In Search Of…Classic Supernatural Mysteries

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Welcome to day nine of the A to Z Bloggers Challenge! Today we will be discussing another childhood favorite: In Search Of... Yes, it’s true. I am a geek. I love aliens (of course I love aliens, I live in New Mexico!), Big Foot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster. Gosh, Nessie and I have been friends since elementary school!

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Leonard Nimoy in 1960. Nimoy narrated In Search Of…

In Search Of… first aired in 1976 and the last show was broadcast in 1982. It was narrated by Leonard Nimoy, one of the most popular actors to appear in a supernatural television program. Who doesn’t love Dr. Spock? His voice was perfectly objective–no emotion. Just the facts, or at least what appeared to be facts. If the information came from Leonard Nimoy, we questioned nothing. Nimoy developed a fan following from this show in addition to his existing fan following from his Star Trek appearances. He also wrote an episode on Vincent Van Gogh, In Search Of Vincent Van Gogh, Season 4, Episode 16, suggesting that Van Gogh suffered from epilepsy.

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Rod Serling was cast as the narrator of In Search Of…, but he died of a Myocardial infarction before filming began. 

The who was inspired by three documentaries produced by Alan Landsburg: In Search of Ancient Astronauts, which was based on the blockbuster book Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Daniken; In Search of Ancient Mysteries; and The Outer Space Connection. The latter were adapted into paperback (interesting–it generally works the other way around!) in 1975. Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone narrated all three shows, so of course I watched them! I think my sister still owns the books. Serling was cast as host of In Search Of…, but he died of a Myocardial infarction in 1975 so Nimoy was cast instead, an equally powerful voice in the realm of the supernatural.

Supernatural Topics

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 One of many fraudulent photos of the Loch Ness Monster. Photo by Ad Meskens.

The availability of supernatural topics for this show was endless, and each one was popular enough to draw the viewing audience to the show before it aired by announcing the topic the week before. Some of my favorite topics discussed Big Foot, following sightings from Nepal to Texas; the Loch Ness Monster or Nessie, complete with film footage of the beast floating across the lake.

Intriguing Mysteries

One episode, “In Search of Anastasia,”  Season 2 Episode 13, featured Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikoaevna, daughter of Czar Nicholas II of Russia and the Tsarina Alexandra, who were all brutally assassinated during the revolution by the Bolsheviks on July 18, 1981. The massacre of the Romanov family was so horrific that people desperately wanted to believe one of the children had managed to survive, that one of their captors was humane enough to protect the children. Sadly, DNA testing proved the entire family was murdered. The In Search Of… episode dealt primarily with a woman named Anna Anderson who claimed to be Anastasia, but was later proven to be a fraud.

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 Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna. Photo taken in 1918. 

There was also an episode discussing the many possible suspects in London’s Jack the Ripper unsolved mystery, including the doctor who immigrated to the American West; the Lincoln Assassination; missing airplane daredevil Amelia Earhart; and the lost residents of the Roanoke Colony, a mystery that still intrigues me to this day.

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The Mary Celeste in 1861.

One of our family’s favorite episodes is “The Ghost Ship,” Season 4 Episode 18, which aired in 1980 and discusses the ghostly appearance of the abandoned British-American merchant brigantine discovered on December 4, 1872. The Mary Celeste was discovered unmanned, and her lifeboat and seven crew members were missing. It was also discovered that she still held six months of food and water on board. The ship was believed to be cursed, and in an odd twist of fate, her last owner deliberately destroyed her off the Cape of Haiti to collect insurance money.

Spin-off Books

In Search Of… also inspired the writing of six spin-off books and a “best of” collection by Alan Landsburg: In Search of Lost Civilizations; In Search of Strange Phenomena; In Search of Missing Persons; and In Search of Myths and Monsters.

Introductory Disclaimer

One aspect of this show that I found particularly interesting was the introductory disclaimer. The producers realized they were delving into subjects that were not sufficiently scientifically documented, so each show began with the speech: “This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture.

The producer’s purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine.” It was the perfect answer to the perfect problem. Of course there were no answers. How could they call them “mysteries” if the mystery was solved? On the other hand, no one wanted television viewers popping in on the middle of a show and assuming the planet was surrounded by UFOs. One Orson Welle’s The War of the Worlds presentation was enough for Americans.

Total Episodes and Revivals

There was a total of 144 episodes of In Search Of… covering everything from haunted castles to killer bees to Noah’s Ark. That’s a lot of mysteries!

There was also a short-run revival of the show–eight episodes–that aired in 2002 on the Sci-Fi Channel and featured Mitch Pileggi. These episodes covered more than one topic. For instance, episode one dealt with the subject of Hell, Vampires, and Nikola Tesla. The first episode aired on October 4, 2002. The final episode aired on November 22, 2002 and discussed the Shroud of Turin; Faith, and aliens.

  • Source: 
  • In Search Of… Host: Leonard Nimoy. Alan Landsburg Productions. Running Time: 30 min. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A Hundred Yards Over the Rim.”: The Twilight Zone

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Welcome to day eight of the A to Z Bloggers Challenge! I’m having fun, and I hope you are, too, because today we’re taking a look at the 1961 Twilight Zone episode “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim,” starring Cliff Robertson where H stands for a Hundred Yards, which may seem trivial when the word stands alone, but when you are the one standing in the vast desert surrounded by sand and cactus without another person in sight, a hundred yards seems to go on forever.

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Cholla buds in the setting sun of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Valley. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

This is one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes for many reasons. First, it takes place in New Mexico, where I now live and have lived in the past on numerous occasions. I love the high desert. It is a beautiful place with spacious skies, strange wind storms and a mystical feel that is difficult to explain, but it certainly is portrayed well in this episode.

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Sandy hilltop in the high desert of New Mexico near Albuquerque. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

I also like this episode because it is a Western, and I love Westerns! I write about the American Old West in my blog Wild West History. As I walk through the desert with my dogs admiring the tall Cholla cactus trees with their masses of pink flowers and listening to the coyotes howling in the distance I often imagine what it would be like to be a pioneer traveling through this area in the 1800s, and this is the topic of “A Hundred Yard Over the Rim.” The story also deals with time travel, one of Rod Serling’s favorite topics, and mine, too, since I am constantly daydreaming about being a pioneer!

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Flowering Cholla tree in the New Mexico desert. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I also like the title, which captures the emotion of this episode so perfectly. A hundred yards. It seems like such a short distance, but when you’re traveling in the desert everything seems so vast.

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New Mexico sandstorm. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Sometimes it feels as if you can see from Alaska to Mexico, and it all looks so familiar, and yet, different enough that if you walk too far away from your source of transportation you will easily become lost, especially if the spring winds are blowing and the sands are slamming into you like a wall. It is so very easy to get lost in the desert at any time of year, and this is what happens to Cliff Robertson in tonight’s episode, “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim.”

The Wagon Train

In “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim,” Cliff Robertson is Christian Horn, the leader of a wagon train. As the story opens, we see the train of wagons moving over the hot sand with mountains in the distance. The wagons stop. Robertson leaves the front of his wagon and walks around to the opening in the back of the canvas cover. to check with his wife. She is caring for their young son, who is extremely ill. The child has been sick for 11 days.

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Conestoga Wagon on the Oregon Trail. Photo by National Park Service. 

Robertson is wearing a dusty black overcoat and top hat and looks beyond exhausted, as well. He dampens a cloth with a bit of water and hands it to his wife, who looks frantic. “He just can’t take anymore, Christian,” she tells him, and she’s probably right, eleven days of fever in the 1800s is a long time, especially when traveling through the hot desert. Christian, however, tells her the boy will take more, just like the rest of them. He isn’t showing much sympathy, but perhaps he is trying to show strength, to help her prepare for what he believes will happen to the child.

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John Astin from Operation Petticoat, 1977. (Since we’re time traveling, I thought we’d take a leap forward, too!)

The other pioneers are climbing from their wagons. Another pioneer, Charlie, played by John Astin, stops to check on the child. Charlie tells Christian, or “Chris,” that the rest of the pioneers are concerned that they are in Apache country. In fact, that area of New Mexico was populated by a number of different Native American Indian tribes and Charlie is correct, they are in potential danger. The rest of the men have discussed turning back, trying to find a town to resupply and help the sick child. The men point out that they are nearly out of water and food, but Chris insists they must push forward. Christian’s wife, Martha Horn, played by Miranda Jones, agrees that they should turn around. She is frightened for their son.

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Cliff Robertson from an episode of The Outer Limits. 

Christian tells the men to bunch up the wagon. He is determined to find water. He nods his head forward and tells them he is headed for the rim, “Maybe a hundred yards over the rim I might find water, or a canyon.” Chris grabs his gun and heads for the rim, a hundred yards over the rim in search of salvation.

