Puppet SpongeBob in flower costume

Some holidays can spread to the most surprising places … even the undersea depths of Bikini Bottom. Such is the case with Halloween, which has been celebrated on "SpongeBob SquarePants" many times. These Halloween specials inspire delight and fright alike in "SpongeBob" devotees. With curveballs like zombie burger people and fry cook specters, you never know what you’re going to get from a "SpongeBob" Halloween episode … though the chances of at least one ghost pirate showing up are pretty high.

If you’re a "SpongeBob" fan looking to enjoy the series’ Halloween specials, you might have to confront the fact that you aren’t familiar with them all. As such, you might be wondering which "SpongeBob" episodes are the best at providing nocturnal nautical nonsense. This is why we at Looper decided to watch every "SpongeBob" Halloween special and rank them from worst to best. Which ones are great, and which could use a little more time on the grill before being served up to audiences? Pull out that crystal ball, slap on that snail costume, and ring up your local Flying Dutchman crew deserters, because it’s time to find out.

12. Séance Shméance

SpongeBob SquarePants watching Rusty Rickets

Never underestimate the lengths to which SpongeBob SquarePants will go to satisfy a customer. When an elderly fish angrily leaves the Krusty Krab for not serving the mysterious "Rusty on Rye," SpongeBob conducts a séance to summon the spirit of the only person who knows the recipe: Rusty Rickets, owner of the Krusty Krab’s predecessor, Rusty’s Rib Eye. Despite mistaking a mustard bottle’s ingredients for the incantation, SpongeBob succeeds. But the scent of a freshly-made Rusty on Rye sandwich ends up attracting many of Rusty’s former customers … who happen to be a bunch of very unruly ghosts.

There are definitely things this episode gets right, especially the reveal of the Rusty on Rye’s ingredients (none of which are remotely edible for humans, most fish, or sponge people). For all the jokes that land, however, there are a number that don’t quite have that classic "SpongeBob" punch. Plus, the episode’s ending is a bit lackluster compared to other Halloween specials. No "SpongeBob SquarePants" fright fest is ever 100% bad, but "Séance Shméance" is weaker than the rest.

11. The Night Patty

Krusty Krab night shift workers

Patrick shocks SpongeBob by revealing the Krusty Krab has a night shift, where the patrons and even the food items seem just a bit more monstrous than usual. Things go majorly awry when SpongeBob accidentally injures Barry Blobfish, the night shift’s fry cook. Though he eagerly offers to substitute, the ever-optimistic living sponge runs into a dilemma when he finds out that none of his unusual clientele like Krabby Patties. After he resolves that problem, SpongeBob has to deal with a ghostly fisherman trying to rob the restaurant.

Many "SpongeBob SquarePants" Halloween specials present some sort of real threat SpongeBob has to deal with. In contrast, this episode relies entirely on misdirection, which it pulls off fairly well. It has some fun surprises, including a female counterpart to Squidward named Squidabeth, and the return of silent film vampire Nosferatu, who serves as the night shift manager. "The Night Patty" is not an episode with a lot of belly laughs, but it’s a fairly upbeat installment with a positive message about appreciating people who are different from you.

10. The Legend of Boo-Kini Bottom

SpongeBob, Sandy, Patrick puppets

Right off the bat, "The Legend of Boo-Kini Bottom" promises to be something special. This is an almost entirely stop-motion-animated installment of "SpongeBob SquarePants," including the intro, which fans of the episode "Truth or Square" will mostly recognize. The plot revolves around Patrick convincing SpongeBob to no longer be afraid of Halloween by interpreting anything scary as hilarious. Of course, SpongeBob takes it just a little too far. Eventually, the Flying Dutchman makes it his mission to scare the unflappable sponge by snatching his friends’ souls from their bodies.

The lush, detailed animation of this episode steals the show, creating a Bikini Bottom that feels rich and expansive. There are some truly incredible set-pieces on display, like the lair of Dr. Frankencheeks (aka Sandy) and the inside of the Flying Dutchman’s ship. The special’s a little light on laughs for something a lot of effort was clearly put into, although the two best jokes (involving a chalkboard and Plankton being mistaken for candy) are laugh-out-loud brilliant. Also deserving of accolades are the episode’s only 2-D animated segment, a trip through SpongeBob’s brain clearly inspired by "Yellow Submarine," and the Scare Song, a catchy but very fast-paced ditty by the Flying Dutchman’s evil ghost pirate friends.

9. Squidward in Clarinetland

Giant eagle wrapping Squidward tongue

Things start out innocently enough in this episode, with Squidward demanding Mr. Krabs give him a locker where he can store his clarinet. Of course, Squidward’s happiness quickly turns into irritation when he’s forced to share the locker with SpongeBob, who somehow manages to build a gigantic storage space inside it. This strange room leads to the mysterious "Horned Forest," aka "Clarinetland," which turns out to be filled with psychedelic terror.

