Watch: When the Wicked Witch of the West Terrorized Big Bird

Tuesday June 21, 2022

Margaret Hamilton on "Sesame Street"
Margaret Hamilton on "Sesame Street"  (Source:YouTube)

The book and musical "Wicked" opens up "The Wizard of Oz" with an alternate take on the story, humanizing the Wicked Witch of the West and giving her a name — Elphaba. But back when she was known only as The Wicked Witch of the West, she appeared on an episode of "Sesame Street."

The episode only aired once on February 10, 1976, The Daily Mail said, and it starred actress Margaret Hamilton, who reprised her role as the Wicked Witch of the West from the classic 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz."

The episode was deemed too scary for children and has only recently reappeared on the internet. "The footage has been leaked on Reddit and YouTube, allowing the public to relive the 'scary' episode," the Mail said.

In the episode, the Wicked Witch loses her broomstick when it blows out of her hands and ends up in Sesame Street where David (Northern Calloway) finds it outside of Hooper's Store. Furious, she demands it back. He refuses. She then realizes that she can't touch the broom if someone else is holding it. She vows to get it, but David tells the audience he won't give it to her until she shows him some respect.

Margaret Hamilton and Big Bird on the banned "Sesame Street" episode from 1976.
Margaret Hamilton and Big Bird on the banned "Sesame Street" episode from 1976.  

The Wicked Witch terrorizes the inhabitants of Sesame Street, cursing a rainstorm to happen inside of Hooper's Store and threatening to turn Big Bird into a feather duster.

"After some scheming, the witch returned to the store posed as an old woman and fooled Big Bird, who was standing guard with a hockey stick and a baseball bat," the Mail added.

"David wasn't as easily convinced, but he figured out a way to get the witch to treat him like a person and get her broom back. All she had to do was stammer 'please,' and he handed it over."

But when flying away, the Wicked Witch attempts to show how she can fly "no hands," and drops the broom again.

"The goal of the controversial episode was to 'demonstrate fear' and 'the value of planning by creating and implementing methods of retrieving the broom,' according to the Muppet fan archive Muppet Wiki," the Mail said.

"However, the Wicked Witch of the West may have been too frightening for young kids to handle as Sesame Workshop was allegedly inundated with complaints that led to it being yanked from the air."

The episode is archived in the Library of Congress for public viewing and, according to the AV Club, the bootleg versions that were online were mostly low quality. But, AV Club said, some "intrepid Muppet archivist has posted a much clearer version of the episode—in which The Witch continually menaces David to give her back her lost broom—online. The upload appears to have gone on Reddit first, but is already being disseminated further on the internet as a precaution against being 'lost' again."

Hamilton, AV Club added, was a former teacher, who "was always game to reprise the role of the Witch on behalf of educational programming; she also appeared, around that same period, on several episodes of 'Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.' Watching the 'Sesame Street' clip, it's clear the intent of her appearance was to help teach kids about overcoming their fears; nevertheless, the show was hit with a number of complaints after it aired, and so it was eventually decided that it'd be permanently pulled from its rotation."