Murder, She Wrote 8.12 “The Witch’s Curse”

Jessica Fletcher is back home in Cabot Cove for this episode and the town’s thespians are busy preparing to put on their annual play. (This is especially true of Seth, who is directing the play this year.) The subject of the play is the trial of Rachel Abbot, who was burned for witchcraft in 17th century Cabot Cove.

When a mysterious newcomer moves into town, some rumors go around claiming that she is a witch. And when a fire burns down a shed that had a pentagram painted on the door, and a member of the community falls from the community center’s clock tower, everyone suspects that the “witch” is to blame.

good shot of jessica in a library looking at books here — could be useful for a header

Just the facts:

Click on the text below to reveal spoilers.

Click to reveal the victim It was Judge Willard Clinton!
Click to reveal the killer It was Lydia Winthrop, a woman who provides false testimony both as the character she portrays in the play and also in real life!
Click to reveal the weapon He died as a result of a fall from a great height!
Click to reveal the location He was pushed from the community center’s clock tower!
Click to reveal the motive Judge Clinton was the prosecutor who tried the case against Lydia’s former employee (Monica Walker, who turns out to have been Mariah Osborne’s mother)! Lydia had accused Monica of stealing her necklace, when in reality the necklace was never stolen and Lydia just wanted to claim the insurance money. With Mariah back in town to stir things up, Lydia felt compelled to get rid of anything and anyone who had any evidence surrounding the case.

Cast of characters:

As this is a Cabot Cove episode, we get some cast regulars:

  • William Windom plays Doctor Seth Hazlitt — who is directing the local play in this episode.
  • Ron Masak plays Sheriff Mort Metzger.
  • Louis Herthum plays Deputy Andy Broom (although the closing credits in this episode list him as “Deputy Dave Anderson”). This is Herthum’s fourth appearance on MSW, and his second appearance playing Deputy Andy. He previously played Deputy Andy in “Thicker Than Water” and went on to play him in 21 more episodes.
  • Julie Adams plays Eve Simpson — the local real estate agent. This is Adams’ seventh of 10 total appearances on the show; she previously appeared in “Bite the Big Apple“.

The episode focuses primarily on the members of the local dramatic society who are putting on their annual play:

  • Mary Crosby plays Mariah Osborn — a newcomer to Cabot Cove who is chosen to play the role of Rachel, the lead in the play. It later turns out that Mariah is the daughter of Monica Walker, who was ostracized by the town 20-25 years prior after being accused of stealing the necklace belonging to her boss’s wife. This is Crosby’s second and final appearance on MSW; she previously appeared in “Tainted Lady“.
  • Marian Mercer plays Penelope Hope Daniels — who is cast as Rachel’s mother.
  • David Ackroyd plays Nate Parsons — the local insurance rep who is cast as the prosecutor in the play. This is Ackroyd’s second of three total appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “Trial by Error”.
  • Marian Seldes plays Lydia Winthrop — who is cast in the role of Goodie Butler, a witness who claims Rachel bewitched her husband.
  • Ed Nelson plays Judge Willard Clinton — who is cast in the role of the magistrate. This is Nelson’s fourth of five total appearances on MSW; he previously appeared in “Always a Thief“.

Additional characters outside of the play, as well as more minor roles include:

  • Robert Vaughn plays Charles Winthrop — Lydia Winthrop’s husband, who is pretending he has a broken leg in order to collect on the insurance. This is Vaughn’s third and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “The Grand Old Lady“. Vaughn is well known to mystery fans for his roles in Columbo, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and The Protectors.
  • Carole Androsky plays Anabell — the insurance rep’s (Nate Parson’s) wife.
  • Lee DeBroux plays Joe Hill — a fireman who identifies that the Parson’s shed was deliberately set fire to using vinyl curing urethane. This is DeBroux’s second and final appearance on MSW; he previously appeared in “Alma Murder“.
  • Linda Porter plays a Clerk at the municipal records office who informs Jessica Fletcher that (just like the Cabot Cove Gazette archives) all information pertaining to 1967 is missing.
  • Linda Frasier plays Arletta/Arlissa Davenport — who screams during her audition at the beginning of the episode.

Final thoughts and other trivia:

The first thing to note about this episode is that it’s not the first one to feature witches in Cabot Cove. The episode “Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble” also delved into this aspect of Cabot Cove’s history.

Another notable thing about this episode is the various inconsistencies between names used in the episode versus names that appeared in the credits. For instance, Seth refers to a woman auditioning at the beginning of the episode as “Arletta”; however, the name “Arlissa Davenport” appears in the credits instead. There are also a few instances of characters who are given names in the credits, but those names are never actually used in the episode. (For instance, Nate Parson’s wife is credited as “Anabell”, but we never actually hear her name spoken.)

However, probably the biggest discrepancy has to do with the sheriff’s deputy. Louis Herthum is referred to as “Deputy Andy Broom” multiple times during the episode, and yet the closing credits have him listed as “Deputy Dave Anderson”. This discrepancy suggests that it wasn’t at first clear whether Deputy Andy would be a permanent character on the show, and the script may have been initially written with a different character in mind. The unusual name credits are coupled with the fact that Andy reveals he has a wife in this episode, and yet in subsequent episodes it is clear that he is single. Furthermore, Deputy Andy sported a mustache in his first episode “Thicker Than Water“, and his clean shaved face in all subsequent episodes might further suggest that he wasn’t meant to be a recurring character.

Louis Herthum credited as Deputy Dave Anderson in the closing credits.

Finally, there are a few things to note about the filming locations used in this episode. As you can see in my collage below, the Universal Studio house on Colonial Street, often referred to as the “Munster House”, was used extensively in this episode. Stock footage of it not only stands in for the home of Lydia and Charles Winthrop, but live footage of the the same house but in a more dilapidated state is also used to stand in for Mariah Osborne’s home.

For comparison, I’ve included pictures of the house as it appeared in the 1960s during the TV series The Munsters, as well as how it appeared in the 2000s during the TV series Desperate Housewives as one of the houses on “Wisteria Lane”. As you can see in the still shot of Mariah’s house, the second story window as well the house’s porch must have been reconfigured at some point prior to filming this episode. Furthermore, the turret must have been removed at some point in the late 1990s or early 2000s, prior to the house’s appearances on Desperate Housewives.

The different uses of Universal Studio’s “Munster House”.

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