Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Ghost Stories for Christmas: A Guide to The Twilight Zone

Illustration by Arthur Rackham
for A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens,
from a 1915 edition

"The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be . . ." 
-Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (1898)

            The telling of ghost stories at Christmas is often traced to Charles Dickens, who popularized the tradition with the publication of A Christmas Carol in December, 1843. Dickens produced additional Christmas books containing elements of the ghostly and strange (The Chimes (1844), The Haunted Man and The Ghost’s Bargain (1848)) and fostered the tradition as an editor, as the Christmas numbers of his periodicals Household Words and All the Year Round were frequently dedicated to tales of the supernatural. Dickens published stories from such noted authors as Amelia B. Edwards, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Rosa Mulholland, Wilkie Collins, and Elizabeth Gaskell. Perhaps the finest of Dickens’s own ghost stories, “No 1 Branch Line: The Signalman” (adapted in 1976 for the BBC's A Ghost Story for Christmas), appeared in Mugby Junction, the 1866 Christmas number of All the Year Round. Other Victorian periodicals followed Dickens’s model and soon the pages of Belgravia, Temple Bar, Tinsleys, and others were filled with ghost and horror stories at Christmas and otherwise.

Dickens did much to establish the traditions of the Victorian Christmas but the telling of seasonal ghost stories dates farther back in time than A Christmas Carol, or even Christmas itself. The oral tradition dates to the festival of the Winter Solstice and the festival of Yule, when, during the long, cold, and dark nights of winter, a greater intimacy with death was believed to bring the material world closer to the world of spirits and the afterlife. Elements of these winter festivals were assimilated into the festival of Christmas after the spread of Christianity. 

By the middle of the twentieth century, television became the dominant medium through which the Christmas ghost story tradition was kept alive, notably on the BBC, where an annual series of programs, broadly titled A Ghost Story for Christmas, turned artful adaptations of tales by M.R. James and Dickens into a holiday tradition. In America, the premier showcase for supernatural drama was Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, a series which, beginning in 1980, would become, through syndicated marathons on local and, later, national stations, uniquely associated with the celebration of New Year's. 

Though The Twilight Zone is most often considered as a science fiction program, the show’s writers were equally fascinated by the implications of tales of fantasy and horror. There they found useful material for exploring the wonders, terrors, and anxieties of the modern age as well as the ever-encroaching nature of the past. The series dabbled in tales of murderous doubles, devils, premonitions, nightmares, killer dolls and dummies, wax figures come to life, monstrous creatures, witchcraft, existential terror, and, of course, ghosts, including Rod Serling's Christmas ghost story, "The Changing of the Guard." 

In a previous post we compiled a viewer’s guide to the Christmas and winter themed episodes of The Twilight Zone. This Christmas we thought to examine the series through the lens of the ghost story tradition and compile a viewing guide to the best the series has to offer for tales of ghosts and hauntings. As a general guideline we have adopted a primary rule from the twentieth century’s greatest writer of ghost stories, Montague Rhodes James, who writes in the introduction to his More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911): “Another requisite, in my opinion, is that the ghost should be malevolent or odious: amiable and helpful apparitions are all very well in fairy tales and in local legends, but I have no use for them in a fictitious ghost story.” We agree with Dr. James and thus this guide will highlight eight episodes wherein the supernatural elicits if not outright terror then a great deal of unease.

The post is rounded out with a list of additional ghostly episodes as well as a list of recommended reading.

We hope you'll revisit some of these haunting Twilight Zone episodes over the winter months and that they bring to your Christmas some of the pleasing terror of the ghost story tradition. Let us know your favorite ghostly episodes in the comments. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year's from the Vortex!

-JP & BD

This guide contains minor spoilers

“Judgment Night” Season 1, Episode 10
Written by: Rod Serling
Directed by: John Brahm
Original Air Date: December 4, 1959

Rod Serling excelled at the tale of supernatural vengeance and “Judgement Night” is one of his finest efforts in this vein. Nehemiah Persoff plays Carl Lanser, a German man who finds himself on a British ship during wartime with no memory of how he arrived there. Instinctively he knows that somewhere amid the fog and the ocean lies his doom. Will he unlock his memory in time to save himself?

