The S of Doom and other "scary logos"

As children we are hyper-sensitive to media. Children have difficulty determining what is real and not real in TV shows. They don't discern the difference between the content of a show and the commercials in between. And sometimes they can also be scared by things that adults find completely frivolous, like logos.

Back in the late 60s Screen Gems ended their shows with an animated logo. A rather abstract red "S" coalesces on screen around a  red dot. The music that accompanies it is a simple melody on a synthesizer. Seems plain enough.

But for many, it became known as the "S from Hell"

This logo is notorious for unsettling young viewers. 

It is so famous that there was a short documentary made about it: 

While the production heightens the drama of the impact this logo had on many young viewers, it is interesting that something so incidental could effect people viewing it and instill this fear. Fear so strong that people talk about having nightmares that prominently feature the "S from Hell".

The Screen Gems logo, while perhaps the most famous is not the only one. A collection of various famous "scary logos" can be seen here:

Besides the ones that are intentionally meant to unsettle (horror labels like Ghost House, Dark Sky) it is interesting to note the similarities in what constitutes a "scary logo":

  • Loud sounds
  • "unnatural sounds" (lots of whooshing/'laser sounds'/synthesizers)
  • Whooshing graphics, particularly zooming into frame
  • abstract figures
  • The night sky or outer space

What people find so disturbing is that they are unfamiliar and are unpredictable. The less that is discernible the scarier it is, especially to younger viewers who, upon being told they are going to watch a fun cartoon are presented with a bizarre figure swooping towards their face accompanied by strange sounds.

Here is another short  amateur documentary discussing "Logophobia" in general. The people interviewed point out the elements mentioned above that they found unsettling.