The Haunting of Cassie Palmer

Cassie isn’t allowed out to the disco on a Friday night, or to listen to her radio, she has to sit in her room quietly and do her French homework. This is the main drawback of having an aging medium for a mother – played with a delicious wickedness by Elizabeth Spriggs, who adults of a certain age will remember from Simon and the Witch – that insists on holding séances in the dining room of a weekend. This all changes one evening when Madam Palmer is caught tickling one of the clients in the dark with an ostrich feather. I know, some people will pay good money for that sort of thing, but on this occasion no one is impressed (though she does get away with the maracas she wears under her skirt to simulate ethereal tapping, so it could be worse). To Cassie this display of charlatanism comes as quite a relief, as the seventh child of the seventh child she’s been under some pretty heavy expectations in regards to the blossoming of her own psychic powers so discovering mum’s a fraud takes the pressure off somewhat.

However things don’t seem to be set to improve for Cassie. It looks like the family are going to have to leave town , claims of fraudulent activity not being too good for the ghost liaison business. And then there’s the unfortunate incident in a graveyard where she mistakenly manages to raise the spirit of an extremely camp 17th century man called Deverill. It’s just one thing after another in the Palmer household.

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The problem with raising spirits at random is one can never quite be sure of their intentions. Deverill, claims he just wants a friend, a friendship Cassie gratefully accepts. However, her mother is not so sure that he’s not  some ghost pervert and calls in the psychic research council to check him out. In the meantime Deverill has revealed the location of some hidden treasure which could really save the Palmer family’s bacon, however in order to get her hands on it Cassie will need to break into an old woman’s house. Hmmm, could this be an evil trick to lure her over to the dark side?

The Haunting of Cassie Palmer is based on the first novel by Vivien Alcock who started writing children’s fiction in her fifties, often with a spooky theme. Executive produced by stalwart of children drama Anna Home, her later book Travellers by Night was also dramatised under Home’s auspices. The third of her works to be televised was the Cuckoo Sister in 1986, a non-fantasy drama which I remember vividly and fondly. Alcock was married to Léon Garfield, himself a children author and many of his, largely historical, children’s books were also dramatised. The first,, The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris, in 1979 by…Anna Home. Small world kids tv, isn’t it?

Produced by Television South for ITV in 1982 on location in Southampton, it was one of their earliest forays into children’s television after taking over from Southern in 1981.  Programming for children went on to be a priority for TVS, whose output it can be suggested was far edgier than that of it’s predecessor or the BBC. As a heroine Cassie is pretty spunky and decidedly working class. Yes, there are certainly some of the usual kids drama tropes to be found in the Haunting of Cassie Palmer, her father being dead being the most obvious. But aside from a bit of stilted acting from the younger members of the cast it holds up pretty well.

Of course it’s not in the least but scary. Deverill is unintentionally a pretty comical ghost even when he’s supposed to be evil because of course, he’s not really evil. He’s just lonely and from another time which makes you says things which sound a bit weird occasionally. Therefore it’s no surprise that ultimately everything turns out alright in the end with the family moving to a nice house in the country and Cassie burning out all her psychic powers leaving her free to become a doctor. An ending almost worthy of the BBC.

The Haunting of Cassie has never been made commercially available and has not been repeated on UK television for a very long time.  

~ by hazyhazy on June 19, 2012.

2 Responses to “The Haunting of Cassie Palmer”

  1. I don’t know if you would be interested in this? I put a link to your very interesting website as you were the only person I found who knew this was a British rather than NZ production!

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