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Second, and Last `Ghost Story` for this Christmas!

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 Second, and Last `Ghost Story` for this Christmas! Empty Second, and Last `Ghost Story` for this Christmas!

Post by alanultron5 on Tue Dec 20, 2011 3:48 pm

For fans of Ghost Stories at Christmas, here is the second and final `Rave From the Grave` for this year!


Episode Two. “THE BECKONING SHADOW” (TX 29 October 1966. 10.05-11pm.)

Main Cast. David Buck (Richard Beckett), Renny Lister (Lucy Tippins), John Ronane (Dick Tippins), Alan Baulch (John Tippins), Elizabeth Knight (Ann Jane Tippins), Maureen Pryor (Mrs Jones), Edwin Richfield (Doctor Jones), Geoffrey Palmer (Turner), Toni Palmer (Polly), Julia McCarthy (Ma Murley), Larry Noble (Mickey), John Rye (Hal).

Director. Lawrence Bourne.

Script. Allan Prior. From the story Old Mrs Jones by Mrs J. H (Charlotte) Riddell.

The Beckoning Shadow was adapted from the story Old Mrs Jones, by prolific Victorian writer of ghost stories, Mrs J.H Riddell (1832-1906). It was in her collection titled Weird Stories, published in 1882. She was actually called Charlotte Elizabeth Riddell: she had started writing to aid family finances when her husband’s work had hit a barren spell. She also wrote under the male pseudonym `F.G Trafford`.

As with Margaret Oliphant, (The Open Door), Mrs Riddell was one of many female writers in the genre, who contributed many fine supernatural stories. Coincidentally, Charlotte Riddell also wrote a story titled The Open Door. Old Mrs Jones was to prove a good template for one of Mystery and Imaginations most effective teleplays.

* * *

The Tippins family are soon to move into their new home; Dick Tippins is a successful hansom cab driver and earning very good money. Dick, his wife Lucy and their young son John have come up in the world and require larger premises. Their new home is a large building, which possesses a wide staircase along with many rooms of varying size and shape. These are linked by split level hallways, which traverse the unusually set story levels built within the premises. Dick Tippens feels the numerous oddly shaped rooms contained throughout the house will be perfect to take lodgers, thus helping with expenses.

He employs a long time friend, Mickey, to carry out the odd jobs and minor repairs needed before the family can move in. Mickey however, squanders most of the money that Dick Tippins gave for these on drink; and the repairs drag on. Eventually, Mrs Tippins accosts Mickey about letting his friend down. Mickey replies that he can’t see any necessity when they won’t stay long due to the ghost.

When they finally do move into the large, strangely built house, Lucy asks her husband about the supposed ghost that haunts it, he tells her what he has heard around the district.

The previous owners, Dr Jones and his wife had disappeared one day, with no trace ever found of either. People in the area swear the doctor had murdered his wife, and buried her in the cellar. Though the house was searched thoroughly by the police and the cellar excavated, no trace of a body could be detected. Dr Jones was a skilled surgeon, who had studied at one of Germany’s

top medical universities He should have easily run a thriving business and prospered, but he had faults to his character.

By all accounts, Dr Jones had been something of a rake and very much of a `bad lot`. He was often in money trouble, and owing various gambling debts. He had first inherited the house with his sister, but she soon moved out when his gambling and drinking got worse. Though a handsome man, he married the plain Zillah for her money. Zillah Jones was a jealous woman and kept an eye on his womanising, often threatening not to pay his debts if he strayed. The marriage was under great strain, and this was well known by other residents in the district. Because of this the authorities made great efforts to trace him, but all their enquiries were fruitless.

There are stories of previous tenants not staying for any length of time at the house due to the ghost of old Mrs Jones, who many believe is still buried on the premises. Dick asserts that he just does not believe in such tales, and feels sure it is a lot of idle gossip.

Their reverie is shattered by a scream from the upper hallway; hurrying to the next level in the house, they join their tenants who are trying to aid a young woman who had fainted; she is Polly, one of their newest lodgers. When she recovers, Polly claims she was confronted, outside the
cupboard in the hallway, by a strange old woman. The sight of the woman was so unnerving that Polly cried out in terror.

She describes the woman as being very short, with a darkened face, similar to that of a Blackamoor. The figure had long grey hair which streamed past her shoulders, rather like that of a witches. She also bore the mark of a deep weal on her neck, as if something had been tied too tight around it. The woman was about to speak to Polly, when the terrified girl screamed and fainted.

