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Posted by Big Boo on January 5th, 2009

Rentaghost first hit BBC1 in 1976 and ran for nine series right through to 1984.  Created by writer Bob Block, the show was a childrens comedy about a group of ghosts who ran a ghost hire company, unsurprisingly called Rentaghost.

The original line up of spooks, which I personally only have very vague memories of, were Fred Mumford, Timothy Claypole and Hubert Davenport.  Mumford was a recently deceased man who was a bit of a loser in life, so decided to make something of himself in his death by setting up Rentaghost.  I do recall he often used to go and visit his Mum and Dad for advice, but I can only assume that they realised he was already dead!

Hubert Davenport was a prim Victorian gentleman, who I always mistook for Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who, whilst Timothy Claypole was a medieval court jester who didn’t really have a proper understanding of the technology of the day.

The three ghosts would be hired to carry out various types of ghostly duties such as haunting mansion houses, or so the theme tune, sung by Claypole actor Michael Staniforth claimed.  In truth most episodes (certainly in later series anyway) revolved around some kind of problem caused by one of the ghosts – usually Mr. Claypole!

The ghosts could perform all the usual things people associate with ghosts, such as walk through walls, but the most often used power was the ability to teleport themselves, and other people and objects, simply by jumping in the air and squeezing their nose.  This was always accompanied with a strange bonging noise.

After the first three series there were many changes to the show, instigated by the death of Davenport actor Michael Darbyshire.  Anthony Jackson, the actor who played Fred Mumford, declined to appear in the next series, leaving just Staniforth playing Claypole to carry on the series.  The first change was that Harold Meaker, previously the landlord of the ghosts office, became owner of Rentaghost along with his wife Ethel.

New ghosts Hazel the McWitch (Molly Weir) and Nadia Popov (Sue Nicholls – now best known as Audrey Roberts from Coronation Street).  Hazel was a Scottish witch (complete with broomstick) who cast lots of spells and mixed potions with comical effects.  Nadia was a Dutch ghost who unfortunately had an allergy to flowers, which caused her to sneeze and then teleport somewhere unintentionally.  She wasn’t the first ghost to appear with this afflication though – previously author Lynda La Plante had appeared briefly as Nadia’s cousin Tamara Novek.

More new characters were introduced in the form of the Meaker’s neighbours, Mr and Mrs Perkins.  They were unaware of the Meaker’s association with a group of ghosts, and simply believed that the strange goings on that always occured about the Meaker’s were because Harold and Ethel were actually quite mad.  This wasn’t helped by the fact that the Perkins had been given an amulet that granted wishes.  They didn’t know this, so would be confused when they would idly wish something would happen to the Meaker’s and it then did before their very eyes.

Another notable character was Adam Painting, played by Christopher Biggins, who was a local department store owner.  He would often hire the ghosts as part of some marketing gimick for his shop.  There was also Dobbin the Pantomime Horse, who was brought to life by Mr. Claypole, and the dragon Bernie St. John, another pantomime costume bewitched by Claypole.  Bernie used to live in the Meaker’s cellar where he powered the furnace with his flames.  This led to a recurring gag with the cast all shouting “Don’t go into the cellar” when some hapless fool descended, only to return in the usual comical way – with blackened face and tattered clothes.

Sadly, many of the cast have now potentially become real ghosts themselves. Michael Staniforth, Michael Darbyshire, Anthony Jackson, Molly Weir, Edward Brayshaw (Harold Meaker) have all shuffled from this mortal coil – so don’t expect there to be any new episodes featuring the original cast, unless someone can invent a camera guaranteed to capture pictures of ghosts…

Of course, as with many old kids shows, the one thing most people tend to remember most is the theme song, which you can listen to below thanks to this clip of the opening credits.  And before you ask, I have no idea what Hazel and Mr. Claypole are doing in this clip…  Altogether then!  If you’re mansion house needs haunting just call, Rentaghost!

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