Name That Trauma:: Alex M. on a Crying Baby and a Victorian Doll

Hi there,

Terrific site. I was wondering if you could help me with a half-remembered TV-based trauma from my childhood.

My brain’s telling me it was a scene from an American TV series, like Columbo, although it could have been a made for TV movie, and it would have been shown during the day on UK TV around the end of the 1970s (possibly beginning of the 1980s)

I remember a woman at home, alone, trying to track down the source of the sound of a baby crying. She kept looking around the house trying to trace where the noise was coming from and eventually narrowed it down to the cupboard under the stairs. She slowly opens the cupboard door and inside finds a Victorian doll, slumped motionless on a chair. Cut to the next scene and cue me running from the room, unable to tell my mum what I’d seen.

My brain’s probably filling in the blanks, but it may have involved a tape recorder/dictaphone next to the doll which was producing the crying sound (maybe to send the woman mad/chase her from the house.)

It wasn’t Spielberg‘s ‘Something Evil‘ (which also features a following-the-sound-of-a-crying-baby moment) as this wouldn’t have been shown during the day.

I’d be grateful for anyone’s help on laying this to rest and can only apologise that there isn’t much to go on.

Thanks in advance

UNK SEZ: Thanks, Alex! I have a vague suspicion that what you may be looking for is 1978’s NIGHT CRIES? It’s a made for TV movie that is all about a mother (SUSAN SAINT JAMES) whose baby died in childbirth and is haunted nightly by the sound an infant crying. It fits the time period and it also stars WILLIAM CONRAD (CANNON) which might explain the “Colombo” vibe. NIGHT CRIES is available on YouTube (first part below) so you can check it out to verify. On the other hand, I may very well be wrong so if anybody has any other guesses or suggestions feel free to share your ideas!

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6 years ago

Hi! Thanks so much for posting this and suggesting something so quickly.
I’ve had a quick look through Night Cries and, although it’s amazingly similar in places (doll and a cupboard) it’s not the one I saw in the UK.
Had to pluck up the courage to work my way through those seven YouTube segments though, just in case it was the one 😉

Brother Bill
6 years ago

Grasping at straws here but it vaguely reminds me of something I saw on a Barnaby Jones episode (that show could get pretty creepy at times!) Possibly Season 3, Ep 19 “Fantasy of Fear”(?) Episode description from IMDB: “A woman who suffered a mental breakdown in the past over the death of a child hires Barnaby Jones to find out who is trying to push her over the edge once again.” Unfortunately I can’t find any clips from that episode on-line so hard to verify.

Anyone happen to own the series DVD set and could check it out?

6 years ago

Wow! Another lead. Thanks Brother Bill. That sounds really promising.
Was trying to find out if Barnaby Jones got a UK showing in the 1970s and a quote from UK TV critic Leslie Halliwell I found online suggests it did.
Given that the end of Season 3 was probably being aired in the US beginning of 1975, I reckon that it probably reached the UK a year of so later so ’76. Or it could have been repeated. I would have been around 3 or 4 at the time, so perfect kindertrauma age!
Really hoping that this is the one. Just got to find a copy of the show now…

6 years ago

Can’t find a copy of that Barnaby Jones episode anywhere, unfortunately.

Also, as far as I can see from old UK TV listings, it was only season one of Barnaby Jones that was shown on ITV in the UK and it was shown at ten in the evening, which would have been too late for me to have caught it (alone) at that age. The program I watched was definitely on midday-ish as I remember running to my mother afterwards.
I’m starting to wonder whether it was an incredibly realistic dream where I’d imagined an American crime mystery show where the above events happened? Odd that the memory was so fully formed for a young child, though – the look and feel of the TV show is all there in my head.

I might have to approach it from another angle and see which American mystery/crime programmes were shown midday-ish, probably on ITV, probably on a Saturday (no school!) between 1977-1980 in the UK and narrow it down from there.