Ghost Story/Circle of Fear (1972 – 1973) represents the TV collaboration of William Castle, the great 1950s exploitation showman responsible for “Emergo” and “Percepto,” and Richard Matheson, brilliant scribe of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Omega Man (1971), The Legend of Hell House (1971) and Somewhere in Time (1980), among others.
In each episode of Ghost Story, Mr. Essex would reveal an unusual and macabre story about his various guests. This aspect – the host and his world – were dropped from the series entirely when it transitioned into Circle of Fear after fourteen hour-long episodes.
When expectant Eileen Travis (Barbara Perkins) begins hearing ghostly noises at night, she grows convinced that the new home is haunted. She soon visits a local historian, De Witt (Sam Jaffe), who tells her that her home is actually built over a two-hundred year old gallows, the very spot where a defiant, unrepentant thief, Thomasina Barrows (Allyn Ann McLerie) was hanged on March 2nd, 1779. Upon her death, she swore to one day return…
Instead, we observe a shadowy, still figure in a long shot, at some distance from the camera. The Travis’s maid actually speaks to her, believing she is speaking with Eileen, not a ghost. It’s a creepy, creepy moment as you come to realize that the malevolent ghost is arranging to be alone in the house with Mrs. Travis and her innocent baby.
The series hopes to bridge the gap between modern reason and science, and our ancient, campfire fears of ghosts and goblins. This idea recurs several times throughout the short-lived series, and I'll be sure to bring it up again when it does.
Importantly, “The New House” sets its horror inside a modern house, one that has never been lived in before. It boasts all the modern conveniences of the 1970s, from telephones to dish washers. And yet despite such comforts, something terrifying and ancient – from an age past – infiltrates the family’s life.