Though director John Brahm previously helmed the fan favorite “Time Enough at Last,” “Judgment Night” was the first episode which allowed the German director to fully display his masterful command of atmosphere and pacing. The episode boasts a marvelously uncanny setting, perfectly staged by Brahm and brilliantly performed by Persoff. “Judgment Night” remains a tense, frightening, and underrated gem.

Read our full review of “Judgment Night.”

“The Hitch-Hiker” Season 1, Episode 16
Written by: Rod Serling, from the radio play by Lucille Fletcher
Directed by: Alvin Ganzer
Original Air Date: January 22, 1960

Perhaps no other episode better captures the frightening, disorienting, and ultimately melancholy qualities of the supernatural than does Rod Serling’s adaptation of Lucille Fletcher’s “The Hitch-Hiker.” What begins as a race from supernatural pursuit becomes a poignant study in isolation and fear. Strengthened by Inger Stevens’s performance as the doomed Nan Adams and Leonard Strong’s subtle menace as the titular character, “The Hitch-Hiker” remains one of the most accomplished episodes of the series. Director Alvin Ganzer’s direction is subtly artistic, as the use of mirrors and the gradual eclipse from sunny daylight to lonely nighttime are masterful.

Read our full review of “The Hitch-Hiker”

“Long Distance Call” Season 2, Episode 58
Written by: William Idelson and Charles Beaumont
Directed by: James Sheldon
Original Air Date: March 31, 1961

Perhaps the most intimately disturbing episode of the series, “Long Distance Call” uses a young boy’s toy telephone and a grandmother’s undying love to create an unnerving atmosphere of domestic menace. Lili Darvas is exceptional as the doting grandmother, managing to be both heartbreaking and horrifying. A last minute change to the script by the writers while on set created a more intense and ultimately more satisfying climax to the drama. Often maligned as part of the failed videotape experiment on the series, “Long Distance Call” rises above these technical limitations with the shocking force of its narrative and the power of its performances.

Read our full review of “Long Distance Call.”

“A Game of Pool” Season 3, Episode 70
Written by: George Clayton Johnson
Directed by: Buzz Kulik
Original Air Date: October 13, 1961

“A Game of Pool” is highlighted by two of the finest performances on the series. Jack Klugman plays Jesse Cardiff, an obsessive young pool player who gets a shot to beat the best when the greatest ever player, the long-dead “Fats” Brown (Jonathan Winters), accepts Cardiff’s challenge late one night in an empty pool hall. What transpires is a tense game of pool and of life and death, where the dialogue lands like blows. Despite a questionable ending, changed from Clayton Johnson’s original script, “A Game of Pool” remains a haunting mediation on personal legacy and the afterlife.

Read our full review of “A Game of Pool.”

“Deaths-Head Revisited” Season 3, Episode 74
Written by: Rod Serling
Directed by: Don Medford
Original Air Date: November 10, 1961

Like “Judgement Night,” “Deaths-Head Revisited” is, on the surface, a highly effective tale of supernatural vengeance. Beyond this the episode is a devastating study of the deep scars of the Holocaust. Inspired by news stories of the pursuit and capture of Nazi fugitive Adolf Eichmann, Rod Serling brought the horrors of the Nazi camps into American living rooms, staging his supernatural drama amid the doom-laden grounds of Dachau seventeen years after the liberation of the camp. Oscar Beregi, Jr. portrays the callous Nazi fugitive Gunther Lutze who is forced to face his past sins in the form of the dead who haunt the camp. Joseph Schildkraut is exceptional as Alfred Becker, Lutze’s former victim who presides over the judgment of the Nazi at the hands of the vengeful dead.

Read our full review of “Deaths-Head Revisited.”

