Quantum Leap (Season 3, Ep 36): The Boogieman

Welcome back to my episode-by-episode recap of and reaction to Quantum Leap. The spoilers ahead are only through this episode. I provide a short summary at the top, a long and much more thorough recap below that, and a reaction section at the bottom.

My previous episode recaps can be found HERE.


Sam leaps into a horror novelist on Halloween night in 1964. After he arrives, people begin to die violently, by an unknown and unnatural means. Neither Al nor Ziggy can explain to Sam what is happening.

Eventually Sam concludes that he is dealing with something outside of the natural realm. He meets the Devil, using the form of Al, and learns that the Devil is angry about Sam’s project. Sam manages to barely survive the Devil’s attempt to kill him, and returns to the beginning point of the Leap. It is unclear whether Sam dreamed the events of this episode. However, he quickly uses knowledge obtained in the dream to save someone’s life. He inspires the career of Stephen King along the way.


Episode summary via quantumleap.fandom.com:

Halloween, 1964: As Sam gets his bearings as he leaps in, he finds a book in front of him published in 1879, Witchcraft in America, by the Reverend John T. Immendorfs. As he ‘knows’ leaping outside of his lifetime is impossible, he starts to wander the creepy house to see if anyone is at home. When he is frightened at the top of the stairs by people in masks, he falls back down them and knocks his head, losing consciousness briefly. (This is where the theme song plays, and will also be discussed after the synopsis.)

As he comes to, he meets the people in the masks: his fiancée Mary Greely (played by Valerie Mahaffey) and his young assistant, Stevie King (David Kriegel), who apologizes for scaring him; both are dressed up because they are making the creepy house into the Church Spook House for Halloween. Stevie has to go peel grapes and prepare gopher guts for the upcoming party, as Sam regards a scarecrow on the front lawn and thinks they’re in the same boat: “With my head all full of stuffing and no idea why I was really there.” Joshua’s fiancé Mary, assures Sam they’ll be ready for the party. and says she can’t wait until they’re married. As he leaves, Stevie boasts that some day he’ll write the scariest book in the world.

Once Stevie leaves in his old car, Mary figures that Sam is having a problem killing someone, and says he’ll have to rewrite the entire book otherwise. She suggests he burn the character like Alice McHorner, the woman who lived in the house in 1692 and is supposed to haunt the place.

Then he meets Tully Maltin (Donald Hotton), the handyman, who is working on a ladder outside a second story window, as Mary tells Tully to keep the noise down. As Tully rambles on about the devil, saying to him “You know what they say, don’t you? Them that dance with The Devil are bound to get scrorched!” and tells him about the story of Alice and how she “tempted evil” and was burned at the stake. and how Sam should stop writing about him, a goat mysteriously appears, pulls on a rag under the ladder, as Tully falls to his death.

The local sheriff, Sheriff Ben Masters (Paul Linke) and Mary don’t know anything about a goat, and even Al, who appears wearing a sharp white and silver-blue suit, seem to suspect Sam of pushing the man off the ladder. As the others leave, Sam rages at Al that he could have saved the man had he had a bit more warning, but Al tells him that he and Ziggy had no knowledge of it. Al then informs Sam that his fiancée is found later that night, strangled.

Al points out that Joshua has a Black Mamba snake, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world, in a tank on the stairs. Mary comes out to see Sam talking to himself, and as she heads down the stairs she steps between Sam and Al. She seems to feel a presence as she passes Al.

Sam retires to his office to speak with Al privately, and notices that the typewriter—on which he’d seen two paragraphs written earlier—now has a third paragraph, describing Tully’s fall from the ladder, that he of course did not write.

The town gossip, Dorothy Jaeger (Fran Ryan), soon shows up with some candlesticks, and while they’re talking, Al again shows up to explain that they’ve run all the probability matrices, and Sam is definitely there to help Mary. Of course right after he says this, there’s a scream from the kitchen and they run in to find Dorothy dead on the floor, and they find the Black Mamba as well.

