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"Fear, Itself" is the fourth episode of the fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the sixtieth episode in the series. Written by David Fury and directed by Tucker Gates, it was originally broadcast on October 26, 1999, on The WB network.


HOUSE OF HORRORS — Buffy reluctantly agrees to join Willow, Oz and Xander at a Halloween party where they stumble into a real-life house of horrors masquerading as an innocuous fraternity. Meanwhile, Giles is called upon to help out the college crowd when all he wants is to get into the spirit of the holiday.[1]


While carving jack o'lanterns in Xander's basement, the gang discusses their plans for Halloween, while Buffy continues to mope over her situation with Parker. They decide to go to the Alpha Delta house for a Halloween party. Buffy leaves early; on her way home, a kid wearing a demon mask jumps out at her, and she hits him without thinking. He asks her what is wrong with her and then takes off, not getting to hear Buffy's reply: "That's what I'd like to know."

The next day at school, Buffy and Oz both express their concerns for Willow about her magic. Buffy spots Parker, and runs away because she doesn't want to face him. Willow follows and tells her to get over it and have fun at the party that night; however, Buffy thinks that Giles will want her to do some patrolling. Much to Buffy's surprise, however, when she goes to visit Giles, he's wearing a sombrero and is in a cheerful Halloween mood. Reminding her that demons are generally quiescent on Halloween, he encourages her to go to the party and have fun.

At the fraternity house, the boys are getting ready for the party. One of them gives another an old book that he found a symbol in to paint on the floor. Anya goes to see Xander and again wants to know where their relationship is heading. He agrees that they're somewhat dating and invites her to the Halloween party that night, telling her to dress in something scary. Buffy visits Professor Walsh and asks for her missed assignments, but she is met with less than kind reception from the strict teacher. Riley, however, gives her the assignment. When she says she'll get them done that night, he tells her that, since it's Halloween, she should go out and have fun instead. He tells her that Halloween is the night when all the monsters come out, and she replies that's a misnomer.

Oz and Xander carry the equipment for a sound system to the fraternity house, and Oz installs it while the guy who got the book earlier paints the symbol on the ground. Xander asks what the symbol represents, and the guy says he doesn't know: it's just supposed to be scary. Oz, listening to the speakers, says the left one is crackling. He goes to strip the wire a little bit and cuts his hand. While he walks by to go out and clean it, some of his blood spills onto the symbol, making it pulse and waver ominously. A plastic spider laying in the circle suddenly turns into a real tarantula.

Joyce alters one of Buffy's old Halloween costumes, Little Red Riding Hood. They talk about how things used to be with her dad around and her mom's current social life. When Joyce talks about how Hank used to love going trick or treating with her, Buffy comments that he's not interested in her anymore. Joyce tells her that their divorce really did have nothing to do with Buffy. Buffy acknowledges that she knows that's true, but she wishes he still took an interest in her now.

At the party, a guy leads a blindfolded girl to stick her hand into a bowl of grapes and tells her the grapes inside are eyeballs. When she takes the blindfold off, they really are eyeballs. She screams and pandemonium takes control over everyone around them.

Buffy waits outside the party for her friends, and Xander shows up asking what she's got in her basket. She replies: "weapons." Buffy comments on his nice tux, and Xander says he's dressed as James Bond; he wants to make sure that, if they change into their costumes again, he'll at least be cool. Buffy points our that if that happens he'd probably just turn into cool head waiter guy instead. He says, as long as he's cool and has some kind of power, he'll be happy. Willow and Oz show up. Willow, who's dressed as Joan of Arc, states that they have a lot in common since she was almost burned at the stake and had a close relationship with God. When Xander asks who Oz is, he pulls his shirt aside to show his sticker name tag that says "Hello, My Name Is" with the word "GOD" written under it. Xander laments that he could've done the same thing and wishes he's known that before he rented the tux.

