Thriller Parasite Mansion is based on a story by an Alabama author | April Killian

If you’re a fan of the classic black-and-white episodes of The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, you might have heard of an early 1960’s television anthology Boris Karloff’s thriller or simply thriller, as the producers called it. The show ran for two seasons from 1960 to 1962 and produced a total of 67 hours of episodes that aired on NBC. The show was hosted by legendary horror actor Boris Karloff and was intended to appeal to audiences of Alfred Hitchcock gifts which was very successful. At the end of the first season, an episode titled “Parasite Mansion” aired, which was taken directly from the short story “Parasite Mansion” written by a well-known horror author from our own state of Alabama. Read along to learn more about this Alabama-native author, and watch Parasite Mansion as it came out thriller 1961 for himself.

Opening scene of Boris Karloff’s thriller Parasite Mansion.Photo ofposted by Far Out Theater

The author
The author who wrote the original short story Parasite Mansion may surprise you. The author, who sometimes wrote under the pseudonym Charles Dubois, Sanders McCrorey, or John Starr, was Birmingham-born Mary Elizabeth Counselman. Counselman lived most of her life with her husband on a houseboat in Gadsden, Alabama, and was known to most locals by her married name, Mrs. Horace Vinyard. After establishing herself as a writer and poet of “strange novels” at a young age, Counselman lived a quiet, unassuming life by the river with her husband and their self-proclaimed “large entourage of cats”. In later years, Counselman taught creative writing at Gadsden State Junior College (now the Wallace Drive campus of Gadsden State Community College) and the University of Alabama. She also worked for The Birmingham News. Her “groundbreaking” short story, The Three Marked Pennies, which she wrote when she was just 15, was published in the magazine. Strange Stories, in 1934, when Counselman was only 23 years old. The short story is said to have been one of the top three most popular stories ever published in the magazine and helped establish Counselman as a horror novelist (read the original short story here). “The Three Groschen” was reprinted 17 times in nine languages. She also wrote articles for other publications including: The Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, Collier’s and the Ladies Home Journal. In 1981 she received the Phoenix Award for lifetime achievement as a Southern science fiction or fantasy writer. The consultant had studied at the University of Alabama and Montevallo. She died in 1995, leaving her a wealth of short stories, articles, and anthologies, including:
Half in the Shade: A Collection of Stories for the Night Hours (1964) African Yesterdays: A Collection of Native Folk Tales (1975)Move over – it’s just me (verse) (1975) Everything you always wanted to know about the supernatural – but are afraid to believe (1976) SPQR: The Poetry and Life of Catullus (1977) The eye and the hand (1977) New lamps for old ones (1978) The Face of Fear and Other Poems (1984) Masters of Horror Vol. Three: Mary Elizabeth Counselman – Hostess of Horror & Fantasy (2022)

Mary Elizabeth CounselorPhoto ofEncyclopedia of Alabama (public domain)

Boris Karloff’s thriller
Having established herself as a popular horror writer, it’s no surprise that one of Counselman’s short stories was chosen to appear in the TV anthology. thriller. The TV series was created for NBC as a sort of “copycat” of the hit weekly suspense/thriller series: Alfred Hitchcock gifts.

Boris Karloff’s thriller promotional images 1960Photo ofNBC (Wiki Commons)

thriller presented “macabre horror stories and suspense thrillers” each week in the form of an hour-long show hosted by legendary horror actor Boris Karloff. In case you don’t know Boris Karloff, he is one of the most famous actors and voices of the 20th century. He portrayed “Frankenstein’s Monster” in the original 1931 horror film Frankenstein, appeared as Imhotep in the 1932 film The Mummy, and was the infamous voice of the “Grinch” in the original 1966 animated television special, “Dr. Seuss “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” In his series thrillerHe also starred in five episodes himself. Other famous actors play in episodes of thriller include: William Shatner, Leslie Nielsen, Rip Torn and Mary Tyler Moore. The short story “Parasite Mansion”, written by Elizabeth Counselman, was adapted into a screenplay by Donald S. Sanford and was the finale of the first season Boris Karloff’s thriller Series. It was directed by Herschel Daugherty and aired on NBC on April 25, 1961. In a review of the episode on IMDb:

“A beautiful young woman is driving to New Orleans in a severe storm when shots are fired at her and she loses control of the car. While unconscious, she is tricked into running over housemates and a pack of depressed and violent guys who are responsible for keeping her alive. He is struck by her beauty but is afraid of what is going on in the house. There’s a woman walking past Grannie. It’s Jeanette Nolan and she’s almost a prototypical witch. She controls everything including a psychotic little boy and another sibling, a girl who is being held in a room. The pretty prisoner begins to explore, growing ever closer to a ghost that seems to permeate the place…”

Here is the original classic black and white episode of Parasite Mansion as posted to YouTube courtesy of Far Out Theater. Enjoy!

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