Episode 21: The Ghost Story


(14 February 1974) 45/2/21

Written: Nigel McKeand.

Directed: Ralph Waite.

Music: Arthur Morton


The Ghost Story


"I suppose at one time or another in the course of our lives many of us have experienced an event or occurrence which could not be explained, and at the same time was shrugged off as a co-incidence or a trick of the mind. I remember a series of such events, and even today many years later I still can't help wondering just how much of it was co-incidence. It all started one afternoon in late fall....”


Mike and Horace talk in front of Ike’s store about pleurisy that Mike’s wife treated with poultices. Horace, who thinks he now has pleurisy, decides he’d rather keep the pleurisy. As the Walton children walk toward the store, they talk about Luke who is staying with the Waltons while his father Tom Enright is looking for work in Richmond. John-Boy goes inside the store to find no mail from Luke’s daddy. Ike is in the back of the store with Miss Mamie and Miss Emily as they consult the “spirit board”. The Baldwin sisters confess their Papa never let them play the game at home, so they come to Ike’s whenever they have a question for the spirit board. Their question this time is whether they should buy their mason jars from a Charlottesville wholesaler or from Ike at retail prices. John-Boy joins in to help with the decision.


Under the pool table, the kids play with puppies born to the dog Charity. All the puppies have been spoken for except for the smallest one. The sisters decide to return tomorrow hoping to have their question answered at that time. Ike asks John-Boy to take the spirit board home with him so Miss Mamie and Miss Emily won’t waste his time with hours and hours of playing the game.


At supper, Luke sits next to Grandma, listening to everybody talk as he eats his dessert and milk. John-Boy tells Grandpa about the Baldwin’s spirit board. Olivia tells John that Rebecca Birdwell told her some gossip that Rebecca heard from Rosa Paulet. When Olivia sees John-Boy playing with the spirit board, she doesn’t like it. Grandma doesn’t like the idea of disturbing the dead.


Later, Grandma reads to Elizabeth and Luke from the children’s story The Sky is Falling while the other children play the new game. When the board suddenly responds, they ask it, “What is your name?” But it only spells out nonsense. Their laughter wakes Grandpa. Luke and Elizabeth join the fun, while Grandma continues to read the story. John thinks Ben is pushing the board, which is why it is moving. Olivia still doesn’t like the game, and takes Luke upstairs to bed, with the kids right behind. Grandma finishes the story, upset at its ending, saying “Poor animals!”


Grandpa then comments about something strange that happened at Luke’s birthday party, and about the Enright house four or five years ago when his mother (Alice) passed on. Soon, Elizabeth runs downstairs afraid of a ghost that Jim-Bob says is in the closet. Grandpa tries to recollect what happened at the party but can’t quite remember the particulars. As everybody sleeps, John-Boy and Jason continue with the spirit board. It doesn’t have a message for either person, but when they ask the board whom it has a message for, the spirit board answers, “L-U-K-E”. John-Boy and Jason stare at each other!


In the morning, Grandpa and John drink coffee while Elizabeth asks her father if he would like for her to bring the smallest puppy for him to see. When John says ‘no’, Elizabeth and Luke run off to Ike’s store to see the puppy. Olivia tells everyone that Luke’s mother died during the influenza epidemic. Grandpa still says he can’t remember what happened.


John-Boy tries to convince his mother to say what she knows about the strange incident. She admits that about one year after Alice’s death Tom had a birthday party for Luke. During the party, Tom felt Alice’s presence, like she wanted to be with Luke. Also, some people at the party thought they smelled violets, Alice’s favorite flowers. The next day Tom saw a single wild violet on the floor. Olivia says nothing is unusual, but Grandpa abruptly says it was winter, in February, with several feet of snow on the ground. They just stare at each other.


Elizabeth, Jim-Bob, and Luke play with the puppy at Ike’s, trying to decide on a name. They finally decide on “Beauregard”. At the house, John washes the hands of Elizabeth and Luke. Grandpa suggests the kids bring the puppy home, but Grandma thinks John should make that decision. John agrees, but Grandma again thinks they should wait until after they eat. John-Boy returns home with a load of books and a letter from Tom for Luke. He has found a job at Richmond, and a boarding house to live in that has a big back yard. He sends a train ticket for Luke that leaves tomorrow from the Rockfish station. Tom also sends a dollar for Luke to use while on the trip. Ben says grace.