They start walking towards the fraternity house only for a couple of masked soldiers in camouflage holding guns silently come out of the bushes and move past them. Buffy tells them that their costumes are nice and very stealthy. Willow asks who they're supposed to be, and Xander suggests NATO. Xander tells the group that he invited Anya but she's having a hard time finding a costume. Buffy comments about being the only one without a date.

Everything at the party goes crazy as people run in all directions screaming, some ending up mutilated and injured in various ways. The lights are flashing with a strobe light, making everything even more chaotic. A girl lying bleeding on the sofa opens her eyes and looks around. Several people try to escape only for the door to slam before they can get out. One of the frat guys comes running down the stairs screaming for help and trips, landing at the bottom of the stairs with a broken neck. A deep voice demands to be released.

The gang make their way to the front door, the house peaceful from the outside. Once they're inside, they wonder where everyone is. Oz tells them to follow the arrows. Willow gets caught in some cobwebs and wigs out. Xander is standing in the hallway when a plastic skeleton with a knife pops out. They're all pretty standard Halloween obstacles until Oz turns around and sees a tarantula on Willow's shoulder. He goes over and knocks it off quickly, but Willow is still creeped out. Buffy says they should just get to the party part of the party. While walking down the next hallway, they get confused because it's not leading to where it should. Buffy finds real blood on the carpet, to which Xander replies the frat boys have gone overboard. Buffy shushes him because she hears a squeaking and, when they look up, dozens of real bats attack them. However, as soon as they stop, Oz finds one of them and it's only rubber. They all wonder what's going on when the same deep voice from before demands to be released.

Anya arrives at the party, dressed as a big pink and white bunny, but she is unable to get in as the front door has disappeared. As she walks around to the front, she sees a girl screaming at a window, and the window bricks over on its own. Inside, and unable to get out of the house, Buffy tells the gang to find a way out and to get help. They find Chaz, one of the fraternity members, in a closet saying that "it's alive." A skeleton attacks Buffy from behind with a knife, but she destroys it and it becomes fake again. Chaz goes back to the closet, and when they turn to look, the closet is now gone. Anya goes to Giles for help, saying they need to save Xander. Giles asks about the others, and she says they're trapped too, but they need to save Xander.

Xander tries to talk to Buffy and the gang, but he finds that he's invisible to them all as they completely ignore him. Buffy and Willow fight over Buffy giving orders and then over whether Willow can safely do a guiding spell to lead the way. Willow and Oz, who go off on their own to find a way out, find a set of stairs and head up. As they're walking, Oz starts his werewolf transformation and scratches Willow before running away from her. Xander approaches a mirror, and along, with his reflection, a once-fake head on the table behind him says that he can see him too. Oz sits in a bathtub, chanting over and over that he isn't going to change. Willow conjures her spell to Aradia, the goddess of the lost. The spell, however, gets out of control, and she screams for help as it attacks her. Buffy, hearing Willow's cries, tries to get to her but, instead, falls into the basement, where the dead start coming up from the ground and grabbing at her. The frat guy with a broken neck tells Buffy that she will keep fighting but always end up in the same place.

Meanwhile, Giles and Anya are unable to find a way in, so Giles pulls out a chain saw and cuts a door into the house. In their frenzied attempts to escape their fears that have somehow come true, all the gang runs into the Goat room, which is where the actual party was, and things seem back to normal. From a book left beside the sign on the floor, they determine it's the Mark of Gachnar. Giles and Anya then break into the room with the chainsaw, saying the walls closed up behind them. Buffy destroys the symbol before Giles can tell her that destroying the symbol will bring Gachnar forth. But, as the demon has manifested itself, it turns out he is mere inches in height. After a laugh, Buffy simply squashes him with her shoe.

At Giles' place, Xander questions Anya's bunny costume while they eat candy. After a minute Giles discovers his mistake. The small picture of Gachnar in the book had a Gaelic inscription reading: "Actual size."


