Post 62: “The Monster of Walnut Grove”

Post 62: “The Monster of Walnut Grove”

January 12, 1983  – GOOD 

“It’s Halloween and Laura is soaping windows, she thinks she sees Mr. Oleson cut Mrs. Oleson’s head off, but really it’s a maniquinn (sic). Several factors enhance Laura’s belief of this story, but she later finds out the truth.”

From Anne –

This is the episode in which Laura joins QAnon. That is, she embraces a false conviction with more gusto than a rabid raccoon. And paranoia is flowing faster than Plum Creek. To her credit, she has more visual evidence than any QAnon-er that Mr. Oleson is a murderer. The truth is, he’s a mannequin murderer.

As Laura points out, even if he did kill his whiny wife, there’s no sheriff in Walnut Grove. The police are de facto defunded. The arm of the law is stubby on the prairie. More reason for fear.

What I like about this episode is that it showcases Willie. Gingham-shirted, candy-gobbling, gap-toothed Jonathan Gilbert has a lot of lines. His sadistic grin sparkles. It prompted me to fall down an internet where-is-he-now rabbit hole. No one is 100% sure! Photos are scarily scarce. This is him, for my money. With a nose job, just like his sister.

The Monster of Walnut Grove also caused me to ponder the golden age of TV orchestras. This time, the Little House instrumental theme song is rendered in viola, xylophone and the ever-spooky theremin. With some coyote howls and owl hoots tossed in. Thank you, composer David Rose.

A lasting image from this episode is Harriet’s head on a silver platter, surrounded by carrots and perhaps potatoes. Tracy, I know you’re a big fan of dismemberment and amputation (not). How did you enjoy this episode?

From Tracy –

As I watched this hilarious episode, all I could think was “Did the pioneers really celebrate Halloween?” because honestly, their lives were such a horror show already. But after a tiny bit of research, I found out yes, they indeed did celebrate the Ween. The group that loved it the most were the Irish who brought it from their homeland in the form of Mischief Night:

“Where there were Irish on Halloween, there were often little people who had a tendency toward vandalism, and although most Irish immigrants had settled in the cities, the tradition of Mischief Night spread quickly through rural areas. On October 31, young men roamed the countryside looking for fun, and on November 1, farmers would arise to find wagons on barn roofs, front gates hanging from trees, and cows in neighbors’ pastures. Any prank having to do with an outhouse was especially hilarious, and some students of Halloween maintain that the spirit went out of the holiday when plumbing moved indoors.”

(— from americanheritage.com)

Ah, the ol’ outhouse prank. How I miss them. American Heritage goes on to say:

Despite a strong Irish influence, in the years after the Civil War Halloween practices still varied widely throughout the country. Witches roamed among the Scottish and German settlers of Appalachia, and Halloween was their special night. In the South, voodoo customs associated the holiday with witchcraft, charms, and deceased ancestors. Southwesterners celebrated a joyous Day of the Dead by taking food, drink, flowers, and candles to the graves of loved ones at midnight on November 1 and staying till the sun rose the next morning. 

But America was becoming a more uniform nation. Railroads, the telegraph, and magazines were blurring sectional differences. In 1871 women in every part of the country, at least women of the middle class, opened their issues of Godey’s Lady’s Book and read one of the first articles published about Halloween.”

And that brings us back to Walnut Grove, which most certainly had the Godey’s Lady’s book which ran from 1830 to 1878. (Think Vogue + O Magazine.)

As for the episode itself, I have to think the actor who played Mr. Oleson (Richard Bull) had the best time of all as he got his ghoul on. You can just tell he’s having an absolute blast! For me it’s Bull that shines the most even over his bad little boy Willie. Carrie is also super cute in the opening scene where she announces she’s “scared of feet.” This line is one of my all time LHOP favorites.

In answer to Anne’s question, I was OK with this episode and its many dismemberment references. It’s a solid ‘sode. And dear audience, I had a fun time teasing Anne about her memory lapse over the Native American Halloween episode. I think she really thought I was making it up! And when she asked me if it was politically correct, I tried to stifle a snort. But that’s our Anne. She cares about everyone. Even long-gone ’70s actors playing Indians. We’ll have to cover that episode next Halloween.

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