How ‘Nosferatu’ turned up in SpongeBob SquarePants (2023)

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A century ago, Nosferatu’s vile villain Count Orlok became an icon when he walked through a doorway, eyes frenzied and claws menacing, to drain his victim’s blood. But just 20 years ago, the same character was revealed as the little scamp scaring SpongeBob SquarePants and Squidward by flicking the lights of the Krusty Krab on and off.

It’s a great SpongeBob joke, but the non sequitur, which removes the vampire from his original movie and any semblance of context, also illustrates Nosferatu’s role as a pop-culture reference. SpongeBob helped keep the 1922 film alive (or undead) in the public eye. As SpongeBob writer and storyboard director Jay Lender tells Polygon, that random visual gag in the season 2 episode “Graveyard Shift” was probably the first encounter most of its viewers had with the silent classic.

“Graveyard Shift,” which regularly places in the top 5 in ranked lists of SpongeBob’s best episodes, first aired on Sept. 6, 2002. The 11-minute installment sees SpongeBob and Squidward working the night shift at the Krusty Krab, to the former’s delight and the latter’s dismay. Squidward entertains himself by frightening SpongeBob with a scary story about a “hash-slinging slasher,” but then the mysterious omens he made up about the killer start actually happening, terrifying them both. Fortunately, it turns out that all the signs of his impending arrival have a mundane explanation ... except for the flickering lights. In the episode’s final seconds, it’s revealed that the titular vampire from Nosferatu — depicted using a slightly altered and crudely animated still from F.W. Murnau’s 1922 live-action horror classic film — has been turning off the lights as a joke. “Nos-fer-a-tu!” SpongeBob and Squidward say, affectionately, as if they hang out with him all the time. “Nosferatu” smiles. The episode ends. No further explanation.

(Video) Spongebob Squarepants - Nosferatu

Count Orlok wasn’t originally supposed to be the culprit. Lender says that in an earlier draft of the episode, after SpongeBob excitedly lists work tasks he can now do at night (flipping patties, swabbing the bathroom, and burning his hand), there was going to be a fourth joke, where he delivered the mail to Floorboard Harry — a previously unseen, unmentioned creature that apparently just lives underneath the Krusty Krab. Then at the end of the episode, it was going to be Floorboard Harry flipping the light switch. (Lender shared a few Post-It Note sketches of Floorboard Harry with Polygon.) But the “at night” joke already fulfilled the comedy rule of threes, so the fourth bit with Floorboard Harry got cut. This meant his appearance at the end wouldn’t be a callback, just a totally random image. It wasn’t quite good enough. Luckily, another, better idea popped into Lender’s head.

How ‘Nosferatu’ turned up in SpongeBob SquarePants (1) Images: Courtesy of Jay Lender

Lender says that when he was a kid, he was a big fan of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. This was before there were hundreds of TV channels, before the internet, and well before there were vast libraries of streamable horror movies. Kids like Lender didn’t really have much opportunity to see old horror movies, but the magazine, which had a fun, tongue-in-cheek tone, could expose them to these films with articles and pictures.

“Stuff would appear in this magazine that I couldn’t track down, but I could be aware of it,” Lender says. “So I could see that [old genre films like] This Island Earth existed, but I couldn’t actually see them unless it showed up on TV.

(Video) The Return of Nosferatu

“They would show a still from Nosferatu. And it was always that still of him standing in the doorway,” Lender recalls. “So my first experience with Orlok and with that image is as this disjointed non sequitur. When the moment came that I needed to come up with a replacement horror non sequitur, that image was already in that slot in my brain. What’s interesting is that because of SpongeBob, for 20 years, everyone else’s first experience with Orlok came as a weird disjointed non sequitur horror image too.”

