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Series / Kolchak: The Night Stalker

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Intrepid Reporter Carl Kolchak and Mr. R.I.N.G.

"If you want a job done right, you just have to foul it up yourself."
Carl Kolchak

A 1974–75 ABC series starring Darren McGavin as Intrepid Reporter turned Occult Detective Carl Kolchak. Preceded by two Made for TV Movies, The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973).

The character of Carl Kolchak was the protagonist in an unpublished novel by Jeffrey Grant Rice, The Kolchak Papers, a thriller in which Las Vegas newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak tracks down a serial killer, only to discover that the serial killer is really a vampire. ABC optioned the unpublished novel for production into a Made-for-TV Movie, and the resulting adaptation (The Night Stalker) scripted by Richard Matheson (The Incredible Shrinking Man, I Am Legend) became a surprise hit, earning the highest ratings of any TV movie up until its January, 1972 airing (reportedly a 33.2 rating/54 share.) It was so well-received that some of the producers later said that they wish they had taken the movie and gone with a theatrical release instead. The production also earned the 1973 Edgar Award for Best TV Feature/Miniseries Teleplay.


Impressed by this success, ABC arranged for Matheson to write the screenplay for a followup TV movie, The Night Strangler, which aired about a year later, about a century-plus old serial killer who strangled his victims and then used their blood to prolong his life through alchemy. The Night Strangler carried over the star and several of the supporting cast from the earlier TV movie, while transferring the venue from Las Vegas to Seattle (the better to use the scenic beauty of the Seattle Underground as locations). This sequel did well enough in the ratings that Pocket Books proceeded to publish The Kolchak Papers as a "Night Stalker" tie-in, changing the title of the novel to The Night Stalker and featuring a picture of star Darren McGavin on the cover. Reasoning that nothing succeeds like success, Pocket Books then commissioned Rice to write a novelization of Richard Matheson's script of the second movie, which Pocket Books published as The Night Strangler.


The success of The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler caused ABC to reconsider plans for a third movie installment (early plans included the possibility of marketing the three movies in syndication as "The Trilogy of Terror") and the network decided to produce a weekly "Kolchak" series instead. Darren McGavin and co-star Simon Oakland (playing Da Editor, Tony Vincenzo) signed on to reprise their roles from the two movies, while the venue changed again to Chicago, where Kolchak and Vincenzo were employees of a wire service, the Independent News Service (INS). The series also featured a set of memorable office denizens (INS became something of the office version of a Quirky Household), and several other recurring characters (including a wacky morgue attendant and the statutorily required contact in the Chicago Police Department, a police captain ultimately driven into group therapy in order to deal with anger issues arising from his frustrations in dealing with Kolchak).

The series failed to garner the success of the two movies, and Darren McGavin, who was not only the star but also acted as executive producer (credited as such for at least 4 episodes), began to become disappointed in the series, which had started to degenerate into a Monster of the Week show. McGavin therefore began to negotiate with ABC to be released from his contract. ABC, having noticed the series's dwindling ratings, decided to cancel it with two of the planned 22 episodes unproduced, and granted McGavin's request. While ratings for the series were disappointing (especially in the light of the success of the predecessor movies), the series's quirky blend of horror and black comedy struck enough of a chord with enough fans that it became something of a cult hit, retaining enough drawing power to warrant the production of two compilation movies, to earn substantial airtime in syndication, to inspire the publication of a series of novels featuring the characters, and eventually to earn a complete series DVD release and a less-than-successful remake series - Night Stalker (2005).

It may not have hurt the series' reputation that subsequent credits for the show's writers included The Sopranos (David Chase was the de facto story editor), Hill Street Blues and... Back to the Future ("Chopper" has story credit for Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale)!

This show provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: "The Spanish Moss Murders." And lit at regular intervals, yet!
  • The Ace: Jim Elkhorn, who in addition to being a Magical Native American shaman, also has an MBA, speaks French fluently, can dig up Matchemonedo's entire history (with references) in less than a day and has great success with the ladies. He is the single-most useful ally Kolchak comes across in the entire series.