Despite airing back-to-back with "The Curse of Bikini Bottom," this episode doesn’t quite feel like a Halloween special … that is, until Squidward actually enters Clarinetland and encounters the Keeper of the Horned Forest. A giant, talking eagle head (voiced to perfection by Mr. Krabs’ voice actor, Clancy Brown), the Keeper feels Squidward doesn’t give clarinets proper respect. Things get even creepier when Squidward ends up in the Keeper’s stomach, encountering a mind-bending landscape where he’s assailed by his own reflection and gets trapped in a giant SpongeBob pinball machine. As far as eeriness goes, "Squidward in Clarinetland" just about takes the cake. There are some pretty dark jokes in here, especially for a kids’ TV show — you should never, ever let yourself get pranked by Mr. Krabs. It’s not as funny as some other specials, but certain gags land really well, and the horror elements are impressively handled.

8. The Curse of Bikini Bottom

Ghost SpongeBob and Patrick glowing

Leave it to SpongeBob and Patrick to find a brand new way of making a lawnmower dangerous. When Squidward tricks the twosome into mowing his lawn, they accidentally shave off the Flying Dutchman’s beard. No affront to the Dutchman goes unpunished, of course (especially one that costs him a date), and Bikini Bottom’s most infamous ghoul exacts revenge against SpongeBob and Patrick by turning them into ghosts.

There are plenty of funny gags here, such as SpongeBob making a "ghost spatula" by splitting a physical one in half, as well as Squidward and Mr. Krabs’ nonplussed reactions to seeing him and Patrick as ghosts. Some pretty macabre jokes make it in, like the Flying Dutchman using Davy Jones’ coffin as a closet (with the skeleton still inside) and Squidward’s morbid fantasy of SpongeBob and Patrick getting chopped up by his lawnmower (eliciting the SpongeBob line, "Aaah! My patty-flipping hand!"). It’s not quite as high on the Laugh-o-Meter as some of the other Halloween specials, however, though the scene where SpongeBob and Patrick give the Flying Dutchman a makeover so he can go on his date and free the two from his spell is a delight. So is the reveal of his date’s identity: She’s a giant, "Creature from the Black Lagoon"-inspired monster. Plus, this episode answers at least one question most people probably never thought to ask about ghosts: Can they see through their own closed eyelids?

7. Don’t Look Now

Squidward dressed as the Fisherman

Horror movies aren’t always easy to sit through, as SpongeBob and Patrick learn the hard way when they watch "Fisherman 4: Attack of the Hook." Multiple failed attempts to finish the film make them too afraid to walk home alone at night, which ends up disturbing Squidward’s sleep. Looking for a little revenge, Squidward dresses up as the terrifying Fisherman and sets out to scare his loud-mouthed neighbors. This actually goes quite well for a Squidward scheme … until SpongeBob and Patrick mistakenly believe the Fisherman costume is eating Squidward and decide to "save" him in the most cartoonishly violent way possible.

"Don’t Look Now" has plenty of clever one-liners and visual humor, as well as a genuinely creepy scene where Patrick’s face gets temporarily ripped off by a fishing hook. The crowning joke, however, has to be when Patrick, wearing only his sleepwear — a pair of briefs — declares, "I don’t wanna die in my underwear!" His loyal friend SpongeBob "bravely" replies, "Here: Die in mine!" A G-rated swapping of briefs ensues.

6. Ghoul Fools

Lord Poltergeist staring at SpongeBob

The Flying Dutchman isn’t the only ghost pirate terrorizing the deep, as SpongeBob and Patrick learn the hard way in "Ghoul Fools," one of the few "SpongeBob" stories that lasts a full 22 minutes. Rather than run into the Flying Dutchman, their usual spectral enemy, the boys encounter the Dutchman’s old first mate, Lord Poltergeist. He’s stolen his ex-captain’s treasure chest, referred to, of course, as his "pirate booty." Poltergeist holds Patrick and SpongeBob’s souls hostage until the two buy a replacement gasket for Poltergeist’s ship. The two succeed, and return with a "ghost hunter" team made up of Mr. Krabs, Sandy, and Squidward. But things get messy when Krabs thinks he can snag Poltergeist’s stolen pirate booty for himself.

A number of things set this episode apart from other Halloween specials, including its length, the inclusion of Sandy, and the introduction of a new pirate nemesis. Furthermore, there are laughs galore, particularly thanks to the antics of Patrick, Mr. Krabs, and Squidward. But the proceedings are weighed down by the fact that Lord Poltergeist is a little too similar to the Dutchman, rather than a character who stands on his own. The length of the episode also results in moments of storytelling lag. Still, "Ghoul Fools" is a solid Halloween tale, with a literally explosive finale courtesy of the Flying Dutchman himself.

5. I Was a Teenage Gary

SpongeBob SquarePants as a snail

Despite clearly taking inspiration from the classic horror flick "I Was a Teenage Werewolf," this Halloween episode sneaks up on you. It accomplishes this by choosing to take its time in building to the quote-unquote horror. Things start off as they would in a typical "SpongeBob" episode: After Squidward forgets to take care of Gary while SpongeBob is away for the weekend, the poor pet needs an injection of snail plasma. Things take a turn for the horrifying (in the most parodic way possible) when Squidward accidentally injects SpongeBob with the plasma, causing the talking sponge to gradually become part-snail.