That’s the thing about Nosferatu. It’s an innovative, powerful film, but over the past century, it’s become as much a pop-culture artifact as a work of art itself. People who haven’t seen Nosferatu might still know of its existence, or at the very least, be vaguely aware of the gross, rat-looking vampire from that silent film that isn’t Dracula. The 1979 Salem’s Lot miniseries looked to Nosferatu for its vampire design. Blue Öyster Cult wrote a song about him. Queen and David Bowie used footage from the film in the video for “Under Pressure.” Dungeons & Dragons has a whole type of vampire called a “Nosferatu” in the Monster Manual. And Shadow of the Vampire fictionalized the making of the movie. Nosferatu is a reference as much as it’s a movie itself.

But even though the movie has an 80-year advantage on SpongeBob, it’s entirely possible that more people have seen Count Orlok in that episode of SpongeBob than have seen Nosferatu. That’s how these things go. Nosferatu is a landmark film full of striking images, but the power of those images (and the decades where it was difficult or even impossible to watch the movie) has ensured that the basic visual idea of “Nosferatu” has become more culturally dominant than the film’s full context is today.

“If it weren’t for the unbelievable reach of SpongeBob as a platform, no one under the age of 30 would ever wanna watch this movie,” Lender says. He explains that it wasn’t until recently that he felt comfortable admitting just how much of an impact his Nosferatu gag had. But 20 years later, discussing the joke’s cultural reach no longer feels like hubris. The legacy is there.

(Video) spongebob nosferatu but its the original scene

“I know that this show has a bigger reach than any silent film,” Lender says. In case that sounds arrogant, he emphasizes what a sensation SpongeBob SquarePants was when it premiered. Some 15 million viewers were watching weekly, a number that’s hard to fathom in today’s media landscape, with its splintered audience taking in an overabundance of niche options. “Nothing [today] can have the cultural impact that SpongeBob had when it first came out,” Lender says.

He also feels that the size of that audience means he probably peaked with this one brief reference. “I have to accept that this is it, this is my legacy. It’s almost impossible to imagine anything I could do that would be more noteworthy later on,” Lender says. “I could go out and kill the president right now, and the headline would say, ‘Nosferatu Gag Man and Presidential Assassin Jay Lender Died.’”

Now that streaming and YouTube have made it easy to watch so many movies — especially ones in the public domain, like Nosferatu — it’s not a surprise that it’s more seen and appreciated as a film. On its 100-year anniversary, Nosferatu is arguably more widely appreciated in its original context than ever before. Technology and a renewed interest in old movies, perhaps partially inspired by people who want to track down the references they grew up with, have made Count Orlok more than just a memorable, memeable image.

Amusingly, though, Orlok is no longer a non sequitur in SpongeBob SquarePants. The vampire made a couple of additional appearances in later episodes, and in the prequel series Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years, Kidferatu is a camp counselor. “Graveyard Shift’s” random ending is retroactively a continuity joke, which Lender thinks is neat, though he does feel the later returns to the gag “cut the legs out” from the original just a little.

(Video) The Scariest Scene Ever - Nosferatu (1922) - Horror movie (HD)

And for those wondering: SpongeBob’s switch-flicking vampire is called “Nosferatu” and not Count Orlok because Lender thought the film title was more recognizable, and more importantly, that it sounded better in the sing-songy tone we hear it in at the episode’s end. Probably the correct call for the joke, and for Nosferatu’s ongoing PR, but it has its downsides.

(Video) How Spongebob Explored Existential Nihilism

“I have to deal with the trolls who come to me and say, ‘Actually, the name is Orlok.’” Lender says, laughing. “Like, OK. I know. I knew that 20 years before you were born. But thank you for the thought.”

“Graveyard Shift” and much of the SpongeBob SquarePants library is streaming on Peacock and Amazon Prime Video. Nosferatu is streaming free (with ads) on Tubi, and for subscribers on Shudder, Hoopla, and Kanopy. It’s widely available for rental on digital platforms like Amazon and Vudu.


Why does Nosferatu appear in SpongeBob? ›

It's a great SpongeBob joke, but the non sequitur, which removes the vampire from his original movie and any semblance of context, also illustrates Nosferatu's role as a pop-culture reference. SpongeBob helped keep the 1922 film alive (or undead) in the public eye.