  • Action Survivor: Kolchak. His mother wasn't killed by a demon. He wasn't Chosen by the Powers That Be. Heck, he doesn't even work for the FBI. Yet time and again he throws himself into danger to get the truth and help people, armed with little more than a few old legends, and comes up victorious every time.
  • Actor Allusion: Lara Parker playing an evil witch...
  • Agent Mulder: Carl Kolchak is always quick to make the leap to supernatural explanations. Even though he is often right, it's still noticeable that he doesn't even try more mundane theories first.
  • Agent Scully: Tony Vincenzo hardly ever believes any of Kolchak's theories, to say nothing of the police.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Updyke has all the stereotypical mannerisms associated with gays at the time the show was produced, and comes from San Francisco, but his personal life is never touched upon on the show.
  • And Starring: Simon Oakland is billed as Also Starring for all 20 episodes.
  • Animated Armor: In the episode "The Knightly Murders." The ghost of an evil knight animates his old suit of armor to kill everyone responsible for the desecration of his burial site.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The mobsters in "The Zombie" amply deserve the gruesome deaths that they are dealt.
    • Henry "Studs" Spake from "Chopper" is a cruel biker who runs tour buses off the road for fun, robs and steals to make a living, and is heavily implied to be a Neo-Nazi. When he gets decapitated, it’s very satisfying.
    • Officer Earl Lyons from "Legacy of Terror".
  • Baleful Polymorph: At the end of "The Devil's Platform" the destruction of his amulet prevents Palmer from transforming back into a human, leaving him stuck as a dog.
  • Beard of Evil: Jack the Ripper, Ryder Bond (and his doppelgangger form), and Robert Palmer all sport them.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The first episode of the series presents Jack the Ripper as a superhuman immortal who embarked on other killing sprees in the decades since his original 1888 murders.
  • Berserk Button: The one thing guaranteed to piss off Miss Emily is discrimination or condescension towards the elderly.
  • Blood Oath: In the episode "The Devil's Platform", a politician makes a Deal with the Devil to obtain power. He offers Kolchak the chance to do the same thing, and tells him that he will need to sign his name in blood.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Played with. Most episodes avoid showing blood as much as possible, and whenever there isn’t a Gory Discretion Shot being used, you can expect the victims will be killed in a manner that leaves no blood whatsoever. However, the show also had a way of making this as disturbing and gruesome as possible.
  • Candlelit Ritual: In "The Zombie". In order to lay the title monster to rest, Kolchak must fill its mouth with salt, sew its lips together, and surround it with burning candles, all while it is currently inactive. Unfortunately for him, the zombie wakes up while he's performing the ritual. When the title monster is active, Kolchak has to strangle it while burning candles near it. He does so by hanging it with a metal noose, putting the lit candles on a hubcap, and sliding it beneath the dangling zombie.
  • Cannot Dream: A scientific test subject is denied the ability to dream in "The Spanish Moss Murders", and the same energy is diverted into creating a homicidal Plant Person.
  • Car Cushion: "The Trevi Collection"
  • Cats Are Mean: A cat claws a fashion model's face in "The Trevi Collection."
  • Chekhov's Gun: In "The Vampire" Kolchak drives into LA from the airport. There is a long shot of the Hollywood Cross. In the episode finale, Kolchak sets the cross on fire to defeat the vampire.
  • Classical Movie Vampire: the eponymous Night Stalker in the original TV movie. And its resurrected victim in "The Vampire".
  • Closest Thing We Got:
    • A double serving in "The Werewolf". When Kolchak needs a priest to bless the silver he is using to make bullets, he ends up resorting to a fellow passenger on the cruise ship who flunked out of the seminary. And once he gets the guy, he doesn't know any Latin blessings for that, so they end up using the Last Rites prayer, hoping it's close enough to get the job done.
