Episode Pilot: “The New House” (March 17, 1972)
Plot: A young couple expecting their first child purchase a new house that was built on a gallows hill where men and women were once brutally executed.
The episode stars Barbara Parkins as an expecting young mother named Eileen. She begins to suspect that something is seriously wrong with their new home after a number of strange occurrences involving things that go bump in the night and disembodied voices. Her husband (played by the rather dull David Birney) doesn’t seem to hear or see anything suspicious so he assumes his wife is losing her mind or just acting like a typical “crazy pregnant woman.” Of course he’s wrong, and one dark and stormy night after Eileen gives birth to a daughter, the ghost of a hanged woman materializes and tries to the claim the baby girl.
The pilot was surprisingly entertaining and creepy. Sebastian Cabot hosts the series with much aplomb bringing lots of class, style and gravitas to the proceedings. The opening begins with him introducing us to The Mansfield House, his opulent home that also acts as a hotel where guests apparently check-in and rarely checkout. Interestingly, The Mansfield House is actually the historic Hotel del Coronado in San Deigo that was a famous Hollywood ‘playground’ before WW2. Today it’s often recognized as one of the most haunted hotels in California.
“The New House” was written by the late great Richard Matheson and directed by John Llewellyn Moxey who is probably best remembered today for directing a couple of great Christopher Lee vehicles, the chilling horror film The City of the Dead (1960) and the interesting thriller Psycho-Circus (1966). Both Matheson and Moxey also did a lot of great television work so it’s not surprising that they teamed-up with William Castle for the pilot episode of Ghost Story. The appropriately eerie score by William Leon “Billy” Goldenberg is also worth a mention. Goldenberg’s name might not be familiar but he composed scores for a a number of suspenseful mysteries and thrillers made for the large and small screen including Fear No Evil (1969), The Last of Sheila (1972), Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973) and The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975).
Before I sign-off, I must single-out Barbara Parkins who is gorgeous here and always fun to watch. She also has a lovely voice so I just enjoy listening to her say her lines but Parkins is great as the tormented and sympathetic Eileen. She plays her part with much seriousness and lots of well-timed emoting. In the climax she really get to let loose and is especially vulnerable. Wish she had been given a bit more to do but the episode ran a brisk 45min. so I can’t complain too much. I was just happy to see Parkins in another horror role. She was already one of my favorite ‘Scream Queens’ thanks to her standout roles in The Mephisto Waltz (1971), The Deadly Trap (1971) and Asylum (1972) but this cements her position.