October 28th: Encyclopedia Brown

Too bad he never found the treasure.

What is it about the haunted rider archetype that compels us so? In Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow the headlessness certainly plays a part, as do the throwing of incendiary gourds and brandishing of cutlasses. And let's not ignore the equine factor (now that is a reality show I would watch, Hollywood - I hope you're paying attention), as horses are large, fast, full of snorts, and smell like corn poop.

All of these elements seem to forever fascinate us, making this the most Halloween story ever written. Perhaps its timeless appeal is due to the the seeming lack of complexity (pretty straightforward, a guy being chased around), combined with the ambiguity of the haunting's details (allowing our imaginations the mental real-estate to consider whatever answers we can dream up)? We will never know. This is just a lazy blarg with negative-integrity, and so we'll leave those artsy questions to more learned people - people like...

Encyclopedia Brown

Starting in the 1960s, we, as a people, became inured to the idea of allowing the scales of justice to be held by a tween. Encyclopedia Brown was a clever bastard, no doubt, and he was a much-needed guardian of kids being picked on or exploited by other, meaner kids (which is to say 'kids,' because, as we should all feel free to acknowledge in this space, kids are kinda dicks).

However, many of his cases were straight-up, high-level crimes that could easily upset the ultimate outcome of Idaville's great experiment with democracy. One could not help but feel shaken to the core by the inherent incompetence of a community of adults who could not handle their own affairs and routinely asked a kid at the dinner table for help. What is this world coming to, you ask? It's coming to Encyclopedia Brown's garage and paying a quarter a day to get its shit straightened out, that's what.

Space: Idaville, ME
Time: July 10th, 1990
Episode: "The Case of the Ghostly Rider" Season 1, Episode 11

So, right away we can get the feeling that this is not an actual, official, Big Paper-endorsed, Halloween episode. I'm sorry this happened, and I'm unsure of why it's on the Wiki-list we've been pulling from, but there's still a haunted rider, so whatever. We can tell it's not legit-Halloween because we're opening in what appears to be a mining town called Old Glenville, and it's so rare that a half-hour show can successfully combine two genres like Halloween and Old West Ghost Town - there's just too much going on, too many cliches to cram into such a small space!

Also, I don't recall Old Western mining towns being prominent in Maine, where Idaville was set (in the books anyway), but this show was a one-season, low-budget HBO-thing, predating readily accessible digital shortcuts, so we'll cut 'em some slack. Plus, what a great haunted rider!

You can't hear him here because this is simply a photograph, but he's holding that noose and shouting, "Revenge!" Okay then, way to make a great first-impression - you are certainly haunting the hell out of Old Glenville.

More specifically, he's haunting Bugs Meany and the Tigers. Bugs, being a model citizen and the school valedictorian, wants to do right by his municipality and calls in Chief Brown, EB, and local badass, Sally Kimball, to defeat evil. Ha, I'm just kidding you - Bugs Meany is Encyclopedia Brown's blood enemy and his name is goddamned 'Bugs Meany,' so I don't see how you could miss that.

Also, this implies that Bugs is willfully admitting to breaking into the property because he was afraid of the rider, who probably had more legal right to be there than he did, so his actions make no sense. And why are they all so chummy here? Enemies don't call each other's dads for help, this is madness. And yet, for some reason, Bugs gets glory shots like this:

Encyclopedia Brown gets even more glory, though:

Classy blazer, female bodyguard, and a head full of LA Looks gel? He's like a cool Bond villain! Or, taking the Def Leppard t-shirt into consideration, a cool Bond villain's roadie.

He's promptly burdened with the story of what Old Glenville is and what the owners want to do with it, and blah-blah-blah - this haunted rider with the noose is terrorizing the facility and somehow keeping the owners from rehabilitating it per their dead grandfather's (I think?) wishes.

A potential Old Glenville investor actually says, "All this ghost-talk has got everybody spooked! No pun intended."

Hey, guy, no pun delivered, so don't even worry about it - ghosts are supposed to spook people, that's why they're also known as 'spooks.'

Whatsherface, the true heir, busts out the photo album, and EB and Sally settle in for a tedious unloading of backstory. Also, we're sure this is taking place in Maine?

"Too bad he never found the treasure." Well, that's a leading non-sequitur if ever I've heard one. This is not unlike people who drop names in conversations, knowing that you don't know who they're referencing, just so you'll be forced into asking whom they're talking about, thereby trapping you within a conversation you never really wanted to have in the first place. You're not just offhandedly mentioning a nearby treasure without hoping whoever you're talking to will say, "Duuuuuuuuuhhhhh, wha? There's a treasure?" Just explain the treasure-situation to us up front, don't go fishing for treasure-questions. Goddammit all, I'm sorry, but it just makes me mad! BE. NORMAL.

So, we learn there's a treasure, and from there we can put together that everyone wants to get their mitts on it, including this guy:

Hey, it's that guy! You know, that guy - he's in everything!

(Runs to check IMDB for what this guy's name is...)

Ah-HA - Taylor Negron! Yeah, that guy! He of Hope & Gloria and The Last Boy Scout fame! Here he plays a great-nephew who was not in the deceased's will for some reason, and he has just injured his wrist, so pay attention, amateur sleuths!

Do we know the haunted rider is this guy when he freaks out, hand bandaged, nervously dumping a bucket of ice all over and denying the treasure/ghost story by shouting "It's just an old, silly story THAT PEOPLE LIKE TO TELL!":

Or is it when we meet a grizzled prospector with a fake beard who obviously has his arm tucked into his shirt:

Or is it when the ghostly rider appears again and does everything one-handed?

Encyclopedia Brown just cannot put his finger on what is amiss here, and ends up meditating himself into an incredibly bizarre dream-fantasia. It is here, deep within his subconscious, that all of the darker corners of his mind are revealed, leading us to this disturbance:

Sally Kimball doing a scarlet lady saloon dance all up in Chief Brown's business is wrong on so many levels. It's especially gross to see Sally, a strong, girl-positive role-model in the books who helps her friend keep his head out of his ass, being relegated to a Freudian prop for middle-aged men to leer at. She deserves better than this, I don't care if this was 25 years ago.

I also have a note here reminding me that, at some point, Bugs Meany tells Encyclopedia to "Get bent," which I quite enjoyed. He really leans on it too, so it's a drawn-out "Get bennnnnnt." Ha!

Hey, look who the bad guy is!

Yep, it's the guy we suspected all along - however did Encyclopedia know? He rattles off an explanation about the prospector wearing the wrong boots and the saddle being of an English riding-make, completely ignoring the fact that this guy was acting weird and guilty the entire time. Come on, EB! There weren't even that many suspects!

Oh, and I guess you should know that there really was a treasure, and now Old Glenville can be restored to its former glory, whatever that could mean. Sorry, I need to baste my memories in rubbing alcohol to get that awful dream sequence out of my head, but there you have it - haunted rider story, round 1! I sincerely hope that there are better ones to come!

I will apologize to you by departing with a more empowering image of Sally Kimball, doing as all kids of the late-80s and early-90s were doing: ninjitsu.