Polly is soon comforted, but the tenants are now convinced that the ghost of old Mrs Jones does indeed haunt the house. Over the next few days; more `sightings of the small ugly, gnome like woman are claimed by other tenants. So bad becomes the atmosphere in the house that quite soon, some of the tenants move out; stating they feel the house is possessed by the spirit of the old woman.

Even Lucy Tippins now starts to notice a `presence` as she goes about the house. At times there seems to be a cold wind that inhabits the hallways, even when she knows all other doors are closed. She also frequently experiences the awful sensation that someone-or-something, is standing right behind her. So strong does this feeling become, that she cannot turn around in case she confronts that something.

One evening, as she comes along the darkened main hallway, Lucy’s resolve breaks down; she is unable to resist turning to see what she knows must be behind her. Slowly, she cranes her neck and gazes behind her into the dimly lit passage. With a shudder she starts to make out the figure of a short, but dark shape, a couple of yards back in the gloom of the dimly lit hallway. Suddenly, the hallway is flooded with light, as the door to the main parlour room opens, illuminating the passage by the strong light, from within the room. It is husband Dick, who asks who was that with Lucy? They both peer into the recesses of the hallway, but can see no one-or thing. Lucy collapses into her husband’s arms shaking with fear.


The next person to be affected is their son, John Tippins, who notices some strange disturbances in the house. On some nights, John notices there seems to be some sort of `shade` that detaches itself from the normal shadows and darkened crannies in the main hallway. The shadow seems to
have a purpose of its own, and at times, seems to become solid and seems to beckon to him. John also tells how he was woken one night by the sight of an old woman, who has entered his room carrying a night-light, and then promptly vanished. Lucy insists he must have dreamt it, but he asserts he was quite awake.

As Lucy and Dick retire for the night they hear what seems to be the sound of persons `struggling` from the landing that traverses all the upstairs rooms. Both take hand lamps and gingerly investigate the long passageway between bedrooms. To their horror and amazement, there seems to be something moving in the dark recesses at the far end of the landing. Both inch forward with lamps held in front of them eyes straining to make out what the shape might be. All at once a deep shadow moves of its own volition across the far wall of the landing, to finally disappear into the dark corner just above the stairs. Dick and Lucy know now that their son was not dreaming.

The disturbances start to increase in their severity during the night hours. There seems to be the re-enactment in sound, of a furious struggle between two persons. These noises then die away, only to be replaced by a similar `outbreak`, this time emanating from the direction of the upstairs landing. One particular night there is a most violent eruption of sound and glimpsed movement from upstairs which eclipses everything that has gone before in its severity and duration.

Cautiously, the Tippins family and lodger, Polly, investigate the recesses of the upstairs landing. At first, nothing more can be discerned as the noises have subsided, but to everyone’s horror the cacophony bursts forth anew with increased vigour. The sounds are now accompanied by the awful sight of some dark figure that seems to be forming in the darkened section at the far end of the landing. As the decrepitating increases, the apparition becomes ever more solid in its appearance as it struggles to emerge from the shadows. The sight of it is too much for Lucy and Polly and both scream in terror. The scream causes the shape to meld back into the gloom, dissolving away into the dark. This is enough to convince the remaining tenants to leave the following morning.

Desperate to find out more about the history of the house, the Tippins ask around the neighbourhood. One such person who knows more is old Ma Murley, who used to be employed
by the Jones’. She tells of how she had known of the Jones’ quarrelling, over Dr Jones going out at night to the flesh pots, and gambling dens of London. On the fateful evening, Ma Murley had bid goodnight to old Mrs Jones, but noticing the lady’s troubled demeanour, asked if she could help. Mrs Jones just bid her a terse Goodnight, so she left. On returning the next morning, she found no trace of either the doctor or Mrs Jones; it was as if both had vanished off the face of the earth.

The family are becoming frightened, but try not to let such stories get them down; indeed, Dick is cheered by a letter from his cousin Anne Jane, who is coming to stay for a while. He replies, adding a post script, that he hopes the reports of the ghost won’t deter her.

After a hectic and tiring first day, spent mostly sightseeing and some shopping with Lucy, Anne retires early to the bedroom provided for her. The next morning she is rather disturbed, and it is


evident that she has not slept well. She tells Dick and Lucy, of a strange dream she experienced on her first night at their home. She tells them her vivid dream was that of an old woman, being murdered in a room, that she has never seen before. Anne is able to describe the room in great
detail, but is sure that she has never seen it in actuality. When she describes, also in detail, the old woman; there is no doubt it is Mrs Jones: the murderer’s identity however, is unclear. This dream seems so vivid and real, to Anne.