Rod Serling in the New Mexico Desert

Suddenly, Rod Serling appears beside one of the wagons in his suit and tie. I love his sudden appearances in the past. They feel so…supernatural! One minute your heart is breaking for this poor, sick boy in 1800s New Mexico and the next you are chatting with Rod Serling. You would think his appearance would break the suspension of disbelief of the audience, but this is a supernatural show, and the fact that he suddenly appears in the middle of any scene, at any time in history, fits with the theme.

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 Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone creator, director, and writer of many episodes,                                                                      including “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim.”  

 “It is 1847 in New Mexico,” Serling explains.  “A handful of men and women in search of a dream. Eleven months ago they started from Ohio and headed West. Someone told them about California, a land of riches and blue skies. After all this time, they’ve found neither. He has a dying son and a scared wife. Mr. Chris Horn, going a hundred yards over the rim to find water and sustenance, in a minute will enter the twilight zone.”

Suddenly, Nothing Looks the Same…

and this is the way it is in the twilight zone! Chris Horn walks over the rim and sees the foothills of the Sandia Mountains and a road, giant electrical towers that look like horrific beasts, houses. He runs back over the rim and the small train of wagons has disappeared. He shouts out for his friends and no one answers. He has no choice, but to move forward, over the rim, to the town, seeking help.

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The Sandia Mountains. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

Chris Horn sees nothing but desert and mountains. He holds his rifle tight and stares at the nearby railroad tracks. “What’s going on here?” he shouts in confusion as he stumbles down the sand on the other side of the rim. He sees fences, posts, roads where moments before there was nothing but sand. A truck races past and nearly runs him over. He dives into a ditch, terrified, dusts himself off and starts running down the road.

He finds a sign. “Joe’s Airflite Cafe and Gas Station 1 Mile Ahead.” He continues down the road to the cafe, a typical Route 66 truck stop. He stares at the gas tanks, then notices a cowboy staring at him, laughing. “Did you see it?” he asks the cowboy, pointing toward the truck. “That monster that almost hit me?” The cowboy removes his sunglasses. “Do you mean the truck?” he asks. Chris is confused. He’s never heard of, or seen, a truck.

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A 1950s semi-trailer truck. 

Chris begins to explain to the stranger about the wagon train. He tells the man they are desperate for food and water. The man notices Chris accidentally shot himself in the hand when he fell to avoid the truck. He leads Chris inside and tells a woman behind the counter that Chris needs help. She is afraid of him, of the way he looks and is dressed, and his confusion. The man offers Chris a glass of water and the woman brings a first aid kit from the kitchen. The cowboy introduces himself as Joe (John Crawford) the cafe owner.

Joe comments on the rifle, “a real antique!” and reaches forward to take a look, but Chris pulls back–in the 1800s a man would never hand over his gun to a stranger. Joe’s wife, Mary Lou (played by Evans Evans, the second wife of director John Frankenheimer) gently removes the injured hand from the gun and tends to the wound. Chris asks about Indians and she laughs. “No, we don’t see them around here, at least not hostile ones,” she says, which is probably true as most Native American Indians in New Mexico were moved onto reservations in the late 1800s.

The Confused Pioneer

Cliff Robertson does a remarkable job of portraying Chris Horn, a man lost in time. Looking at his face you can feel his fear. He is confused, disoriented. He asks how long Joe and Mary Lou have been in the area and they tell him a couple of years, but Chris and the wagon train just moved through this same area and no one was there! As he listens to Joe explain how they bought the cafe he wanders over to the jukebox and stares in shock, then to the table. Joe follows him and asks where he is really from, and Chris tells him the truth–he’s from Ohio.

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Vintage juke box. Photo by Joe Mabel.

Then Joe mentions that there is a natural spring nearby and Chris is stunned–he knew there was water! Mary Lou hands Chris a glass of water and a handful of penicillin to help avoid infection. Chris asks where she found it and she tells him at the drugstore. Chris is beginning to realize there is hope for his family and the rest of the pioneers. Mary Lou tells him it is good for all kinds of sickness and Chris tells her his son is sick back in the wagon, then he turns around and sees a poster on the wall, a poster of the Old West, of a wagon train moving down the mountain. Then he notices the date: September, 1961. “How can that be?” he asks. “It’s 1847!” and Mary Lou drops the glass of water on the floor. Chris begins to panic. “Where am I?” he asks, and he starts to back toward the door.

And of Course, a Doctor’s Exam

In the next scene we see a doctor (Edward Platt) leaving the back room with his black bag. He sets down the bag and pours himself a cup of coffee. He tells Joe that Chris looks fine except for malnutrition. Joe is confused. How can Chris be fine? The doctor reminds Joe that he’s not a psychiatrist, but tells him Chris seems perfectly rational. The doctor tells Joe and Mary Lou that the fillings in Chris’s teeth are not modern, and they agree that Chris’s gun must be at least 100 years old. “He may be having a delusion of some kind,” the doctor agrees, “but it is so pure, the way he describes the wagons, and his son!” The doctor explains that Chris’s description of his son’s illness sounds like pneumonia, that the boy could be dying. The doctor decides to call the sheriff.

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Sheriff’s car. Photo by Youngwiseman. 

Just then, Chris walks out of the back room. He has a book in his hand. It’s an encyclopedia. He shows the book to Mary Lou and tells her he has found his son in the book. She reads it out loud. “Christian Horn, Jr., M.D. Famous for his early work in pioneering vaccine research. Born in Ohio in 1849, died in 1914. Chris Horn’s story matches the entry in the encyclopedia exactly!

“That’s my son, that’s Chris,” Christian Horn tells Joe and Mary Lou. “I may be crazy, or the world’s turned upside down, but I know I was put here for a reason,” Chris says. He takes the penicillin and places it in the pocket of his jacket. “Thank you,” he says. “You’ve been kind and gracious and I appreciate it.” He takes his rifle and tries to leave, but the doctor stops him. He tells Christian he has sent for the authorities. Joe tries to grab his gun.

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Bottle of pills. Photo by Ragesoss.

Chris ducks through the open doorway and starts running down the highway, back the way he came. The police are driving down the road. They see Chris and start after him, driving over the sand. Chris keeps running, running toward the rim. He falls and drops his gun and penicillin. He grabs the medication, turns around to face the police, turns back to the rim, stumbles over the top with the medication in his hand, then stops and stares. There before him is the wagon train, just as he left it.

He walks back to the top of the rim. He sees nothing but sand where the police were moments before. He looks at the bottle. He still has the pills. He looks at his hand–it has healed. He walks to the wagon and asks his wife where she went. Now she is confused. He tries to explain, but can’t. Instead, he hands her the bottle and tells her to give him two pills, that it will save his life.

“Short trip, Chris. Not much on the other side, was there,” Charley asks. “You’d be surprised,” Chris replies. “There’s a whole lot on the other side of that rim.”

The police drive Joe back to the cafe and tell him not to worry, that Chris doesn’t seem like a threat. Apparently he was with them in the car. Joe walks inside with the rifle and shows his wife. He tells her he picked it  up right where Chris dropped it. It is falling apart, as if it was lying in the desert for a hundred years. It falls apart in Joe’s hands. Mary Lou is still holding the encyclopedia. “Where did he come from?” she asks. “Wherever it was, I think he went back, he says

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Prairie Schooner wagon. Painting by Newbold Hough Trotter (1827-1898).

Once again, we are at the wagons with Chris Horn. “Let’s go boys,” he shouts to the rest of the pioneers. “There’s water up ahead, and we’re going to California!’ He looks back in the wagon where his child is now sitting on his wife’s lap. “And my boy has a whole lot to accomplish there,” he says.

And once again, we hear the voice of Rod Serling. “Mr. Christian Horn,” he says. “One of the hardy breed of men who headed West at a time when there were no highways or signs of civilization. Mr. Christian Horn and his family of pioneers, heading West after a brief visit through the twilight zone.”

Source:

  • “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim.” The Twilight Zone. Dir. Buzz Kulick. Writer Rod Serling. Perf. Cliff Robertson, John Astin, John Crawford, Evan Evans. First aired April 7, 1961. Columbia Broadcasting System. Running time: 25 min.

 

 

 

 

Ghost Whisperer

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Welcome to day seven of the A to Z Bloggers Challenge. This evening we will take a look at a young woman with a rather unique ability. To a horse whisperer, the ability to speak with horses is a wonderfully rewarding gift, but for a ghost whisperer, I suspect you could consider this ability more of a curse. Sure, she gets to meet new people, but they’re generally not in the best of moods!

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 Jennifer Love Hewitt, star of Ghost Whisperer. Photo by Tom Sorensen.

Poor Jennifer Love Hewitt. If she isn’t being chased by an anonymous slasher killer (I Know What You Did Last Summer), she is followed through her home and popular antiques store by anonymous ghosts! Jennifer Love Hewitt stars as Melinda Gordon in Ghost Whisperer, a woman who had the ability to see and speak to ghosts. She tries desperately to live a normal life with her new husband, and run a successful business (Same as it Never was Antiques–great name!), but the ghosts always seem to get in the way.

