The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

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The Ghost and Mr. Chicken
Ghost and mr chicken.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alan Rafkin
Produced by Edward J. Montagne, Jr.
Written by Jim Fritzell
Everett Greenbaum
Starring Don Knotts
Joan Staley
Liam Redmond
Sandra Gould
Dick Sargent
Skip Homeier
Music by Vic Mizzy
Cinematography William Margulies
Edited by Sam E. Waxman
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • January 20, 1966 (1966-01-20)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is a 1966 American comedy-drama film starring Don Knotts as Luther Heggs, a newspaper typesetter who spends a night in a haunted house, which is located in the fictitious community of Rachel, Kansas. The working title was Running Scared.[1]


Luther Heggs is a typesetter at the newspaper in Rachel, Kansas, but aspires to be a reporter. One night, observing what he believes to be a murder outside of an old, supposedly haunted house known as the Simmons Mansion, Heggs rushes to the police station with his scoop. Unfortunately, as he relates the details of his story to the Chief of Police, the murder "victim" walks into the room, a local drunk who had merely been whacked unconscious by his irate wife, who had brought him in to be locked up. The next morning, Heggs walks downstairs to the dining room at the Natalie Miller boarding house and overhears Ollie Weaver (Homeier), a full-time reporter at the newspaper, mocking his mistakes of the night before; Ollie is also dating Heggs' love interest, Alma Parker (Joan Staley). According to local lore, the Simmons Mansion was a "murder house" 20 years earlier, when Mr. Simmons murdered his wife with a pair of pruning shears, then jumped from the organ loft to his death. Legend says that the ghost of Mr. Simmons can be heard playing the organ at night.

To increase newspaper sales, Luther is assigned to spend the night in the house on the 20th anniversary of the murders. At midnight, Heggs sees the old organ begin to play by itself, as well as other ghostly happenings, as well as accidentally discovering a secret staircase to the organ tower behind a bookshelf. His story gets the town abuzz and Nicholas Simmons (Philip Ober), nephew of the deceased couple, sues Heggs for libel.

In the courtroom, Heggs is made out to be a fool, but the judge orders the courtroom to the Simmons house at midnight to allow Heggs to prove his story. Nothing happens, and everyone leaves except for Heggs and Alma, who lingers behind in secret, hoping to find evidence to restore Heggs' reputation. Luther notices the old organ playing again, Heggs discovers his friend Mr. Kelsey (Liam Redmond), the newspaper's janitor, producing the creepy tune from an additional keyboard located under the pipes. Kelsey, the former gardener for the Simmons family, confesses to being the party responsible for the mysterious happenings Heggs witnessed; an overzealous security guard kept him from entering the house that night and helping Heggs confirm his story. Upon hearing a scream, they both descend the secret staircase to find Nicholas Simmons holding Alma captive; Kelsey confronts Simmons for killing his aunt and uncle for their fortune and using Kelsey's pruning shears behind to implicate him. Simmons' planned demolition of the house is an effort to destroy the hidden staircase that would ruin his alibi. Luther knocks Simmons out with a body slam, and the case is closed. Ultimately, Heggs marries Alma at a ceremony where the church organ's wedding music is interrupted by the spooky organ music of the Simmons' mansion. The wedding crowd turn to see the organ's keys moving by themselves, hinting that there really is a ghost after all.


Production notes[edit]

Knotts was best known at the time of the film's production for his Emmy Award-winning five seasons on the sitcom The Andy Griffith Show as small town deputy sheriff Barney Fife. Andy Griffith, Knotts' costar on "The Andy Griffith Show", suggested expanding on an episode from the television show involving a deserted house (the old Rimshaw house in the episode "Haunted House" aired Oct. 1963) in which Barney, Gomer, and Andy retrieve a baseball of Opie and his friend from the house. Another Andy Griffith Show connection is a small role played by Hal Smith, who had a recurring role on the show. Knotts left the television show at the end of the 1964–65 season in order to pursue a film career with The Shakiest Gun in the West and The Apple Dumpling Gang being two of the many films that followed his departure from the series. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken was directed by Alan Rafkin with a screenplay by Jim Fritzell and Everett Greenbaum; all three men had been associated with the success of The Andy Griffith Show. Several players from the television show also appear in the film including Lurene Tuttle, Burt Mustin, Hal Smith, and Hope Summers. Viewers will also recognize several actors and actresses who had appeared or were then appearing on other sitcoms of the time. The movie boasts one of the largest collection of character actors/actresses assembled in a single movie.

Universal contract star Joan Staley was known by Alan Rafkin from their work together in Broadside. Normally a blond, she had to wear a dark wig because the producers felt she was "too sexy" as a blonde and the part called for a brunette. She wore the same wig previously worn by Claudia Cardinale in Blindfold.[2] Al Checco, Knotts' Army-days comedy partner, had an uncredited appearance in the film.

The "Simmons Mansion," a three-story Second-Empire Victorian house, stands on Colonial Street on the Universal Studios lot in California and was built for the 1946 film So Goes My Love. It appeared as the Dowd house in the 1950 film Harvey, and, with several alterations to the architecture, served as the home of Gabrielle Solis in Desperate Housewives (2004 - 2012).[3]

Knotts personally called the Bon Ami company president to get permission to mention the cleaning product's name in one of the film's running gags.[citation needed]

Home media[edit]

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken was released on VHS on April 30, 1996.[citation needed] Universal released the film on DVD September 2, 2003 and again on January 9, 2007.


On July 12, 2005, Percepto released the soundtrack on Compact Disc. Composer Vic Mizzy used the old tune Mr. Ghost Goes to Town as his main theme. Mizzy's haunted house organ theme also appeared in the 1967 film Games.

CD cover art
  1. Gaseous Globe
  2. Main Title
  3. Luther Has a Scoop
  4. Laugh's on Luther
  5. Bashful One
  6. Kelsey's Tale
  7. Twenty Years Ago
  8. Super S'Luther
  9. Clock Watchers
  10. Oh, Chute
  11. Rickety Tik Phono
  12. Creepy Jeepers
  13. Haunted Organ
  14. Hero to the
  15. Hero's Picnic
  16. Picnic Table
  17. Speech Is Over
  18. Alma Matters
  19. Back to the Mansion
  20. Chick-Napped
  21. Plucky Chicken
  22. Wedding & Finale
  23. When in Southern California, Visit Universal City Studios (promotional tag)


  1. ^
  2. ^ p.62 Lisanti, Tom Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Biker, Beach, and Elvis Movies McFarland, 2001
  3. ^ [1] The Studio – Colonial Street

External links[edit]