As far as creepypasta with a healthy shelf-life goes, it’s hard to beat “Squidward’s Suicide.” Tracking down the exact origin points of internet ghost stories can be an exercise in futility, but there’s been video of the faux SpongeBob SquarePants episode—in which sadsack Squidward supposedly takes his own life, after sporting a face with creepy red eyes for his juvenile audience’s delight—since at least 2012, which puts it in “Dead Bart” territory as far as the “‘lost’ episode of a cartoon where something, like, super weird and dark happens” genre goes. In fact, the spooky little story has now been around long enough to graduate up to the big game: A reference in the show it’s riffing on itself.
That’s right: SpongeBob SquarePants directly referenced a decade-old meme about one of its main characters killing himself today, in a new episode that aired on Nickelodeon this afternoon. It’s to the testament of how wild the animation on this show is generally—and this particular installment, “SpongeBob in Randomland,” is, specifically—that the moment when a red-eyed, mascara-running Squidward (unmistakably the one from the long-running meme) pops up out of nowhere is only the fourth or fifth weirdest thing to appear in the episode. That being said, it’s still an immensely odd thing to see one of Nick’s biggest shows give a nod to the bootleg vibe of online creep-tales (even if they’ve never shied away from referencing “Squidward kills himself” jokes in the past, either).
SpongeBob SquarePants is currently airing its 12th season on Nickelodeon; this is the last season to include contributions from the show’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg, who died last year.