Due to her supernatural abilities to communicate with ghosts, Gordon feels a responsibility to these earth-bound spirits, a moral obligation to help them solve whatever unresolved issue is keeping them tied to this earthly plain so they can walk into the light. In some ways, Ghost Whisperer is a mystery. In order to assist the ghosts, Gordon must first investigate the reasons why the spirit is bound to the earth. Generally, the clues come to her in a rather violent manner–ghosts can be noisy, obnoxious creatures when they’re trying to get your attention!

Melissa Gordon

Melinda Gordon lives in a fictional city called Grandview, which is in New York. Melinda’s work with ghosts involves a variety of tasks. Generally, though, she must pass on a message to someone who is still living, thus resolving the unresolved issue that keeps the ghost hanging around.

An example of the “message” is “Life on the Line,” one of my favorite episodes, and one of the saddest episodes. (Of course, when you’re dealing with the dead, all episodes are sad.) Melinda’s assistant, Delia (Camryn Manheim), is trying to buy a new home, but she keeps receiving a 911 call about a boy who was run over by a lawn mower. Melinda connects with the ghost of a boy named Josh who clearly is trying to bring his family back together after the tragic loss of their youngest son.

The message involves a lie, and this is the mystery Melinda must solve. After a great deal of investigative work she ends up at the hospital with the family. Devin, the older son, has been injured. The family is all there, and Melinda tells them that Josh wants them to stop fighting over “the lie.” This creates some confusion among the family members until it is revealed that the father took responsibility for the death of Josh. In reality, Josh insisted on riding on the tractor mower with his older brother and was rough-housing when he fell and was run over by the mower. Devin feels responsible for the accident and emotionally devastated by the fact that his father took responsibility for the accident. Josh feels that he has destroyed his family by causing his own death and cannot move on. Josh and Devin’s parents finally tell their sons they love them both, that the accident was just an accident and no one’s fault, and Melinda helps Josh move into the light.

The inability of the ghosts to move on is not due to some sin they committed, but their own guilt or fear of judgment. Melinda helps them clear their conscience. She plays both investigator and psychologist in this show.

Melinda’s Family, Friends, and Assistants

Thankfully, Melinda Gordon does not live or work alone. I would think the stress of day to day hauntings would drive her insane without a little help from her family and friends! She is married to Jim Clancy (David Conrad), an paramedic/firefighter who eventually becomes a doctor, and her son, Aiden Lucas (Connor Gibbs). Melinda’s relationship with her husband takes a strange turn in 2009, and personally, I suspect this may have had something to do with the show’s cancellation. Jim is killed while on duty and rather than “stepping into the light,” he steps into the body of a dying man, Sam. Melinda quickly figures out that Sam is her husband, but Sam is doubtful. The audience sees Sam as David Conrad, so they have no doubt that Jim has taken over Sam’s body. When Sam finally realizes that he is Jim, at the end of the season, the couple also learns that they are pregnant with a son, and their son eventually has even stronger supernatural abilities than his mother. It was an interesting creative risk, but I thought it was too much of a stretch and didn’t like the Jim/Sam switch.

In the early seasons she has a close friend and assistant, Andrea Marino, played by Aisha Taylor. Marino is Melinda’s best friend and helps her run the antique store. At the end of the first season, Andrea is tragically killed, but her death is referred to often throughout the run of the show.

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Camryn Manheim plays Delia Banks in Ghost Whisperer. Photo by David Shankbone. 

Melinda then meets Delia Banks (Camryn Manheim), who is one of my favorite characters. Banks is trying, unsuccessfully, to make a living as a real estate agent to support herself and her son, Ned (Tyler Patrick Jones for seasons 2-3, then Christopher Sanders) and eventually works with Melinda in the antique store. Ned, her son, catches on to Melinda’s gift fairly quickly, though Banks takes a long time to realize that Melinda communicates with ghosts. When she first learns that Melinda is struggling with something supernatural, she suggests Melinda might need a psychologist, but she eventually accepts the fact that Melinda is gifted.

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Jay Mohr plays Professor Rick Payne in Ghost Whisperer.

Melinda also works closely with a Professor Rick Payne, played by Jay Mohr. Payne works at Rockland University and assists Melinda in the investigative part of her work, as well as trying to figure out what the ghost wants her to do. Payne is literally a pain at first. He is obnoxious and irritating at times and begins the show by mocking Melinda’s claim that she can communicate with spirits, but his character gradually becomes more comforting and friendly. He leaves in the fourth season for the Himalayas.

The Beginning and End of the Ghost Whisperer

The Ghost Whisperer pilot aired on CBS from September 23, 2005. Jennifer Love Hewitt was one of the producers. The show was based on the work of clairvoyant and spiritual medium James Van Praagh. The individual stores were inspired by the work of television personality Mary Ann Winkowski who also has paranormal experiences. The show was cancelled on May 18, 2010 after five seasons.

I believe Ghost Whisperer was cancelled for two reasons. First, I think the death of Melinda’s husband and his entry into Sam’s body was too far-fetched for many viewers, including me. I also believe the show ran out of stories–how many times can you create a unique plot with the same basic outline? Someone dies, they remain on earth due to unfinished business, and Melinda helps them walk into the light. Eventually, the episodes begin to resemble each other and lose their originality.

Sources:

  • Dos Santos, Kristen. “Who Got Jennifer Love Hewitt Pregnant?” EOnline News. Retrieved April 9, 2013.
  • Ghost Whisperer. Dir. Kim Moses. Creator: John Gray. Perf. Jennifer Love Hewitt, David Conrad, Jay Mohr, Camryn Manheim. Sander/Moses Productions, CBS Paramount Network Television, ABC Studios. Running Time: 44 min.

 

 

 

 

Friday the 13th: The Series

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Welcome to day six of the A to Z Bloggers Challenge! Today we are watching Friday the 13th: The Series, the contemporary supernatural serial that is nothing at all like the film version of the same name. The show is also known as The Curse, which I think is a more appropriate title considering the plot.

No, it’s not summer camp and you will not find a strange man chasing teenagers through the misty forest before he disappears into the lake. The television series Friday the 13th has a completely different premise. The television series, which ran from October 1987 to May 1990, is about the owner of antiques store, Lewis Vendredi (R.G. Armstrong) who makes a deal with the Devil to sell antiques items from his shop in exchange for the usual things people make deals with the Devil for–money, magical powers, and the ability to live forever. But wait, there’s more! The items in the shop are now cursed, and whoever purchases the items from the shop will suffer from strange, well, curses!  (Why do they always do this in horror shows? Note to self: Never make a deal with the Devil!) Eventually, Vendredi broke his deal with the Devil, and who wouldn’t? Immortality is not as fun as it seems on TV. Just ask a vampire! When Vendredi broke his deal, the Devil claimed his soul.

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Louise Robey who stars as Micki Foster in Friday the 13th: The Series.

When Lewis dies, his niece, Micki Foster (played by the lovely Louise Robey) and her cousin, Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay). The show also added an additional character, Johnny Ventura (Steve Monarque) a part-time writer who replaced LeMay permanently in the third season. They sell many of the items in the shop–Vendredi’s Antiques is surprisingly popular and the cursed antiques end up in the a variety of places, from college campuses to the homes of the rich and famous.

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John D. LeMay stars as Ryan Dallion in Friday the 13th: The Series

Foster and Dallion meet Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins) who was close friends with the former soul-selling owner and is now a wealthy, retired, world-traveling occult specialist who actually collected most of the antiques for Lewis before they were cursed. Marshak convinces Foster and Dallion to stop selling the shops contents immediately. Unfortunately, so many of the cursed items are already gone that serious damage has been done and their only hope is to do their best to track down the items and return them to the store.

A Minor Setback

There is a slight problem with this task. Many of the “curses” actually give the new owners powers that they do not want to give up, and the antiques cannot be destroyed, so Foster and Dallion must find a way to retrieve the items without the knowledge of the new owners, or somehow convince them to give them up, so the items can be locked away in a vault beneath the store, which is renamed “Curious Goods.” The vault has a bit of magic of its own, magic that removes the curses on the objects as long as they remain inside the vault.

This may sound like an impossible task, but Marshak, Forster and Dallion have some guidance. Lewis has a manifest, a list of all of the items he collected during his world travels. The manifest is huge and it’s often difficult for the trio to determine what is missing from the store until strange events begin to occur in the community, but Marshak did keep detailed records and with some careful sleuthing, Foster and Dallion are able to both track down the item and determine how it is affecting the new owner.

As it is an anthology, each story is different, like a short fiction story, but they have the common thread of the curse. Most of the curses have a magic that allows the new owner to use the object for personal gain or revenge. The object is activated through the death of a human who is either killed by the object or in some way that reflects the object’s history. This is the first clue–the mysterious death–that informs the trio that there is an object from their shop nearby and sparks the investigative process.