    • Given the absence of a stepped pyramid in Chicago, an Aztec cult makes due with the seats of a stadium for their Human Sacrifice.
  • Compilation Movie: Crackle of Death and The Demon and the Mummy
  • Cool Car: Kolchak's yellow '65 Mustang convertible.
  • Cool Old Lady: Miss Emily, the elderly puzzles and advice columnist at INS. She is the only coworker Kolchak actually likes and she's always ready to help him. "Horror in the Heights" reveals that she is the one person in the world Kolchak completely trusts. He kills the creature while in its Miss Emily appearane, so the fact that he can casually kill someone he trusts completely is rather disturbing.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The vice president of PR for the oil company in "Primal Scream" prides himself of his ability to put a positive spin to any and all the horrible crap his company does.
  • Cranium Chase: Episode "Chopper". The skull and body of a dead man are separated. The man's ghost animates his dead body as a Headless Horseman and goes on a search for his head, killing the people who murdered him along the way.
  • Creepy Mortician: "Gordy the Ghoul" Spangler, who isn't so much creepy (although he does run a gambling pool based on the corpses' statistics) as preternaturally cheerful. Did we mention he's played by John Fiedler, the voice of Piglet?
  • Da Editor: Tony Vincenzo's job description.
  • Darker and Edgier: The remake was this, as a) it lacked a lot of the humor, and b) Kolchak was motivated in his investigations by the death of his wife at the hands of something unknown. As Warren Ellis put it, "It's like Ironside (1967), only he loses the use of his legs in a Prison Rape incident."
  • Deal with the Devil: In "The Devil's Platform" a politician makes one of these in return for wealth and power.
  • A Degree in Useless: How Jim Elkhorn views his MBA, since he makes far more money as foreman of a specialized construction crew than he ever could putting his degree to use. note 
  • Dirty Cop: Captain Winwood turns out to be working for the mafia.
  • Downer Ending: The first movie. The vampire serial-killer is defeated, but Kolchak's story gets heavily altered by the corrupt city government, he loses his girlfriend and nearly gets arrested for murder, and an episode of the series would reveal that one of the victims became a vampire herself and continued killing. After being told to leave Las Vegas, he ends up expanding his original story into a novel.
    • Several episodes end this way when Kolchak doesn't kill the monster. "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be" ends with the murderous alien leaving Earth. Kolchak manages to drive it off, but the alien(s) never pay for murdering several humans.
    • In "Mr. R.I.N.G.", the Army "kills" the sympathetic robot, and government officials wipe Kolchak's memories.
    • "The Sentry" ends with the title monster retreating. It's a happy ending of sorts for the mama monster, who leaves with one of its eggs. Not so much for the dead workers it killed.
  • Dug Too Deep: In "The Sentry", subterranean workers discover a clutch of eggs underground which they steal. This causes the eggs' mother to hunt them down and kill them.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first movie was far more serious and had a very grim tone, with a Downer Ending. Kolchak is also far more skeptical and serious than he is in the following movie and series.
  • Eldritch Abomination
    • "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be" invokes this with an explicitly alien visitor who uses Earth as a trucker does a truck stop, completely ignoring humanity as anything other than a nuisance or a food source.
    • Then there's Matchemonedo, the "Bear God" in "The Energy Eater", which is only visible to the X-Ray spectrum, feeds on energy and likes it hot. When an X-Ray picture is taken of it, the being looks like a malevolent hurricane of energy. It was stated in the episode that it was referred to as the Bear God not because of its appearance, but because of its habits: it fed in the summer and rested in the winter, as it could not function in the cold.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: "Firefall". An evil pyromaniac ghost kills a man in his apartment through Spontaneous Human Combustion. When the ghost leaves the apartment, a dog in the corridor outside detects his presence and starts barking like crazy.
  • Evil Elevator: The bad guy in "The Devil's Platform" kills an entire elevator full of people to silence a single person.
  • Evil Twin:
    • A homicidal spirit takes on the form of a symphony conductor it adulates in "Firefall."
