9 weird and eerie episodes of 'Bonanza' that dip into the supernatural

Witches, leprechauns and clairvoyants sometimes turned up on the Ponderosa.

Bonanza remains one of the great Western sagas of all time. But the series was far more than that. The show was at times a comedy and a romance. After all, there were 14 seasons of stories to tell, 431 episodes to fill. The Cartwrights eventually explored every inch of television territory.

On the rare occasion, a mist would descend over the Ponderosa as Bonanza dipped its toes into the supernatural. Witches, superstitions, ghosts and mythical creatures cropped up here and there. This being a show of many tones, these outlier episodes could be either eerie or silly. 

1. "Hoss and the Leprechauns"

Season 5, episode 12

Few episodes stick in the memory quite like this one. After all, it's not every day you see a big cowboy jumped by a horde of little green men. After Hoss scares off a bear, he takes a box of gold from "leprechauns." They steal it back and thus the antics begin. Turns out, they are not magical Irish creatures of folklore, but rather performers. In the end, big-hearted Hoss makes a plea for tolerance for little people.

2. "Twilight Town"

Season 5, episode 4

As we have already seen, much of the "supernatural" that appears on Bonanza is later revealed to be mere superstition. However, if one episode goes all in on the chilling vibes, it's this one. As its title suggests, there's a little hint of The Twilight Zone to it, as Joe stumbles upon a ghost town in the desert. He is made sheriff of the mysterious and cursed Martinville.

3. "The Strange One"

Season 7, episode 10

A wagon train abandons a clairvoyant women whom it has deemed to be a witch. Joe and Hoss come upon her while on a cougar hunt. The poor Maria views herself as "voodoo" for the bad luck she brings upon people.

4. "Devil on Her Shoulder"

Season 7, episode 6

Another traveling band, another woman accused of witchcraft. This time, it's a wandering clan of Holy Rollers who believe in a flat earth. In addition to these hints of Nathaniel Hawthorne, there is a rather odd romance involving Lorne Greene. 

5. "All Ye His Saints"

Season 7, episode 14

Clint Howard plays Michael Thorpe, a boy who wanders up a mountain to find God. There he finds an old hermit with a godly beard.

6. "Dark Star"

Season 1, episode 31

Bonanza explored its dark side early when Little Joe comes upon a gypsy woman who is believed to be possessed by evil spirits. Nevertheless, the young Cartwright becomes smitten with the bewitching woman. 

7. "Ponderosa Birdman"

Season 6, episode 20

Like The Wild, Wild West, Bonanza even dabbled with steampunk (though it was not described as such until much later). Dan Blocker headlines this rib-tickler in which an inventor helps turn Hoss into a "300-pound robin" with the aide of some mechanical flying wings.

8. "Second Sight"

Season 13, episode 16

Another woman with psychic powers turns up in this late episode. When Jamie goes missing, the Cartwrights enlist the help of the reluctant clairvoyant to locate a youngster.

9. "The Savage"

Season 2, episode 12

The local natives believe a Scandinavian woman (played by the Norwegian Anna-Lisa) to be endowed with magical powers. In this case, it is Adam who develops a crush on the mystic beauty of the week.


Seemingly everyone got a part on this long-running Western, from Star Wars and Star Trek heroes budding leading men. READ MORE

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VBartilucci 20 months ago
I'm prepared to bet that those leprechaun costumes came from the Danny Kaye film The Court Jester. Indeed, if I did the research, I wouldn't be surprised if they were filmed at the same time, and these are all the same actors in both.
GerryDooley VBartilucci 20 months ago
not filmed at the same time: Bonanza 1963-'64, Court Jester 1950's. Could've been the same costumes though, all the studios rented from Western Costume.
WVR 45 months ago
There were a couple of other "steampunk" episodes-one about a man who had invented an early type of automobile, called the Power Wagon, and another involving a man who had invented a metal detector that could find gold.
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