Mickey Mouse Club Serials: The Mystery of Ghost Farm
The story was original, the decision having been made not to adapt one of the Hardy Boys books this time out. It was also short, just fourteen episodes, though it seemed much longer to viewers who tuned in faithfully, expecting that surely something interesting was going to happen today...but it never did. Mildly spooky at first, the serial slipped into a tedium which even an escaped lion and a truckload of animals couldn't retrieve.
Frank Hardy has discovered girls, annoying younger brother Joe, who is bored and longing for another mystery to solve. While Frank chats endlessly on the phone, Joe is forced by Aunt Gertrude to accompany the perpetually hopeful Iola Morton to a dairy farm just outside Bayport. After retrieving some goat's milk needed for her baby sister, Iola and Joe have an accident, spilling the milk and wrecking Joe's bicycle. Joe spots a nearby farm with a goat, but when he and Iola go there, they discover the place is abandoned, though it still shelters several animals. Joe suspects someone is around, but hiding. Frightened, Iola rides off, only to encounter insurance man Mr. Binks, who warns her away from the farm.
Summoned by Iola, Frank Hardy rides out to the farm. He is accosted by a farmer named Sam, who also warns him away from "that spooky old farm", formerly owned by Old Lacey, dead for a month now. Frank enters the farmhouse, and hears a noise he thinks must be Joe. Going upstairs to locate him, Frank is surprised to hear Joe downstairs. The boys panic and race outside. While they try to collect themselves, a young man drives up and hails them. Eric Pierson claims to be the nephew and heir of old Lacey, who recently died in a forest fire. Lacey had inherited the farm himself, from his brother Billy, but couldn't pay the property taxes. After hearing the boys' story, Eric searches the house but finds nothing. He offers to drive the boys home, but when the bikes are put into the trunk, Joe's has been mysteriously repaired. Eric hires the Hardy Boys to "investigate" the mystery.
Returning later, the boys set a trap for the mysterious person hiding at the farm, only to have the trap sprung on them. The mystery fellow turns out to be a frail elderly gent, who nevertheless is spry enough to hang from window ledges and climb around the roof. He tells them to just call him a ghost, and explains he was a friend of Lacey and old Uncle Billy. He's now taking care of the animals, but doesn't want anyone to know about him. Eric again drives up, having seen a light at the farm. The "Ghost" vanishes, and the boys don't tell Eric about him. After Eric leaves, the Ghost reappears, and hands Lacey's will to the boys. He explains that Lacey's life insurance money should pay for the upkeep of the farm animals, as directed by the will.
The boys give the will to their father and Mr. Binks, who submits it to the court for validation. Joe realizes that the will was written in purple ink, the same as was in a fountain pen he lost at the farmhouse. Going back to the farm, the boys corner the Ghost and accuse him of writing the will. But when they phone Mr Binks to alert him, they learn the handwriting on the will really was Lacey's. The Ghost confesses he is Lacey, that he allowed people to think he was dead, so his insurance could take care of the animals.
The boys learn from zookeeper Mr. Bray that a court order was to have the farm animals hauled away by a man named Fred. The finding of the will was supposed to have stopped that, but someone told Fred to take the animals anyway. When the animals break out of the truck and scatter through Bayport, the boys and Eric try to recover them. At the zoo, they try to catch the billy goat, only to find the zoo's lion has escaped. The lion corners Eric, while Frank forces him to confess that he told Fred to take the animals. Mr. Bray appears and reveals the lion is harmless, a fact already known to Frank. The boys find a key hidden in the billy goat's bell that opens a safe deposit box containing Liberty Bonds left by Uncle Billy. They now belong to Lacey, who uses them to save the farm animals.
|Episode||       ||Orig Air Date||       || |
| ||       || ||       || |
|      An Introduction||       ||Sep 30, 1957||       || |
|1.   Beginning of the Puzzle||       ||Oct   1, 1957||       || |
|2.   Detective Joe||       ||Oct   2, 1957||       || |
|3.   Who Feeds the Cat?||       ||Oct   3, 1957||       || |
|4.   Two Private Eyes||       ||Oct   4, 1957||       || |
|5.   The Man Named Fred||       ||Oct   7, 1957||       || |
|6.   Animals in Danger||       ||Oct   8, 1957||       || |
|7.   Catching the Ghost||       ||Oct   9, 1957||       || |
|8.   The Ghost Speaks||       ||Oct 10, 1957||       || |
|9.   Lacey's Wonderful Will||       ||Oct 11, 1957||       || |
|10. Detectives in Trouble||       ||Oct 14, 1957||       || |
|11. The Ghost Confesses||       ||Oct 15, 1957||       || |
|12. Iola to the Rescue||       ||Oct 16, 1957||       || |
|13. Panic at the Zoo||       ||Oct 17, 1957||       || |
|14. Uncle Billy's Secret||       ||Oct 18, 1957||       || |
The teleplay, completed May 10, 1957 with some minor revisions on May 23rd, was a rare misfire for writer Jackson Gillis. Despite two prior successes with
The Adventures of Spin and Marty and The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure, this time
he turned out a lukewarm tale that just didn't thrill. It's likely he was told to write something that could be filmed as cheaply and
quickly as possible, for the summer shooting schedule was crowded with three serials and the third season budget had been cut in half
from prior years.
