Portals, time-loops, gremlins and more — 8 spooky episodes of The Twilight Zone
Just in time for Halloween, here are our picks for some of the spookiest Twilight Zone episodes!
The Twilight Zone is known as one of the spookiest shows on classic tv, and rightly so. Tackling subjects such as ghosts, alternate worlds, nuclear war and what it means to be human, the show would always find new ways to frighten its audience and leave them thinking about the horrors they just witnessed. Here are our picks for some of the spookiest episodes of the beloved horror series.
1. Where is Everybody? (Season 1 Ep. 1)
The first ever episode of The Twilight Zone, "Where is Everybody" immediately sets the tone for the series going forward. Not having any recollection of who or where he is, Mike Ferris wanders the deserted suburban town of Oakwood, not being able to find another living person, slowly becoming more paranoid as his pursuit goes on. Things take a turn for the worse after Mike hears a phone booth ringing in the distance, rushing to it only to find that no one will answer. Mike continues to spiral until finally the rug is pulled out from under the viewer and the facade cracks: the town of Oakwood was never real and Mike was a subject for military experiment trying to simulate the emptiness of being the only person on an uncharted planet to assess how their soldiers would handle it. Mike's commanding officer says that they haven't been able to find a way to supress that loneliness and that the next time Mike would feel it again, it would be real. The episodes leaves us with a chilling message: we humans desire companionship, and without it we fall apart.
2. The Monsters are due on Maple Street (Season 1 Ep. 22)
As the episode opens, we are introduced to the idyllic suburban neighborhood on Maple Street, children playing in the streets, parents doing their chores and the local ice-cream man is making his way down the street. This soon changes when a loud, bright object streaks overhead, catching the attention of everyone on the street. "This is Maple Street on a Saturday afternoon," says the narrator, "the last calm and reflective moment...before the monsters came." Soon after, the neighbors realize that the power is out to their whole neighborhood, the paranoia begins to build. One boy suggests that the street is under attack from aliens, who have sent a team of four to infiltrate the families by looking just like humans and paving the way for the invasion. Tensions continue to grow as strange events continue to plague the idyllic neighborhood, with family friends turning against each other left and right, leading to one neighbor accidentally killing another in cold blood. The town descends into chaos when power begins returning to random houses as the camera pulls back to reveal there were infact aliens, but all they did was turn off the power. The real monsters were the humans, who let their paranoia get the better of them.
3. Eye of the Beholder (Season 2 Ep. 6)
One of the most well-known and lauded episodes of The Twilight Zone, "Eye of the Beholder" is a peak episode for the franchise. The episode begins with a Janet Tyler, whose face is wrapped in bandages, reminiscing that her visage has always scared anyone who looked upon it. Janet says that she doesn't want to be beautiful or even be loved, only to not have people turn away in panic and horror when they see her face. To help with her condition, the government has put their best doctors on Janet's case, slowly trying to help fix her face, though nothing seems to take. With each failed operation, Janet grows more and more desperate, asking her doctors when they will finally take her bandages off and let her live her life once again. After an outburst on the balcony of her hospital room when she feels the fresh air and smells flowers for the first time in unknown years, Janet's doctors finally agree to take her bandages off to check their work after their most recent surgery. Tensions builds after bandage after bandage is removed only to reveal that Janet herself is beautiful and everyone else is a chimpish monster. The doctors finally reveal that they have had a man named Walter who has a similar "condition" to Janet named Walter and allow the two to escape before the police show up, all but condeming them to be hunted for the remainder of their days for being different.
4. Shadow Play (Season 2 Ep. 26)
It's scary enough to be accused of a crime that you didn't commit, but what's even worse is when you get executed for the crime you didn't commit, then come back to life and have to experience the hours preceding your execution over and over again. This is the situation that prisoner Adam Grant finds himself in during this episode. Protesting that he won't be murdered again, Grant gets the attention of the town's district attorney and newspaper editor, telling them that he is trapped in a recurring nightmare that they are a part of, and that if he dies, they will cease to exist. Throughout the course of the episode Grant points out logical errors in the world around him and makes predictions about the other characters' lives, slowly swaying DA Ritchie to his side. Grant begins to connect other characters in the dream to people he met in his past, trying to prove his point to Ritchie. The district attorney finally agrees that Grant is telling the truth and rushes to the judge to stop the execution, but it's too late. Grant is executed and returns to the courtroom a few minutes later with all of the characters in his dream occupying new roles, with the cycle repeating anew.