  • When Xander, Willow, and Oz notice that Buffy is very down because of Parker, Xander asks if anyone wants to "smack that guy," and they all raise their hands. Their wish comes true when Buffy bashes him over the head (twice) with a club in "Beer Bad" and when Riley punches him in "The Initiative."
  • Oz expresses worry over Willow's desire to experiment more with magic. Tara will later express concerns about Willow's frequent use of magic in "All the Way," which will eventually grow into dependence ("Wrecked") and corruption ("Villains").
  • This episode marks Buffy's first contact with Initiative commandos, though she mistakes them for people simply wearing military costumes. She'll begin questioning these repeated sightings in "Wild at Heart."
  • Willow references the events of "Gingerbread" when comparing the fact that both she and Joan of Arc were tied and set to be burned at the stake.
  • Joyce mentions her first boyfriend in Sunnydale, Ted Buchanan ("Ted").
  • This episode features the first time Anya mentions her phobia of bunnies, which will be a running gag present in the episodes "The Gift," "Once More, with Feeling," "Tabula Rasa," and "Chosen."
  • This is the seventh and last episode of the series without any vampires, following "Witch," "The Pack," "I Robot, You Jane," "The Puppet Show," "Inca Mummy Girl," and "Living Conditions."



Organizations and titles[]





Rituals and spells[]

Death count[]

  • Josh, broke his neck falling down the stairs while trying to run away from Gachnar's chaos.
  • Gachnar, squashed by Buffy.

Behind the scenes[]


  • The title "Fear, Itself" is a reference to Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" speech from 1933.
  • This episode is the second of three Halloween-themed episodes. A Halloween episode occurs every second season of Buffy, previously in season two with "Halloween" and later in season six with "All the Way."
  • The external shots of the frat house are from the Rosenheim Mansion, the same that would be used as the Murder House in American Horror Story (2011).
  • The book Edward shows Josh is a 1963 edition of the real book Picture Museum of Sorcery Magic & Alchemy by Émile Grillot de Givry (originally published in 1929), with its duster and interior adapted into the prop used in the series.
  • The actual text in the first book says: "A special bus route will open in Dublin today despite reports that it may cause traffic congestion as a result."
  • From this episode onward, Marc Blucas will appear regularly until the episode "Into the Woods," though he will not be added as a main character of the cast until this season's "Doomed."
  • Darris Love, the actor who portrays Willow's hallmate, also portrays George in the Angel episodes "The Thin Dead Line" and "Belonging."


  • "Fear, Itself" had an audience of 4.1 million households upon its original airing.[2]

Deleted scenes[]

  • This scene was cut:[3]
    Willow: (Off-screen) "Oz..."
    Xander: "Will!" (She appears, moving down the hall.) "We got trouble. There's something terribly wrong with Buffy. She can't even tell that I'm—"
    Willow: (Calling out) "Oz!" (Xander stops, defeated. She can't see him either. She looks around, upset.) "Oh God… Okay, guiding spell. Okay. Yeah. I can do it." (She takes off. Xander turns back and, with mounting frustration, knocks a small pumpkin off a side table. Exits at a good clip.)

Pop culture references[]

  • Xander is appalled to find that he has mistakenly rented Fantasia instead of Phantasm for movie night.
  • When delivering the sound system, Oz says "Mi Casio es su Casio," a play on the Spanish phrase "Mi casa es su casa" (my house is your house), but referencing the electronics company Casio.
  • Xander repeats a line from Star Wars to Oz as he frowns at the speakers: "Sensing a disturbance in the Force, Master?"
  • Buffy states that her father took her trick-or-treating because he wanted the candy and used her as a "beard," a slang term used to describe someone pretending to fulfill a role in order to assist someone with a deception.
  • When Giles says, "It's alive!," he is referring to the film Frankenstein.
  • Buffy is dressed as Little Red Riding Hood, Xander as James Bond, and Willow as Joan of Arc.
  • When Josh tricks a blindfolded Rachel into believing that peeled grapes in a bowl are actually eyeballs, he says, "Eyeballs, Rachel. They're eyeballs." Because of the effect Gachnar is having on everyone in the frat house, when Rachel removes her blindfold, she sees the grapes as eyeballs. Josh's line may be an allusion to a similar line from the cult vampire film The Lost Boys when one character says to the other: "Maggots, Michael. You're eating maggots. How do they taste?" During that scene, much like Gachnar, David was creating an illusion to trick Michael into believing the rice he was eating was actually maggots.


