“Things That Go Bump”
“You’re most welcome in this particular museum. There’s no admission, no requirement of membership, only a strong and abiding belief in the dark at the top of the stairs, or things that go bump in the night.”
And with those promising words from Rod Serling, Night Gallery’s second season got underway on Sept. 15, 1971. It featured no fewer than four segments, only one of which really deserves solid praise. (In saying that, I don’t want to discourage anyone who’s never sampled Night Gallery; it’s simply that better episodes lay ahead, although even some of the best could be bit uneven.)
That segment, “The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes,” is the lead-off story. Serling scripted it from the short story of the same name by Margaret St. Clair. It concerns a boy with a weekly TV show — a forum for his remarkable ability to prophesy. For reasons unknown, he can “see” into the near future, enabling him to warn about impending disasters, crimes, discoveries, etc.
Because of his unerring accuracy, he naturally attracts a huge audience. For the sake of those who haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s an intriguing one, and it demonstrates Night Gallery’s laudable effort to stage frightening stories that didn’t rely on monsters, vampires and other conventional staples of the genre.
In fact, when those staples surfaced, they were likely to do so in short, “humorous” black-out segments such as “Miss Lovecraft Sent Me” or “Phantom of What Opera?”, both of which appear in this episode as well. Producer Jack Laird loved them, but almost no one else did.
Unfortunately, they tended to taint Night Gallery’s reputation, and caused people to overlook many of the show’s finer, more serious stories. “Phantom,” though, is notable for the appearance of a pre-Airplane Leslie Nielsen in one of his first comedic roles.
The Season 2 opener (which you can watch at this link) also included “The Hand of Borgus Weems,” a story about a man who finds that his hand is possessed — and it seems to want him to commit murder. Finding out why becomes the man’s mission, naturally, and although the answer is not completely satisfactory, it’s not a bad segment. Having Ray Milland on hand to play the man’s doctor helps lend it some gravitas.
The next episode would feature E.G. Marshall and Vincent Price — and begin to show what Night Gallery was capable of.
Photos courtesy of Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. WordPress followers, just hit “follow” at the top of the page.
Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!