Bonanza Wiki
Bonanza episode
“Thunder Man”
Season 4, Episode 31
#131 in Series
281920 10150399058279498 34256529497 10121499 4033020 n
Air date May 5, 1963
Production code
Guest starring:
Written by Lewis Reed
Directed by Lewis Allen
Episode Guide
Previous Episode:
The Saga of Whizzer McGee
Next Episode:
Rich Man, Poor Man
External links
Thunder Man on IMDb


Little Joe's friend Ann is attacked and killed by an explosives expert who tries to pass himself off as a concerned visitor. Ann's Uncle Fred can identify the murderer, but after suffering a stroke is only able to name the song the killer was whistling.


Ann Wilson is a friend of Little Joe’s. She and her Uncle Fred are en route to Joe's birthday party when Fred suffers a sudden stroke and falls unconscious.

William Poole, a munitions expert who is driving a wagon emblazoned with the words, "The Thunder Man," stops to render aid to Ann's uncle. But instead of helping Uncle Fred, noticing no one is around, he uses the opportunity to comment eerily on her beauty and soft hair, and then assault her.

Later that night, Joe, Adam and Ben return from the party. It was a great party, except Ann never showed up. Worried, they retrace their last known route and find Fred, unconscious but alive. Adam takes Fred into town for medical attention while Ben ultimately finds Ann lying dead, having been brutally strangled.

Joe is devastated and vows to find the killer. At the doctor's office, Poole, who had been hired by one of the Cartwright's neighbors (a widow named Mrs. Gibson), stops by to check on Fred's condition. His interest has ulterior motives, since he knows Fred had briefly regained consciousness the previous night when he began to attack Ann, and that Fred can identify him.

Joe, concerned for Fred's safety, convinces Ben and the doctor to let them take Fred back to the Ponderosa to recover. This is while Poole is in the room and the others are unaware he is guilty of Ann's murder. They do not suspect a thing about Poole's true character, that of a misogynist who preys on beautiful women.

After he demonstrates his expertise in nitroglycerin to the other ranchers, Poole goes to work for Mrs. Gibson. Back at her house, he presents himself as a lonely journeyman explosives expert who has never able to have had a lasting relationship. After inspecting Mrs. Gibson's lavishly-decorated home, he offers to stay, and she agrees.

Later, Poole arrives at the Ponderosa late at night, casing out the house and looking for where Fred might be. He finds Fred sleeping in the guest room and ponders an attack. Joe, sleeping in the corner, is awakened. A startled Poole once again feigns concern for Fred and, after learning there have been no leads on Ann's killer, is on his way. Fred awakes and glares hatefully at him (as he had done twice before, once at the murder scene and again at the doctor's office); this goes unnoticed by the others.

Later, Joe, frustrated that Deputy Clem has not developed any new potential leads, gets into an argument with the deputy and questions his competence. Clem defends his work and tells Joe to go home.

Back at the Ponderosa, Joe fumes to Fred about there being no leads on Ann's killer, when Fred begins to feebly move his hand. Joe, knowing Fred cannot talk but can perhaps write, calls Ben to bring a pencil and paper. Perhaps Fred can write down the answers to Joe's questions.

Fred is only able to scrawl a barely legible response. At first, Joe is confused and presses Fred to elaborate, but Fred's hand goes numb. Ben advises Joe to go easy and then the two decide to have Fred blink his yes/no responses to Joe's questions.

Eventually, the questioning leads Joe to figure out that the killer had something to do with the song "New Orleans Woman" which Fred wrote in barely legible handwriting. However, Fred suffers another stroke, this one fatal, before Joe can get a clear answer as to whether the killer has been at the Ponderosa.

Ben, having learned about Joe's confrontation with Clem, sends Hoss into town with the information. The Cartwright patriarch counsels Joe on his temper and tells him that Clem is doing the best he can. Instead, he assigns Joe to visit Mrs. Gibson and ask about what she may know about the song, “New Orleans Woman” since she plays piano.

While there, Joe has Mrs. Gibson play "New Orleans Woman" on the piano (she had the sheet music), the tune Fred said was associated with the killer. After he leaves, Poole returns and begins interrogating Mrs. Gibson.

But Mrs. Gibson has questions of her own, and after determining someone had whistled the popular tune, as Poole had throughout the episode, realizes Poole had killed Ann. Knowing he has been exposed, he locks Mrs. Gibson in the house and then attacks her in the same manner as he had Ann before strangling her to death.

On the way back home, Joe stops to get a stone out of Cochise's hoof when he hears an explosion in the distance. Strange, since Mrs. Gibson had earlier said Poole had finished blasting and was preparing to leave. Returning to Mrs. Gibson's house, Joe finds nobody home until Poole carries her badly burned body into the house. Poole makes up a story that she had been involved with an accident involving the nitroglycerin.

Joe quickly questions Poole's facts and, once he sees a ripped-up piece of sheet music on the floor that is "New Orleans Woman," Poole runs.

Joe realizes that Poole the explosives expert is also Poole the maniacal predator who stalks, attacks, and kills women. After Joe suggests he may have many victims, Poole justifies his behavior and then threatens to blow up Joe, since he has nitroglycerin in his hand. However, after Poole begins to throw a vial of the liquid at the porch where Joe is standing, Joe is able to get to his discarded weapon and shoots down his foe.

The nitroglycerin explodes but causes little damage and Joe is uninjured. The show fades out with a close-up of a blood-stained wagon wheel from Poole's wagon.

Cast and Characters[]

The Cartwrights



  • Evelyn Scott: Mrs. Gibson
  • Harvey Stephens: Fred Wilson
  • Simon Oakland: William Poole
  • Toby Michaels: Ann Wilson


Did you know?[]

  • German episode title: "Eine Faust voller Donner", meaning "A Fist of Thunder".


"Sheriff Coffee is out of town. That new deputy of his couldn’t find fleas on a dog."
Joseph Cartwright[src]

"Killers have something in common – they don’t like to get caught."
Clem Foster[src]




See also[]