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

Comments

  1. Tracy says:

    I’m watching “Criminal Minds” and the plot is about a witch being crushed and it reminded me of a movie I’d seen as a kid that scared me SO much. For some reason I remembered Hope Lange and put that into Google with witch and voila! Found it on YouTube and will watch it soon. Thanks for the synopsis.