THE HOUSE (Night Gallery TV series)

tumblr_mo007oPffg1r50ghvo1_500Its a brilliantly sunny afternoon somewhere in California in 1970. A beautiful golden haired woman is driving a red car along a country road. She is wearing loose fitting orange robes, with some major-sized, flared trousers. She keeps talking out loud in her head as she drives along the lonely stretch of nature, trees on either side of the road.

Over a bridge, across a peaceful lake and she is finally there. She stops the car (all of this is taking place in slow motion, all the while some very dreamy background music is soothing the viewer) in front of an impressive looking mansion. Stepping out of her vehicle she approaches the front door. There is no one around, no traffic, just the birds in the trees. She pulls back the knocker and lets it drop. It gives off an ugly deep sound as the metal hits the elegantly painted white wood. Thunk! No one is home. It does not open because there are no occupants. At least physical ones. But she is not to know that in a logical everyday sense.

As a stranger intruding on to someone else’ s property how would she know what is really behind that locked door? But somehow she has access to a twilight state of consciousness where an intuition is telling her all she needs to know. It is a compulsion beyond this physical realm. “And that’s it doctor, that’s my dream. It always ends with me walking back to my car.” We now move to a peaceful room where Dr Mitchell is listening to a golden haired young woman crocheting in the chair opposite his desk. She is Elaine Latimer. The setting is an enviable one. A peaceful sanitarium for the mentally unwell: every need is catered for the patient recuperating from a nervous breakdown or neurosis. It is a very genteel environment.

Dr Mitchell is playing with an abacus on his desk as he asks her if the same house re-occurs in these dreams. She reassures him that it is. The dream never varies: she is driving confidently along the same country road that leads to the same impressive white house. She belongs there. He tells her that she needs to get out into the big wide world. At the convalescent home she has no problems that the staff can’t handle on her behalf. She admits that she doesn’t really want to leave because of her fear of responsibility. But it is her final day at the home and leave she must. As she is about to leave the shrink shakes her hand and tells her she is lucky to have such a tranquil recurring dream. His dreams are far more troubled.

As the clinic door closes behind her , an elderly patient tells an incredulous nurse: “Good riddance, I never cared for that woman. Never walked, she seemed to just glide along. Dreamy. Never had her feet on the ground. I like a woman with both feet on the ground!” The elderly woman throws a magazine onto the floor, the camera zooms in on the black and white cover. It is the picture of the dream house along with a one word title: HAUNTED. Again we are back in the car, riding over the same bridge and up to the white house again. Our heroine gets out and stands uncertainly in front of the door. What to do? Again, it’s another superbly sunny day and no one but the birds appears to be about.

“Can I help you?” a man’s strong voice calls out from somewhere in the darkness of the trees. She turns in fright and a respectable looking gentleman appears, the epitome of a business man in his fancy suit. “My name is Peugeot” he informs her. He is the local real estate agent and is trying to sell her dream home. “May I show you around inside?” he has the keys and she is about to enter into her fantasy world. She is delighted….

It is just like her dreams, every meticulously clean large room, painting, window, stair step and wooden panel. Nothing surprises her. It is all a confirmation of her vision. Mr Peugeot is impressed with her cool attitude but he has something worrying to divulge. He walks over to the fireplace and leans against the mantel. “The house is haunted” he tells Elaine Latimer. This guarantees her attention.”Haunted by whom?” she is very intrigued now. Her wistful facial expressions suggesting she knows more than Mr Peugeot.

And there’s the rub. Mr Peugeot is a rational man and he knows the history of the building has no dark secrets. Not a murder or anything notorious. An English family were the previous owners. They had left in a hurry claiming that the house was haunted without giving him anything solid to go on. The estate agent sneers that local gossip and superstition over everyday occurences like house settling noise etc is behind the English family running away.

She asks him for the price and learns it is at least five times undervalued. She will take it! The financial settlement to be finalised that very afternoon. Stopping at the front door Mr Peugeot tells Elaine that she is not like other lady buyers. She is intrigued. “How so?” He explains that most lady buyers keep coming back to repeatedly look over the place. They only seem satisfied once ” they’ve seen a property a dozen times, and even then it isn’t enough.”

He tells her she has resolve and will. Elaine smirks doubtfully.”Resolve and will, those aren’t usually among my attributes.”

Mr Peugeot asks if she will take it in spite of the ghost. She responds that she will take it because of the ghost, not in spite of. Finally ensconced in the house of her dream, everything seems perfect yet antiseptic. Every room is scrupulously clean and she is alone to moon around without having to interact with anyone else. She takes a little nap in the afternoon, fully clothed on her bed. She even leaves her boots on.

While asleep we see her double driving to the house once more. Out she gets in her orange robes and raps the door knocker. Elaine wakes up from her upstairs bedroom, races down the stairs and we are not permitted to see any more. She had been on the phone to Dr Mitchell before she heard the knocking. She runs back upstairs to complete the phone call. “I know who has been haunting this house, doctor. I know who the ghost is doctor, I am the ghost . I AM the ghost!”

An arresting yet disturbing twenty minutes of classic television. A story filled with an off-beat spirituality and an actress (Joanna Pettet) so ethereal it seems like a dream itself.

 

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