Al insists that Mary is the only logical suspect in both deaths. She had been in the kitchen earlier, and she “could have pushed the ladder from a lower window” without Sam seeing her. Then Sam finds that yet another paragraph has appeared on the typewriter, describing Dorothy’s death. Of course, Mary walks into the office as Sam is arguing with Al, and is upset that Sam has just appeared to call her a “demented psychopath.”

As Mary and Sam argue, a skull sitting on a ledge behind Mary begins to shake, as if Mary’s anger is manifesting as telekenisis. Al vehemently believes she’s the killer, Sam is trying to explain that there have been weird things happening, and Mary is getting more upset by the moment. When the argument comes to a head, the skull behind Mary flies off the shelf and Sam barely gets out of the way before it crashes into the wall where his head had been. Al gets creeped out, but then Mary begins to have an epileptic seizure, and Sam rushes her to the hospital.

Sam decides to visit Mary’s house, at 966 Salem Avenue. As they arrive, Sam gestures for Al to proceed him through the open door, and as he does so, the house number flips to become 666. They find a few strange items, and a church bulletin that shows that Mary, Tully, and Dorothy are on the board of deacons of the church.

The sheriff shows up, wondering why Sam is there, and they talk. When Al tells Sam he’s going to go back to check the sheriff again, the sheriff seems to look around, almost like he hears something strange. Al then disappears again, and Sam goes back to the hospital to visit with Mary for a bit.

Sam drives back to the Spook House, and notices he’s being followed by a pickup truck that suddenly bumps him. Then the black cat from the house jumps up from the back seat and the pickup veers off the road. Now a bit spooked, Sam suddenly sees the goat in the middle of the road and then Stevie, in a pumpkin-head costume, so he over steers and falls off the road.

While they discuss that Stevie didn’t see the goat, and how Joshua doesn’t have any cats, Sam mentions that the car seemed to have a mind of its own, “like in Christine,” which Stevie doesn’t understand but Sam shrugs off with a “never mind.”

Back in his office, Sam is checking out a book on the devil when Al appears suddenly behind him, startling him. As Sam decides that the only suspect has to be the sheriff, Al says “Maybe it’s the Boogieman.”

Sam discovers that the sheriff is on his way to pick up Mary from the hospital and jumps in his car, but finds the sheriff’s car part way there—he’s crashed, and he’s dead as well. In an overdramatic moment, our favorite time traveler yells “Noooo!” to the stars. The goat reappears briefly and then is gone, so Sam gets in his car and drives back to the Spook House. Reminicsing that Halloween had been his favorite holiday growing up, he sighs. “Tonight there were no treats. There were no tricks. There was only death.”

Sam arrives back at the house, and the sheriff’s pickup is there. Stevie is outside, and Sam asks the kid if Mary and the sheriff are inside. He sends Stevie home, and when Mary meets him in the foyer, he tells her that the sheriff is dead. She says, “No he’s not, he’s in the kitchen.”

As the sheriff comes out of the kitchen, Sam approaches him warily. They stare each other down a moment, then Sam grabs the sheriff’s arm, and then, in a quick flash of a strange red light, he morphs into Al, in his white and silver-blue suit, with a strange reddish glow in his face.

Sam explains the strange things he’s noticed about Al all during this leap: he managed to quote one of Tully’s lines despite not knowing about it, he’s never walked through anything or used the Imaging Chamber door, he has disappeared without using the handlink, and he’s been the only other person around when the murders happened.

As they’re talking, the real Al emerges from the Imaging Chamber door apologizing because something was messing with Ziggy, and falls silent when he sees the other Al. Sam begs the real Al to tell him there’s nothing in front of him, but the real Al says “Oh, there’s definitely something there…” Then the Devil-Al turns to the real Al and says, “That’s more than I can say for you…”

Then The Devil/Evil Al grabs Sam around neck, choking him, and as Sam tries to fight back, they start spinning. The clock strikes midnight, the piano starts playing, and things fly around the room as real Al and Mary look on helplessly. Then the Devil-Al lets Sam go, flinging Sam to the floor.

As he falls, things spin, and then we see Sam falling down the stairs, just as he did at the beginning of the episode.