That night, Grandma begins to pack Luke’s suitcase. But, Luke can’t find his mother’s picture. They search but it is nowhere to be found. Olivia sees John-Boy reading books on spirits. Olivia says she can’t stop him from reading, but disagrees with such things.


Late that night, Jason and John-Boy discuss the interesting facts inside the books. John-Boy says past events have been recorded where messages were received that averted disasters. They go to the barn on the wild and windy night to contact the spirit on the spirit board. They ask the spirit board: “Who is your message for?” The board answers: “L-U-K-E”. They ask, “What do you have to tell Luke?” and the board answers, “T-R-A-I-N”. When they ask, “What about the train?” the piece falls off the board. In the morning, the children bring home the puppy. Luke calls the puppy “Fibber”.


Luke runs inside to finish packing. John-Boy and Elizabeth help him with his clothes. Olivia tells Luke that his mother and her were best friends when they were his age. Olivia soon realizes Luke’s train ticket is missing from his jacket. Later, John-Boy and Jason talk about the missing ticket. John-Boy tries to explain how it might be the supernatural causing these mysterious things to happen, but on the other hand it might be that the family is unconsciously placing stumbling blocks in front of Luke because they don’t want him to leave. Just then the ticket is found and the family rush to the train station. Elizabeth gives Fibber the puppy to Luke to keep.


On the way to the Rockfish station John runs off the road after thinking he saw a deer or some animal on the darkened road. They try to push the truck back on the road, but they hear the train whistle coming into the station, knowing they’ve missed the train. Olivia says to John-Boy, “We’re supposed to miss it”.


They drive back to the house, and John goes to Ike’s to telephone Tom that they missed the train. As the family listens to the radio they hear that the 6:30 train from Rockfish derailed while going about 60 miles per hour. John-Boy suddenly sees Alice’s picture on the fireplace mantel. It has never been there before, and they all wonder how it got there. The next morning, Luke is taken to the train station.


"There are forces in our lives that we can understand and explain, there are others that mystify and confuse us, but who is there to say that the strong bond of love that existed between a mother and her child had to be severed by death. For love is a force that lives: without beginning, without end. It is an energy that brings sustenance and nourishment to the human spirit. Of all endowment, the ability to love is the most enabling and such is its mystery that the power of love can be felt beyond death, beyond time".


Jim Bob: Elizabeth, Mrs. Hawkins has some puppies she wants to give away.

Elizabeth: I don't want any of them.

John: Thought you wanted another dog?

Elizabeth: I wanted a runt dog and she doesn't have one.

John: Runt only means the dog is the smallest one in the litter.

Elizabeth: I know, but no one ever wants those. I think I'll wait for Charity. She makes good runts.

Jim Bob: You're a runt, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: Am I, Daddy?

John: In this family, you're the girl runt, and Jim Bob's the boy runt.

Jim Bob: I am not.

Elizabeth: You are, too.

Olivia: Oh, Lord, now they'll never get to sleep....

Jim Bob: I am not.

Everybody: You are, too, Jim Bob!

Jim Bob (whispering): I am not....




The sign out in front of Ike’s store states: “U.S. Post Office, Walton’s Mountain, Virginia”.

Mike and Horace sit next to an advertisement outside Ike’s store for “Teas and Coffee”. Mike’s wife had pleurisy.

The Baldwin sisters state that the recipe for The Recipe is in a safe deposit box in the Charlottesville bank. Miss Emily lets out that the first ingredient is “fourteen level tablespoons of….”

Tom Enright is in Richmond looking for a job, while his son Luke stays with the Waltons. Tom’s wife Alice died from influenza about four or five years ago. A year after her death Tom had a birthday party for Luke where Tom felt Alice’s presence

Charity the dog gives birth to puppies under Ike’s pool table. Luke takes the runt puppy, naming it first Beauregard, but finally deciding on Fibber.

The train from Rockfish station leaves for Richmond every night at 6:30 pm.

Grandma reads the children’s story The Sky is Falling to Elizabeth and Luke.

Rebecca Birdwell and Rosa Paulet are two women neighbors.

Alice and Olivia were best friends while growing up.


Also appearing:

Ike Godsey (Joe Conley), Miss Mamie and Miss Emily Baldwin (Helen Kleeb and Mary Jackson), Luke Enright (Kristopher Marquis), Mike (Jim Gammon), Horace Brimley (Wilford Brimley).


(synopsis written by William Atkins and edited by Arthur Dungate)