    • Disturbingly, the Rakshasa in "Horror in the Heights" takes on the form of Kolchak himself to kill one victim.
  • Evil vs. Evil: In "The Zombie" you have a ruthless voodoo priestess seeking revenge against a bunch of mobsters and a corrupt police captain.
  • Expanded Universe: The series has inspired a number of novels featuring Carl Kolchak, Tony Vincenzo, and other series characters, the latest being published as late as 2007! There is also a series of comic books by Moonstone Comics with new adventures, including crossovers with Sherlock Holmes, Honey West, and Cthulhu.
  • Extra-Strength Masquerade: Given the sheer number of supernatural phenomena that Kolchak goes up against in Chicago alone, it is remarkable that The Masquerade has remained in place. It is implied that this is due to the active efforts from the authorities to suppress any an all evidence that Kolchak might come up with.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Or not, in the case of "Primal Scream."
  • Failure Is the Only Option: No matter how many monsters and paranormal happenings Kolchak gets involved with, he never has enough evidence left at the end of an episode to prove it, although in one episode he and Vincenzo actually get the story onto the wire before their management kills it.
  • Fairest of Them All: In "The Youth Killer", Helen of Troy's motivation is to remain forever young and beautiful. She achieves this by sacrificing beautiful young women to Hecate in in exchange for eternal youth and beauty.
  • Fantastic Racism: In "The Zombie", there are several elements of implied racism. During a confrontation between mobster Sposato and Sweetstick Weldon (Antonio Fargas). Sposato refers to Weldon and his men as "coconuts", and calls Weldon "Licoricestick". At the end , Kolchak hangs a black man. Granted the man is a zombie, and Kolchak has to strangle the zombie when it's in its animate state to "kill" it, but overall the implications are not good.
  • Fake Static: In the episode "The Vampire", Intrepid Reporter Kolchak is sent to Los Angeles to get a story. While talking on the phone to his editor in Chicago, he puts a towel over the phone and uses an electric razor near the phone. He wants to make it seem like the line is full of static to he doesn't have to answer the editor's questions. When he gets tired of this he hangs up, assuming that the editor will think they were cut off.
  • Fauxreigner: Pepe LaRue, the French street musician that gives Kolchak information in "The Spanish Moss Murders" turns out to really be Morris Shapiro from Brooklyn.
  • Finagle's Law. Whatever Kolchak needs to destroy the monster, he often drops, breaks, or loses the item required. "The Vampire," "The Devil's Platform," "Bad Medicine," "The Spanish Moss Murders," and "The Trevi Collection."
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Subverted with Louise in "The Night Strangler", who spends the entire movie as Kolchak's only ally and risks her live to help him stop the killer. But by the end of the movie she hates his guts, since her association with him resulted in her losing her job, her home and getting run out of Seattle by the police before she could complete her degree. She correctly points out that meeting him and joining in his adventure ruined her life.
  • Flat Line: "The Devil's Platform". Robert Palmer's secretary is in the hospital suffering from dog bite wounds. Palmer shows up in her room and fools around with her IV drip. As she dies, her heartbeat monitor changes from a steady series of blips to a flatline.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: It's a complete mystery why the rest of the staff at INS puts up with Kolchak, considering he routinely treats everyone like crap, and with the exception of Miss Emily, none of them seems to particularly like him. Other than Updyke and Vincenzo, most of Kolchak's co-workers only have brief roles so it's not clear how they feel about him. Updyke doesn't have a choice as far as working with Kolchak, and Vincenzo states in one of the movies that he considers Kolchak "one hell of a reporter".
  • Gilligan Cut: Episode "The Zombie". Vincenzo tries to convince Kolchak to take his niece along on a police SWAT raid against a Syndicate operation. Kolchak quite rightly refuses, as she would be in great danger. Vincenzo continues trying to convince him and Kolchak repeatedly refuses. Cut to Kolchak and the niece in a car traveling to the scene of the raid.
  • Glamour Failure: The Rakshasa in one episode.