Sam comes to, just as he did at the beginning of the episode, and again Mary and Stevie are there asking if he’s all right, as is Al, dressed in his loud shirt. Shaken, Sam reaches a hand out to make sure Al is intangible, and he’s relieved to find that he is. “…there were two of you,” Sam tells Al, “and you were trying to kill me!”

“I was trying to kill you?” Al and Mary ask at the same time. Al shrugs it off, and begins to tell Sam who he is, where he is, when he is, and that he’s there to save a “Tully…”

At this Sam jumps to his feet and rushes up the stairs, getting to the old handyman just as he’s falling off the ladder, saving him. Al appears (with the normal sound effects) and tells Sam how amazing it was, that Sam knew what he was there to do before Al even had the chance to explain it to him.

As the episode wraps up, Stevie’s mom arrives to pick him up and Mary greets her as “Mrs. King.” Sam and Al exchange a look, putting it together: Stevie… King? Sam realizes he gave him a bunch of ideas for his upcoming novels with the references to Christine and flying kitchen knives, and Stevie calls the big St. Bernard in the back seat of the car Cujo… and then Sam Leaps.


Wow, this was scary and intense.

I guess I’ll say right away that I knew “Stevie” was Stephen King from the moment he first appeared on-screen. That part of this episode felt very much like a repeat of the Buddy Holly episode from Season 1, but I absolutely did not mind it. It fit. Even the part where his Leap seems to wait on Stevie getting ideas for his books, from Sam, really fit. As for the rest?

  • I did not see the “two Als and one is evil” twist coming.
  • Dean Stockwell’s portrayal of “the Devil” was legitimately freaky and scary.
  • I think that we have to assume that Sam’s encounter with the Devil was real.

As for point number three, there is obviously some intent on the part of the writers to obfuscate. I think having a clear opponent, in the form of the Devil, would change the nature of the show too much. Being able to claim, plausibly enough, that “it was all just a dream” gives the show room to sidestep this from a future stories standpoint.

That said, when you look at what happened in this episode, closely, there is not a logic / science-based reason for Sam knowing ahead of time that Tully was going to fall from the ladder (or even where to go and how to get there.) Al had not told him, yet, other than inside the dream. We must therefore conclude then that the knowledge obtained by Sam during the dream / first Leap was accurate. We have to assume he actually lived the leap and returned to the beginning point of the leap. If Sam’s experience was accurate, and if it really occurred, then Sam met the Devil. The easiest way to explain how the science-based rules of Quantum Leaping were broken, is that there was some interference from outside the natural world (i.e. God or the Devil.) That outside interference is also the only explanation available to the audience for how Sam’s Leap reset. In conclusion, this episode tells us that Quantum Leap *is* directed by God and opposed by the Devil… and it gives the audience permission to forget that fact in future episodes.

Tonally, QL did some things differently in this one to set the mood very effectively. First, and most importantly, the episode allowed multiple people to die violently. Second, there was an eerie blowing wind sound throughout the episode that kept tension high throughout. Third, things continued to happen throughout the episode that had no science-based explanation. Putting such a science-based character (Sam) into this supernatural setting had a very unnerving feeling for me, as a viewer, and I also thought Scott Bakula did a great job conveying a permanent sense of distress throughout the episode.

This episode is great for a re-watch right before Halloween. Dean Stockwell’s performance as the Devil was really, really good. Scott Bakula’s performance as a completely freaked out Sam was also terrific

4 thoughts on “Quantum Leap (Season 3, Ep 36): The Boogieman

  1. This episode has been a personal meme between me and a buddy since it came out. I had no idea it was super cursed! We talk about it all the time. No wonder we both fell down wells and got stuck in quicksand.

    1. I can definitely see how this episode could turn into a meme.

      I am grateful to have avoided the wells, quicksand, and acid rain that everyone used to warn me about. I am sorry you were not so lucky. I’m pretty sure in 1980s kindergartens, the teachers used to advise the kids to turn to their left and right, looking at their neighbors, before somberly sharing that one of the three of them would run afoul of such things.

      1. I remember in the safety assembly them telling us what to do when we got kidnapped. Because obviously we were going to be kidnapped.

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