The Spirits of ’76 is the sixteenth and final episode of the first season of the Scooby-Doo Dynomutt Hour, now lovingly referred to as The Scooby-Doo Show. It originally aired on December 18, 1976, and finds the gang in Washington D.C. at the Splitstonian Institute, where they are haunted by the ghosts of Benedict Arnold, William Demont and major Andre.
Seeing as this episode aired in 1976, the title might be referencing that. Or, it might be referencing 1776, which was the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.
As a little history lesson, Benedict Arnold was an American general who changed sides in 1779, betraying America to the British. Major John Andre was a British spy who was caught and hanged. Meanwhile, William Demont was an assistant officer who also switched sides and joined the British during the Battle of Fort Washington in 1776.
Splitstonian is obviously a take on the Smithsonian Institute, but I can’t help but feel that there are a few kids out there who have been referring to the Splitsonian without knowing any better (perhaps thinking it was some sort of bowling museum).
The episode opens up with the gang driving in the Mystery Machine on a dark and stormy night. We see several famous building in Washington flash by, including the Washington Monument, the White House and the Lincoln Memorial.
Freddy is a little upset as they came for the Bicentennial celebration and all they can see is ‘Rain, Rain, Rain’. Daphne had her heart on visiting the Lincoln Memorial, but since it is outdoors, it’s too wet. Shaggy suggests they visit the Splitstonian institute as they can spend hours inside and keep dry.
Running inside, they miss the shadowy figure above creepily watching them.
Inside, the museum is dark, spooky and empty. A museum guard informs them that the place is haunted, and it has scared off all the tourists. He also remarks that they are closing soon before he heads off to do his rounds.
Known for her shoe fetish, Daphne finds it odd that the security guard’s shoes are squeaky and wet, so the Freddy suggests that they keep their eyes open for clues.
Shaggy points to some wax sculptures thinking it’s some tourists, but Velma and Daphne explain to him that it’s a tableau called ‘The Traitors of American History’. Satisfied, all but Scooby walk away, where he quickly discovers that the dummy of William Demont isn’t a dummy after all.
Terrified, Scooby hides under a steam locomotive engine, but the three traitors have other plans for him. Turning on the locomotive sends Scooby down a trap door, tangling him up in a cotton spinning machine and separating him from the gang. The loud locomotive engine also drowns out Scooby’s cries for help.
The gang explains to a friendlier Guard that Scooby is missing. He says he’ll offer to help them, but also tells them that they have to hurry as it’s only a couple of minutes to closing time. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d ever lock up a museum and go home if I knew a dog was lost inside.
Everyone splits up and takes a look for Scooby, but nobody has any luck. There’s a nice nod back to ‘What a Night for a Knight‘ as Daphne says she’s checked out the Dinosaur exhibit as Scooby loves bones. Meeting back at the Steam Locomotive, the engine finally shuts off, and they can hear Scooby calling for ‘Relp’.
Freddy discovers the trap door, and they rescue Scooby from the Cotton Gin machine. Unfortunately, because they are under the locomotive, the Guards can’t see the gang and assume that they are gone. So they lock up the museum with the gang stuck inside for the evening.
Before they even realize that they are locked in, The Gang come across an important clue. They find the real wax dummies in their long underwear. Meaning someone else snagged their uniforms.
The ghost of Benedict Arnold locks the Gang in the basement, and we get a brief history lesson on who he is. The gang then split up to look for a way out, as there are dozens of corridors in the basement.
Velma is the first to find a clue as she spots wet footprints, much like the grumpy guard had earlier. Following the footprints, Velma, Freddy and Daphne come to a dead end, but the footprints seem to go past the wall they’ve come to. They also see two of the ghostly traitors racing towards them. Before they can investigate the dead end for a secret passage, they rush away from the spooky ghosts.
Scooby has a bit of luck as he finds a dinosaur skeleton and immediately gets to gnawing away at it. I don’t think Scooby ever got the memo that dinosaur bones are fossilized and made out of rocks and minerals, but it’s still funny nonetheless. Destroying the skeleton (his second time since ‘What a Night for a Knight’, they are soon haunted and chased by the ghost of William Demont.