What does Nosferatu have to do with SpongeBob? ›

Nosferatu is a recurring antagonist in the show SpongeBob SquarePants. He is basically Count Orlok in SpongeBob, just a more, comedic version of the character.

What is the SpongeBob episode with Nosferatu? ›

SpongeBob SquarePants - Season 13, Ep. 11 - Squidferatu/Slappy Daze - Full Episode | Nick. Squidferatu/Slappy Daze: Squidward ventures to Nosferatu's castle after accidentally receiving his mail. Nosferatu's minion Slappy kills some time around Bikini Bottom.

What is the plot of Nosferatu? ›

What is the 666th episode of SpongeBob? ›

Graveyard Shift (SpongeBob SquarePants) - Wikipedia.

Did Nosferatu turn into a bat? ›

He does not turn into a bat, nor does he run screaming from garlic cloves. He is a pre-cliche vampire, a monster afflicted with a curse or a disease. He stalks, and he feeds.

What kind of creature is Nosferatu? ›

The name "Nosferatu" has been presented as an archaic Romanian word, synonymous with "vampire". However, it was largely popularized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Western fiction such as Dracula (1897), and the film Nosferatu (1922).

Who is the most powerful in SpongeBob? ›

The strongest character COULD be Mr. Krabs. He can take limbs off (but cannot grow them back), he can easily go on the surface (as he is a crab), and he is a very intelligent businessman. He is also INCREDIBLY strong, and was known as "Iron-Abs Krabs" in the Navy.

Why is Nosferatu important? ›

The film is now considered one of the key films of German expressionism, a film movement from the 1920s that rejected realism in favour of creating imaginary worlds where stylised and distorted set design expressed psychological states of fear and despair.

What is the darkest episode of SpongeBob? ›

1 Nasty Patty

This Season 3, pre-movie episode, "Nasty Patty", gets the number one spot on TCC's list of all-time darkest episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants.

Why is Nosferatu called Nosferatu? ›

One of the most famous, creepy names over the centuries is Nosferatu. It is synonymous with the word "vampire," but it actually predates that word. Nosferatu was an archaic Roman word but it eventually was popularized in fiction with Bram Stoker's Dracula and the titular film.

How was Nosferatu killed? ›

One of the biggest changes from the novel to the film was the way sunlight affected vampires. At the end of the film Nosferatu, Count Orlok is burned up by the sunlight after spending the entire evening with Ellen. In Stoker's Dracula, The sunlight was pretty much harmless to vampires.

Is Nosferatu good or bad? ›

Nosferatu is a great horror movie (possibly the first ever according to some accounts), and one of the pinnacles of the German silent era of film-making.

Who is the monster in Nosferatu? ›

Count Orlok (German: Graf Orlok), commonly but erroneously known as Nosferatu, is the main antagonist and title character portrayed by German actor Max Schreck (1879–1936) in the silent film Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922). He was based on Bram Stoker's character Count Dracula.

Who is the killer in SpongeBob? ›

The Tattletale Strangler is the titular main antagonist of the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "SpongeBob Meets the Strangler". He is a desperate serial killer who strangles his victims after they rat him out. He later makes minor appearances in "The Krusty Slammer" and "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout".

Is SpongeBob a 13? ›

For starters, people within the series are regularly shown to call Spongebob a kid, some appearing as young as their 20s. In the season one episode "Sleepy Time", aired in January 2000, SpongeBob has a dream in which he receives his driver's license. This shows a birth date of July 14, 1986, which would make him 13.

Why was Nosferatu almost lost? ›

But the original Nosferatu almost vanished into celluloid history, because its screenplay was an unauthorized blatant rip of Bram Stoker's Dracula. That author's estate successfully sued for copyright infringement, with the result that the producers declared bankruptcy.