Director Robert G. Springsteen, a veteran of B westerns doing his only Disney serial (he also directed some Mouseketeer segments), was unable to add anything to the production to increase its appeal. The crew's knowledge that the new series Zorro was now absorbing all of Walt's attention and the lion's share of studio resources may have also contributed to the uninspired rendering of this story.
The serial was filmed in June and early July 1957. The farm sequences were shot on the Morrison Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, while the Burbank studio lot and buildings doubled for Bayport. The zoo sequences were filmed at World Jungle Compound in Thousand Oaks, which soon after was renamed to Jungleland, and finally closed in 1968. There was no theme song, and the theme music used was recycled from the earlier series. The special-built sets of the Hardy house from the first serial were used again, but most other shooting was done on exterior locations and in daylight. The entire story was less than half the length of the New Adventures of Spin and Marty that began filming immediately upon completion of this serial.
Gillis seems to have tailored his tale around the availability of Disney's then teen idol, Tim Considine. As popular as Annette Funicello, Tim was in constant demand during the third season. Tim starred in every serial filmed by Disney that year, with the exception of the British-made Clint and Mac...and for that he did the extensive voice-over narration. A lot of this story thus dissolves onto the shoulders of Tim's co-star, Tommy Kirk, who would eventually eclipse Tim at the Disney studio.
Carole Ann Campbell and Sarah Selby reprised their roles as Iola Morton and Aunt Gertrude respectively. Sarah Selby had previously worked as a voice artist for Disney animation, and would continue working at Disney, both on camera and in voice-overs, during the sixties. Russ Conway again appeared as the boy's father Fenton Hardy, though in a much smaller role this time.
Scottish-born character actor Andy Clyde (Lacey) bore a strong resemblance to Florenz Ames, who again played Silas Applegate. This may have confused some viewers, especially as Ames is only briefly seen in two episodes, one a flashback to the previous year. Andy Clyde had worked in the music halls in Britain before coming to America during the 1920's. He soon broke into pictures, specializing in playing western sidekicks for cowboy stars like Hopalong Cassidy.
Former Mouseketeer leader Bob Amsberry, who had been dismissed at the end of the second season in September 1956, was recalled at the start of the third season to do Mouseketeer skits and a small part as Farmer Sam in a few episodes of this serial, probably the last assignments he did for Disney. John Harmon (Zookeeper Bray) had nearly as long a career as Andy Clyde, appearing in over two hundred films and television shows from 1935 up to 1983. In his later years he also ran a bookshop in Woodland Hills, California.
Yvonne Lime, who plays sixteen year old Gloria Binks, was actually several years older than Tim Considine and dating Elvis Presley at the time she made this serial. She had co-starred with Elvis in Loving You just before doing this small bit. A graduate of the Pasadena Playhouse, she appeared in many films and television shows during the fifties and sixties, but is best known today for the charity Childhelp she co-founded. Yvonne later married Don Fedderson, who produced My Three Sons and many other television shows.
|Tim Considine||       ||Frank Hardy|
|Tommy Kirk||       ||Joe Hardy|
|Carole Ann Campbell||       ||Iola Morton|
|Sarah Selby||       ||Aunt Gertrude|
|Russ Conway||       ||Fenton Hardy|
|John Baer||       ||Eric Pierson|
|Hugh Sanders||       ||Mr. Binks|
|Bob Amsberry||       ||Sam the Farmer|
|Andy Clyde||       ||Lacey|
|Yvonne Lime||       ||Gloria Binks|
|John Harmon||       ||Bray|
|Paul Wexler||       ||Fred|
|Taylor McVey||       ||Police Chief|
|Florenz Ames||       ||Silas Applegate|
|Gail Bonney||       ||Prim Woman|
|Paul Birch||       ||Banker|
|Bill Walsh||       ||Producer|
|Jackson Gillis||       ||Writer (teleplay & original story)|
|Franklin W. Dixon1||       ||Character creator|
|Robert G. Springsteen||       ||Director|
|Hoarce Hough||       ||Assistant Director|
|Buddy Baker||       ||Music|
|William Lava||       ||Music|
|Marvin Aubrey Davis||       ||Art Director|
|Gordon Avil, A.S.C.||       ||Director of Photography|
|Ed Sampson||       ||Film Editor|
|Robert O. Cook||       ||Sound|
|Dean Thomas||       ||Sound Mixer|
|Chuck Keehne||       ||Wardrobe|
|Pat McNalley||       ||Make-up|
|Elaine Stone||       ||Hair Stylist|
|John Grubbs||       ||Production Manager|
1 - This was the official pseudonym used by the many authors who wrote the Hardy Boys books.