Hi and happy 2019! With this post going live a few days after New Year’s Eve, I decided to recap a Dark Fantasy story set on the holiday. It’s spooky, a tad creepy, a little squicky when it comes to the romance angle, well-acted by members of Dark Fantasy’s troupe of pros, and with an odd take on the time travel element.   

So, raising a glass to auld lang syne and with noisemakers poised, here we go with Resolution 1841… 

We open with the show’s signature eerie organ music and howling wind that’s got me reaching for a sweater. The announcer says the episode’s title as if he’s a coroner so very sorry to inform us of the deceased’s time of death. Got to hand it to this show, which ran for a short 28 episodes in 1941-42, the writing might not be all that, but the atmosphere is topnotch.  

The Dark Fantasy ensemble, including Minnie Jo Curtis (left)

A young woman narrates, introducing herself as Laura Cabot (Minnie Jo Curtis). It’s the 2nd of January 1942, and she’s here to tell us the story of the unbelievable New Year’s Eve she’s just experienced. I suppose we’ve all had one of those New Year’s Eves. Mine involved a pocket watch, a bottle of coffee schnapps, and a purple armadillo.  

“It began two days ago,” Laura tells us. “A number of us braved the deep snow and cold north wind to go out to the old Cabot place, north of Quincy, to see in the new year.” She doesn’t specify where the story takes place, but if she’s in Massachusetts, the trip north of Quincy would put them in downtown Boston, yet somehow they end up in a remote country setting.  

There were four of them, Laura says—herself, newlyweds Ed and Helen Richards and a business friend of Ed’s named Duke Tobac. 

Ben Morris as Ed

Laura’s voice fades, a blistering wind blows, and we flash back two days, to December 31st. We meet the other characters, who are riffing on how cold it is and how far they have to walk from the car to the house. Ed and Helen (Ben Morris & Eleanor Naylor) are behind their companions, trudging through what I imagine to be five-foot-high show drifts, discussing what a fine match Laura and Duke would make.  

Cut to Laura, who’s enjoying a light conversation with her guest. “Oh, Mr. Tobac, you must think we’re idiots to come out here in this weather,” she says, laughing. “Call me Duke,” Duke (Charles Carshon) insists. Laura laughs again and says she calls him Mr. Tobac because she’s fascinated by his last name. She asks him to spell it, then spell it backward. Duke’s all, I didn’t expect to be in a spelling bee. Laura relents and points out the obvious—Tobac spelled backward is Cabot, her last name.   

“That’s the most unusual thing I’ve ever heard of,” she says, proving she doesn’t get around much.  

Once they get past comparing last names, Laura drops some plot points I’m sure will come in handy later, the most important being the old Cabot place has been in Laura’s family for generations and she’s had to shell out beaucoup bucks to keep the old pile in livable condition.  

The Old Cabot Manse has fallen into disrepair

 They reach the house. Sounding stunned, Duke tells Laura the place looks awfully familiar, though he’s never been there before.

Inside, Ed and Helen remark on how warm and toasty the place is, thanks to Old Man Whatshisname across the way who has nothing better to do on New Year’s Eve than to lay out a fire and keep it burning all day for his neighbors.   

But Laura’s not warm. In fact, she has a chill she can’t shake. The house seems different somehow, and that’s got her unsettled. Nonsense, the others say and suggest they get to the drinking PDQ. 

Organ music segues us to a while later; the men enjoy a smoke as Ed grills Duke about Laura. It’s pretty clear this whole getaway to the creepy old house is a set-up for romance and not a horror movie. Duke says he finds Laura appealing, in a strange déjà vu sort of way. Why does it seem he’s met Laura before and knows her well? “It seems we were once close to each other. Very close,” he muses.

Meanwhile, the women are busy in the kitchen fixing dinner. Helen tells Laura she’s noticed Duke staring at her with “a sort of fascination.” And she’d seen Laura staring at Duke in the same way. Laura doesn’t deny it and confesses she likes him “too much.” Helen’s all, “Ohhhhh, love at first sight.” Not like that, Laura insists, she just feels something that “draws me very close to him.” Helen will not be dissuaded from her matchmaking, and suggests they get the roast into the oven then go break open the bubbly to move the romance along.  

Another mournful organ music segue. Ed announces it’s 30 minutes until midnight. Laura’s all whew, can’t wait until 1941 is over and a new, better year begins. They toast to 1942. “May all our troubles disappear like bubbles of champagne,” Laura says, without mentioning the world war the US had just been dragged into.

She downs her champagne and excuses herself to go upstairs and change. Helen tries to follow, to hold her bustle or something, but Ed reminds her she has work to do in the kitchen. Then, without offering to help, he plops his butt on the sofa and reaches for the remote. Ed’s a real catch.  

