Monday, October 28, 2013

Who Watches The Waltons? Part 2

Continuing from my previous post, I am picking up the trail of The Waltons, from where i last left it. First of all, there are some general facts about The Waltons TV-show that i didn't really look into the first time around. Primarily because it didn't occur to me that there could be much more to find here, thinking I was probably just dealing with a few interesting UFO-related coincidences emanating from an otherwise standard family show. After all, what could be more mundane than a rural all-American family's daily problems during the great depression?

It is certainly not my usual choice of entertainment, although I must admit that I have actually come to like this series a great deal over the last couple of months. The general themes of The Waltons may be as plain and moralistic as anything can get, but it also features some great storytelling, as well as some really good actors and likable characters. So it's popularity, at least, is no longer a mystery to me. But more relevant for the topic at hand, there are indeed also other, and even more explicit, UFO-connections with The Waltons than those i pointed out in my first post. 

Enter The Twilight Zone

The Waltons was co-created by American writer Earl Hamner Jr., based on his bestselling book Spencer's Mountain, which in turn is inspired by his own life during the 1930's depression-era USA. According to Wikipedia, the name "Walton", as used here, is actually an artificial construct which incorporates the names of his paternal grandfather Walter Clifton Hamner and great-grandfather Walter Leland Hamner. 

Many years before The Waltons, in 1963, a movie adaptation of Spencer's Mountain came out - which in retrospect is kind of like watching a condensed (and slightly less sanitized) version of several Waltons episodes. In addition to this, a few years before the show first aired, another book-based movie called The Homecoming was made. This movie ended up effectively serving as a pilot episode for The Waltons, but didn't feature entirely the same cast.

With this in mind, one could easily come to the conclusion that these kind of stories are all Hamner ever dealt with. But throughout the 1960's he actually wrote a lot of other, all-together different material, including some interesting episodes for the original Twilight Zone series. In fact, he wrote the very last episode for the show, The Bewitchin' Pool.

Some of Hamner's Twilight Zone stories has that particular "Walton feeling" to them, such as The Hunt (Episode 84) and Jess-Belle (episode 109), which both take place in the same Virginia mountain range (The Blue Ridge Mountains) as the fictional Walton's Mountain is supposed to be located. Of course these stories are underpinned by various supernatural undercurrents befitting of The Twilight Zone, but many of the same elements appear later on in The Waltons as well. In The Hunt, for example, the main character is warned off by his wife because of some ill-interpreted omens, and towards the end of Jess-Belle we see a falling star - similar to the scene in The Waltons episode The Star:

And not just that, but in episode 87, A piano in the house, the word 'snowflake' appears once again, although in a different context:

But the most intriguing of the Earl Hamner Jr. Twilight Zone stories are those that deal specifically with the subject of extraterrestrial visitors: Black Leather Jackets (episode 138), which is about a group of leather clad "Men In Black" type aliens, trying to take over the earth and Stopover in a Quiet Town (episode 150) where a couple are abducted from their car on the way home from a party.

Stopover in a Quiet Town is by far the most interesting of the two, not only because it is a full-blown alien abduction story (and therefore takes us back to where I started in my previous post, namely with the Travis Walton case), but also because it has elements that were not very well-known outside of ufological circles at the time (it aired April 24th, 1964, but it is hard to say for certain when it was written), including the sense of isolation and lack of natural sounds of the abductees - hinting towards what Jenny Randles has popularly termed The 'Oz Factor' aspect of many close encounter cases.

I suggest that you watch the whole episode, which i have linked to below, as there are too many interesting parts to highlight:

The Waltons Meet The Invaders

As if the above examples weren't enough, there is even a number of direct connections between The Waltons and the classic 1960's alien invasion series The Invaders. Here i suggest that you read up on some of the research Kenn Thomas has done, linking The Invaders to the JFK assassination via the Maury Island UFO case.

Not only did Earl Hamner Jr. write an episode for season 2 of The Invaders called The Watchers, but several lead actors from The Waltons have prominent roles in the series - both in the original and in the 1995 follow-up mini-series of the same name. They are furthermore all destructive roles, which support the agenda of the invaders in one way or another. This is just a fact that I find interesting, since it contrasts so dramatically with their usual Walton personas. I don't mean to imply that it has any deeper meaning as such. It is possible to watch all the episodes (minus the 1995 ones) on youtube, by the way.

The first Walton that appears on The Invaders, is the most tight-lipped of the bunch, "Grandma Walton" Ellen Corby, who plays a homicidal alien invader posing as well-meaning contactee in the pilot episode The Beachhead. As a fun little detail there is a scene in the episode where Roy Thinnes walks into the Palomar Hotel and is introduced to the manager, Mrs. Adams. 

This is clearly an intentional reference to pioneer contactee George Adamski and the fact that he and his initial followers were very active around the Mount Palomar area in the early UFO days. Mount Palomar is also the location of the famous Palomar astronomical observatory.

The next time a Walton family member appears on the show, is in the penultimate episode, The Pursued. This time it is "Grandpa Walton" Will Geer, who plays a former sheriff whose wife is murdered in the beginning of the episode by an alien defector. He ends up killing the defector (who by this time has become a love interest of Roy Thinnes' character David Vincent) and in the process destroys crucial evidence that could have lead to an exposure of the invasion.

In the 1995 "sequel", the main boss alien is played by none other than Richard Thomas AKA "John Boy Walton", the lead star of the The Waltons. The character of John Boy basically is Earl Hamner as he was growing up in Virginia, writing and compiling stories about his family and their surroundings. So we have here a bit of a convoluted interrelation between a real-life writer, who created a fictional character based on himself, that in turn also writes and tells stories and who's fictional family turn up in some surprisingly coincidental places. Together with the allusions to future events, the lines between reality and fiction end up being somewhat blurred.

Richard Thomas as John-Boy Walton, alter ego of Earl Hamner Jr.

Leaving The Mountain

I would very much have liked to correspond with Earl Hamner Jr. while creating this post, and did in fact try to contact him as he is still alive and apparently active. It would have provided me with some more background for those of his writings I discuss here, and perhaps even have made some of them seem less synchromystic. I never did get an answer from him though, but I'm not too surprised that something like this would be low on his list of priorities. Instead I made good use of the book "Goodbye John-Boy", which did have some valuable information, but had to be supported with a lot of Internet search activity.

I will leave The Waltons for now and concentrate on other writings. But I have, as of yet, only watched the first season of the series, so who knows what else might appear along the way. In fact there are a few more potential leads that I have tried to follow, but so far have not gotten me anywhere. If something develops with that, I will probably write a short follow-up or update the existing posts.  

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