5. The Obsolete Man (Season 2 Ep. 29)
Obsolescence is a natural part of human progress and technology. When new developments in technology come about, the old is cast aside and the new takes its place. This episode of The Twilight Zone, however, asks a chilling question: "what if a person becomes obsolete?" Set in a far-off future where books and religion have been banned, librarian Romney Wordsworth has been put on trial for obsolescence and sentenced to death. He asks the Chancellor of the state to speak with him in his cell, to which the Chancellor accepts. The Chancellor comes to Romney's cell and Romney reveals that his preferred method of death is by bomb, which will explode in his cell at midnight, with him and the Chancellor inside. With the events being broadcast Romney tells the Chancellor that he is trapped in there with him, because the State wouldn't want to look weak by allowing their Chancellor to leave. Romney then pulls out a Bible and tells the Chancellor that he puts his trust in God and has made peace with his death. As the bomb ticks down further, the Chancellor finally breaks down and pleads for Romney to open the door "in the name of God". Romney accepts and opens the door right before the bomb explodes, saving the Chancellor at the very last second. However, in pleading with Romney to open the door, the Chancellor himslef became obsolete by expressing faith in God, and he soon will find himself in the same position as Romney.
6. The Shelter (Season 3 Ep. 3)
Very much a product of its time, many episodes of The Twilight Zone deal with the fears that permeated every facet of life during the Cold War, whether it be the fear of communist invaders, or even worse, nuclear annihilation. "The Shelter"is one such episode, set in yet another idyllic suburban community on the brink of chaos. While enjoying a dinner party with his friends and family, Doctor Bill Stockton's son overhears a chilling announcement from over the radio: unidentified objects are falling towards the United States. The families all believe they know what this means: nuclear missiles are coming, and the end of the world is nigh. Within minutes, the peaceful gathering turns into a paranoid mess, with Doctor Bill locking himself and his family in their basement fallout shelter, effectively condemning his neighbors to death in the nuclear blast. The neighbors, however, won't take their supposed deaths sitting down, and try to plead with Bill to let them in, becoming hostile when he tells them that he can only take in three more people. With their hysteria at the breaking point, the neighbors craft a battering ram to bust down ther door, and end up doing so. Right as the neighbors prepare for the end, another broadcast comes on: the unidentified objects were just harmless satelites and the US isn't in danger. The neighbors all apologize for their actions, but Stockton questions if things would ever be the same between them again.
7. Little Girl Lost (Season 3 Ep. 26)
When a child gets lost, it's always a harrowing experience for the parents to try and find them. What makes this episode even worse though is that the parents lost their child in their own home under very mysterious circumstances. "Little Girl Lost" tells the tale of Ruth and Chris Miller, who discover that their daughter Tina has disappeared without a trace in their suburban home. However, they can still hear Tina's voice throughout the house, begging for her parents to find her. Like any parents would, Chris and Ruth tear apart the house searching for their daughter, with the help of the the family dog Mack, until they come to Tina's bedroom, where they can hear her the clearest. Hearing his owner's voice, Mack the dog rushes under Tina's bed and vanishes. Totally unsure what to do next, the couple call their physicist friend Bill, who comes over to try and help. Bill discovers a portal behind Tina's bed that leads to what he calls "the fourth dimesion" and that Tina may be hopelessly lost forever. Refusing to let this be the case, Chris tells Bill to hold onto him as he rushes into the portal. Inside, Chris finds a world he can barely comprehend, swirling and distorting constantly. Luckily, Chris is able to rescue Tina and Mack from the portal, narrowly avoiding being cut in half as it closes behind them.
8. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (Season 5 Ep. 3)
Flying in an airplane can be scary enough, especially in the '60s, but this episode of The Twilight Zone shows that air travel can get much worse. While on a flight, Robert Wilson, played by William Shatner, sees a gremlin messing with the plane while it is in flight and rightly freaks out, calling attention to himself and making others raise questions about his sanity. Throughout the flight, any attempt to get the other passengers to notice the gremlin just makes Robert look more and more crazy, as the gremlin will hide itself whenever anyone besides Robert looks out his window. Robert's wife Julia also lets slip that this is his first time flying since a mental breakdown six months prior, further casting doubt that Robert is in his right mind. Still determined to stop this creature from crashing their plane Robert asks the engineer to check the wing, which leads again to no one else seeing the creature. After feigning taking a sedative given to him by the stewardess, Robert finally decides that he has to take matters into his own hands, stealing a gun from a sleeping policeman and opening the emergency exit to shoot at the gremlin, almost being sucked out of the plane in the process and passing out. When Robert awakes, he's attached to a gurney and being taken back to the sanitarium, even though one of the plane's engines being damaged reveals that he was right all along.