  • Headless Horseman: The Monster of the Week in "Chopper", although he happens to ride a motorcycle.
  • Hidden Depths: Miss Emily is writing a detective novel. She only took the INS job to get more life experience... and to steal office supplies for the book.
  • High-Voltage Death: In the episode "The Ripper" Kolchak manages to destroy the spirit of Jack the Ripper by electrocuting him.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Averted. In Kolchak: The Night Stalker. dark scenes are really dark, so much so that all one can see are highlights, reflections, and the occasional flashlight blotting out the entire screen.
  • Holy Burns Evil: "The Devil's Platform". A Satan worshipper uses a magical medallion emblazoned with an inverted pentacle (the symbol of black magic) to transform himself into a dog and back into a human being. When Kolchak throws it into a pool of holy water, the medallion smokes and dissolves as if the holy water were acid.
  • Horny Devils: Ugly as Sin in its true form, the succubus from "Demon In Lace" kills people with its visage alone.
  • Human Sacrifice: In "Legacy of Terror," an ancient Aztec cult is performing Human Sacrifice to bring back their deity.
  • Iconic Outfit: He really wouldn't be Kolchak without the blue seersucker suit and straw porkpie hat.
  • Ignored Expert: Carl Kolchak, who in both movies and the series is usually the only person who notices the unusual happenings which drive the episode. This trope is played with in some episodes where the people in charge actually do believe him or knew the truth all along, but are still determined to avoid having to admit it to the world.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: In "The Youth Killer", Helen of Troy is draining the youth out of physically perfect victims in an attempt to remain young and beautiful forever.
  • Immune to Bullets
    • "The Ripper": Jack the Ripper is an immortal superhuman being who at one point in the past shrugged off being shot by a firing squad. He also shrugs off the shots of a squad of policemen when they try to capture him.
    • "The Werewolf": the liner's crew shoot the werewolf repeatedly and have no effect. One crewman shoots the werewolf with a flare gun, and it also has no effect.
    • "The Devil's Platform": a police officer fires six shots at Robert Palmer while he's in dog form. The bullets have no effect at all.
    • "Horror in the Heights": a police officer fires six shots into the rakshasa but it's completely unhurt. It takes being hit by a crossbow bolt blessed by Brahma to kill it.
  • I'm Not a Hero, I'm...: In "Horror in the Heights", when Kolchak finds the unnamed Elderly Rakshasha Hunter, the dying Hunter suggests Kolchak might be fated to be his successor. Kolchak insists that he's no hero, and humorously, the Hunter gives Kolchak a second glance and nods in agreement.
  • Imperfect Ritual: Episode "The Youth Killer". Helen of Troy (yes, the one from Greek Mythology) has retained her youth down to the present day through the Human Sacrifice of perfect physical specimens to the goddess Hecate. Kolchak points out to Hecate that one of Helen's recent sacrifices had a glass eye, causing Hecate to curse her by being Taken for Granite. Strangely, Hecate doesn't notice the flawed sacrifice until Kolchak points it out.
  • Implacable Man: Lots of the monsters, but the zombie in "The Zombie" is the most obvious, and the most frightening.
  • The Informant
    • Kolchak goes to talk to morgue attendant Gordon Spangler, AKA "Gordy the Ghoul", whenever he needs information about dead bodies and crimes related to them. Mr. Spangler requires Kolchak to bribe him for the information, sometimes by buying numbers in a lottery and sometimes by direct payments.
    • In the episode "The Zombie", Kolchak twice gets information about the local underworld from a tipster named "The Monk".
    • In the episode "The Knightly Murders", Kolchak gets heraldic information from a mom-and-pop pair who require that he buy a fake "Kolchak Coat of Arms". He also gets information from Pop Steinvold, but has to transcribe some of Steinvold's biography in return for the information.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Carl Kolchak
  • Invisible Monsters: Several. One an alien, the other an Eldritch Abomination.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kolchak is a very sarcastic and not very personable guy with authority figures. But whenever he finds out a monster's on the loose and people are dying, stopping it is his only priority. Kolchak is also more personable with interviewees and witnesses, as befits a reporter.
