Even Judy Norton is creeped out by the poltergeist episode of The Waltons
Unfazed while filming, now she admits, “I found myself jump once or twice when I was rewatching the episode.”
Nothing could escape the supernatural fervor that swept the nation in the 1970s. The most popular horror films were no longer about monsters and aliens but demons and ghosts. Even wholesome family entertainment like The Waltons got in on the trend.
The season seven episode “The Changeling” seems like a normal story on the surface. Youngest daughter Elizabeth feels stuck between childhood and adulthood on her thirteenth birthday and turns to various family members for help and guidance. She is filled with angst and haunted by anxiety. Then things get literal when she is actually haunted by what appears to be poltergeist.
It’s quite a departure from most Waltons stories, but it didn’t necessarily feel that way at the time.
In a video uploaded to her Youtube channel, Waltons star Judy Norton (who played oldest sister Mary Ellen) reminisced about the show’s spookiest episode and how making it felt relatively normal. “At the time that we filmed it, I don’t know that any of us particularly thought about that,” Norton said about the supernatural elements.
She reasoned that the writers for the episode, show creator Earl Hamner Jr. and Robert Pirosh, went about it the right way. “I think they did a good job of explaining why they went down this route, as far as the characters were concerned.”
For all his grounded nostalgia, Hamner liked to come up with some otherworldly ideas once in a while. After all, he did write eight Twilight Zone episodes.
Norton even admitted she was a little scared watching the episode now. “I have to say, there were some pretty creepy moments there.” Referencing the Raggedy Ann doll (not the creepiest doll on TV in the Seventies, but up there) and the moment a stone zips across the floor, Norton said, “I found myself jump once or twice when I was re-watching the episode.”
It helps that Norton doesn’t remember how the special effects that made the piano play by itself or the vase fall from the mantel were done. They hold up surprisingly well and she can enjoy the mystery like everyone else.
Norton also revealed her own stance on the supernatural. “There are a lot of things that perhaps exist that we can’t prove.” She continued, “I’ve certainly had some creepy things happen in my life that I didn’t have good explanations for.”
There are plenty of other interesting tidbits in the video. For example, Norton compares Mary Ellen’s feisty adolescence to Elizabeth’s more introverted angst. She also reveals that the cast and crew did celebrate birthdays on set, but because her birthday is January 29 and her TV brother Jon Walmsley’s birthday is February 6, they often had joint celebrations. “I remember one time when I was a little miffed about that. I felt like I wanted my own birthday celebration.”
Check out Judy Norton’s entire video below!