American Horror Story Coven hero

The 9 scariest, cult-infested, hell-adjacent schools in television and film

Contributed by
Aug 30, 2018

Going back to school is tough for any kid. It means giving up the freedom of sleeping in, staying up late, and watching tons of TV. Instead, you have to wake up early, adjust to new teachers, and get through stacks of homework before doing it all over again tomorrow.

But it could be worse. You could go to a school run by witches, Satanists, aliens, or cannibals. Your school could serve diseased food or be located atop a portal to an evil dimension. When faced with the kind of terrifying schools we've seen in movies and television, maybe your boring school doesn't seem so bad.

In honor of this back-to-school time of year, we've created a list of the absolute scariest schools in film and television. If you ever find yourself at one of these schools, please drop out and try homeschool instead.

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Tanz Dance Academy, Suspiria (1977)

American Suzy Bannion is greeted by a panicked student fleeing this prestigious dance academy located in the German countryside. Things just get weirder from there, as people at the academy go missing, die, suffer strange illnesses, and are besieged by maggots.

It turns out that the school was founded by a Greek woman, Helena Markos, who was widely believed to be a witch. She now uses the academy as a cover for her witchcraft and sorcery, with the instructors doing her bidding.

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Sunnydale High School, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

It might seem impossible or, perhaps, a little dumb to build a high school over the Hellmouth, the portal between hell and earth, but that is exactly what happened in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Hellmouth is the reason why evil is drawn to Sunnydale. A lot of that evil is centered around the school, including the mayor's plan to become a demon on Buffy's graduation day. The Scooby Gang stop him by blowing up the entire school. No high schooler in the country could watch that scene without cheering. (Though, the school was eventually rebuilt in the final season.)

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Bates High School, Carrie (1976)

The high school in Carrie wasn't really haunted or evil, it just played host to a bunch of particularly brutal bullies. But the climactic sequence in the film, where Carrie is drenched with pig blood and she sets the gym on fire with her mind, is so iconic that I think it counts. The scene surely wouldn't be as meaningful if it weren't the site of Carrie's torture.

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Herrington High School, The Faculty (1998)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets The Thing meets The Breakfast Club.

When the teachers at Herrington High start acting weird, a group of students suspects they are aliens set on infecting the entire school — and then the world. Of course, they are right and must kill the alien queen in order to transform the infected back to human.

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Springfield Elementary School, The Simpsons (Episode "Treehouse of Horror V: Nightmare Cafeteria")

For once, the shenanigans at Springfield Elementary can't be blamed on Bart. In this segment of the popular "Treehouse of Horror" episode, detention at the school is becoming alarmingly crowded, just as the school's lunchroom budget is cut to nothing. What is a principal to do?

Have Lunch Lady Doris turn the detention-bound kids into lunch. Unfortunately, after the deed is done, Principal Skinner and the teachers have developed a taste for children, which is bad news for the "good" kids.

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Crowley High School, The X-Files (Episode "Die Hand Die Verletzt")

Naming a school after noted occultist Aleister Crowley should have been a clue that no good can come of this place.

The PTA at Crowley High is made up of lapsed Satanists, who become concerned when some of their children start dabbling in black magic — then turn up dead. They fear their lapsed religious beliefs have offended the Devil, but it turns out that the new substitute teacher, Mrs. Paddock, is a witch herself, and she has been the one killing off the children.

Using her powers, Mrs. Paddock kills the PTA and leaves town, suggesting she was sent to teach them all a lesson about the dangers of losing faith.

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Miss Robichaux's Academy, American Horror Story: Coven (2013-2014)

Violence, betrayal, and chaos are the norm in American Horror Story, but it seems to be extraordinarily normal in this elite boarding school for witches. The academy has seen countless murders and has multiple ghosts haunting its halls. There was even a zombie attack in the front yard. You don't get that stuff at just any school.

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The Salem Academy for Women, Satan's School for Girls (1973)

An exclusive boarding school. A spate of suspicious "suicides." A staff that is feared and hated (except for one suspiciously nice professor). Secret dungeons on campus.

It all adds up to Satan's School for Girls, one of the most infamous TV movies ever made. The title gives it away: a boarding school is run by a Satanist, who inducts students and staff into his cult. Those who don't submit, die.

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Fort Chicken Elementary School, Cooties (2014)

You thought your cafeteria food was bad. In Cooties, the school cafeteria serves up chicken nuggets tainted by a mutant virus. While harmless to anyone who has hit puberty, it turns prepubescent children into violent, feral monsters with oozing blisters. Basically, zombies.

Unlike most school-based horror in which the teachers end up being even more evil than you think, the only evil here is the sticky, slobbery children.

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