insult to injury… they fired him at his funeral!!!!!!!
So now, every…. (what day is it?)… TUESDAY, his ghost returns to his former place of employment to “wreak his horrible vengeance”!!
I know, that’s a pretty ludicrous, albeit kinda grim, story. Yet, it’s still not quite “horror”.
Determined to rattle his overly excitable co-worker, Squidward continues on with the tale. He warns Spongebob of the 3 “signs” that foretell the Slash-Bringing Hasher’s approach.
1st – the lights will flicker on and off!
2nd – the phone will ring…. and there will be nobody there!
3rd – The Hash-Slinging Slasher arrives…. IN THE GHOST OF THE BUS THAT RAN HIM OVER!!!.
Then, he exits the bus and crosses the street without looking both ways!! (FUN FACT: Dead people don’t need to worry about such things because they’re already dead.)
Then, he taps on the window with his grizzly spatula hand…… He opens the door and slowly approaches the counter.
Do you want to know what he does then? Do you really want to know? Well, do you?
HE GETS YA!!!!!
I know, still goofy (goober), but that beginning and end actually sound like multiple ghost stories and folktales that we heard growing up, and may still possibly tell our kids today. Despite the lampooning, the sound of a rusty spatula tapping on glass may not be any less eerie than that “tree branch” that brushed the roof of that ubiquitous car parked on lover’s lane some indefinable time long ago.
Spongebob naturally starts to lose his shit, forcing Squidward to reveal that it was all just a cruel prank. There is no such thing as, nor was there ever, a Sash-Ringing…. Trash-Singing….. a Hash-Slinging Slasher.
Now in on the “joke”, Spongebob begins to laugh at the absurdity of the story, just like the audience may be laughing at the absurdity of the episode (… and just like you might be laughing at the absurdity of this topic). He once again returns to the undiluted joy presented by doing his job… at night.
Soon after, Squidward notices the lack of business during the late hours, referring to the place as a “ghost town”. As if his words were some sort of incantation, the restaurant’s lighting begins to flicker immediately afterwards. Spongebob questions Squidward on how he’s able to turn the lights on and off if he’s not actually touching the switch, but the curmudgeonly cephalopod blames it on the building’s “stupid, faulty wiring”, citing that the building wasn’t meant to be in operation 24/7.
As Squidward finishes his explanation, the phone begins to ring. He quickly answers it,… but there is no reply on the other end. Spongebob thinks it’s all part of Squidward’s continuing efforts to carry out the joke, but Squidward denies any responsibility.
Just then, a bus pulls up and drops off a passenger directly across the street from the Krusty Krab. The figure is cloaked in darkness, seemingly wearing the night as a shroud. Eyes glowing a daemonic red glare at the restaurant. The dreaded spatula, brandished and ready.
Squidward, now believing his own tale, fears their impending doom, but Spongebob is touched by the depths that (he believes) Squidward will go to in order to keep the joke going. The figure enters the restaurant… and slowly approaches the counter….. only to be revealed as a young kid looking for a job. He even brought his own spatula! Why, there was no real threat at all!
The kid admits to calling the restaurant and hanging up, citing nervousness, but denies any involvement with the flickering light. Squidward then asks who, if not the kid, is behind the flickering lights, only for it to be revealed that the prankster all along was none other than… NOSFERATU!!!!!
Now you know the entirety of this little tale. What you may not know is why I chose this character. Why did I choose the Hash-Slinging Slasher when I could have chosen any other character from the wide world of Horror? Simple.
When I talk to horror fans, it’s overwhelming just how many of them discovered the genre as a child. Sure, most of them discovered horror through cracks in the fingers covering their eyes, or by being in the room when an older sibling was watching a film that they were far too young and impressionable to be watching themselves. For many, especially children of the 70’s, the introduction to horror came courtesy of Saturday morning cartoons such as Scooby Doo or the Groovy Ghoulies. It was the childhood fascination with horror’s more innocent side that unknowingly led some to horror, while for others it was that feeling of being exposed to something taboo or forbidden. Whichever the case, for so many of us, horror is a keepsake that reminds us of our earliest days and of fond memories that we wish to hold dearly forever.
For some, horror is something that we consider a tradition. Our parents and or siblings introduced us, whether that be by weekend matinees or watching your local horror host on the television screen. For some, it’s something that we are now trying to introduce to our children, hoping that it will serve as a bridge to make our relationships with them even stronger. Something to help us feel more of a bond. And for most of those folks, it’s simply nothing more than a desire to share the passion for a genre that they obsessively love.
This story, silly as it is, serves as a stepping stone. It’s an entry point. It has all the cornerstones of a classic horror tale, but with enough absurdity and silliness to not be scary. And, if nothing else, it introduced countless children (and more than a few adults that never completely grew up) to Nosferatu, undoubtedly one of the most important characters in the history of horror.
So, yeah…. I could be trying to “reach these kids”…. but maybe others are already doing it for us. It just may not be in the package that we expected.