The objects are a bit greedy. They tend to demand, or require, more human sacrifices (remember, we are talking about Devil curses here.) Some of the objects are intelligent and rather spooky, like the talking doll in the episode “The Inheritance.” Some objects have the ability to make other objects seem intelligent, which throws off the investigation, pointing Foster and Dallion in the wrong direction. Other objects release their benefits to the owners only in response to a human sacrifice, so there are a number of different directions the stories can move in, making the investigations more interesting. There are also a few episodes where the trio is not hunting down and object, but instead is confronted by the ghost of Lewis, the former shop owner, or some other evil person. I have a few favorite episodes, as well, that will be discussed in individual posts.

Pushing Boundaries

I actually like this show. Though it may seem a bit far-fetched, it has all the necessary ingredients to appeal to fans of supernatural television. It is also exciting, creative, and generally has good acting, as well. I like the idea of the curses, the fact that each curse is different and must be identified through investigation and observation. The title of the show implies a horror, but it’s more of a mystery with the use of the curses in the plot. I believe the show would have lasted longer if it didn’t try so hard to push the boundaries, crossing that line between acceptable prime time programming and R-rated content with occasional sex scenes or violence. One episode in particular, “Night Prey,” was criticized for pushing these boundaries beyond what was necessary to entertain the audience.

I think the acting and plot were strong enough to carry the show through an endless number of scenarios with a bit of creativity on the part of the writers if they had avoided the temptation of the gratuitous sex scenes, but that is what the show is about–the lure of power and control.

Taking chances is a good thing. That’s what creativity is all about. Nevertheless, I think it’s sad when writers, producers, and directors take so many chances that they destroy a great show. Friday the 13th: The Series should have run much longer than it did. According to the Internet Movie Database, the series was nominated for two Emmys for Visual and Graphic Effects in 1988 and 1989. The episodes “Scarlet Cinema” and “The Sweetest Sting” also won awards. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films nominated the show for best series in 1990, and Canada’s Gemini Awards nominated the show 12 times for writing, editing, directing, production design, acting, sound and music.

Source: 

  • Friday the 13th: The Series. Creators: Frank Mancuso Jr. and Larry B. Williams. Perf. Louise Robey, John D. LeMay, and Chris Wiggins. Lexicon Productions. Running Time: 60 min. 

Eureka, Oregon: City of Science

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Welcome to day five of the A to Z Blogger Challenge where E stand for Eureka!

I fell in love with Eureka from the very first episode. (Or maybe I developed a crush on its star, Colin Ferguson. It’s difficult to say.) The idea of a town filled with great thinkers all conducting secret experiments is tremendously appealing to me. Yes, there are minor issues with jealousy, competition, and the usual personality conflicts, but for the most part, the characters on this show work together to either keep the town a safe, fun place, or they work together on secret scientific projects. I would find either one of these positions interesting.

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Colin Ferguson stars as Sheriff Jack Carter in Eureka.

The residents of Eureka are, for the most part, some of the most intelligent people on the planet. The scientists work for a corporation called Global Dynamics, and they are responsible for all significant technological discoveries and inventions since the corporation was formed.

Eureka is actually a mix of mystery and science fiction. One would think that with this many great minds the city would run super-smooth. This is not the case. In fact, in every episode of Eureka there is a serious accident, or intentional misuse of the technology that is created by the town’s residents, and Eureka’s sheriff, Jack Carter (Colin Ferguson), is called upon to solve these mysteries with the help of his deputy, the lovely Erica Cerra (Jo Lupo), a former U.S. Army Ranger (as I recall, she was with the Special Forces in the Pilot show) who is a bit quirky and obsessed with firearms.

There is generally two stories occurring concurrently on this show. The first is the accident and the second is the larger story that is revealed during the course of the investigation of the accident.

The Pilot

It was actually the Pilot of this show that sucked me in to watching the series. The plot of this initial show, in my opinion, is both creative and intriguing.

The first episode aired on July 18, 2006. The show begins with U.S. Marshal Jack Carter driving down an isolated road surrounded by dense forest land. Carter is transporting a prisoner, who also happens to be his delinquent daughter, Zoe Carter, played by Jordan Hinson. Carter is involved in an accident and he and his daughter end up in the nearby town of Eureka. Once there, he is immediately involved in his first investigation–a case involving a tachyon accelerator, which is causing space and time anomalies to occur in the town. Strange things happen, including the disappearance of an entire herd of cows. Carter is confused and concerned, particularly for the safety of his troubled daughter.

The “Love Interest”

As Carter continues his investigation he suddenly find himself kidnapped by Jim Taggart, played by the talented Matt Frewer. Taggert is the Biological Containment Specialist for Global Dynamics, and the town’s veterinarian (remember the missing cows?) Carter then meets Allison Blake, a medical doctor for the Department of Defense who is also working at Global Dynamics. Blake introduces Carter to the concept behind the city of Eureka.

The creation of Eureka was commissioned by President Harry S. Truman with the assistance of Albert Einstein and other advisers. The commission was for a secret residential development hidden in the remote areas of the Pacific Northwest. The intention of the project was to serve and protect America’s greatest intellectual resources–its scientists.

Salli_Richardson

Salli Richardson-Whitfield, who plays Allison Blake, the attractive doctor on Eureka. 

The tachyon accelerator is found, but the man who built it dies trying to stop it, so the U.S. military quarantines Eureka–Carter is stuck in Eureka along with his teenage daughter. Unfortunately, there is still a possibility that the accelerator will go off again, so Eureka’s deputy, Jo Lupo, helps Carter escape from Global Dynamics. During his time at Global Dynamics, Carter met Kevin Blake (played by Meshach Peters in the first three seasons and Trevor Jackson in the fourth), the autistic son of Allison Blake, and believes Kevin can solve the problem with the accelerator.

Carter is right–Kevin is able to shut down the accelerator before another collision occurs using his exceptional knowledge of quantum physics. Kevin saves Eureka, and possibly the entire planet. All is well, and Carter is free to leave with his daughter, but first he is offered a new job as the sheriff of Eureka. The former sheriff is retiring, and Carter has developed a romantic attraction for Allison Blake, so he accepts the job, much to the chagrin of Jo Lupo who wanted the promotion, and his daughter, Zoe, who is not the least bit thrilled by the thought of living in a small town.

Secondary Characters

Although he is featured in the pilot, Dr. Taggert (Matt Frewer) is actually a secondary character. Although he is Eureka’s Biological Containment Specialist he is seen most often in his role as a veterinarian. He is also a stubborn Australian who doesn’t seem to like the people of Eureka, mainly because they don’t seem to appreciate the unique wildlife in the area. On the other hand, he also has a love/hate relationship with the town’s stray dog, Lowjack, who he claims is “evil,” but is often seen sharing affectionate moments with the animal.

Dr. Henry Deacon (Joe Morton) is one of the town’s scientists and the town mechanic. His assistance is often required in the bigger plot situation that always arises after the initial mystery is solved, mainly because he is very familiar with the inner workings of Global Dynamics.

Grace Monroe (Tembi Locke) is, of course, another scientist. She is also the wife of Henry Deacon in an alternate timeline that was created when the Eureka Five time traveled to 1947, which is a very creative detail in my opinion.

Dr. Nathan Stark (Ed Quinn) is another one of Eureka’s top scientists, but he is a thorn in the side of Sheriff Jack Carter, possibly because he has an on (and off) relationship with Allison Blake, who has Carter behaving like a school boy with a crush. According to an interview with Ed Quinn by Melissa Hank, Stark is modeled after a Marvel Comics Character.

Dr. Douglas Fargo (Neil Grayston), another scientist who is not treated very well by his coworkers. He is a bit of a disaster, constantly dealing with on-the-job accidents. The actor, Grayston, is also the voice of the computer that runs Sheriff Jack Carter’s home, S.A.R.A.H. (Self-actuated Residential Automated Habitat). The home is more of a bunker, but becomes a character (or S.A.R.A.H. becomes a character) in a few of the episodes.

Series Details

Eureka premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel on July 18, 2006. It’s final show was on July 16, 2012. The show, created by Andrew Cosby and Jaime Paglia, and produced by Universal Media Studios, had a slow start, but eventually became a success for the network with an average of 3.2 million viewers. Eureka was nominated for the 2007 Emmy Award for Outstanding Visual Effects for a Series, but I believe it should have won the award, and for many years. It did win a Leo Award for Best Visual Effects in a Dramatic Series. Eureka is still shown in the UK where it is called A Town Called Eureka. 

Sources: 

  • Eureka. Creators: Andrew Cosby, Jaime Paglia. Perf. Colin Ferguson, Jo Lupo, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Jordan Hinson. NBC Universal Television. Running Time: 60 min.
  • Hank, Melissa. “Sci-Fi Made Sexy on Eureka: An Interview with Ed Quinn.” Retrieved April 6, 2013. 

