Bonanza took ''ghost town'' literally in its spooky tribute to The Twilight Zone

Little Joe encountered the supernatural in the sensational ''Twilight Town.''

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The ghost town is a staple of the Western genre (not to mention "Ghost Town, U.S.A." on The Brady Bunch). But the term, of course, is typically a figure of speech. It's merely an abandoned settlement. Eerie, sure, but not haunted. 

Well, Bonanza was not a Western that was afraid of dabbling in other genres. The Cartwrights (well, Hoss) could break into broad comedy, whether it was encountering "leprechauns" or jumping off a cliff with mechanical "flying machine." Yes, indeed, the Ponderosa gang even dabbled with horror.

Bonanza made its debut in 1959 just weeks apart from another American television classic — The Twilight Zone. Perhaps it was their proximate premieres that led the cowboy show to pay tribute to Rod Serling's supernatural storytelling.

In season five, Little Joe takes a hard knock on the noggin from an outlaw and passes out in the desert. He comes to, stumbles through the sand and brush and comes upon a dusty little hamlet. He collapses in the street.

Thus begins "Twilight Town." The title alone blatantly nods to its inspiration, The Twilight Zone. Michael Landon's Little Joe has certainly not collapsed on a highway to heaven here. He comes to thanks to the helpful hand of Louise (Davey Davison) and learns that he has awoken in a place called "Martinville."

''Where is everybody?'' Little Joe asks in a nod to Rod Serling.

Spoiler alert: In the end, Joe takes revenge on the rascally outlaw who started his misfortune with the help of the Martinville townspeople. The showdown ends in a spray of bullets amongst the desert rocks. Joe collapses once again. When he awakens again, it is by the helping hands of his father and brothers. He explains that the townspeople helped. 

"What town," Ben asks. Duh-dun-dun! The town is gone! Not only were the people ghosts… did the town even exist?

As if you hadn't figured out this was essentially a Twilight Zone tale, a clever piece of dialogue pays homage.

"Where is everybody?" Joe asks his pa. Sound familiar? "Where Is Everybody," of course, was the title of the first Twilight Zone episode, which aired a few weeks after the Bonanza debut.

Cy Chermak wrote "Twilight Town," his only contribution to Bonanza. Perhaps that is why it feels like such an outlier. Chermak would later produce Kolchak: The Night Stalker, further proving his supernatural bona fides.

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Andybandit 21 months ago
I remember that episode. There are a lot of ghosts towns in the west. Dodge City, Kansas is a ghost town from Gunsmoke.
Michael 21 months ago
But how common were ghost towns in the Old West? People had to invest in a location, and then abandon it.

Disease, not enough women,the gold or silver mine dried up, the promised train didn't come their way. Ican't think of many reasons. With time, it's easier to imagine.
LoveMETV22 Michael 21 months ago
Fires, floods, droughts, the depletion of resources in an area. Some of the " ghost " towns also referred to as " boom towns" were farming communities. sometimes when conditions were better elsewhere the people just abandoned the area and moved on.
DeloresPerry 24 months ago
Wow! I had NO IDEA that Pernell Roberts was bald already while Bonanza was in production. I knew that he was bald while starring in Trapper John, MD, though.
JohnGrant 29 months ago
Just watched "Twilight Town" today and wow...what a good and unexpected episode of Bonanza
Jeffrey 45 months ago
I had never known that about the Bonanza episode ''Twilight Town'', because I have never seen it. I don't think so anyhow.
Deleted 45 months ago
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Jeffrey 45 months ago
If I could find you for not just one night, but for the rest of my life,Ramziolla! If you're single & available that is. And if you don't live too far away from me. Wherever that maybe.
Michael 21 months ago
I flagged her, sorry to ruin your big date.
madmark1 45 months ago
Seen the Bonanza episode twilight town.Really a good episode of Bonanza and very appropriate for this time of year it’s a good Halloween episode and say what you want to say. I don’t want to turn this into a paranormal discussion but ghosts are for real so are UFOs. I believe in Bigfoot but I haven’t seen one I think is highly possible. I think it might be an undiscovered primate that actually exist or we thought was extinct. but I’m not wearing a tinfoil hat you just have to have an open mind there are things that are unusual that can’t be explained in the world.
Jeffrey madmark1 45 months ago
Boy, You might want use more punctuation marks than just periods in your comments, madmark1. Like commas, colons, semi-colons, apostrophes, and so on. Not just periods.
madmark1 Jeffrey 45 months ago
punctuation is not one of my strong points usually when I write long things I hire an editor but I guess you generally got what I was trying to say. English and literature was not my strong point in school I’m an electrical engineer by trade now retired. but I was just making a short reply on the Internet about a TV show didn’t know I was going to be critiqued on my punctuation and I was kind of in a hurry and a lot of times I use talk to text when I’m doing these things don’t always come out the way you would like and talk to text doesn’t do punctuation for you wish that it did so I wouldn’t have to listen to assholes like you.
madmark1 Jeffrey 45 months ago
sorry Jeffrey didn’t mean to call you an asshole some people I think worry about the littlest things you must’ve been an English teacher or someone in academia.I should not have gotten worked up over something as simple as your simple reply.And good luck with your date with Ramziolla.
Wiseguy madmark1 41 months ago
Well, of course, UFOs are real. Anytime you see a flying object that you can't identify it's a UFO. Doesn't matter what it is. It certainly doesn't have to be science-fiction related.
madmark1 Wiseguy 41 months ago
I agree and I’ve seen things in the sky I could not explain I even scene ghost they’re real I even have a picture of one a ghost not a UFO seen UFOs numerous times but never have gotten a picture
SFocosi 46 months ago
Let's remember Helen Reddy today and Wax Nostalgic over her Earth shattering achievements in her life such as "I Am Woman" Record and everything else she touched turning to Gold. You will be missed, Helen, I will Troy not to be any more insulting as I may sound now.
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