Kids’ television is usually packed with positive messages and insights into understanding the people around them. The shows often aim to teach universal lessons that help kids build a solid foundation for morality.

Typically, the 1984 television show Thomas & Friends was no exception to that rule. Using brightly colored trains on the fictional island of Sodor, the show educated children with the help of stories told through voice-over narration. However, after closer examination of the show, some of the lessons might be a little bit darker than most remember…

Here’s one example of a lesson the show offered that, in hindsight, is actually pretty sinister…

If you have kids—or have ever been one, for that matter—chances are, you know Thomas the Tank Engine. He’s a bright blue train with a happy-go-lucky attitude from the fictional island of Sodor.

Alongside Thomas is a collection of friends, one of which, Henry, found himself in a rather odd predicament on Thomas & Friends’ third episode. Appropriately titled “The Sad Story of Henry,” the episode’s central conflict is that Henry doesn’t feel like working.

Thomas & Friends


See, Henry had just received a brand new coat of green and red paint, and it was raining hard that day. Not wanting to spoil his fresh paint job, Henry refused to leave a tunnel, opting instead to stay dry, much to the chagrin of Sodor’s many travelers. That’s when things got dark…

Thomas & Friends

Apparently, this red-cheeked mob boss of a man known (seriously) as the Fat Controller didn’t like anyone who slowed down his high-speed operation. The best evidence of this was what he did to poor Henry after the train refused to leave his tunnel.

Thomas & Friends


At first, it seemed that Henry wasn’t phased by his boss’ anger. If he only knew how serious the Fat Controller’s plan for him had been, though, he would have been out of his tunnel faster than he could have burned his coals…

Thomas & Friends

The Fat Controller declared that if Henry wanted to stay in the tunnel, he was welcome to do so. In fact, he was going to help the ill-behaved locomotive get what he wanted by taking away his tracks and sealing him inside the tunnel “for always and always and always!” Still, that was not even the most frightening aspect of this scene…

Thomas & Friends

Perhaps most terrifying about the ensuing wall-construction scene was the cheerful tune playing over the montage of builders entombing Henry alive. It sounded something like a tone-deaf whistler banging a chicken bone on an empty soup can (hang around for the video at the end to hear what that sounds like).

Thomas & Friends


Then, the narrator—who was none other than The Beatles’ Ringo Starr—made sure to gleefully point out that all Henry could do was watch as other trains went zipping through the tunnel next to him. “He was very sad,” Ringo then said, “because he thought no one would ever see his lovely green paint and red stripes again.” Not for nothing, but perhaps being locked for all eternity in a dark tunnel might’ve also contributed to that sadness, Ringo. Geez.

Thomas & Friends

 As if Henry’s buried-alive punishment wasn’t dark enough, Ringo rubbed it in with his closing lines: “But I think he deserved his punishment. Don’t you?” To make sure all the kids watching at home truly got the message that the punishment for vanity and disobeying your employer meant an early grave, the show made sure to zoom in on Henry’s distraught face. Poor Henry!

Thomas & Friends


Sure, Henry could have been handed whatever the sentient train equivalent of a pink-slip was, but being buried alive? Somehow, living entombment for a first-time offender might be a little harsh. You can see the whole “Sad Story of Henry” below and decide for yourself…

Kids should be taught that hard work is important, but an eternity inside a tunnel is seriously demented. What sort of kids’ show writer thought this was a good idea?

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