"Treehouse of Horror IV" is a Halloween-themed episode from the fifth season of the animated comedy series The Simpsons. It was first broadcast in the United States on the Fox network on October 28, 1993. In common with the Simpsons Halloween specials from 1990, 1991 and 1992, it is made up of three self-contained stories connected by a framing device. The traditions of showing gravestones with jokey names on them during the opening credits sequence and of altering the names of the cast and crew to make them "scary" during the opening and closing credits sequences, both begun in "Treehouse of Horror II", are continued. The alien characters Kang and Kodos, introduced in the first "Treehouse of Horror", return for a brief appearance. A brief warning that the episode may be too frightening for some viewers is delivered soon after the show begins.
The segments that make up the episode are "The Devil and Homer Simpson", "Terror at Five and a Half Feet" and "Bart Simpson's Dracula". The first segment is based on the 1937 short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" by Steven Vincent Benet. The second is based on the 1963 Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", also adapted as a segment in the 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie. The third segment parodies elements from the 1992 movie version of Dracula and the 1987 vampire movie, The Lost Boys. The framing device pays homage to Rod Serling's early 1970s TV series Night Gallery.
Opening and framing device
Following an opening credits sequence which shows comic gravestones in Springfield Cemetery and the Simpsons emerging from their floor as zombies before climbing onto their couch, the episode opens with Bart Simpson, acting as narrator, in a gallery of weird paintings. His presentation is interrupted by his mother Marge, who says that he should tell the viewers that they may find the program too scary and might prefer to listen to the old The War of the Worlds broadcast on the radio instead.
Each of the three segments in the episode is represented by a painting from the gallery. Before the first story, Bart stops by a painting of the Devil. Before the second, he stops by one of a school bus. He thinks that is a mistake at first and that the picture should show a "ghoul bus". Before the third story Bart says that he is about to show a picture that causes those who look at it to go mad. The picture turns out to be one of dogs playing poker. Bart says that there was a story to go with the picture but it was rejected as "too intense" and replaced by something about vampires.
"The Devil and Homer Simpson"
Upset that his co-workers have taken all the doughnuts, Homer Simpson says that he would sell his soul for one. The Devil, who has been masquerading for years as Homer's pious Christian neighbor Ned Flanders, appears to grant that request with a doughnut and a contract which states that Homer will give his soul in return for eating the pastry. Homer realises that he can cheat the Devil out of his soul if he does not finish the doughnut. He saves a piece of it and keeps it in his refrigerator. Unfortunately, while half asleep, Homer goes in search of a midnight snack and eats the rest of the doughnut. The Devil appears to claim his due but is interrupted by Homer's wife Marge and daughter Lisa. They beg the Devil to hold a trial to decide Homer's fate. The Devil reluctantly agrees to hold one the following evening but says that Homer will spend the day in Hell.
In Hell, Homer is subjected to ironic punishment when a demon feeds him all the doughnuts in the world. The punishment does not work because Homer enjoys it and demands more doughnuts after the entire world's supply has been exhausted.
At precisely midnight, the Devil and Homer return to the Simpsons' house for the trial. The Grim Reaper serves as the judge and there is a "jury of the damned', which includes the pirate Blackbeard, murderers and former US president Richard Nixon (who was still alive at the time that the episode first aired). The Simpsons' defense lawyer Lionel Hutz is incompetent. He quickly realises that what he is saying supports the Devil's case against Homer Simpson and flees. In desperation, Marge shows the jury a photograph of Homer on their wedding day, in hospital after having eaten the entire wedding cake himself. On the back of the photo Homer wrte that all he could offer Marge in exchange for her hand in marriage was his soul. The jury decide that Homer's soul was not his to sell because it was the property of Marge Simpson. The case is dismissed and the judge and jury disappear.
Furious that he has been cheated, the Devil takes his revenge on Homer Simpson by changing his head into a giant doughnut, causing the entire Springfield police department to stand in waiting outside his house with coffe mugs in hand.
"Terror at Five and a Half Feet"
Following a nightmare in which he dreams that he dies in a bus crash, Bart is nervous about taking the bus to school one rainy morning. During the journey, he notices a small monster or gremlin on the outside of the bus that is loosening the lug nuts on one of the wheels. Bart tries to warn the other passengers but they do not believe him.
In desperation, Bart climbs halfway out of a window of the bus with a lit emergency flare in his hand. He throws the flare at the monster, causing it to catch on fire and fall from the bus on to the road. Ned Flanders finds the wounded monster and takes it in to help it.
When the bus arrives at school, its damage can be clearly seen. Nevertheless, Bart is taken away to an insane asylum. As the ambulance journey begins, Bart comforts himself with the thought that he can finally get some rest, at which point the monster appears at the ambulance window with the severed, but still talking, head of Ned Flanders in its claws.
"Bart Simpson's Dracula"
The television news carries a story about people who have been killed after being drained of all their blood. A cape with the word "Dracula" written on it was left at the scene of the crime. The police suspect the murders to be the work of a mummy and order the Egyptian wing of the Springfield museum to be destroyed. Lisa Simpson insists that a vampire is responsible for the crimes but her father Homer retorts that vampires do not exist.
The following news story is about Homer's boss Mr. Burns having purchased the Springfield blood bank. Burns announces that he is very excited about the deal, while blood dribbles from his mouth.
Mr. Burns invites the Simpson family to his mansion in Pennsylvania for dinner. It is immediately clear from Burns' behavior that he is a vampire but nobody except Lisa seems to notice. Lisa and her brother Bart discover a secret staircase which leads to a basement full of coffins. Vampires come out of the coffins and surround them. Lisa escapes but Bart is bitten.
Later that night, Bart, now a vampire, and other vampire children fly up to Lisa's bedroom window. Bart tries to bite his sister but he is interrupted when their mother Marge comes into the room. Lisa says that to return Bart to normal they will have to kill the head vampire. Lisa, Marge and Homer return to Burns' mansion and kill him by driving a stake through his heart.
The following morning at breakfast, Lisa discovers that her grandfather is a vampire, Bart is still a vampire and her parents are vampires too. Burns' death had no effect because he was not the head vampire. To Lisa's surprise, her mother Marge announces that she is the head vampire and not just a housewife as the girl had thought. The other Simpsons surround Lisa and prepare to bite her. They suddenly stop, face the audience and shout "Happy Halloween, everyone!" to the viewers. The episode ends with a parody of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the characters start to hum the carol "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" as snowflakes fall from the kitchen ceiling.
- The Devil and Daniel Mouse - an animated TV special which, like "The Devil and Homer Simpson", is also based on the short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster".
- The state of Pennsylvania was obviously chosen because its name sounds like Transylvania.