 

 

 

The Dead Man’s Gun: Contemporary Supernatural Western

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Welcome to day four of the A to Z Bloggers Challenge! Today we will discuss the Supernatural Western anthology Dead Man’s Gun. Although this show only ran for 40 episodes, it is one of my favorite contemporary Western anthologies.

I enjoy watching Dead Man’s Gun because it has an interesting premise, it follows the path of a mysterious gun that seems to have supernatural powers, a gun that destroys the lives of bad men and women and saves the lives of the good. It is like a cross breed of the old Western morality shows and The Twilight Zone. In a way, the gun becomes a character in the show, a hero of sorts, and each episode is like a short story, generally standing alone, although the final episode does have flashbacks and attempts to pull the story together.

Like many contemporary Westerns, Dead Man’s Gun was filmed in Canada and has some gorgeous scenery. The show does tend to be a bit dark and depressing, though, and most of the shows have a gratuitous sex scene, which can be a bit irritating after awhile when they are obviously completely unnecessary to the plot.

Episodes Like Short Western Fiction Stories

The show was created by Ed and Howard Spielman. Each of the forty episodes is narrated by Kris Kristofferson. Some of the episodes are outstanding, while others are simply mediocre.

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Actress Kate Jackson stars in “Death Warrant,” an episode of Dead Man’s Gun.

The individual episodes often features popular stars, such as Rick Shroder in the spooky Civil War episode “The Deserter;”  Meat Loaf in the romantic “Mail Order Bride;” and Kate Jackson and Michael Moriarity in “Death Warrant;” Joanna Pacula in “Four of a Kind;” and “The Resurrection of Joe Wheeler,” starring Brian Kerwin.

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 Henry Winkler at AIDS Project Los Angeles benefit in 1990. 

The executive producer was Henry Winkler, who also wrote numerous episodes and stars in some of my favorites, including “The Imposter,” which aired in 1997, and “Hangman,” which aired in 1998.

“Hangman”

One of my favorite episodes is “Hangman,” which aired on September 18, 1998. The show stars Henry Winkler as Phineas Newman, a professional hangman who does not necessarily enjoy his work, but understand the necessity of his job. He also understands the necessity of tying a proper knot and measuring the neck of the criminal, determining his weight, and the rate of drop so the hanged man does not suffer.

Newman is not a particularly happy man. In fact, he is a lonely man, though he understands the important role he plays in the communities he is forced to visit. He does have an apprentice, though this doesn’t necessarily make him happy, either. He would prefer to have the need for hangings disappear. Clearly, he wants a better world. His apprentice, however, has a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Newman.

When Newman is asked to prepare the noose for the Reverend Franklin Justice (Colin Cunningham), who Newman believes is innocent, Newman begins to question his ethics. Reverent Justice (clearly his name was carefully chosen) is accused of raping and murdering a young girl. Newman speaks with the Reverend when he takes his measurements for the knot and begins to question the guilty verdict passed against the man.

Newman knows how to tie a knot so the neck breaks quickly, thereby easing the pain when a man falls through the trap door on the scaffold. However, he also knows how to tie a knot that will break. When the time comes for the hanging, Newman makes his decision. He ties the knot, it breaks, and Reverend Justice is a free man because in the Old West, a man cannot hang twice for the same crime.

Then Newman begins to notice the Reverend is paying a lot of attention to a young girl in town. The girl, played by Lauren Lauder, resembles the last girl who was murdered. Newman slowly realizes he has made a mistake. He tried to play God, he tried to play judge and jury. He saved a guilty man from paying for his crime.

Newman, deeply regretting his decision to interfere, follows Reverend Justice and interrupts the man as he is attempting to murder of the young girl. Instead, Newman murders Reverend Justice. He is tried for the murder and sentenced to be hanged.

On the day of his hanging, his apprentice insists on tying the knot for his mentor and friend. He carefully measures Newman’s neck, determines his weight, the speed of the drop, and Newman assures the mournful young man that all will be well as long as he remembers to use his special noose.

Newman slowly marches up the scaffold. The crowd holds its breath, the apprentice places the hood over Newman’s head, then the noose. Newman drops, the rope breaks, and Newman is a free man.

Source:

  • “Hangman.” Dead Man’s Gun. Dir. Brenton Spencer. Perf. Henry Winkler. 

Crowhaven Farm: Made for TV Horror Classic

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Welcome to day three in the A to Z Bloggers Challenge! Today we will be discussing the supernatural made-for television movie Crowhaven Farm. Forget the reality and slasher shows of contemporary horror television because this is the show that taught children of the 70s the meaning of fear. Creepy neighbors, dark forests, sounds of children crying in the night, rumors of witchcraft–this show has it all, and had it all long before these iconic horror film ingredients became cliches.

The writers of this show clearly understood horror, they understood that fear is in the mind and that nothing terrifies people more than their own imaginations. Contemporary television shows too much, it tells too much. Crowhaven Farm is spooky, scary, downright terrifying, simply because it makes you think.

The Plot

Evelyn Carey has died and at the reading of her will she leaves her brooch and collector dishes to her cousin, Margaret Carey Porter (Hope Lange) or “Maggie.” Maggie seems perfectly content with her inheritance. Carey has left her farm, Crowhaven Farm, its outbuildings, contents, and 80 acres, to another cousin, Harvey Carey, on the condition that he take possession of the property within 30 days. Carey leaves that weekend for Crowhaven Farm, which is located in Essex County, Massachusetts. Late in the evening, he drives over a wooden bridge. I think wooden bridges are spooky. They are dark, enclosed–great imagery. Carey then sees a young girl standing in the middle of the road. He swerves to avoid hitting her and hits a tree instead. His car explodes. The young girl smiles. Maggie inherits the farm.

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Wooden Bridge. Image by Poldek_Tedy.

When Maggie and her husband, Ben (Paul Burke), drive out to visit the farm with Maggie’s friend, Felicia (Patricia Barry), there are signs, hints that all is not well on Crowhaven Farm. They are greeted by crows–never a good sign in a supernatural film–and discover a secret room with strange equipment. It is odd that Maggie knows precisely how to enter the room–by lifting a coat hook. Felicia asks how she knew the room was there, but Maggie has no answer. Felicia suggests that Maggie has lived a past life. This is called foreshadowing for the novice film watcher–of course she’s lived a past life! It’s a witch movie!

Maggie tries to convince her husband that the farm is too far away from “civilization,” but her husband wants the farm. He wants to get away from the city and raise a family. Ben wins out, telling Maggie if she agrees she can ask him for anything. He makes a desperate promise to give her anything if they agree to keep the farm. She agrees. As he walks away, Maggie has a vision of Puritans in a field piling rocks onto the ground. She tries to explain what she’s seen in the meadow to her husband, but she is hysterical and he thinks she’s overheated by the sun.

Maggie and Ben move into the farmhouse. While they are moving in the entire neighborhood arrives at their door with food and wine to welcome the couple. They point out an obvious plot clue–the couple does not have a phone. Neighbor Harold Dane (Cyril Delevanti), the local historian, explains that the house is from the Puritan era and compares the nearby town, Frampton, established in 1650, to Salem, “including witches and witch trials.” He tells the story of witchcraft and a woman, Martha Slawson, who didn’t love her husband. Divorce was illegal. A friendly witch suggested she remove her wedding ring and give it to the coven. Her husband died and his soul was delivered to the devil. He then explains that eventually eight residents of the town were executed–seven were hanged and one was pressed to death when the townspeople covered her with planks and piled rocks on top of the planks. This is what Maggie had seen in the meadow! This technique is generally used to obtain a confession, but in this case the accused was crushed to death. When she hears this story, Maggie is clearly disconcerted.

Ben is an artist, but Maggie is a former legal secretary. Kevin Pierce tells her about an opening in a local law firm. Her husband reacts with jealousy, but Maggie insists that she return to work, and she does. She works late, and Kevin gives her a lift home. Her husband accuses her of finally finding a man who can give her everything he cannot, including a child–more foreshadowing. That night, Maggie has a nightmare about being covered in stones. Ben wakes her up to apologize, but she is sobbing about the dream.

Local History

Maggie meets with Harold Dane at her home to learn more about the history of Crowhaven Farm. Apparently this is on the urging of Dane who believes that descendants of the Carey family should know their ancestors. That night, Maggie is awakened by the sound of a child crying. Maggie follows the sounds into the forest. Suddenly, the cries of the child become a witch’s cackle and Maggie collapses in fear.

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Actress Hope Lange. Trailer/Screenshot.

The next day, Maggie visits her Dr. Terminer (Milton Seltzer), tells him about what she heard the night before and tells him she is convinced something is going to happen to her. The doctor makes an odd segue into a discussion about the fact that Maggie and Ben have no children. Maggie explains that they have tried for seven years and cannot afford alternative treatments to encourage pregnancy. The doctor suggests that her frustration over the pregnancy issue might be causing the dreams, the inability to conceive, and even a hallucination about a crying child.

