By Chris Parris
Photo Credit: Lost Media Archive
Sesame Street turned 50 years old on November 10th. The show that has impressively managed to stay relevant for half a century has a diverse history of shorts, skits, and segments. With so much having been made for the show, some of its content has slipped through the cracks of time and have not been seen for decades. One episode of Sesame Street, Episode 0847, has remained unseen because it is banned.
On February 10, 1976, Sesame Street aired Episode 0847 for its first and only time. The episode features Margaret Hamilton reprising her role as the Wicked Witch of the West. The plot has the Wicked Witch losing her broomstick while flying over Sesame Street and having to interact with the residents in order to get it back. The residents are concerned about the Wicked Witch’s intentions and are hesitant to give the broomstick back to her. This results in the Wicked Witch causing trouble, such as making it rain inside Mr. Hooper’s store and threatening to turn Big Bird into a feather duster. Eventually, she uses a disguise as a trick to get her broomstick back and then leaves Sesame Street.
On paper, the plot seems okay. However, that was not the case. Apparently, the episode traumatized children to the point where some of them did not want to watch Sesame Street ever again. Archives from the Sesame Workshop (formerly the Children’s Television Workshop) holds multiple letters that angry parents mailed them regarding the episode. Phrases such as “screams and tears” and “the threat of the witch’s power remains in the children’s eyes” were used.
Shortly after Episode 0847’s initial airing, test screenings were held. The tests showed that children were intrigued by the Wicked Witch and were fascinated by her green face. The issue of fear was difficult to judge, however, due to the fact that the children had their parents or guardians present when viewing the episode. But based off the initial backlash, Episode 0847 was declared unsuitable and has not been aired since.
For years it was unknown if any copies of Episode 0847 existed. Some thought it got destroyed while others thought it was lost. In 2017, Craig Shemin, president of the Jim Henson Legacy, confirmed that the Sesame Workshop has a copy of Episode 0847 in their archives. And in 2019, a screenshot from the episode that featured Oscar and the Wicked Witch was posted on the Muppet Wiki.