The FBI investigated Rod Serling in the '50s and '60s

From the desk of J. Edgar Hoover

The Freedom of Information Act makes it possible for just about anyone to request the disclosure of previously unavailable documents controlled by the United States government. So, as long as given agency documents fall within certain parameters, even private citizens can ask to view them, and the government has to comply. Granted, most of the really juicy stuff is still going to be protected, with no shot of normal people ever laying eyes on it. But plenty of information that has since been ruled harmless can be requested.

In 2016, a user uploaded a batch of documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the Internet Archive at archive.org. Among the many pages are several pertaining to a 1951 investigation into the life and times of one Rodman Edward Serling, future host of The Twilight Zone. While that initial probe into Serling's life was more-or-less a perfunctory background check for a government job, later documents reveal a further inquiry in the 1960s with more sinister intentions.

In the early '50s, Serling was seeking employment as a writer on a government-operated radio network called Voice of America. The state-funded agency is the largest and oldest U.S.-owned international broadcaster. So, anyone seeking to work for Voice of America is subject to a pretty thorough background investigation. In Serling's case, this background check was implemented by the FBI.

While the documents do include some exciting names like J. Edgar Hoover, the findings were fairly run-of-the-mill, with most of the details reading along these lines:

"MR. WALTER ROBERTS, Dean of the National Academy of Theatre Arts, Pleasantville, New York, was interviewed while in New York City on business. He advised that he recalled the applicant as an outstanding announcer who had worked under his supervision for four years at Station WNBF, Binghamton, New York.

"Mr. ROBERTS said that he could recommend the applicant without reservation as to character, reputation and loyalty, and that he knew nothing of a derogatory nature concerning Mr. SERLING."

This 1951 investigation was again referred to in a later probe, this time in 1968:

"Captioned individual [SERLING] was the subject of an applicant-type investigation conducted by the FBI in May 1951, which revealed no pertinent derogatory information."

However, this second batch of documents included further details linking Serling to some potentially unpopular individuals and their opinions:

"In addition, the May 20, 1967, issue of "Peoples World," a West Coast Communist newspaper, contained an article which stated that Rod Serling was the master of ceremonies at a banquet sponsored by the Southern California Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. The article further reported that two of the featured speakers expressed views opposing the United States' position in Vietnam."

Separate memoranda linked Serling with Mr. and Mrs. Danny Kaye, Vincent Minelli, Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters in documents requested by White House Staff member Mrs. Mildred Stegall. 

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4 Comments

Runeshaper 16 days ago
The fact that the govt was tracking certain individuals is not surprising, but some of the findings are pretty interesting.
WilliamJorns 16 days ago
"In addition, the May 20, 1967, issue of "Peoples World," a West Coast Communist newspaper, contained an article which stated that Rod Serling was the master of ceremonies at a banquet sponsored by the Southern California Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. The article further reported that two of the featured speakers expressed views opposing the United States' position in Vietnam."
Yeah, that sounds like something that J.Edgar Hoover would see as radical, left-leaning, and anti-American. He was a real right-wing paranoid. I'll bet he even looked for Communists in his cigar box, his sugar bowl, and his toilet tank.
McGillahooala 17 days ago
I’m not sure I learned anything from this article except that apparently Rod Serling was known to apply for jobs.
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