The original Treehouse of Horror premiered on Fox on October 25, 1990. It is actually the third episode of the SECOND season of the Simpsons, since the first season premiered in December of 1989, too late to air a Halloween special. The name is a nod to the classic Hammer House of Horror, a horror anthology that ran in the early 1980s. And as the title nod suggest, Treehouse of Horror is an anthology show.
Bart, Lisa and Maggie are holed up in the treehouse on Halloween night, trying to scare each other with creepy tales. As each of the three tales are told, Homer, who is eavesdropping after a night of trick-or-treat, becomes increasingly terrified, despite the fact that the tales really are pretty tame. Please note, however, that Marge gives an opening disclaimer warning that the show is in fact pretty scary and not suitable for children.
Anyway, the three tales are as follows (SPOILER ALERT):
1. Bad Dream House: The Simpsons move into a spooky, yet gorgeous Victorian mansion that they got for super cheap. But, things are too good to be true when spooky stuff immediately starts plaguing the family. Books are flying, a portal to another dimension opens up, and things culminate when the house itself suggests to the family that they should kill each other. Marge has had enough of the house, built atop an Indian burial ground, bossing the family around and gives it a stern talking to. After some discussion and mulling it over, the house decides it rather destroy itself rather than face life with the Simpsons. James Earl Jones is the voice of the house, and the whole segment liberally borrows classic horror tropes from other stories and movies, such as Poltergeist and the Amityville Horror.
2. Hungry are the Damned: In the second segment, we meet aliens Kang and Kodos for the first time when they abduct the Simpsons family. On the trip to the aliens' home planet, they constantly serve the family generous helpings of their favorite food, and checking their weight gain with delight. Again, we see James Earl Jones as the voice of the ship's cook, from who Lisa steals a very incriminating book. If you're a fan of the Twilight Zone, you can probably guess what the title of that book was!
3. The Raven: The last segment is a very spirited retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem, The Raven. Each member of the family is cleverly worked into the plot, and once again, James Earl Jones' deep, resonating voice gives a spooky ambiance to the narration. The poem narration and artwork are pretty spot on in regards to the original poem, so its spooky, funny, AND educational!
Overall, its a great start to a wonderful tradition. Beginning in September, we start binge watching Treehouse of Horror episodes in my family, eagerly awaiting the new year's addition. Sadly, in recent years, those additions haven't quite lived up to the original. For more info check out the Treehouse of Horror Wikipedia.