An episode of "Sesame Street," allegedly removed from syndication for being too frightening for children, has been posted to social media sites like YouTube and Reddit.
The episode stars Margaret Hamilton, who revives her role as the Wicked Witch of the West from "The Wizard of Oz."
The plot also takes from "The Wizard of Oz," but rather than seek the return of a pair of ruby slippers, Hamilton seeks a "stolen broom stick."
Hamilton terrorizes David, played by Northern Calloway, throughout the episode to get her broomstick back.
Finally, at the end of the episode, after having posed as an old woman, the witch gets her broom back and flies away.
"This is glorious!" she proclaims. Then, as she shows off, she says: "Look! No hands!"
The broom falls out from beneath her, and David, Big Bird and friends catch it once again.
The "lost" episode aired Feb. 10, 1976, during the seventh season of "Sesame Street," according to the Muppet fan archive Muppet Wiki. The intent of the episode appears to be to teach children how to overcome their fears, as well as “the value of planning by creating and implementing methods of retrieving the broom,” Muppet Wiki writes.
Sesame Workshop was reportedly inundated with complaints from parents about the episode, and it never aired on television again, according to the AV Club. Sesame Workshop did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the episode’s appearing on social media.
The AV Club reported that bootleg versions of the episode would be posted to social media from time to time but that either they would be removed or they were of extremely low quality.
Although it never re-aired on television, the AV Club reported, the episode is preserved in the Library of Congress.
The newest upload of the episode was posted Saturday by YouTube user Mike Minnick. Minnick could not immediately be reached for comment.
On his post, Minnick claims that the episode never made it to television — a claim disputed by the AV Club. Instead, Minnick writes, the episode was shown to test audiences in the 1970s and declared too scary. In Minnick's retelling of why the episode was lost, he claimed Muppet creator Jim Henson deemed the episode to be "too scary" and never allowed it to be broadcast.
Muppet Wiki says the actual history of the episode straddles both stories. It reported that after the episode aired, the show got "an unusually large amount of mail responses from parents, almost entirely negative, within a short time frame."
That prompted additional rounds of test screening in March 1976, about a month after the episode aired, Muppet Wiki said. Although children were attentive to the parts of the show featuring Hamilton, judging their fear watching the episode was difficult, according to Muppet Wiki. It was later advised that the episode not be rerun, Muppet Wiki reported.
In a 1976 handwritten letter addressed to "Sesame Street" archived on Muppet Wiki, a viewer named Rebecca said she had been dreaming of the green-faced witch at bedtime. She wrote, "I wish you wouldn't put that witch on 'Sesame Street' anymore because ... I have been dreaming [of] that witch again and again and again and again."
The episode first resurfaced online in 2019, according to Muppet Wiki.
On the newest YouTube post, many say removing the episode was a shame, and others said they were thrilled it had been posted so it could be enjoyed.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the lost media community, this right here is a huge win for all of us!" one person commented.
Many said they did not find the episode to be very frightening, but one commenter reminded others that young children in the 1970s had more limited exposure to media than young people do now.
"People forget the type of exposure kids had to 'scary things' then compared to today. She was a real life villain, and [in] one of the only kid friendly movies kids could watch," the commenter wrote. "I agree that this was just such a great loss to be gone for so long, especially for Margaret Hamilton. Such a legend."
Hamilton, who died in May 1985, also reprised her role as the witch in television shows like "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." In "Mr. Rogers," Hamilton plays herself and discusses what it was like playing the witch.
"When I had the chance to do this, I was very, very happy about it," Hamilton told Rogers. "Sometimes the children think she's a very mean witch, and I expect she does seem that way. ... She also is what we refer to as frustrated. She's very unhappy, because she never gets what she wants."
Before she become an actress, Hamilton was a kindergarten teacher, and the AV Club reported that her history as a teacher appeared to be part of the reason she wanted to educate young people about how they could overcome their fears.