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The Real Reason Nosferatu's Count Orlok Appears On SpongeBob SquarePants

"SpongeBob SquarePants" has reached a level of fame that most other cartoons could only dream of attaining. Since 1999, the late Stephen Hillenburg's aquatic animated classic has produced countless iconic episodes, characters, and moments that generations of Nickelodeon watchers have yet to forget. One such scene comes from the beloved Season 2 episode "Graveyard Shift," which sees Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown) shift the Krusty Krab to be open 24 hours — much to the chagrin of the grouchy Squidward Tentacles (Rodger Bumpass) and the delight of the ever-positive SpongeBob (Tom Kenny).

To entertain himself throughout his never-ending shift, Squidward makes up a creepy character known as the Hash-Slinging Slasher: a former Krusty Krab fry cook with a rusty spatula for a hand that supposedly haunts the restaurant every Tuesday night. Unexpectedly, as the night goes on, all of the signs of the Slasher's arrival begin to manifest, making Squidward increasingly uneasy. By the end of the episode, it turns out that all of the occurrences were pure coincidences, including the flickering lights. Of all people, Count Orlok from the streamable 1922 silent horror film "Nosferatu" was responsible.

Orlok's "SpongeBob SquarePants" cameo has since gone down in history as one of the program's most unexpected and surreal moments. Here's why and how his guest appearance came together.

Count Orlok was an odd replacement for an unused character

In an interview with Polygon, "SpongeBob SquarePants" storyboard director Jay Lender shed some light on the out-of-place appearance of Count Orlok in "Graveyard Shift." According to him, the scene initially involved a character named Floorboard Harry, who lives beneath the Krusty Krab, but the emergence of a previously unseen character didn't seem to click. As a kid, Lender loved the magazine "Famous Monsters of Filmland," which included an out-of-context photo of Orlok that stuck with him for years and served as his first exposure to "Nosferatu." With that, he decided to put it in the episode, poetically introducing an entire generation of kids to the 1922 film.

Orlok wasn't intended to appear as a regular on "SpongeBob SquarePants," and for many years, "Graveyard Shift" was his only appearance. However, that has since changed as he's appeared in a handful more episodes. He made his big return in Season 11's "The Night Patty," followed by Season 13's "A Place for Pets" and "Captain Pipsqueak." In October of 2022, he'll feature in both "Squidferatu" and "Slappy Daze," keeping his strangely long "SpongeBob" tenure going. His son, Kidferatu (Dee Bradley Baker), has even made a few appearances on the 3D-animated prequel, "Kamp Koral."

Despite being on polar opposite ends of the media spectrum, Count Orlok and "SpongeBob SquarePants" are inseparable at this point, and it's all thanks to a random gag in "Graveyard Shift."