The gang reunite and find a way back up to the main floor. There, they run into the friendlier guard, Mr. Clive. He tells the gang the the main door has a time lock on it, so there’s no way out until noon the next day (which is 16 hours away). They then hear the steam locomotive fire up again, drowning out the quietness of the museum.
The grumpier security guard, named Mr. Grumper, walks in, explaining that the locomotive is acting up again. He also explains the engineers will be here any minute, which isn’t a goof in logic as they are all locked in.
It turns out that Mr. Wilt, the engineer, sleeps in the museum at night as the locomotive is acting up so much. We also learn Mr. Grumper is new on the job and bitter, as he used to have a day shift guarding the white house. As Mr. Willt walks away, the gang see the same wet footprints they saw with Mr. Grumper.
The gang follow the footprints back into the basement, as if Mr. Willt claimed he slept inside the museum, then there isn’t any reason why he should have been outside.
In the basement, they realize that the locomotive is powering the cotton gin machine. Following the belts to the machine, as well as some wet footprints, they come to the dead-end once again.. Here, Scooby finds a lever on a suit of armour that allows the wall to turn.
Following a flooded storm drain cavern, the gang come to a concrete wall with huge hole drilled in it. The hole was drilled by a drill that seems to have been powered by the locomotive. Here they discover bags of money that would even make Scrooge McDuck envy with jealousy.
The gang enter the drilled hole, and they find a printing press and more bags of money. Here, they conclude that they are in the US Mint as it’s only a couple of blocks away from the museum.
The gang spot the three ghostly traitors and a small chase ensues until Scooby traps them underneath a wooden antique Wright Brothers airplane (similar to how they catch the Knight in What A Night for a Night).
Unmasking the Ghost of Major Andre, the gang do not recognize him. The Ghost of William Demont turns out to be Mr. Willt, however, the museum engineer. Shaggy suspects the Ghost of Benedict Arnold as Mr. Grumper, however, it turns out to be the friendly Mr. Clive.
A government agent arrives and arrests the motley trio of traitor ghosts. The gang explain that they put the real wax dummies in the basement, so when guards made their rounds at night, they’d think the museum was empty. This allowed them to stay in the museum during the evening and work the drill using the Cotton Gin. The locomotive was only to cover up the noise of the drill.
Mr. Willt and Mr. Clive confess that they found old plans for the abandoned storm drain that ran all the way to the US Mint. So they devised a scheme to rob it. The mystery of Mr. Grumper’s wet footprints is also explained, as he stated his feet were always wet as he spent so much time mopping up the wet footprints that were always about.
Their entire ruse turns out to be worthless in the end, as the government agent explains the money they were trying to steal is completely worthless. The bills have yet to have the Treasurer’s seal or serial number or signature even printed on them yet. Famished, Scooby eats the hundred dollar bill for some quick laughs.
I give this episode an 8.5 out of 10. Being a Canadian, the American history lessons on traitors was kind of lost on me. Velma constantly reminding us who was who in regard to history seemed sort of forced, like they were intending this to be an educational episode. While it was a creative use of ghosts, the ghosts themselves were not intimidating or really creepy.
What I did enjoy in this episode was the atmosphere. I thought it was clever that there was a time lock on the museum so that nobody could enter, and the gang were trapped inside. The secret tunnel underneath the museum leading to the US mint was a good plot as well. It was also a good setup with Mr. Grumper being innocent, while the happy go lucky Mr. Clive was the true villain.
They certainly made good use of the museum, and Washington scenery, so there was more happening in this episode, vs constant chase scenes that some episodes rely on. If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy this episode for sure!
Don Messick: Scooby-Doo, Mr. Clive
Casey Kasem: Norville Shaggy Rogers
Frank Welker: Fred Jones, Mr. Willit
Heather North: Daphne Blake
Pat Stevens: Velma Dinkley
John Stephenson: Mr. Grumper, Government Agent, Ghost of Benedict Arnold, Ghost of William Demont, Ghost of Major Andre