Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Season 1 Episode 6


Aired Friday 8:00 PM Nov 08, 1974 on ABC
out of 10
User Rating
36 votes

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Episode Summary


A series of mysterious deaths plague the life of conductor Ryder Bond. In each case, the victim is incinerated by supernaturally hot flames. As Kolchak investigates, he finds out that an arsonist, Frankie Markoff, was a fan of Bond's, and was killed in a penny arcade. His funeral procession crossed Bond's car, allowing the spirit to become a "doppelganger" and try to take over Bond's life. Each victim was burned to death when they fell asleep, and if Bond goes to sleep the doppelganger will take him over for good. Fighting sleep himself, Kolchak must exhume Markoff's body and reunite it with his restless spirit before he too bursts into flame.


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  • Things are heating up...

    Again, the writers of "Kolchak" go for a menace outside of the "classic" monsters and come up with a winner. We get spontaneous combustion, as well as a vengeful spirit who inhabits a celebrated music conductor while he sleeps. It sounds a little hokey (which "Kolchak" episode doesn't?), but surprisingly it generates some real frights. The scenes of the doppleganger lurking at the windows of the church, beckoning with a smile for Kolchak to leave hallowed ground, is reminiscent of some scenes from "The Twilight Zone," and the sense of danger throughout is tense.

    Usually, Kolchak is on the periphery of the spooky happenings he investigates, but in "Firefall" he is a target of the doppleganger. It raises the stakes for Carl, and puts him into some more frightening situations (he survives two attempts the Doppleganger makes to flambe him). It also makes for some nice comedy inside the INS newsroom, as Kolchak (working on three days of no sleep) tries to stay on his feet. Simon Oakland's dumbfounded discovery that Kolchak has looted the petty cash box is hilarious.

    The climax of this one, set in the arcade where Markoff was murdered, is particularly effective. As the fire encircles Kolchak, he commands the spirit to re-enter its body. It reminded me a bit of the ending of "The Zombie," where Kolchak stares down death to return the killer to the grave.moreless
  • An arsonist doppleganger targets Kolchak for death.

    At the beginning, arsonist Franklin Markoff is gunned down at an arcade. During his funeral procession, orchestra conductor Ryder Bond is riding in his car which cuts through the procession. After this, Markoff's spirit "latches" on to Bond and proceeds to kill all of Bond's closest friends by burning them up. Once Kolchak learns of these spontaneous combustion deaths, he investigates Bond and can't figure out how people claim that Bond was hanging around the murder sites when they happened. Kolchak discovers that witnesses were actually seeing a doppleganger, a ghost who appears as someone who is alive. Kolchak finds out that the murder victims died when they fell asleep. If Ryder Bond falls asleep, Markoff will take over Bond's body and soul. If Kolchak falls asleep, the doppleganger will burn him up, too. Kolchak takes Bond to a place he can sleep safely: a church. Kolchak then has to dig up Markoff's body and return it to the place where he died so that Markoff can go back in his body. I find this episode very entertaining. Bond is one of the few people that Carl has encountered that actually believe him. Markoff's son has pyromania issues, too.moreless
Fred Beir

Fred Beir

Ryder Bond

Guest Star

Phil Carey

Phil Carey

Sgt. Mayer

Guest Star

David Doyle

David Doyle


Guest Star

Jack Grinnage

Jack Grinnage

Ron Updyke

Recurring Role

Carol Ann Susi

Carol Ann Susi

Monique Marmelstein

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • The third victim is incinerated while driving a car in downtown Chicago, although the plot establishes that the ghost can only incinerate people when they are asleep. Try dozing off in Chicago downtown traffic!

    • When Carl is digging up Markoff's grave by himself, there are flashlight beams erratically shining on his back despite the fact he is alone. That's because the footage here is used from "The Zombie," which had a sequence where men were shining a light on Carl as he dug up a grave.

    • When Mason dies and the ghost departs, Carl's voiceover says 6:40, but the later on-the-spot testimony by the witness places it five minutes later.

  • QUOTES (9)

    • Kolchak: (opening monologue) Remember the penny arcades that used to be so much fun when you were a kid? For a handful of coins you could test your strength, your skill at a pinball machine. Those arcades were a lot of things to a lot of kids. But there was one particular arcade that represented something special for me. It was here that began one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

    • Kolchak: The academicians at the university smiled tolerantly when I told them my problems. They said perhaps I thought I had seen a doppelganger, the destructive ghost of someone dead who takes on the appearance of one who is alive. Ryder Bond, in this case. They recommended a good psychoanalyst and gave me a mass of books to read on the subject. Obviously, none of the professors had ever seen a room explode around them for no earthly reason.

    • Maria: Should your paths cross that of a lying reporter, don't tell him anything, particularly about any robberies you may have seen. He will quote you, then mysteriously police will arrive at your door.

    • Maria: Y'know, Kolchak, I have this friend; he's a doctor...and Lou's always complaining 'cause his friends want free advice.
      Kolchak: Uh huh...
      Maria: Gypsies have the same problem.
      Kolchak: Aw, Maria...

    • Maria: It's just terrible to be broke and superstitious at the same time.

    • Kolchak: September 9th, 5:30 p.m. I was faced with two equally unpleasant possibilities. One, that some sort of horrible freak note was being played in the brain of Ryder Bond and he was setting fire to his fellow man, or two, to paraphrase Mr. Cardinale, something inexplicable was happening that perhaps I really did want to know about. Unfortunately, a reporter is paid to find out things, whether he wants to know about them or not. As I was to be taught once again, there are nicer ways to make a living. Far nicer.

    • (talking about Kolchak)
      Vincenzo: When you get back to the swindle and fraud stories, write about how you're employed here, which is one of the biggest swindles in memory!

    • Ron: Remember, I have a musical background. I played French horn.
      Kolchak: I would have guessed that.

    • Miss Sherman: (talking about a policeman) He certainly takes a dim view of you.
      Kolchak: Well, he's a little dim-witted anyway.

  • NOTES (2)

    • For some reason Mark Dawidziak, the primary Kolchak archiver and researcher around, invariably uses the title "Fire Fall" when referring to this episode. Some reference books and web sites have followed his lead. Nonetheless, the episode title as it appears here is taken directly from the on-screen credit.

    • Also known as "The Doppelganger" in syndication.