This episode feels a little short, as SpongeBob’s transformation takes quite a bit of setting up. However, the gags leading up to the incident are spot-on, especially the reveal that Gary’s haggard state has only been caused by mild dehydration … despite the fact that he’s always surrounded by water. Moreover, like many great Halloween episodes, things don’t go back to normal in the end, especially after Squidward gets his own accidental dose of snail plasma.

4. Scaredy Pants

Flying Dutchman and ghost SpongeBob

The first "SpongeBob SquarePants" Halloween episode remains an undeniable classic, both due to its hilarity and its introduction of the Flying Dutchman, who goes on to become a major recurring character. After a Dutchman-centric tale from Mr. Krabs and Squidward leaves SpongeBob on edge, the porous fry cook becomes obsessed with getting even by scaring others with a homemade Flying Dutchman costume. It’s a disguise so lackluster, it draws the attention — not to mention the ire — of the real Flying Dutchman.

The humor fires on all cylinders in this episode, whether it’s SpongeBob freaking out over relatively non-scary things (as well as scary things he made himself, like his jack o’lantern) or a memorable moment in which Patrick, ever the dopey starfish, can’t tell a tiny paper ghost cutout and SpongeBob in costume apart. The best part, however, is the twist at the end, which reveals that the "haircut" Patrick gave SpongeBob to improve his ghost costume is so stomach-turning, it even makes the Flying Dutchman flee in terror.

3. The Ghost of Plankton

Plankton and the Flying Dutchman smirk

This Halloween special gives fans something they’ve wanted for years: A proper team-up between Plankton and the Flying Dutchman. Though they briefly work together when the Dutchman turns Plankton into his brainwashed servant in "The Legend of Boo-Kini Bottom," this episode makes them peers. Plankton, who turns himself into a ghost so he can walk through the Krusty Krabs’ walls and steal the Krabby Patty secret formula, takes lessons on ghost abilities from the ghoulish pirate. Naturally, the Dutchman later betrays Plankton by taking over his vacant body … but finds he may have lapsed in judgment when Plankton’s shocking "return" angers those at his funeral. They consequently believe Plankton faked his death as part of another evil scheme.

"The Ghost of Plankton" is exactly what you want from a "SpongeBob" episode: The jokes start early, and keep getting better. Many scenes, such as Plankton learning how to use his ghost shapeshifting powers, are beautifully animated. The funeral service Karen holds for Plankton when she thinks he’s dead is a particular highlight, filled with crisp quips and sight gags that’ll leave you howling … maybe even literally. While the Flying Ductchman and Plankton’s past "alliance" in "The Legend of Boo-Kini Bottom" is never mentioned (not unusual for the show, which takes a loose approach to continuity), "The Ghost of Plankton" will make you wish they teamed up more often.

2. Krabby Patty Creature Feature

Bubble Bass taunts monster Krabs

Longtime "SpongeBob" viewers have often commented on the impressive quality of the show’s early seasons. This makes it all the more pleasant when an episode as late in the game as Season 11’s "Krabby Patty Creature Feature" feels like the "SpongeBob" episodes of old. A pair of hipsters’ complaints about the Krusty Krab’s unchanging menu convinces Mr. Krabs to roll out a new Krabby Patty created by Sandy. But things take a frightening turn when these new, glowing hamburgers turn everyone who eats them into Krabby Patty zombie monsters. Luckily, there’s one thing in Bikini Bottom that can turn everyone back to normal, but there’s a problem: It’s at the Chum Bucket, the restaurant owned by the Krusty Krab’s arch-nemesis, Plankton.

There are plenty of things to love about this Halloween special, including its unique premise (which is equal amounts goofy and unsettling) and the welcome return of Bubble Bass, the obnoxious and dishonest food critic who once hid pickles under his tongue. With swift pacing and plenty of great laughs, "Krabby Patty Creature Feature" is a welcome return to form as far as "SpongeBob" Halloween specials go. It also serves as a great reminder to people everywhere that if something like a Krabby Patty ain’t broke, there’s no need to fix it.

1. A Cabin in the Kelp

SpongeBob gal pals screaming

The main female characters of "SpongeBob SquarePants" get a Halloween special of their own in "A Cabin in the Kelp," whose title is an obvious tongue-in-cheek allusion to "The Cabin in the Woods." When the "Gal Pals" — a group made up of Sandy, Mrs. Puff, Pearl, and, surprisingly, Karen — head out for a weekend getaway in a remote cabin, the newest member, Pearl, decides to play a prank by secretly bringing SpongeBob along to scare them. But things get messy when an accident separates SpongeBob from the group and the Gal Pals seemingly run into Flibberty Gibbet, an ex-member who fled the Pals after an argument years ago. Now, it seems, she’s returned to exact her revenge.

Don’t let that last line fool you, though. "A Cabin in the Kelp" is high on the funny-meter, with the scares just adding to the humor. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments here, like Karen overloading from jellyfish electricity (leading to the classic Sandy line, "Nature always provides!"). "A Cabin in the Kelp" is a keeper, and even makes room for a strong message about female empowerment in the form of the Gal Pals’ theme song.