“Young Man’s Fancy” Season 3, Episode 99
Written by: Richard Matheson
Directed by: John Brahm
Original Air Date: May 11, 1962

Despite its flaws, Richard Matheson’s “Young Man’s Fancy” remains an unnerving domestic ghost story with the type of telling detail of character which was a hallmark of Matheson’s work. Phyllis Thaxter portrays Virginia Lane Walker, newly married to Alex Walker (Alex Nichol), a man who still clings to his childhood with a fierce affinity. When his regression threatens to destroy the happiness of their marriage, Virginia forces Alex to confront his past, with horrible and unforeseen consequences. The atmosphere is one of suffocating domesticity and the effects are likely to linger in the viewer’s mind.

Read our full review of “Young Man’s Fancy.”

“Death Ship” Season 4, Episode 108
Written by: Richard Matheson, based on his story
Directed by: Don Medford
Original Air Date: February 7, 1963

The only episode on this list which is both a product of the hour-long fourth season and an episode with the trappings of science fiction, Richard Matheson’s “Death Ship” remains a haunting meditation on fate, circumstance, free will, and the horrors of the purgatory we make for ourselves. Jack Klugman plays the commander of a spacecraft who exerts an unwavering control over his crew, played by Ross Matin and Fredrick Beir, even in matters of life and death. When the crew is confronted by evidence of their own deaths, they must make the choice to accept what their senses tell them or deny the evidence to try and find proof that they still live. Their journey into darkness makes for perhaps the finest hour-long drama produced on the series.

Read our full review of “Death Ship.”

“Night Call” Season 5, Episode 139
Written by: Richard Matheson, based on his story
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
Original Air Date: February 7, 1964

Director Jacques Tourneur was known for directing film noir and atmospheric, low-budget horror films such as Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, and Night of the Demon (based on M.R. James’s “Casting the Runes”) when he stepped behind the camera for his sole episode of The Twilight Zone. The director’s work was admired by writer Richard Matheson, who lobbied for Tourneur’s hire to direct Matheson’s adaptation of his 1953 story “Sorry, Right Number” (aka “Long Distance Call”). Matheson’s original story was a tense shocker with a grim ending. For its adaptation on The Twilight Zone Matheson maintained the story’s essential engine of suspense, an invalid old woman receiving strange, indecipherable phone calls, but changed the ending to something more poignant and filtered the story through additional themes of grief, regret, and the hauntings of the past. Gladys Cooper shines as the invalid Elva Keene but the episode largely owes its considerable power to Matheson’s script and Tourneur’s direction.

Read more of our thoughts on “Night Call.”

Additional Episodes:

“Nightmare as a Child” S1, Ep 29
“The Trouble with Templeton” S2, Ep 45
“Twenty-Two” S2, Ep 53
“The Arrival” S3, Ep 67
“The Passersby” S3, Ep 69
“The Grave” S3, Ep 72
“Dead Man’s Shoes” S3, Ep 83
“The Changing of the Guard” S3, Ep 102
“The Thirty-Fathom Grave” S4, Ep 104
“He’s Alive” S4, Ep 106
“The New Exhibit” S4, Ep 115
“In Praise of Pip” S5, Ep 121
“Spur of the Moment” S5, Ep 141

Recommended Reading:

Christmas Spirits, ed. Peter Haining (William Kimbler, 1983)

The Complete Ghost Stories of Charles Dickens, ed. Peter Haining (Franklin Watts, 1983)

Christmas Ghosts, ed. Kathryn Cramer & David G. Hartwell (Arbor House, 1987)

Ghosts for Christmas, ed. Richard Dalby (Michael O’Mara, 1988)

Chillers for Christmas, ed. Richard Dalby (Michael O’Mara, 1989)

Spirits of Christmas, ed. Kathryn Cramer & David G. Hartwell (Wynwood, 1989)

Horror for Christmas, ed. Richard Dalby (Michael O’Mara, 1992)

Shivers for Christmas, ed. Richard Dalby (Michael O’Mara, 1995)

Monday, December 9, 2019

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 17

In which we take a closer look at each issue. Go here for our capsule history of the magazine.
Volume 2, Number 5 (August, 1982)

Cover Art: Ralph Mercer

TZ Publications, Inc.