The next day a woman arrives at Crowhaven Farm. Mercy Lewis (note the name: Mercy was a common name among Puritans) was sent by Dr. Terminer and has a child, her ten-year-old niece–who is available for adoption. The couple seem reluctant. They want a baby. Lewis explains that Dr. Terminer has informed her that her illness is incurable. She tells them that Jennifer was orphaned when she was two and she needs to find a good home for her. Suddenly, the child steps into the barn. It is the same mysterious girl who was standing by the wooden bridge, the child who caused the death of Maggie’s cousin!

Maggie and Ben introduce themselves to Jennifer who tells them they have nice names. She tells Ben his painting is so pretty it makes her want to cry. Jennifer asks if she can stay with the couple while her aunt is in Boston and they agree on  “a trial visit.” Ben comments that Jennifer is a beautiful child, and she is beautiful. In fact, Jennifer is played by Cindy Eilbacher, sister of Lisa Eilbacher, who stars in the Twilight Zone episode “Nightsong.

The next day, Maggie arrives home to find a police car in her driveway. Lewis has committed suicide. Jennifer apparently took the news remarkably well and Dr. Terminer suggests they keep her as a child. Maggie discusses Lewis’s death that night as she helps Jennifer prepare for bed. That’s when she notices Jennifer has a bite on her shoulder. Jennifer claims it has always been on her shoulder.

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Rod Taylor and Lloyd Bochner (behind). 

The next day, at work, Maggie receives a phone call from Kevin Pierce. There is a terrible storm outside and Pierce claims stretches of road are under three feet of water–she cannot drive home. He suggests she stay at his apartment. She reluctantly agrees, but cannot tell her husband–they have no phone, remember?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Jennifer in her cute white nightgown is making the rounds of the house via secret rooms that she mysteriously knows all about. Hmm. She enters the bedroom and tells Ben she is lonely. She asks if she can sleep with him. He agrees and returns to his book, but before she falls asleep she gives him a mysterious smile.

And to Make Matters Worse…

Kevin Pierce arrives for a visit and accuses Maggie of avoiding him. He accuses her of lying to her jealous husband and Maggie admits that she told Ben she stayed at a hotel. Suddenly, they both notice Jennifer standing in the room. She is dressed as a Puritan. She tells them she wants to show them her costume. Maggie asks how long she’s been listening and Jennifer replies, “a little while.”

The next scene is in the doctor’s office. Dr. Terminer informs her she is pregnant. They agree to wait to tell Ben for a month until the test is 100% sure so it can be a New Year’s gift. The couple has a New Year’s party in their home. At midnight, the devious Pierce grabs Maggie and forces her into an intimate kiss. She pushes him away, but when she approaches her husband he grabs the nearest neighbor and kisses her passionately, too. Later, in the bedroom, Maggie tells Ben she is pregnant. “This was the only thing missing, our own baby,” Ben says. Jennifer is seen in her own bed, smiling that mysterious smile.

The Tension is Rising

Maggie is working in the kitchen when the handyman, Nate Cheever (the great John Carradine) brings up a door from the cellar. There are marks on the door that appear to be made by stones. Maggie has a flashback and hysterically demands that he burn the door. The tension is rising…

Harold Dane, the historian, has returned to town and tries to visit Maggie, but Jennifer tells him the couple are both gone. She promises to tell them he has stopped by. He notices his cane is missing and Jennifer claims she didn’t see it. Dane leaves, and Jennifer carries the cane out to the handyman who is working in the garden. Later, the mailman tells Maggie Mr. Dane fell down the stairs at his home and died. Jennifer is playing with a string at the table. The mailman tells her Dane came to visit her the day before. When he leaves, Maggie asks Jennifer if Mr. Dane came to the house. Jennifer denies seeing anyone and leaves the room.

Return of the Witches

Maggie walks to the bookcase and picks up a book. It is a history of Crowhaven Farm. It explains that in 1692, Daniel Carey and his wife Margaret, or Meg Carey, were living at the farm. They had no children and it was acknowledged that Meg was barren. Then suddenly, she became pregnant. Although the couple was believed to be “God-fearing.” Maggie has another flashback where she is accused of conceiving a child with the “evil one.” She visits the family cemetery and finds the tombstones for Margaret Carey and Maggie Carey.

She returns to the book, which explains that a cousin held witch sacrifices of sheep, goats, and larger animals in the stone quarry on the farm. She has another flashback. A tortured woman named a child, Jennifer, who was brought before the court. It was revealed that she had a bite on her shoulder, the bite of Satan–the same bite as Jennifer, the child in Maggie’s home!

It is the late in the evening, but Maggie hears voices outside and follows them to the stone quarry where she witnesses a witch ceremony. Suddenly, while she is standing there, it is morning again. She walks into the quarry and finds fresh blood. She returns home. Ben has been looking for her. She is hysterical again, mumbling about sacrifices and blood. She tries to show him, but there is no longer any blood on her hand. She screams at him to stay away. Ben calls out to Jenny to find Dr. Terminer fast. (Now, how does she do this if they have no phone?)

A Child is Born

Dr. Terminer is working on her. She mumbles that she will do anything to have a child. She is still hallucinating, making promises in order to have a child. She is dreaming that she is lying on the ground with a board on her chest while people pile rocks on top of her. When she awakens she is looking into the eyes of the doctor. A nurse and Ben are standing beside the bed. Maggie has given birth to a son.

It is night. Maggie is sleeping in her own bed. The nurse is still caring for her (Oh, those were the days!). She asks how Brian is and Ben says he is small, but healthy. Jennifer enters the room to check on her, but Maggie seems uncomfortable with her presence. Ben sends her to bed. Maggie sends Ben for the books downstairs. She tells him that Jennifer is in the book, and tells him about the teeth marks on her shoulder. She tells him about a woman, Meg Carey, who made a pact with Jennifer. She agreed to her terms in order to have a child. She believes history is repeating itself. Ben tells her she has dreamed the whole thing. Maggie tells him Mr. Dane came to warn them, but Ben will not listen. She tries to tell him it was all arranged, including Mercy Lewis’s death. She begs him to take her away from Crowhaven Farm. He tells her she is tired, but agrees to read the book.

Ben is next seen talking to the doctor downstairs. The doctor tells him there never were any books. Ben asks the doctor to watch over Maggie so he can attend a one man art show in Boston in a first class gallery. Ben tells Maggie and she begs him not to go. She reminds him of his promise, to give her anything she wants if she stays at the farm and she wants that promise, she wants him to stay at the farm. Ben tells her Dr. Terminer does not believe she is in her “right mind,” and he is leaving.

But Maggie is in her “right” mind! 

Maggie sneaks out of bed to check on the baby. She wraps up the baby and tries to sneak out of the house, then notices the handyman, Cheever, in front of the house with the door with the rock marks on it. She turns around and find Jennifer and two women from town standing in the room in puritan clothing. “What have I done to you?” she asks. “You’ve betrayed us,” they reply. “I died at ten because you betrayed me,” Jennifer tells her. “We’ve waited for our souls to return to this world for our revenge.”

Maggie tries to run, but the follow her. Suddenly, Maggie’s best friend, Felicia arrives. Maggie climbs into the car and tells her to drive away. “Thank God it was you,” she says. She starts to explain the story, then realized Felicia has driven her to the field. “Felicia, no, not you!” Maggie cries. Felicia tells her to get out. She demands the baby. They take the child. They force Maggie to lie down in the field and cover her with the board. They slowly cover her in rocks. Dr. Terminer gives a speech about closing the circle, explaining it is the anniversary of Jennifer’s cruel death. Maggie cries out for Ben and Jennifer offers to take Ben in her place. Maggie asks what will happen to her baby. Jennifer tells her again to give her Ben. She tells her to give her the wedding ring and she can have her baby returned. Maggie gives her the ring, just like in the story in the history book.

Maggie wakes up in the field. The townspeople are gone and her baby is beside her. Back at the house, Ben comes home to find Jennifer waiting. She tells Ben Maggie left him for Mr. Pierce, that Maggie said that was where they both belonged. Ben recalls that he told her once to go to him. Jennifer reveals that Maggie spent the night at Mr. Pierce’s apartment during the storm. Ben suddenly assumes the child is Pierce’s child.

Death comes to Crowhaven Farm

Jennifer goes to her room. She is twisting Maggie’s ring on her finger. Ben goes to Pierce’s apartment and shoots him, then discovers it is not his wife in Pierce’s bed, but the neighbor Ben kissed on New Year’s Eve.

Maggie arrives home, searching for her husband. Ben is at the quarry, climbing the rocks. He sees Jennifer, who tells him she’s been waiting for him. He follows her through the trees. They arrive at the top of a cliff. Below, there is a witch’s ceremony taking place. The next scene shows Ben dead on the rocks and the police retrieving his body. Dr. Terminer declares cause of death a broken neck. A police officer points out teeth marks on Ben’s shoulder and Dr. Terminer laughs. 

