We open on an open window at night-time, curtains moving with the breeze, an owl hooting, and Leonard Nimoy talking about ghosts. Yeah! Drink it in! This is what I watch this show for! 'Aliens built the pyramids'? That okay. But Leonard Nimoy telling ghost stories? That's just awesome.
But it doesn't last long. After the campfire story opening, we're back to the studio where Nimoy is explaining that there are scientific rules to ghostly behaviour. I'd say 'ho hum', but when the scientific theory being pitched is that 'a ghost might be thought of as the spirit of someone who died in emotional turmoil' then… well, all I can say is, that's some science right there.
Nimoy tells us we're going to talk to a ghost hunter. Venkman? Holtzman? Hell, I'll settle for Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch, but no we get Hans Holzer, an Austrian gentleman who's a 'doctor of parapsychology'. He's a rather intense looking guy, with a somewhat cool German accent. He explains that in his view ghosts are just people in need of help.
Oh, that's right. It's the seventies. Sigh. After the creepy intro, we're going into what's nothing more than an updated version of the old Spiritualist rescue circle. The idea is that most people go into some sort of afterlife, but others hang on too much to this world because of some mental trauma, and so need help to move on. Sixth Sense, basically.
Crap, I hope I didn't just spoil Sixth Sense for you. Sorry.
Anyway, Holzer is called into investigate an alleged haunting of the Washington Irving Museum by Washington Irving. I just… Look, usually I like to go into a lot of detail in these reviews, but this bit is just lame. A kindly looking museum worker tells a tale of crappy poltergeist activity. The director of the museum can name no other instances of strange activity, but says that Irving claimed he'd haunt the place as a friendly ghost.
Holzer, a grown man whose occupation is looking for ghosts, decides that this is too silly for words and just moves on.
In Port Clyde, Maine. Nimoy narrates the place to us over pictures of fishing boats. It's a fishing village, and none of the narration of illustration adds to this basic point. Fishing. There's an interview with a guy who used to live in a supposedly haunted house. He says he saw and heard nothing out of the ordinary.
Cut to Holzer, who says that he has information on the ghost the fisherman was talking about. This show often contradicts itself, but usually not in such a short span of time. Holzer's story is about a brother and sister who vacationed at the house in the early seventies. There's spooky music and footage of someone shining a flashlight through the darkened house. The spookiness is undercut by the dull rambling story told by the brother, which basically turned out to be mysterious footsteps in the night and a mysterious force pressing on his sheets.
His sister tells an even more rambling story, but it involves an actual apparition of a female figure. That's it. The rest of the details would be spooky, if she knew how to tell a story.
Holzer calls in a psychic to help him. The psychic has a wander through the house and tells us that the haunting entity is from a house that used to stand in the same place. It's… It's all so lame. All of this, everything we've seen so far, I've seen the same sort of thing in a dozen movies. But it works in those movies, because of the tone, the suspense, the storytelling. Here it's just… Ugh.
The psychic demonstrates some information that could come just as easily from a little research or even guesswork. When she says that the ghost's first name is Margaret that's okay, but when she says that the surname starts with 'h', it just… ugh.
Honestly, the intro to this episode left me with dangerously high expectations.
Holzer and the psychic sit in a room in the house and have a back and forth about incredibly stereotypical details of the lives of old timey Maine fisherfolk. It's dull. Holzer goes on to talk to the head of the local history society, whose accent makes me happy again, briefly.
And yadda yadda, it turns out that the psychic distress keeping the ghost on this side of the veil was that she feels overly responsible for the house. Interesting side note, one of Holzer's other investigations was the basis for the film The Amityville Horror. Yeah, you know, that somewhat interesting story.
Holzer talks to the ghost via the psychic and tells her to move on. This part is actually a little fun, because the answers he's getting seem to annoy him. When he tells the ghost she can move on, the psychic responds 'to Kennebunk?' He convinces her to leave, but is met with a list of instructions for taking care of her house. Whether it is the ghost or the psychic that's messing with him, it's still kind of funny.
Nimoy gives a little summing up. Somehow Dr Holzer is promoted to Professor -- which is interesting, because Wikipedia suggests that even his PhD is suspect. Then Nimoy says that if ghosts are just people who need help, then it is the duty of the living to assist them. I can only assume that this statement was the origin of the movie Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
Why don't I like this episode? I guess I don't like that it's so mundane. Look, straight up I think Holzer is a fraud. Whether he's a conscious or unconscious fraud I don't know and what's more I don't care. But let's say for the sake of argument that he's the real deal. If that were so, then the age old question of 'is there life after death?' was just solved in under twenty five minutes.
Am I wrong in thinking that this should be more interesting? More engaging than a bald guy and a woman with frizzy hair yakking away about what letter people's names begins with? Am I wrong to think such a topic could be – should be – treated with just a tiny bit of awe?
Nimoy: "Only time will tell if Hans Holzer was successful."
Me: (checks watch, sighs, checks watch again)
Intro: 9/10, Creepy Austrian guy: 5/10, Music: 6/10, Nimoyness: 8/10, Actual Interesting Things: 1/10. Overall: 29/50. Pass