Encounter with the Unknown (1972) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Three eerie tales based on actual events are enacted in this film. First, three college students play a prank on a geeky classmate, who is accidentally shot and killed. His vengeful mother forecasts the deaths of the three young men she holds responsible, on 7, 14, and 21 days hence. And, one by one, her grim predictions come true. Next, a ghoulish sound emanates from a mist-shrouded hole in the Earth near where a Missouri boy has lost his dog. The boy's father is lowered into the hole and lets out an agonizing scream! Finally, a senator returning home from a party finds a lost girl on a bridge and learns from her father that she died years earlier!


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The film presents three allegedly true stories of the supernatural. The first story, "The Heptagon", opens on a somber note at the funeral of college student Johnny Davis. His friends Dave, Frank and Randy are in attendance at the burial. It is revealed that they played a seemingly innocent phone prank on Johnny, telling him to go to a certain address where a date was waiting. The old woman who lived at the address accidentally shot Johnny to death. As the funeral service ends, Johnny's mother (who is the seventh daughter of a seventh son) recites a cryptic message to the three young men she blames for the death of her son: "One by land, two by sky...seven times around go the three of you, and may your reward be just and true." Later Frank relates this story to a priest, Father Duane, sitting next to him on a plane. He says that Dave was run over and killed seven days after the funeral. The priest tries to ease Frank's anxiety, assuring him that it's all a coincidence. However, after Father Duane exits the plane, it crashes upon takeoff. On the runway Father Duane attempts to comfort a dying Frank, who tells him that exactly fourteen days have passed since Johnny's burial. The troubled priest--beginning to suspect that there might be more to this pattern of deaths than mere chance--speaks to his superior, who suggests telephoning the remaining young man at the state university. Father Duane tries to call Randy but instead reaches his roommate, who tells him that Randy has gone skydiving. It is now twenty-one days after Johnny's burial, the narrator reminds us, and according to Mrs. Davis's prophecy, two of the young men would perish by sky.

    The second story, "The Darkness", is set in rural Missouri during the early twentieth century and involves the disappearance of a boy's dog in the vicinity of a mysterious hole in the ground. Concerned about the inexplicable moaning sounds coming from the hole, the boy's father agrees to be lowered in on a rope to see if he can recover the dog and to find out what's making the noise. Suddenly a terrifying scream emerges from the depths of the pit and the boy's father, now a raving lunatic, is hoisted back up. The mystery of the hole is never solved, and the story closes with the narrator's revelation that the father spent the rest of his life in an insane asylum.

    The final segment, "The Girl on the Bridge", involves a strange disoriented girl and the Arkansas state senator who attempts to give her a ride home. Most of the story unfolds via the girl's flashbacks; as the senator and his wife arrive at the address the girl had given them, they find that she has mysteriously vanished from the back seat of the car. The girl's elderly father answers the door, telling the senator that his daughter died in a car accident many years earlier when she and her boyfriend were leaving town to get married. The father had disapproved of the relationship and told his daughter that he would rather see her dead.

    According to the opening narration, the stories are based on research conducted by Dr. Jonathan Rankin, a parapsychologist, but this is evidently a fictional device as no record of the name "Jonathan Rankin" exists in the annals of parapsychological research. One of the segments, "The Girl on the Bridge", is simply a version of the Vanishing hitchhiker, a widespread and very popular urban legend. The stories themselves are narrated by Rod Serling, but the opening and closing portions of the film feature a second, uncredited narrator.

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