Maggie returns to the city. She is walking the baby in a pram through the park. An officer arrives on horseback and stops to talk. He admires the baby and comments on the baby’s father. Maggie tells him she is a widow. The police officer ties a bow for the baby in an odd way, the same way Ben used to tie bows. The officer tells her that from now on he’ll keep an eye on her, and her little boy. He gets back on his horse and rides away, and Maggie realizes she will never escape the coven.

While it is true that the film was shown during prime time on the ABC Movie of the Week, but I am still surprised to this day by the number of adults I know who watched this show as children. When you read about this film on internet forums it is always adults who remember Crowhaven Farm, and they remember it well. They remember watching it as children, and being very afraid…

 Sources: 

  • Crowhaven Farm. Dir. Walter Grauman. Perf. Hope Lange, Paul Burke, Lloyd Bochner, John Carradine. Aaron Spelling Productions., 1970. Running Time: 74 min.
  • There is a video of this film currently available on You Tube. Videos come and go on You Tube, but the film is available, in its entirety, at the time of this posting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj8-JFphNOs

Bewitched: The Sexiest Nose Twitch on Television

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Welcome to day two of the A to Z Bloggers Challenge! Today we will be discussing the supernatural family show Bewitched starring Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens, the suburban housewife with the cutest nose twitch on television! Contrary to other supernatural television characters, Samantha was uncomfortable with her witchy abilities. She wanted the life of a traditional housewife with two children–a boy and a girl, of course–a station wagon, a dog, and a house in a quiet neighborhood where friends could stop by on occasion for a cup of tea and gossip. Instead of cleaning up after her children, Samantha was forced to use her supernatural abilities to clean up the messes created by her meddling mother, Endora, and other various nuisance relatives.

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Publicity photo of Elizabeth Montgomery. Montgomery played the lovely mother, housewife, and secret witch in the supernatural sitcom Bewitched, which of course was released in the magic year of 1968.

It’s not that Samantha is ashamed of her family or her supernatural ancestry. The problem is that her husband is a traditionalist, a corporate fanny-kisser, and Samantha, though she lives in the 1960s, prefers the happy homemaker image of the 1950s, which includes remaining faithful to her husband’s ideals, which include not cheating–and by cheating I do not mean infidelity.

The business ethics of Darrin Stephens include honesty, hard work, and acquiring wealth and achieving success only if it is earned. This list, of course, does not include the use of magic spells or nose twitches. Darrin is proud of his wife for her beauty and dedication to their family, but he is embarrassed by her family, and the fact that his daughter is a witch, and his son is a warlock.

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Dick York as Darrin Stephens and Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha Stephens in Bewitched.

When you think about it, although this sitcom was exceptionally popular–it ran from September of 1964 to July of 1972 and ranked in the Top 25 five times during its run–it was shocking sexist for the times. Samantha’s appeal is sexual–she is alluring, bewitching, enticing, charming, and although her husband often ends up looking like a fool in his efforts to prevent his wife from exposing her supernatural abilities, Samantha always remains calm, cool, and silky smooth.

The Cast of Bewitched

Samantha Stephens is played by Elizabeth Montgomery, daughter of actor Robert Montgomery. Robert Montgomery was nominated for two Oscars and believed to be the best dressed man in Hollywood, which may explain what appears to be an almost instinctive sex appeal in the performances of his daughter, Elizabeth–she had a great teacher. Elizabeth surprised her father when she enrolled in the Academy of Dramatic Arts, then shocked him again when he was told of her success with her first audition–Elizabeth had landed a role in the show Top Secret, and her father was the show’s star. Elizabeth met television producer William Asher and the two fell madly in love. The two searched for a script  for a show she could star in so they could spend more time together, and discovered Bewitched. Elizabeth designed her own costumes for the show, which were so popular that she eventually created her own clothing line.

Dick York

Dick York as Darrin Stephens in Bewitched. Dick York played the role from 1964 to 1969.

Dick York played Darrin Stephens in Bewitched, an executive with the New York advertising firm of McMann and Tate. York was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series. In short, he was hysterically funny! Unfortunately, he also had a degenerative spine injury and was forced to leave the show in 1969. He actually tore all the muscles in his back in 1959 while working on a film with Gary Cooper and never recovered. The pain was unbearable for York, and in 1969 he had a seizure on the set of Bewitched. He was taken to the hospital and never returned to the set. Bewitched continued with Dick Sargent playing the role of Darrin and the show’s ratings dropped immediately and drastically–apparently, the audience loved the wimpy character played by Dick York!

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Agnes Moorehead starred as Samantha’s mother, Endora, in Bewitched.

The Most Dangerous Mother-In-Law in Sitcom History

Samantha’s mother was clearly the greatest source of conflict in this family sitcom. She was more than a meddler, she was a witch in every sense of the word. She did not like her son-in-law and did everything she could to interfere in her daughter’s relationship, inspiring television historian John Javna to refer to her as “The most dangerous mother-in-law in sitcom history!” In fact, Agnes Moorehead was a bit uncomfortable with the role. She was 57 when Bewitched started filming with a 50 year successful acting career that began with the American Mercury Theater starring alongside Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton. She won an Emmy, was nominated for five Oscars, and appeared in over 100 films before Bewitched. The audience would never have guessed that she was uncomfortable with the role, though. Agnes Moorehead was a professional in every sense of the word and her performance as the meddling mother-in-law was outstanding.

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The Stephens family in 1971 screenshot for Bewitched. At this point, Dick Sargent had replaced Dick York as Darrin Stephens. Erin Murphy played young Tabitha and David Lawrence played Adam Stephens. Both children inherited their mother’s supernatural powers in the show.  

Bewitched is still believed to be one of the most popular supernatural sitcoms in television history. Although Elizabeth Montgomery had bit parts in films and television shows before Bewitched, this was the show that truly made her famous. The show also won three Emmys, a testament to its popularity. Samantha Stephens was the first “witch” to star in a television show. When Dick York left the show, his disappearance was also a first–it was the first time a lead character left a show without an explanation. Nevertheless, the show continued for three more years in spite of the drop in ratings, due primarily to the popularity of Elizabeth Montgomery.

Little Tabitha (Erin Murphy) also contributed to the show’s popularity. In fact, ABC gave Tabitha her own sitcom in 1977. Tabitha was played by Lisa Hartman who was an adult employed by a television station. The show only lasted a year.

When Tabitha first appeared on the show as a baby she was played by three sets of twins until the producers finally settled on the adorable Erin Murphy. The fans loved the name Tabitha, though. After her first appearance, thousands of babies were named in her honor in the US.

Sources: 

  • Javna, John. Cult TV. St. Martin’s Press. New York: 1985.
  • Winship, Michael. Television. Random House. New York: 1988.

The Addams Family: The Dysfunctional Family Cult Classic

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Welcome to day one of the A to Z Blogger Challenge! Today’s topic is The Addam’s Family, the supernatural, happily dysfunctional family based on a classic cartoon from The New Yorker Magazine. The Addams Family ran on prime time television from 1964 to 1966, but remains a cult favorite for many reasons discussed below. The show was introduced at a time when the networks was inundated with quirky families, like The Munsters and Bewitched. According to Michael Winship, author of Television, the public was tired of the perfect families found in the 1950s sitcoms, so the networks responded with a monster explosion in the 60s. Though it only ran for two years, The Addams Family ranked #23 in the Top 25 Television Shows, but more importantly, it became a supernatural cult classic favorite. However, today, we will discuss this well-loved family because it’s one of my childhood favorites, and because…A is for Addams! 

Meet the Addams Family, their Family and Friends

One of the definitions of the word supernatural is “weird, unearthly, and beyond scientific understanding.” This is precisely what makes the Addams Family so charming. They are strange, goofy, and some members of the family are most definitely beyond scientific understanding. They have an octopus for a pet, and Thing T. Thing, a disembodied hand that fetches the mail and lights cigars for Gomez Addams. The daughter of the family, Wednesday Friday Addams, has a pet spider collection and Pugsley, her brother, spends much of his play time using his toy guillotine on Wednesday’s doll. The family pet, though, is a man-eating plant named Cleopatra.

Some viewers may consider this family a bit weird, they are definitely “supernatural,” and may even fit the definition of dysfunctional in the minds of contemporary family therapists, but they are also lovable, simply because they do not see themselves as strange, and they rarely judge others as strange, either. To the Addams, their way of life is quite normal and they seem to be completely oblivious to the opinions of others and the fact that other people think they’re “different.” I like this.

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The Addams Family, from left to right: Gomez Addams (John Astin); Wednesday Friday (Lisa Loring); Morticia Frump Addams (Carolyn Jones); Pugsley Addams (Ken Weatherwax); and standing behind Morticia’s chair is Lurch the Butler, played by Ted Cassidy, who also played Thing T. Thing. 