One day, a young man calls to see if there is a room free, his name is Richard Beckett. As both Mr and Mrs Tippins are out when he calls, Anne takes Beckett to the room that Dick Tippins
said was free at the back of the house. As Anne hasn’t been in that part of the house yet she has to recall the directions Dick told her; just in case Beckett called while they were out. As she
enters what she is sure is the correct room, she recoils in horror! It is the room that she has been dreaming about; she collapses in a dead faint. Lucy has just returned, and hurries to help Beckett to soothe Anne’s nerves; Anne tells them why the room affected her so. Richard Beckett tells Lucy he has had many encounters of a supernatural nature, and this is his main reason for wanting to rent a room. He assures Lucy and Anne that he only wants to help, and to close in on solving the mystery and the haunting.

The next evening, while the rest of the family are downstairs, Anne is upstairs in one of the master bedrooms, sorting through an old drawer. She has been told that it is a piece of furniture
from the tenure of doctor and Mrs Jones. Anne hopes to see if Dr Jones might have secreted any of his papers in any possible secret drawers, and left them behind by accident.

As she searches, Anne’s concentration is suddenly diverted by some sort of movement out in the landing. She thinks she also hears some kind of strange noise, like a large gasp of breath being suddenly exhaled. Somewhat scared, she turns to see what it may be. As she peers nervously into the landing, the gaslights affixed on both walls of the wide passageway start to dim; casting it into gloom. Gallantly, she picks up a table lamp in the bedroom, and adjusting the wick to give more light, she cautiously moves into the darkened landing; her lamp casting eerie shadows along the full length of the passage.

She notices that the shadows cast by her hand lamp, don’t seem to be moving in the direction that she is proceeding. She puts down the lamp on to the small table meant for vase’s and flower bowls in the landing, to see if the strange movements will continue.

For a second nothing stirs, but then to her horror one shadow detaches itself from the darkness. It begins to coalesce into a corporeal form as it starts to move towards her. She starts to scream, but her terror is so great it stifles in her throat, and she is rooted to the spot in abject terror, as the spectre approaches her. Though the figure has humanoid form, it is barely human in any other way. It has no skin, only what appears to be a series of muscular growths all across its figure. Its appearance closely resembles the anatomical charts that portray the human muscular system. The apparition closes in on the terrified Anne Tippings, raising one arm, and pointing at her head.

She collapses in a dead faint, and goes into a sort of trance. In this state, Anne Tippins can see all that has happened in the house when doctor and Mrs Jones resided there. She sees a small woman (who she recognises must be Mrs Jones) preparing to put a casket of jewellery back into its hiding place, in a secret chamber, set in the wall of the room that she had fainted in. The figure of a man enters, but Ann cannot make out clearly, who he might be.


The man and woman start to argue over the contents of the casket. To Anne’s horror the argument turns violent, the man grabs the necklace around the woman’s neck and twists it cruelly.

The small woman is slowly being strangled, while she, Anne cannot do anything to stop the murder. The crime done, the man makes off with the casket.

Anne recovers to find the landing back to being fully illuminated, and with no sign of the horrifying apparition. The rest of the family and Richard Beckett, have rushed upstairs upon hearing her fall. She tells them of what she had seen on the landing, and of her trance like dream.

Beckett explains that the `apparition` that Anne had encountered, was a form of gestalt; a combination of the forces unleashed when such a violent struggle took place in the house. It was
this energy, which combined to form a figure that then tried to communicate to any living soul, the terrible events that had transpired. Dick and Lucy tell Beckett they only saw a shadow in their encounter; he feels that Anne was far more sensitive or `receptive` thus the forces were able to fully manifest. The other shades or spectres he feels may have been more directly linked to Mrs Jones, but he is not certain. It seems very likely, from Anne’s description of the murderer, that he must be Dr Jones.

Anne soon confides in Lucy that she is having awful recurring dreams about an old woman, who she knows to be old Mrs Jones. Old Mrs Jones comes to her bedside each night, wanting her to
go somewhere with her. Wherever this place may be, Anne knows that she is too terrified to go there. Anne says she cannot take much more of it.