Why is Nosferatu killed by sunlight? ›

In Stoker's novel, sunlight weakens vampires, but that doesn't stop the title villain from walking around during the day. Nosferatu's fiery demise was added by the filmmakers to make the climax more visually interesting. 2.

Did Nosferatu have powers? ›

Powers and Abilities

Nosferatu possess incredible strength, speed, and destructive capacity, as well as an identifiable crimson aura. Two Nosferatu shown thus far have been able to manipulate their blood into objects to attack and turn living beings into obedient ghouls.

Why is SpongeBob yellow? ›

A television uses the red-green-blue color wheel rather than the standard red-yellow-blue model. With the RGB scale, yellow and blue are complementary colors. That's why characters like Spongebob stand out so well against a blue background.

What is the secret Krabby? ›

We do know that the hamburger consists of lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, tartar sauce, mayo, flour, tumeric, sea salt, land salt, barnacle shavings, the patty, mustard, ketchup, the secret formula, two buns and onions. If you Google the secret formula then you will come up with, “a pinch of King Neptune's Poseidon Powder”.

Is Mr Krabs more evil than Plankton? ›

As stated above, Mr. Krabs is extremely greedy, cheap, avaricious, callous, arrogant, and sometimes he is even a hypocrite and quite cruel, often being portrayed as bad if not even worse than Plankton.

Who created Nosferatu? ›

"Nosferatu's script was written by a Jew, Henrik Galeen," he wrote. "The cast included several Jewish actors... [and] there is no suggestion that Murnau or Grau, who weren't Jewish, were anti-Semitic.

What is the fear in Nosferatu? ›

Nosferatu works as an allegory for victims of war and epidemics, which was influenced by the recent chaotic events in Germany, occultist beliefs and vampire folklore. In this sense, Nosferatu is indeed closely related to death, and especially the fear of death.

Is Nosferatu a curse? ›

When Caine returned in judgment, he cursed Nosferatu with hideousness, a curse passed to all his descendants, including the hidden maid. Since that time, Absimiliard's eldest descendants, the Nictuku, have chased her.

Who wins SpongeBob or Goku? ›

Goku has much greater stats, power, forms, and combat experience/skills, but SpongeBob has much better abilities, arsenal, and hax's that he can win in many scenarios himself.

Who is the #1 guy from SpongeBob? ›

Role in episode

Mr. Krabs, using a fake ghost, tells SpongeBob that a man named "Smitty Werbenjägermanjensen" was #1. He also said that SpongeBob's soda-drinking hat is his and that he has to return it to him immediately, so SpongeBob buries it with this fish.

Is SpongeBob a villain or a hero? ›

SpongeBob SquarePants is the main protagonist and titular character in the show of the same name.

How tall is Nosferatu? ›

Nosferatu Zodd
Nosferatu Zodd
Character Information
Allegiance(s):Neo Band of the Hawk
Height:220 cm (7'3") Apostle: 350 cm (11'6")
Weight:165 kg (364 lbs) Apostle: 1001 kg (2207 lbs)
7 more rows

Why is Nosferatu different colors? ›

Patalas made the assumption that the colour for night-time, varying from blue to an almost blue-green, was supposed to be two different colours; blue for night exteriors and green for unlit night interiors.

What disease is in Nosferatu? ›

The Black Death coming to Europe. In Nosferatu, the corrupting power of the vampire is linked to that most symbolically potent infectious disease, bubonic plague, with its centuries of history and the power to generate fear.

Is SpongeBob 36 years old? ›

SpongeBob SquarePants Is Celebrating His 36th Birthday and We're Totally Nostalgic - IMDb.

Is SpongeBob 21 years old? ›

SpongeBob's Age Is Likely Between 18 and Mid-20s

He also appears older than Pearl, who -- as mentioned earlier -- turned 16 in the show. Plus, he owns his own home, pays bills and works a full-time job. In combination, these factors put SpongeBob's age anywhere from 18 to 20s.

What is the sad SpongeBob called? ›

SadBob is a incarnation of SpongeBob and a species of emotions and sponges from SpongeBob SquarePants (The Roblox Series) first appearing in Emotion Commotion.