The head of the Addam’s clan is Gomez Addams (John Astin). Gomez is a lawyer who dresses like a gangster–not contemporary gangsters, but the 1940s gangster style. He is intelligent and charming, and often completes complicated mathematical calculations in his head. He has a magic cigar that lights when he removes it from his jacket pocket and extinguishes itself when replaced. According to John Javna’s Cult TV, when John Astin first auditioned for a role on this show he was turned down, but he auditioned for the position of Lurch! Instead, of hiring Astin to play Lurch, Executive Producer David Levy offered him the role of Gomez on one condition, that he grow a mustache. That mustache must have felt like a caterpillar on the skin of Carolyn Jones as Gomez spent most of his time at home kissing the hand, wrist, and arm of his lovely wife, Morticia! True story–according to John Javna, when Ringo Starr met John Astin he greeted him by grasping Astin’s hand and kissing him all the way up his arm just as Gomez does to his wife.

Morticia is one of my favorite characters in the show. She has white skin, long black hair, and is always dressed in a long, tight, black wedding gown. She lights candles with the touch of her finger. Morticia is sexy and spooky at the same time. Morticia is played by Carolyn Jones, who also plays Morticia’s sister, Ophelia, in the show. Carolyn Jones was cast because Levy was looking for an actress with a “name,” and she was the only well-known actress who auditioned. Her previous roles, though, were bit parts in House of Wax and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but they were supernatural films and she was able to show that she could play the part. Jones spent two hours each day dressing for the role. Her makeup was meticulous, and her wig was made of real human hair. Punk rocker Siouxsie of Siouxsie and the Banshees (am I revealing my age here?) bragged that she used Morticia as her costume and makeup role model.

Pugsley (Ken Weatherwax) and Wednesday Friday (Lisa Loring) were inseparable siblings (no, I do not mean this literally!). They are always seen together, but rarely featured in an episode. They look and dress like normal children in the television show with Wednesday’s long, dark hair woven into two braids and Pugsley in the popular striped shirts. The children do not have friends on the show for obvious reasons–not many young girls would appreciate the joys of playing with a spider collection. They do have special talents, though. Puglsey hangs from tree branches by his teeth and Wednesday is a Judo expert. They appear to be home-schooled by their grandmother, though in the contemporary film versions their roles are much larger and Uncle Fester appears to be their tutor. The Addams Family was the only television show or film that Ken Weatherwax appeared in, though he did make an occasional guest appearance on talk shows. Lisa Loring is still acting in soap operas, films, and television shows.

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Famous child actor Jackie Coogan played Uncle Fester in the original television series.

Uncle Fester is shaped like a long box, has dark, sunken eyes and pale skin, and dresses like a monk. He also sleeps on a bed of nails. He has the personality of a child at times, but is well-loved by the family. In the television show he is Morticia’s Uncle. His most famous trick on the show is electrifying a light bulb by sticking it in his mouth. He also plays records using his finger for a needle. Uncle Fester is played by the adult child star Jackie Coogan. Coogan came from a famous Vaudeville family and made his first film with Charlie Chaplin. He made hundreds of appearances in films and television shows, from The Love Boat to I Dream of Jeannie. He even played Oliver in one of the first film versions of Oliver Twist made in 1922. Coogan made his first film, The Kid, at the age of four and was still making films right up to the year that he died, in 1984.

Grandmama Addams (Marie Blake) was a bona fide witch who flies on a broom and is constantly working on her special brews. She is such a fun character with her witchy laugh and her hexes and spells. She always wore a shawl like all good grandmammas do, and her hair was frizzy as if she’d stuck her finger in the socket after Fester removed the light bulb. Grandmama was Morticia’s mother.

Lurch (Ted Cassidy) is the butler, but clearly a member of the family, which is shown in his careful attention to the children (and the fact that he waxes Uncle Fester’s head.) Although Ted Cassidy was a well-established, handsome actor, he was rather ghoulish and a bit scary in the show. He was expected to perform a variety of tasks on the show, but often found them difficult to accomplish due to his great height, something that strangers and neighbors often found terrifying when they dared to knock at the door.

Thing T. Thing is also played by Ted Cassidy, but when Thing and Lurch appeared on screen at the same time, Thing was played by the hand of Associate Producer Jack Vogelin. Thing is generally Cassidy’s right hand, but Cassidy sometimes switched hands to fool the viewing audience. Thing had his own house inside the house inside the upstairs closet of the Addam’s residence. He generally made his appearance at the most inopportune moments, such as when a visitor was alone in the room. Thing does fall in love in one episode, “Morticia Meets Royalty,” when the Princess Millicent von Schlepp visits with a female “thing,” the hand of Carolyn Jones, which is kept inside of an ornate box. She was called “Lady Fingers.”

Although there are many other notable characters in the family, Cousin Itt (Felix Silla and later, Anthony Magro) is probably one of the most popular. He is, well, a hairy It. Itt is about four feet tall and covered head to toe with long, thick hair. He doesn’t speak, he mumbles. He does, however, drive a three-wheeled car.

The New Yorker Cartoon created by Charles Addams

The Addams Family was the creative inspiration of Charles Addams and based on a popular cartoon Addams wrote for The New Yorker. The family had a cult following before it was introduced to television. In fact, David Levy noticed a book collection of the cartoons in a bookstore and as soon as he opened the book he realized the Addams family was perfect for the 1960s monster obsession. Addams had rejected numerous offers in the past to turn the cartoon into a television show, but when he met with Levy the two men seemed to understand what Charles Addams had in mind when he created the family, so Addams agreed to the transformation of his characters from cartoon figures to television actors.

The House is a Museum…

The Addams Family theme song claims, “Their house is a museum, when people come to see ’em they really are a screa-um. The Addams Family.” And the house truly is a cluttered, dusty museum. The house has a growling bearskin rug; a giant stuffed Polar Bear; a noose hanging from the ceiling (nice touch); and an Eskimo Totem Pole. There is also a rack, iron maiden and stocks. My favorite, though, is the suit of armor that coughs whenever Gomez Addams flicks his cigar ashes.

The Addams Family on Film

The Addams Family was revived in 1991 with a feature film by Orion Pictures who sold the film to Paramount. I love this film. At first, I didn’t think it was possible to replace the original cast, but it was! The film stars Raul Julia, one of my all-time favorite actors, as Gomez, and Angelica Huston as the perfect Morticia. Christopher Lloyd surprised me with his excellent portrayal of Uncle Fester, but Christina Ricci steals the show as the morbid mini-Morticia, Wednesday Friday. In this show, Uncle Fester is the older brother of Gomez. He has amnesia and is hoodwinked by a shady lawyer (Dan Hedaya) and his loan shark (Elizabeth Wilson). In the end, though, the family joyfully reunited.

Addams Family Values was released in 1993 with the wonderful Carol Kane playing “Granny.” Uncle Fester is again the star of the show as the husband of evil nurse Debbie Jellinsky (Joan Cusack) who tries desperately to murder Fester. She convinces the Addams parents to send the older children to summer camp to protect the third addition to the family, baby boy Pubert (Kaitlyn and Kristen Hooper) who Wednesday and Pugsley are constantly trying to kill through various means, such as dropping him from the top of the stairs. At summer camp, the two are tortured by two over-zealous camp counselors (Christine Branski and Peter MacNicol) and forced to watch family films, but Wednesday meets her first boyfriend, Joel (David Krumholtz). Jellinsky fails in her murder attempts, so she finally resorts to attempted murder of the entire family. The family is saved by baby boy Pubert, of course! The film ends with a touching scene between Wednesday and Joel in the family cemetery.

Sources: 

  • Javna, John. Cult TV: A Viewer’s Guide to the Shows America Can’t Live Without! St. Martin’s Press. New York: 1985.
  • Winship, Michael. Television. Random House. New York: 1988.

 

 

 

 

A to Z Challenge!

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A Note from Darla Sue Dollman:

Dear Friends:

During the month of April I will participate in the A to Z Bloggers Challenge on three of my blogs. I will post every day except Sunday and the topic of each day’s post will begin with the next letter in the alphabet. For instance, my first topic, on April 1, will be on The Addams Family–A for Addams–see how it works? Fun!

The challenge was started by blogger Arlee Bird, whose blog is titled Tossing it Out! There are over 1500 blogs signed up this year so it should be an exciting challenge!

Some of my posts may be shorter, but I’ve planned fun topics in advance so I hope you enjoy them. I will be posting daily on my Wild West History Blog, as well as Classic Television Shows and Supernatural Television. I will post on the weekends on my other blogs listed below. Please leave comments, share your thoughts, and enjoy!

Thank you for reading my blogs!

Darla Sue Dollman

Read more:

Darla Sue Dollman on Wild West Weather

Blessed Little Creatures

Alfred Hitchcock: Everything Alfred

Darla Sue Dollman: Darla’s Book Reviews

Compassion, Kindness, and Love

Classic Films and Actors