Eleanor Naylor as Helen

Before Helen slinks off to tend to the roast, she turns her matchmaking wiles on Duke, asking him if he’d ever met Laura before. Now we’re talking about déjà vu and such again. Helen finally gets it, but doofus Ed still thinks Laura and Duke just forgot they’d met at the seashore or Santa Anita or the Hamptons or any of those other places where rich people go to vacation.   

The convo takes a weird turn as Duke says he could swear he’s seen Laura’s house before and been inside, and when he walked up the path to the house, he felt as if he’d walked it dozens and dozens of times.

“This room, these pine walls and oak floors all seem vaguely familiar,” he says.  

That’s enough weirdness for Ed, who changes the subject by remarking on how cold the place has gotten. “We need more logs for the fire,” Helen says. “Ed you go get them.” Ha! You go, Helen. If she has to schlepp off to the kitchen, he has to go out into the cold to get more firewood. That’s what marriage is all about. But Duke steps in and volunteers, saying he knows exactly where the woodpile is. Because of course he does.  

More funereal organ music and Laura returns from upstairs. She’s dressed in a gown that’s been in her family for almost a century. She’s wearing it in memory of her ancestors because she spent so much money on back taxes and repairs to the house, she’s broke and about to lose it.    

Laura says yes to the dress!

“Just wait until Duke sees you in that old dress,” Helen says, trying to boost her spirits. “Maybe that’ll help him remember where he knows you from.”

Unless they met at a costume party celebrating the styles of the pre-Victorian era, this line makes no sense at all…

Until what happens next.  

A crashing sound from outside and the trio rush out of the house to find Duke on the ground. He’s been conked on the head by some falling logs. He comes around and stares, bleary-eyed at the people around him.

“Who are these people?” he asks Laura, kind of a standard amnesia-plot question, but then he demands, “Where is your mother? Why do you look at me like that, daughter?”    

Gotta hand it to him, he’s on-task. I would’ve been asking why the heck I was lying outside on the ground in the snow with a pile of logs on top of me and a bump on my noggin, but that’s just me, always thinking of my own comfort.    

“Why are you acting so strange?” Laura asks.

“You call me strange, daughter?” Duke blusters. “You call Jeremiah Cabot strange?”  

Dramatic organ music, then Laura saying, “What? Why, Jeremiah Cabot was my mother’s—” …pause for dramatic effect… “Great-great-grandfather!”  

New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, 1841-style!

Duke/Jeremiah is as confused as we are by this strange turn of events. But Laura puts it all together and tells her companions all about it.

There was a family story that ol’ Jeremiah, joshing around with his family one new year’s eve, made a resolution to return after he died exactly 100 years from that very night.

Whoa, that’s ambitious. I usually resolve to lose 10 pounds then promptly break my resolution. Seems Jeremiah kept his, and he’s here now, inhabiting Duke’s body.   

“Yes, that’s it, the resolution,” Duke/Jeremiah says. “The brick. In the fireplace. The brick. I’ll show you.”

Now Laura’s as confused as we are, but at least poor Duke/Jeremiah has been brought inside from the cold. He leads the others to the fireplace and shows them a loose brick, telling them it can be removed. Which he promptly does, revealing pictures, money, the original deed to the house, and some valuable paperwork inside.  

How much will this 1840s bill fetch Laura on eBay?

“Laura, please read it,” Duke/Jeremiah says, handing Laura one of the papers. As the organ music wavers and trembles, she reads: “I Jeremiah Cabot, being in my right and sane mind, do solemnly resolve this night to return to Earth exactly 100 years from now, if it be within the realm of power. Signed, Jeremiah Cabot, December 31, 1841.” I’m thinking right and sane mind is debatable, considering the resolution. 

A moment of dead air follows (radio speak for a way-too-long pause) and Duke wakes up with a dazed and confused, Wot happened? Then, howling wind and the organist lays on the keys pretty hard for about thirty seconds.  

…the end.

Seriously, The End. Seriously and strangely. I know as a writer you’re supposed to leave your audience wanting more but this is ridiculous. If ever a story needed an epilogue it’s this one.    

Yeah, we can figure out Laura used the dough to pay off her bills and keep the house, but what about the rest of it? Doesn’t Duke deserve to be clued in about what happened? About why he and Laura felt as if they’d met before? What about the budding romance? Will it move forward despite Duke sort of being Laura’s own (3X Great-) Grandpa? And will Helen ever get back to the kitchen and finish cooking the roast?

Perhaps we should’ve demanded the writer, Scott Bishop, come back exactly 77 years later to explain it all to us.

Happy New Year all – see you next month!

Want to hear the entire audio broadcast? You can enjoy it here:

Janet Raye Stevens
Contrary to what her kids will tell you, author Janet Raye Stevens was not around during the 1940s, though she regularly time travels to WWII while writing her mystery and romance stories. When she isn’t visiting 1944, Janet spends her time drinking tea (Earl Grey, hot), plotting revenge (best served cold), and indulging in all things time travel. Janet lives with her family in the Massachusetts suburbs, where, as we all know, nothing is as it seems.