President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice-Presidents: Leon Garry, Eric Protter
Executive Publisher: S. Edward Orenstein
Publisher: Leon Garry
Associate Publisher and Consulting Editor: Carol Serling
Editorial Director: Eric Protter
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Assistant Editor: Robert Sabat
Contributing Editors: Thomas M. Disch, Ron Goulart
Design Director: Michael Monte
Art Director: Wendy Mansfield
Art Production: Carol Sun, Susan Lindeman
Production Director: Stephen J. Fallon
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Assistant to the Publisher: Judy Borrman
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Mgr.: Chris Grossman
Accounting Ass’t: Annmarie Pistilli
Office Ass’t: Katherine Lys
Circulation Director: William D. Smith
Circulation Manager: Marie Donlon
Northeastern Circ. Mgr: Jacqueline Doyle
Eastern Circ. Mgr: Hank Rosen
West Coast Circ. Mgr: Gary Judy
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Adv. Production Manager: Marina Despotakis
Advertising Representatives: Barney O’Hara & Associates

--In the Twilight Zone: “On the track of Poe . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Ron Goulart
--Other Dimensons: Books by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan
--Other Dimensions: Etc.
--TZ Interview: Douglas Heyes by Ben Herndon
--“The Lighthouse” by Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Bloch
--“MS. Found in a Bottle” by Joseph Cromarty
--“Midtown Bodies” by John Bensink
--“The Chili Connection” by Hal Hill
--Tron, E.T. and Poltergeist: For the kid in you . . . by Ed Naha
--Fun in the Dark by Deborah Wian
--“Slippage” by Michael Kube-McDowell
--“Something Evil” by Barbara Owens
--“The Dreamhouse” by Gezarija Abartis
--“Garage Sale” by Janet Fox
--The Twilight Zone: The Final Season by Marc Scott Zicree
--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Seventeen by Marc Scott Zicree
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Trade-Ins” by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: In September’s TZ

--In the Twilight Zone: “On the track of Poe . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
-Klein highlights the issue’s lead story, “The Lighthouse,” a posthumous collaboration between Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Bloch. “The Lighthouse” began as an untitled fragment left behind at Poe’s death and was completed in 1952 by Bloch (published in 1953). Klein first encountered the tale in the Sam Moskowitz-edited anthology The Man Who Called Himself Poe (1969), via the 1972 Sphere (UK) paperback reprint, A Man Called Poe: Stories in the Vein of Edgar Allan Poe. Klein highlights the issue’s other Poe-inspired tale, the humorous short-short “MS. Found in a Bottle” by Joseph Cromarty. The remainder of the editorial consists of capsule biographies of the issue’s contributors alongside thumbnail images.
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Ron Goulart
-Goulart steps in for regular films reviewer Gahan Wilson. Goulart begins with a nostalgic memoir about the movies he grew up with before moving on to the reviews. Goulart spends most of the column on Cat People (1982) a remake of the 1942 film from producer Val Lewton. The 1982 version was directed by Paul Schrader with Alan Ormsby providing the rewrite of DeWitt Bodeen’s original screenplay. It starred Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O’Toole, and Ed Begley, Jr. Goulart begins by questioning some of the “classic” talk which surrounds the 1942 film while also praising the film’s restraint and use of suggestion in constructing its scares. The 1982 film contains no such restraint and it is this indulgent quality which, in Goulart’s eyes, marks the film as an interesting failure. The film was updated for a 1980s audience with the injection of nudity and gruesome violence. Robert Martin provided a screen preview of Cat People for TZ Magazine in the April, 1982 issue.

-Goulart also briefly considers Deathtrap (1982), directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, adapted by Jay Presson Allen from Ira Levin’s Broadway thriller.