  • Buffy tells Riley that the notion that Halloween is a night "when the ghosts and goblins come out" is "a misnomer." A misnomer is an inaccurate name or misuse of a name; the word she should have used is "misconception."


International titles[]

  • Armenian: "Վախը սեփական անձով" (Fear Itself)
  • Czech: "Sám Strach" (Fear Itself)
  • Finnish: "Pelon kokokuva" (Fear the Whole Picture)
  • French: "Le Démon d'Halloween" (The Demon of Halloween)
  • German: "Der Dämon der Angst" (The Demon of Fear)
  • Hungarian: "Félj magadtól!" (Fear Yourself!)
  • Italian: "Il Sapore del Terrore" (The Taste of Terror)
  • Japanese: "現実となった恐怖" (Fear Became a Reality)
  • Polish: "W obawie przed sobą"
  • Portuguese (Brazil): "O Próprio Medo" (The Fear Itself)
  • Romanian: "Frica însăși" (Fear Itself)
  • Russian: "Страх, собственной персоной" (Fear, Itself)
  • Spanish (Latin America): "Miedos" (Fears)
  • Spanish (Spain): "Terror" (Terror)
  • Swedish: "Rädslan Själv" (The Fear Itself)



Promotional stills[]

Behind the scenes[]



Xander: "People, prepare to have your spines tingled and your gooses bumped by the terrifying... Fantasia. Fantasia?"
Oz: "Maybe it's because of all the horrific things we've seen, but hippos wearing tutus just don't unnerve me the way they used to."
Xander: "Phantasm. It was supposed to be Phantasm. Stupid video store."
Xander: "I don't know. I was going for ferocious, scary, but it's coming out more dryly sardonic."
Willow: "It does appear to be mocking you with its eye holes."
Oz: "The nose hole seems sad and full of self-loathing."
Buffy: "I don't know. I'm starting to feel like there is a pattern here. Open your heart to someone, and he bails on you. Maybe it’s easier to just not let anyone in."
Joyce: "I thought it might be easier. You must have noticed that I am not exactly the social butterfly I was when I was with your dad. I don't think I made a single new friend the year we moved to Sunnydale."
Buffy: "Why not?"
Joyce: "Fear. I didn't believe I could trust anyone again. It's taken time and a lot of effort, but I've got a nice circle of friends now. I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm still a little gun shy. It certainly didn't help that my last boyfriend turned out to be a homicidal robot. I will always be here for you. And you got Mr. Giles and your friends. Believe me, there is nothing to be afraid of."
Xander: "Hey, Red. What you got in the basket, little girl?"
Buffy: "Weapons."
Xander: "Oh."
Buffy: "Just in case. Like the tux, Xander."
Xander: "Bond — James Bond. Insurance, you know — in case we get turned into our costumes again. I'm going for 'cool, secret agent guy'."
Buffy: "I hate to break it to you, but you'll probably end up 'cool head waiter guy'."
Xander: "As long as I'm wielding some kind of power."
Buffy: "There's no problem that cannot be solved by chocolate."
Willow: "I think I'm gonna barf."
Buffy: "Except that."


  1. "The Mortuary." Buffy.com. Archived from the original on March 31, 2001.
  2. "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's Fourth Season." Nielsen Ratings for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, & Firefly. Archived from the original on July 6, 2008.
  3. "Fear, Itself Script." BuffyWorld. Archived from the original on August 14, 2018.