What does Nosferatu mean in Japanese? ›

The word nosferatu is used as a synonym for vampire, but it can also mean "undead." Nevertheless, its origin is somehow shrouded in mystery.

Is it Dracula or Nosferatu? ›

Nosferatu was produced by Prana Film and is an unauthorized and unofficial adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula. Various names and other details were changed from the novel, including Count Dracula being renamed Count Orlok.

Is Nosferatu just Dracula? ›

Nosferatu is not technically an adaptation of Dracula, in the sense that it was produced without the permission of Stoker's estate and changed the names of all major characters, as well as the setting and some of the story.

What is the most controversial SpongeBob episode? ›

For this list, we're looking at instances where “SpongeBob SquarePants” ignited controversy amongst fans, staff members, or other organizations.
  • #5: SpongeBob Got Back. ...
  • #4: Negative Portrayal of Unemployment. ...
  • #3: Left-Wing SpongeBob. ...
  • #2: SpongeBob & Short Attention Spans. ...
  • #1: SpongeBob's “Gay Agenda”

Why was Johnny Depp in SpongeBob? ›

According to Sarah Noonan, vice president of talent and casting for Nickelodeon, Depp accepted the role because he and his kids are fans of the show.

Why do the Guardians play SpongeBob SquarePants? ›

“We figured it had to have some significance to it.” The pair says the Huntington Park crowd was just starting to catch on to the unique song when the Guardians called up Gonzalez. There, he eventually revealed the motivation for the song: He wanted to remind himself that he's playing a kid's game.

What is the 11th bad word in SpongeBob? ›

Krabs: Yes sirree, that's bad word number 11. In fact, there are 13 bad words you should never use.

Why was SpongeBob season 2 episode 13 banned? ›

In the episode, characters including Mr Krabs break into a woman's house and search through her underwear draw in a “panty raid”. It was removed, the Nickelodeon representative told IGN, for being “not kid-appropriate”.

Does SpongeBob have cussing in it? ›

It does have some name-calling and taunting that parents with young kids must be aware of, but there is no strong profanity in the series. Other than that, characters like SpongeBob and Patrick do not use their common sense as much as they should, but they are never mean to those around them.

Why didn't SpongeBob end after the movie? ›

When the film was completed, Hillenburg wanted to end the series "so it wouldn't jump the shark". However, Nickelodeon desired more episodes; Hillenburg stated: "Well, there was concern when we did the movie [in 2004] that the show had peaked.

Who is the ghost guy in SpongeBob? ›

The Flying Dutchman is a ghost with a chartreuse green glow around him, yellow eyes with black irises, a scraggly beard, a pirate hat with a chunk taken out, a droopy nose, a coat, little pigtails, and a ghostly tail.

Why won't parents let kids watch SpongeBob? ›

They argued that Spongebob decreased the intelligence of its audience. Some swore that it increased impulsivity and was a bad influence. Many commenters laughed it off and poked fun at those whose parents were simply “lame”. After all, could there have been something bad about such an iconic cartoon?

Why was SpongeBob's name changed? ›

; SpongeBob SquarePants was supposed to be named SpongeBoy and the show would be called "SpongeBoy Ahoy!" But it turned out a mop company already owned a trademark on a character called SpongeBoy, so it changed to SpongeBob.


1. The hash-slinging-slasher scene
(Foxy Krueger)
2. Nosferatu is BACK in Spongebob's "The Night Patty" Episode
3. Legend of the Hash-Slinging Slasher! 👻 Full Scene "Graveyard Shift" | SpongeBob
(SpongeBob SquarePants Official)
4. SpongeBob SquarePants - Gorilla Scene
5. If SpongeBob was an Anime | "Graveyard Shift" | SpongeBob: Reimagined
(SpongeBob SquarePants Official)
6. The Darkest Spongebob Squarepants Moments That Were Really Messed Up


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