    • In fairness, most authority figures bullshit Kolchak/
    • Museum curators would certainly agree with the first part of this trope title. Kolchak thinks nothing of fiddling with "look but don't touch" exhibits.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Played straight in The Night Stalker where Kolchak is able to leverage the differences between the Las Vegas FBI office and the local law enforcement to gain access to the case, but Averted in every single story afterwards, with all levels of local, state and federal government and law enforcement working in flawless cooperation with the sole purpose of screwing over Kolchak.
  • Large Ham: Quite a few of the guest stars, Keenan Wynn as Chicago PD Captain "Mad Dog" Siska, John Dehner as Chicago PD Captain Vernon Rausch, plus Kolchak and Vincenzo themselves. It can verge on a World of Ham sometimes.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: While Carl Kolchak isn't at all physically imposing, he'll take up arms and battle a monster directly if the situation calls for it. And he always comes out on top (although usually because of a magical item, not his battle prowess).
  • Life Drinker: In the episode "The Youth Killer". Helen of Troy has survived to the present day by sacrificing perfect human victims to the goddess Hecate. The sacrifice is made by magically causing Rapid Aging in the victims, which in turn gives Helen eternal youth.
    • The Matchemonedo in "The Energy Eater" drains the "plasma" from its victims. The dialogue goes back and forth on whether this is blood plasma, or energy plasma.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Kolchak's seersucker suit and ratty old hat. Considering how much abuse it goes through during the series, Carl's dry cleaner must be very talented, and very rich. When Kolchak does get a new, better-looking hat (in "The Devil's Platform), he throws it away when Miss Emily, who gave it to him, isn't looking.
  • Lizard Folk: "The Sentry"
  • The Mafia: "The Zombie," written by none other than David Chase, features a Haitian mamaloi killing off the mafiosi who ordered a hit on her son.
  • Magical Native American: Subverted in one episode when Kolchak meets a "shaman" who is the only one who has the old knowledge about the monster of the week. He's a construction foreman and ladies' man more than anything else. He's also one of the only helpful people Kolchak ever meets. Another episode plays this only slightly straighter, when an elderly Navajo relays some vital information to him, but isn't portrayed as anything other than a skeptical expert.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The killing spree in "The Devil's Platform" is composed entirely of these, although by the end the person responsible stopped caring about plausibility as the accidents themselves featured glaring holes in logic.
  • Mayincatec: "Legacy of Terror" centers on an Aztec cult, complete with bird masks and feathered headdresses. The cult is cutting out the hearts of sacrificial victims in service of their mummified god, Nanauatzin. Lacking a step pyramid, their final sacrifice is staged at the top of a long flight of stairs at the sports stadium.
  • Missing the Good Stuff: "They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be..." begins with Kolchak happily preparing to go see the Cubs play in the World Series. Not only doesn't he make it to the game, even his attempts to pick it up on his car radio are repeatedly foiled.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: "The Sentry"
  • Monster Misogyny: Found in both TV movies. In the series, usually only when it's justified, such as in the obvious case of "The Ripper." Other times it's averted.
  • Monster of the Week: Sufficiently so in its death spiral to cause series star Darren McGavin to ask for early release.
  • Mr. Exposition: The various experts Kolchak consults with about the Monster of the Week in nearly every episode: academics, professors, antiquarians, etc. They provide background and usually the means of destroying it, with some episodes having more than one.
  • Murderous Mannequin: The first clue that something supernatural is going on in a fashion house in "The Trevi Collection".
  • My Horse Is a Motorbike: "Chopper" features a Hell's Angel riff on the classic Headless Horseman myth.
  • Never Found the Body: Justified by Bernard Stieglitz, who fell of a cruise ship and was considered lost at sea.
