Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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Death Stalks the Big Top: Part 1 

When Jessica's niece receives a silver Leprechaun from someone who has been presumed dead for years, Jessica decides to hunt down the mysterious gift giver from beyond the grave.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Edgar Carmody
Carl Schulman / Neil Fletcher
Preston Bartholomew
Mayor Powers
Charlie McCallum
Maria Morgana
Sheriff Lynn Childs
Hank Sutter
Maylene Sutter
Raymond Carmody


Favorite aunt Jessica arrives three days before the society wedding of Carol Bannister, who is convinced the silver leprechaun she receives among the wedding gifts is from her grandfather, Jessica's late husband Frank's brother Neil Fletcher, who is presumed dead. When the antiques salesman sort of recognizes his picture as the out of town buyer, Jessica guesses right he may be among Edgar Carmody's family circus which was in town then, and goes snooping there. She in on Neil's rail, as he works there as roustabout under the name Carl Schulman, as Edgar knows. Neil/Carl ran but is arrested after unpopular Hank Sutter, who harassed fellow artist Katie McCallum and bullied her teenage son Charlie, is found dead near, however not trampled by elephants, as none has a blood-stained foot, but beaten to death, like with Charlie's beloved baseball bat which Hank took from the boy. Neil explains why he staged his own death to escape his loveless marriage. Jessica is determined to prove her ... Written by KGF Vissers

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Crime | Drama | Mystery





Release Date:

28 September 1986 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Courtney Cox was 22 when she made this episode. See more »


When Carl is putting on his clown makeup, a close-up shows most of his right cheek covered in clown white. In the next shot, his cheek is clean and he starts applying make-up to it again. See more »

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User Reviews

Leaping Leprechaun, Rumbling Roustabout, Tumbling Acrobat, Fleeing Clown
8 September 2009 | by See all my reviews

As the Washington, DC, branch of the Fletcher family prepares for the wedding of granddaughter Carol Bannister (Courteney Cox), Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) arrives three days earlier than expected to visit with her great niece.

Carol stands up to the demands of her socially-conscious Grandmother Constance Fletcher (Laraine Day) and Mother Audrey Bannister (Susan Brown) to insist that she and her husband-to-be not follow their traditional demand. Father Howard Bannister (Dennis Howard) stands in his daughter's corner, along with Aunt Jessica.

Carol confides to Jessica that she believes Grandfather Neil Fletcher (Jackie Cooper) is still alive especially upon receiving the gift of a leprechaun figurine. "Grandfather always said that a leprechaun would visit on my wedding day," Carol informs her, causing Jessica to reminisce that her late husband, Frank, never believed that his brother perished in that event of ten years ago. Frank himself has been gone for five years at this point in time.

Jessica reviews the parcel's postmark: "Catlinburg, Arkansas. Well, that's a start. One way or the other, I'll be back in time for your wedding," she bids, before boarding a bus for Catlinburg (not to be confused with Gatlinburg).

When a shoppe owner recall the gentleman's purchasing the leprechaun as a stranger, who stopped in three times before returning to buy it, and hadn't been seen since. On the sidewalk, Jessica notices a banner for Carmody Circus, which had just left town. "Do you know where they went from here?" she asks a passerby.

The trail leads Jessica to Pullman City, Arkansas, outside of which Carmody Circus presents a run of performances. She picks up a clue that Neil, the man in her photograph, may be using the pseudonym Carl Schulman, a fact dismissed by circus owner Edgar Carmody (Martin Balsam), who ushers Jessica from the premises.

Edgar Carmody is having a rough time in keeping the operation afloat. A series of unexplained accidents have increased expenses and have caused tension among his family and employees.

Son Raymond Carmody (Mark Shera) and his wife, Daniella Morgana Carmody (Barbara Stock), remain determined, she with reservation, to stay with Edgar, while Daniella's fashion designer mother, Maria Morgana (Florence Henderson) arrives from NYC with her secretary, Mark (Robin Bach), she to convince Daniella and Raymond to return to her business even if she has to pay off Edgar with a handsome sum, for him to avoid shutting down the circus.

Rival circus owner Harry Kingman (Joe Dorsey) also propositions Edgar to purchase his circus, in the hopes of easing competition on the circuit. Several of Edgar's employees have worked with Kingman Circus in the past, including the bullying Roustabout Hank Sutter (Charles Napier), his wife Maylene Sutter (Lee Purcell), Trapeze artist Katie McCallum (Pamela Susan Shoop), whose husband had lost his life in a mishap while performing, their son Charlie McCallum (Joey Cramer), his father figure Brad Kaneally (Greg Evigan), and Ringmaster Preston Bartholomew (Alex Cord).

And when "Carl Schulman" recognizes Jessica, who returns to snoop around the circus the next morning, he tells Edgar that he'd really like to see her, but he mustn't. When Edgar approaches Jessica to tell her that she's wasting her time, they follow the screams toward the elephant stable, where a body has been discovered, badly beaten, as "Death Stalks the Big Top."

Jessica naturally volunteers to assist Sheriff Lynn Childs (Gregg Henry) in the ensuing investigation, overrun by the ever-politicking Pullman City Mayor Powers (Ronny Cox). who decides the prime suspect to be this Carl Schulman, who has fled the scene of the murder.

Angela Lansbury delivers one of her must compelling performances of this series in a jail house scene with Jackie Cooper and Ronny Cox.

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