"The Lady Vanishes" is a Halloween-themed episode from the sixth season of the British sitcom 2point4 Children. Although the action takes place on Halloween, the episode was first broadcast on BBC1 almost a month after the holiday, on November 21, 1996.
The series is based around the characters of Willemina Porter (better known as "Bill"), her husband Ben, their teenage children Jenny and David and Bill's friend Rona. Bill runs a small catering company. Ben runs a small heating repair company and works with a woman named Christine. Bill is usually much more sensible than her rather immature husband Ben (who may be child 0.4 referred to in the title). However, Bill sometimes jumps to wild conclusions which can have serious consequences. The Porters appear to be a quite normal family but, as a result of bad luck and misunderstandings, they often find themselves in very strange situations and appear to live in a world in which almost anything can happen.
In the episode, Bill, who is already nervous because her son David is out delivering pizzas on what looks like being a stormy weekday night, becomes convinced that she is living next door to a vampire, possibly Count Dracula himself. When Bill hears that her son is in the neighbor's house, she Rona, Ben and Christine determine to break in, defeat the vampire and rescue the boy.
It is early on Halloween evening. Although it is a school night, Bill Porter reluctantly allows her daughter Jenny to go to a party and her son David to go to his part-time job as a pizza deliveryman. Bill is particularly nervous about David going out on a moped on what looks like being a stormy night.
Bill had not realized that it was Halloween and complains that she does not have any candy ready for trick-or-treaters. She does not like Halloween and blames Margaret Thatcher for introducing it to Britain. Her husband Ben, however, loves Halloween. He has made up his face to look like the Phantom of the Opera, as played by Lon Chaney in the 1925 film. He plans to keep the house in darkness and hold a large flashlight under his face when he opens the door to trick-or-treaters. Bill tells her husband that she does not want him to send six-year olds away from their house screaming and insists that he washes off the make up.
Opening the door, Bill finds a deliveryman (named as "Eegore' in the episode's credits) who has an Eastern European accent and does not appear to speak English. He keeps repeating the word "Crudaal". Bill eventually realizes that he wants the house of old Mrs. Crudaal next door. Soon afterwards, Bill notices that the object which is being delivered to Mrs. Crudaal's house is a large wooden crate, roughly the same size and shape as a coffin. Bill does not see the old woman but she sees the shadow of a tall man coming from her house. Nobody in the Porter family has seen their elderly neighbor for some time and they had all assumed that she had died. They also believed that her name was Crandle. A quick call to directory enquiries confirms that their neighbor's name is Crudaal. However, when Bill calls Mrs. Crudaal's number, there is no answer.
Ben's make up will not wash off because he used poster paint instead of face paint. Bill advises him to cover his face with cold cream and wipe it off with a tissue. Finding that there are no tissues in the bedroom and with cold cream in his eyes, Ben stumbles towards the bathroom. He wipes his face on what he thinks is a towel but which is in fact a large bat that flew in through the open window.
Ben's assistant Christine lets herself in, using some keys which Ben had forgotten earlier, and makes herself at home. She is surprised to hear about the bat, saying that they are not usually active in late October. When Bill tells her about the other strange things that have happened that evening, Christine says that, according to the horror movies she has seen, the Porters are living next door to a vampire. She says that the vampire used the old woman to buy the house, disposed of her and is now ready to move in himself, after having had a crate of soil delivered from Transylvania. Christine is not sure if she believes what is in the movies or not, saying that some of them can be quite ridiculous. She mentions seeing a film in which there was a character named Johnny Alucard and nobody noticed that "Alucard" was "Dracula" backwards. Using some Scrabble tiles, Bill shows Ben and Christine that "Crudaal" is also an anagram of "Dracula". Believing that the two women are talking nonsense, Ben insists that they pay a visit to the house next door. While they hide in the bushes, they see the door being opened by a tall pale man in a tuxedo with a long black cape.
Ben and Christine are now convinced that Dracula himself is living in the house next door. Bill is not sure that their neighbor is really a vampire, saying that he could simply be wearing a costume to frighten trick-or-treaters. Ben comments that he cannot believe that somebody could be so sick as to try to frighten children like that.
Christine makes a huge wooden cross but then does not know what to do with it. Ben calls the party which Jenny is attending. He leaves a message for her, telling her not to come home that evening and to spend the night with her boyfriend Clive instead. Christine reassures them that they should be safe in their own house because a vampire cannot enter someone's home unless he is invited to do so. Ben also calls Bill's friend Rona on her cell phone at the supermarket, telling her to get supplies which will protect them from vampires. Rona arrives with some salt, which Christine says can stop vampires if it is thrown in their faces, but she bought steaks instead of wooden stakes and got sun-dried tomatoes because there was not any garlic. Rona mentions that she saw David delivering a pizza to the house next door. Bill becomes convinced that her son is in great danger and determines to break in and rescue him.
At Mrs. Crudaal's house, David is happily chatting to the old lady. It is revealed that the large wooden crate contained an oxygen machine which the old woman needs to use constantly. The man is Mrs. Crudaal's son John Crudaal. He is wearing a vampire costume because he makes a living delivering "Dracula-grams". John Crudaal mentions that the telephone has not been working.
Bill, Ben, Rona and Christine climb over the fence to the neighbor's house. They burst through the window, brandishing the cross and the salt. Bill calls Mrs. Crudaal a "fiend from Hell" and demands that she release her son. She and the three others immediately begin to feel extremely foolish.
Having cleaned up the mess that they caused, Bill, Ben, Rona and Christine apologize. Bill and Rona promise to check up on the elderly Mrs. Crudaal more often. Ben tells John Crudaal that he has an open invitation to visit their house any time. As Ben walks away, John Crudaal smiles and shows his fangs. He laughs villainously as thunder claps and lightning strikes.
- Willemina "Bill" Porter - Belinda Lang
- Ben Porter - Gary Olsen
- Jenny Porter - Clare Buckfield
- David Porter - John Pickard
- Rona - Julia Hills
- Christine - Kim Benson
- Mrs. Crudaal - Malya Woolf
- John Crudaal - Richard Durden
- Eegore the deliveryman - Andy Linden