Saturday, March 20, 2021

"The Haunted House" (The Andy Griffith Show) (1963)

The first time my family saw this episode, back when I was in my early teens, we laughed so hard we had to keep pausing the VHS tape and rewinding it because we couldn't hear the dialog over our glee.  The last time I watched it with my family, a year or so ago, we had to keep pausing and rewinding our DVD because we were laughing so loudly, we couldn't hear the dialog.  And if you think I'm overselling the hilarity of this particular gem, you can watch it for free on Amazon Prime right now and decide for yourself -- it's episode 2 of season 4.  (My youngest was about 7 the first time she watched it and thought parts were too scary, so do be aware than young ones with a phobia of ghosts might find it worrisome.)

Every small town should have a haunted house, and Mayberry, NC, has the perfect specimen: the Old Rimshaw Place at the edge of town.  

(Fun fact: this house was known as the "Aunt Pitty Pat House" since it was used as the exterior for that character's house in Gone with the Wind [1939], according to imdb.com.)

Little Opie Taylor (Ron Howard) and a pal are debating baseball heroes near it, so of course the inevitable happens:  Opie hits a ball right into the haunted house.  The boys only make it as far as the front porch before moans from inside the house send them skedaddling.

Opie is sure his pa will brave enough to rescue the lost baseball, since after all, he's Sheriff Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith).  Andy gives them a good scolding for messing around that old house because it's probably dangerous, loose floorboards and ceilings caved in and what-all.  He says he'll get his ball for them later, but not to go back themselves.

As you might expect, if you know this show and these characters, after the boys leave, Andy decides to have a little fun with his deputy, Barney Fife (Don Knotts). Barney has been telling Andy how he ought to make Opie and his pal go back to get the baseball themselves so they'd learn not to be afraid of empty houses, so Andy suggests that Barney go get it.  Very reluctantly, he goes, but the takes Gomer Pyle (Jim Nabors) along for moral support.  Which, naturally, results in no recovery of the baseball, and two adults acting more scared than the kids did.

So Andy has to take both of them back to the Rimshaw Place to see if they can find Opie's baseball, which they do.  Only they find a whole lot more than that, and Andy ends up solving a local mystery.  But not before Barney and Gomer scare each other silly with stories of axe murders and revenge-seeking ghosts.

To this day, if someone asks me to go get something from the basement, I'm very likely to open the door, softly call, "Any old tramps down there?" then slam it and say, "Nothin' down there!" :-D

All's well that ends well, and Opie even gets his baseball back.

One of my favorite things about The Andy Griffith Show is how they show that small, everyday actions can have importance.  They might not seem big or exciting compared to things like saving the world from aliens or even fighting in a war, but to the people in those situations, they are important.  A lost baseball is worth taking time to retrieve.  Lawbreakers need to be brought to justice, even if they're not robbing banks or killing people.  And foolishness can be pointed out gently, not mocked and ridiculed in a rude way.

That's another thing I love about this show:  that so often, it teaches people to treat others with kindness even if they're weird or absurd or different from you.  A foolish deputy has friends who are careful never to tease him beyond what he can handle.  A little boy's fears get taken seriously.  The town drunk receives patience and understanding.  Is it idealistic?  Yes.  Is it an ideal we can strive for?  Absolutely.

This has been my contribution to the 7th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted once again by A Shroud of Thoughts.  Click here to access the list of links to all the posts for this event!

14 comments:

  1. The Andy Griffith Show has been one of my favourite shows since childhood, so it would be very hard to pick one favourite episode from the show, but "The Haunted House" would be one of them! Part of what makes the episode so great is the same thing that made the show so great, the comedy emerges from the characters. I love seeing Barney and Gomer go to retrieve the ball only to be more scared than Opie and Arnold! In one of my Halloween posts the past many years, I recommended "The Haunted House" for Halloween viewing, but it is good for any time of year It is so very funny! Anyway, thank you for taking part in the blogathon!

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    1. Terence, it's been in my top ten since I was a kid too. There are definitely many great and lovable episodes to choose a favorite from! And I totally agree -- the comedy comes from the characters, rather than happening to the characters, and so it feels very natural and real, and also extremely funny.

      Thanks for hosting this always-enjoyable event again!

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  2. This one is such a classic. "Any old tramps down there?" is one of the funniest moments in the episode.

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    1. Elisabeth, glad you agree! Yes, it is perfectly delivered :-D

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  3. It's been a while since I've watched any Andy Griffith episodes, and I'm fairly certain I haven't seen this one. Should give it a try!

    Also, I tagged you: https://classicsandcraziness.wordpress.com/2021/03/20/the-fandom-tag/

    But no pressure! :D

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    1. Eva, I hope you can get a chance to watch this one! I think it will crack you up.

      Thanks for the tag! I am working on my post...

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  4. It has been many years since I have watched The Andy Griffith Show. The memory was fading until reading your critique of this comedy classic episode, and of the spirit of the show.

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    1. Caftan Woman, glad this could refresh your memory of this wonderful series :-)

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  5. I love Haunted Houses. Just recently watched The House on Haunted Hill with my Dad. We had a blast watching it. Vincent Price is fantastic.
    I'll have to watch this.

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    1. Skye, I don't actually like haunted houses in stories. At all. They freak me out. But this one... is safe and doesn't scare me :-) But if you like them on a whole, then I bet you'll get a kick out of all the tropes they utilize!

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  6. I don't recall if we've ever seen this or not, but we've recently been watching our way through the series for the first time in decades, and... every single episode is HILARIOUS. My mother absolutely loves it, so we'll get around to this one eventually.

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    1. Charity, that sounds like a wonderful way to pass the time! The first five seasons have SO many gems. Enjoy this one when you get to it :-D

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  7. This is a great episode from the wonderful Andy Griffith Show. I have so many favorites and they never get old - Barney and the Choir, Convicts at Large, A Wife for Andy, Barney's Sidecar to name just a few! Fun post, Hamlette!

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    1. Classic Movie Muse, you're right! They really don't get old. We have a lot of favorites too -- Man in a Hurry, The Pickle Story, The Great Filling Station Robbery, Barney's First Car, Mountain Wedding -- so many good ones!

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