The next morning, Beckett tells Dick and Lucy that he had spotted Anne sleepwalking the night before, and had led her back to bed without waking her. Though he believes supernatural forces are in the house, he thinks that maybe her sleepwalking figure is that which has frightened the other tenants, and thus lead to the stories about the ghost of old Mrs Jones. Lucy tells him that Anne only arrived two days before he, so that could not account for it.

Lucy decides that she will sleep with Anne that night, and lock the bedroom door from the inside. She moves another bed into the room and sets up a small night-light just in case she needs to see any form of disturbance that might occur in the night. Later, both women are fast asleep as the night-light gives off its dull glow. Suddenly Anne sits upright, both eyes are wide open, but have a glazed look, as if she is in some kind of trance. She turns her head to look upon what has entered the locked room.

The next morning Lucy finds that the door is somehow open, even though she still has the key. To her horror, she sees that Anne has gone. Somehow, she must have walked again, but this time out of the house altogether. No trace of Anne can be found the next day, and word goes round the neighbourhood that the ghost of old Mrs Jones has done away with her.

The next afternoon Anne Tippins returns, she is accompanied by two Police officers.

The Police had found her by the gates of an exclusive residence, situated on the other side of the city. She was desperately trying to open the gates leading to the house. It transpired, that she was


indeed sleepwalking, and upon being wakened, went into shock. When she finally regained her composure, she told both family and Police, that the figure of old Mrs Jones had come again to her, and led her across the City to that residence.

With this new evidence, Richard Beckett aids the Police in finally solving the riddle of Mrs Jones fate. An arrest is made; it is that of a German chemist, Dr Schloss, who resides alone at the
address Anne was striving to enter. He protests his innocence in broken English, and says he does not know who doctor or Zillah Jones can be. At the police station he sits down saying he does not feel too well; before any more questions can be put to him, the prisoner dies suddenly and mysteriously.

A search is made of the chemist’s house, and a large casket is found containing the charred remains of a body. Further tests reveal it to be that of an elderly female, short in stature.

The Tippins decide enough is enough, and to move out, leaving the house empty. The day after they leave, the figure of an old woman can be seen in the windows of the house, carrying a flame of some sort. Soon the house is ablaze, and the figure is now spotted on the roof. Attempts are made at rescue but have to be aborted, due to the ferocity of the conflagration. The house collapses, and when the embers have cooled a thorough search is made for remains. No trace of a body is found.

* * *

It took until the second story in series two for Mystery and Imagination to tackle a true `haunted house` story; and Old Mrs Jones was actually, not one of the more remembered Victorian tales of this sort. In fact it was a very free adaptation of the original story, and was given a few extra `ghostly` scenes, as well as a spectre that the original story did not possess. Allan Prior, who
would later be an acclaimed scriptwriter, really pulled out all the stops in concocting a superb teleplay.

Indeed, the transmitted story was a palpable hit, and a real winner for the series. It had all the best elements of a classic `haunted house` tale, and more. The effects of the moving shadows were superbly orchestrated, and the horrific figure was quite incredible for 1966 special effects and make up. The actor playing the `spectre`; did look very similar in appearance to an anatomical chart that portrays the human body’s muscular system. There is a superb photograph which only appeared in the Midland edition of the ITV television listings magazine “TV World” which shows the encounter between Anne (Elizabeth Knight) and the spectre. It was well crafted, very effective, and utterly shocking on first sight of it looming out of the dark. That particular scene quite terrified me back in 1966! As with Lost Hearts I had trouble getting to sleep for quite some nights.

Another incredibly scary scene was that of Lucy Tippins, finally, daring to turn her head in the dim hallway. She was just starting to glimpse a dark shape behind her, when the door opposite is suddenly flung open, flooding the hallway with light, to reveal there is no other person in the hallway. I really `jumped out of my skin`` seeing that. All actors played their parts well and contributed to the success of the story. David Buck’s Richard Beckett had far less to do in this

episode and played very much a supporting role. His character did not appear in the original story at all.

An absolutely terrific episode! It was easily the best offering in series two. I am utterly astonished that this story is so little remembered today, particularly by those reviewers who profess to recall the series. It was every bit as effective as series one’s Lost Hearts, in fact, possibly more so in my view. All I can say is that as far as I am concerned, The Beckoning Shadow was an outstanding episode which really scared me to the bone. Without doubt, in my opinion, it stands easily as one of the best televised, ghost story adaptations of all time.

The episode gained an audience of 5,550,000 in the T.A.M ratings system and an entry of 20th position in that weeks top twenty most watched programmes.

* * * * * *


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