  • Never Sleep Again: In "The Spanish Moss Murders," Inverted when a walking-weed swamp monster turned out to be a psychic projection from a young man undergoing an experimental sleep-drug therapy. He had grown up hearing ghost stories about such a creature, and the dream-suppressing process gave him the ability to manifest his childhood fear.
  • Nice Hat: Kolchak's iconic straw porkpie hat is practically synonymous with the character. Funnily enough it's Inverted In-Universe, since everyone Kolchak knows hates the hat. Kolchak himself, when given the chance to replace it, throws away the replacement and keeps his porkpie.
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: In the episode "The Devil's Platform", Robert Palmer has been granted the power to turn into a dog by Satan. In dog form, he is Immune to Bullets (surviving being shot six times by a police officer). Later, he is completely uninjured from being in a head-on car crash that kills the other driver and that Kolchak himself says he couldn't have walked away from.
  • Non-Nazi Swastika: In "Horror in the Heights", Kolchak sought wisdom from an emigrant from India, who had swastikas. The man explained that in his culture (accurately) that they were holy symbols.
  • No Swastikas: Justified aversion; swastikas appeared in "Horror of the Heights" as protective talismans. Painted by a Hindu man in a Jewish neighborhood, so... yeah.
  • Noun Verber: The very title (or portion thereof) The Night Stalker.
  • Occult Detective: Even though he is a reporter by trade, Carl Kolchak ends up filling this role by default, since the authorities' refusal to act on his discoveries leave him as the only one who can defeat the monsters.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Featuring a Fantasy Kitchen Sink of Hellhounds ("The Devil's Platform"), Rakshashas ("Horror in the Heights"), and a succubus ("Demon in Lace").
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: "Firefall," "Bad Medicine," "The Knightly Murders"; the headless head-chopper in "Chopper" updates "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by replacing the horse with a motorcycle.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Features a variety primarily inspired by Hammer Horror. To be more specific, they must drink to blood to stay immortal, are Nigh-Invulnerable at night (with them only bleeding an unknown clear liquid when hurt, and able to shrug off countless bullets like they're pebbles) and having both Super Strength and a Hypnotic Gaze, but must rest during the day in a coffin filled with the soil of their homeland. Crosses can repel them, but can't kill or burn them. Direct sunlight also only weakens them (along with causing great pain), and doesn't directly kill them - To do that, one must drive a wooden stake through their heart with a mallet (preferably while they're sleeping in their coffin). Finally, any of their victims turns into another vampire unless their remains are cremated.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Wolf Man variety.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The eponymous beastie of "The Zombie" is the original Haitian variety. It's far tougher than your average zombie, and requires an elaborate ritual to kill it.
  • Paranormal Investigation: Both the original series and the later remake.
  • Police Brutality: While they never go as far as beating him up, the police have no trouble manhandling Kolchak all the time and often illegally confiscate and destroy his camera and recorder in order to get rid of any evidence regarding the unexplained creatures they’re trying to cover up.
  • Possessing a Dead Body: In the episode "Demon in Lace", a succubus can possess the bodies of recently dead women. It lures men into romantic situations and then changes the body to a horrifying appearance, scaring the man to death.
  • Pulled from Your Day Off: The first movie begins with Kolchak being called back from vacation by Vincenzo.
  • Pun-Based Title: "Chopper" features an undead motorcyclist riding a chopper, chopping people's heads off. In "The Knightly Murders," the murders take place nightly.
  • Rapid Aging: "The Youth Killer". A woman makes a bargain with the goddess Hecate. She sacrifices young, perfect people by magically causing them to age rapidly until they die of old age, and in return Hecate grants her eternal youth.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles
    • Episode "The Zombie". While Kolchak is talking to two Italian mobsters, the mobsters talk to each other in Italian with no translation for the audience.
    • Episode "The Youth Killer". At the beginning of the episode, Helen Surtees prays aloud to the goddess Hecate in Greek. Her prayer is not translated for the audience.
  • Ripped from the Phone Book: Carl does this a lot. In "Bad Medicine" it comes back to bite him.
