In the digital age, we’re accustomed to accessing any media that’s ever existed at a moment’s notice with a few keystrokes, and it can be hard to remember a time when recordings could actually be lost, or buried. Yet a 1976 episode of Sesame Street designed to help kids understand how they can overcome their fears, featuring the actress Margaret Hamilton in her unforgettable role as the cackling Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz (1939) and aired only one time, in 1976, before it was pulled from syndication, hasn’t been seen since — until now.
After the episode aired, the network received complaints from parents that their children had been frightened by watching it, so it was shelved permanently. But on June 18, fifteen minutes of footage from the episode was uploaded to YouTube. The account user who uploaded it noted that a clip was included in an exhibition of Jim Henson’s work in 2019, but this complete footage hasn’t been publicly seen since the episode first aired.
When a strange wind brings an errant broom to Sesame Street, David begins using it to sweep the sidewalk in front of Mr. Hooper’s store. The witch, in her black cape, pointy hat, and green skin, comes to retrieve her magic broomstick, but is prevented from doing so if anyone else is holding it. When she tries to grab it, there is a lightening effect accompanied by a thunderous sound, which is honestly the scariest part of an episode that is pretty tame overall.
The witch also makes it rain inside the store, threatens to turn Big Bird into a feather duster, and threatens to turn David into a basketball.
David refuses to return the broom “until she shows me some respect.” Big Bird vows to help protect his friend and stands outside the store with a hockey stick in one hand and a baseball bat in the other.
“I’m a very brave bird and I’m not afraid,” he says.
Oscar the Grouch, hearing the witch plan her wicked machinations from inside his trash can, declares, “I think I’m in love.”
The witch then disguises herself as a normal person, modulating her voice accordingly, to infiltrate the store. When she asks David to put down the broom so that she can hold it, however, he knows who she is.
In the end, David triumphs in getting the witch to say the magic word — please — when asking for the broom. Big Bird declares that he is glad for her visit, which he deems “very interesting and really exciting.”
The episode’s final scene shows the witch flying through the sky to return to Oz. In her hubris, she rides the broomstick “no hands,” sending it crashing back down the ground, where David picks it up again, upset that he will now seemingly never be rid of her.
While the witch might frighten a young preschooler, the overall themes of the episode are how to band together against a bully and the importance of being kind, and in that respect it has thoroughly withstood the test of time.