Sunday, May 23, 2010

Confronting an old Ghost Story



When I was five-years-old, I was terrified of fire. I couldn't even be in the same room with birthday candles, much less a candlelit dinner (which burned longer) or - God forbid - around a campfire. I had horrible visions of our house (or campground or whatever) burning down.

I knew exactly where that fear came from too. It was an episode of a horror anthology show on NBC at the time called Ghost Story. I'm not sure what possessed my parents that they allowed me to watch it. They were usually very careful about what I watched and erred on the side of strictness, but we were faithful Ghost Story viewers.

I couldn't remember the name of the show until several years ago when I described the episode to a friend who had great Web Fu and figured it out for me. The episode was called "House of Evil." It was written by Robert Bloch and developed by Richard Matheson and IMDB describes it this way:
When Grandpa (Melvyn Douglas) arrives for a visit, he has two special gifts for his granddaughter, Judy (Jodie Foster), a deaf mute. One is a very special doll house that is an exact replica of the one Judy lives in with her family. The other is the ability to "hear" his thoughts without speaking. But Grandpa's intentions aren't as benign as they seem.
Outside of the creepy, mute granddaughter and her malevolent grandfather, the only things I remember about the episode are the dollhouse (I think I remember that they made voodoo dolls out of cookies or something, one for each member of the family) and what happens to it at the end. Whatever happens to the dolls and the dollhouse also happens to the corresponding family member (Richard Mulligan is also in the episode, perhaps as the father?). Somehow, the dollhouse catches fire, which of course spreads to the real house. The last thing I remember from the episode was the image of the burning house. That was the one that seared itself into my mind and made me pyrophobic for the next year or so.

I bring this all up now because I just found a place that sells old Ghost Story episodes on DVD. I'm sure they're bootlegs, but if they were available commercially I'd buy it that way instead. I've ordered the "House of Evil" one and I'm frankly a bit nervous about watching it. I can't imagine that it'll renew my phobia, but it made such a huge impression on me 38 years ago that I still recall certain images from it. Psychologically, watching it again - confronting it again - will be a pretty big deal. So, before I do that, I wanted to jot down these memories about it in the interest of comparing notes afterward.

They're shipping it to me tomorrow, so hopefully I'll have it by the end of the week.
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