  • Room Disservice: Inversion in one episode, where a pimp substitutes another hooker for the vampiress call-girl Kolchak is hunting. Her reaction to Carl's wooden stake and crucifix is priceless.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: The oil company in "Primal Scream" is able to stonewall Kolchak's investigation by virtue of all the money they throw around, specially to universities.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Jim Elkhorn, the Native American shaman who proves so helpful in assisting Kolchak in "The Energy Eater", wisely refuses to risk his neck trying to stop Matchemonedo once the true scale of the threat becomes apparent.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Matchemonedo, an Eldritch Abomination Native American deity was put in permanent hibernation when its nesting place was covered by the cold waters of Lake Michigan. By the end of the episode, it is decided to demolish the hospital built on top of it and flood the area again to make a marina.
  • Sequel Episode: "The Vampire" is a sequel to the first TV movie, with an overlooked victim of the Vegas vampire resurfacing.
  • Serial Killer Baiting: In the episode "The Ripper", the police plant female cops at the facility, after a serial killer murders a female staffer at a massage parlor. They hope that the killer will target one of the women so they can catch him.
  • Shout-Out: In episode 12, "Mr. R.I.N.G.", the company that was creating an android was casually mentioned as being the Tyrell Institute, in reference to the Philip K Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. This was a few years before the release of Blade Runner, too.
  • Silver Bullet: Kolchak has a hard time coming up with one in "The Werewolf" because he is on a cruise ship. He ends up stealing the silver buttons from the captain's dress uniform.
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: In the episode "Firefall", an evil pyromaniac ghost kills several people by causing them to be instantly incinerated and reduced to ashes.
  • Spring-Heeled Jack: "The Ripper" features an interesting version. A seemingly immortal, superhuman Serial Killer is terrorizing Chicago, and his methods and choice of victims convince Kolchak he's Jack the Ripper. However, when cornered by the police on several occasions the killer displays Spring-heeled Jack's abilities, leaping from fire escapes and four-story buildings without injury, and he also has superior strength.
  • Suit with Vested Interests: The main reason the authorities in both Las Vegas and Seattle refuse to act on Kolchak's advice, even after it becomes clear that he is completely right, is because both cities are dependent on tourism and any hint of the truth would have catastrophic effects on both towns' economies.
  • Sword Cane: In "The Ripper", Jack the Ripper carries a sword cane that he uses to kill and mutilate his female victims.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Kolchak loses his jobs in Las Vegas and Seattle. But once he's with the INS wire service in Chicago? No matter how much property he destroys, no matter how many times and how badly he pisses off the police and other people in authority, no matter how many times he ducks out of his real assignment to chase a monster and ends up with no evidence to prove what he was doing, Kolchak always manages to hang on to his employment.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: In "the Night Strangler" Kolchak fills in Louise about the events of "The Night Stalker" and how he barely beat a murder charge for killing a vampire by hammering a stake through its heart. He does this in an elevator full of people, all of which are listening in on the conversation and look progressively more panicked as the story goes on. By the time they reach the top floor all the other passengers are looking at him funny and refusing to leave the elevator.
  • Unperson: The existence of Bernard Stieglitz is covered up after Kolchak shoots him with a silver bullet and he tumbled off the cruise ship.
  • Urban Fantasy: One of the most influential examples in television.
  • Vain Sorceress: In "The Youth Killer", Helen of Troy returns to drain the youth out of unsuspecting perfect victims, sacrifices for the goddess Hecate, in her quest for immortality.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lara's coven in "The Trevi Collection" disappears without a mention when she goes insane.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The final episode of the series, "The Sentry", is a blatant copy of the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Devil in the Dark". It has a monster hiding underground, trying to protect its egg (because Monster Is a Mommy) by killing men working in the area.
  • Who You Gonna Call?: Carl Kolchak, who fits the "concerned but average citizen" variant.
  • Witch Species: Kolchak has a run-in with one of its members in "The Trevi Collection". She is shown as the head of a coven, but the coven is never seen or referenced again.


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