-Sadly, in related news, Gahan Wilson recently passed away on Nov 21 at the age of 89. Wilson is known to readers of this series as the films reviewer of TZ Magazine but of course he was much better known for his macabre and humorous cartoons featured in such magazines as The New Yorker, Playboy, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Wilson was also a novelist, short story writer, essayist, editor, and book illustrator.
--Other Dimensions: Books by T.E.D. Klein
-Regular books reviewer Thomas M. Disch is out so Klein steps in to appraise a clutch of titles. Klein organizes the column under subject headings, the first of which is Reference. Here Klein considers Horror Literature, edited by Marshall B. Tymn, published by Bowker. Between its covers more than 1300 titles are considered by genre experts, including novels, collections, and magazines. The book is primarily designed for the library or the connoisseur. For the novice reader Klein recommends A Reader’s Guide to Fantasy by Baird Searles, Beth Meacham, and Michael Franklin (Avon) and its previously published companion title, A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction. Klein also appraises Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis (Scarecrow Press), Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction, edited by Neil Barron (Bowker), and On Writing Science Fiction: The Editors Strike Back! by George H. Scithers, Darrell Schweitzer, and John M. Ford (Owlswick Press).

-Under the subject heading Old Masters, Klein looks at works related to classic horror and fantasy writers. Among these are The Ghost of the Heaviside Layer and Other Fantasms by Lord Dunsany, illustrated by Tim Kirk (Owlswick Press), Blackwoods Books, a bibliography of the works of Algernon Blackwood by John Robert Colombo (Hounslow Press), the anthology Friendly Aliens from the same editor and publisher, and An F. Marion Crawford Companion by John C. Moran (Greenwood Press). Several volumes related to the English writer M.P. Shiel are also appraised, including Xelucha and Others; Prince Zaleski and Cummings King Monk; The Works of M.P. Shiel – Volume I: Writings; Volumes II and III: The Shielography Updated; The New King; and The Rajah’s Sapphire.

-Under Puzzles Klein recommends The Tolkien Quiz Book by Nigel Robinson and Linda Wilson. Under Poems Klein appraises works from Joseph Payne Brennan, Creep to Death, illustrated by Jane F. Kendall, and L. Sprague de Camp, Heroes and Hobgoblins, illustrated by Tim Kirk. Both volumes were issued by Donald M. Grant. Finally, Klein looks at The Lowbrow Art of Robert Willams under the heading Pictures.

--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan
-Sullivan returns with the final installment in his impressive, wide-ranging survey of macabre classical music, bringing the series up to date. The works he surveys include:

“Black Angels” by George Crumb
“Ancient Voices of Children” by George Crumb
“Night Music I” by George Crumb
“Music for a Summer Evening” by George Crumb
“Lux Aeterna” from Odyssey by George Crumb
“Tashi Plays Takemitsu” by Tashi and Toru Takemitsu
“Time Cycle” by Lukas Foss
“Mysterious Mountain” by Alan Hovhaness
“The Holy City” by Alan Hovhaness
Symphony No. 4 by Alan Hovhaness
“Akrata” and “Pithoprakta” by Xenakis
“De Natura Sonoris” by Penderecki
“Bohor I” by Xenakis
“Organ Works” and “Piano Works” by William Albright

-Sullivan recommends the best available recordings for each selection. Sullivan also offers Updates and Corrections, updating recommendations for recordings of works explored in past segments of the series. Sullivan closes out with recommendations from those who wrote in to the magazine. Musicologist Samuel Moyer recommends the French composers Arthur Honegger and Henri Dutilleaux, and rock musician Greg Yaskovich, from the space rock group Mars Everywhere, recommends Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Gage, and Morton Subotnik.    

--Other Dimenson: Etc.
-The magazine’s newest column explores The Twilight Zone in the popular culture. This installment includes the use of “Twilight Zone” in headlines from the Buffalo News, Peninsula Times Tribune, and New York Post, an installment of the comic strip Duffy, and a news item from the New London Day describing two young boys who attempted to hide in a department store by posing as mannequins (recalling the TZ episode “The After Hours”).
--TZ Interview: Douglas Heyes: Behind the Scenes at ‘The Twilight Zone’
Interview by Ben Herndon
Illustrated with personal photographs and artwork from Heyes

-Douglas Heyes (1919-1993) was perhaps the most celebrated director of The Twilight Zone, having helmed such classic episodes as “The After Hours,” “The Howling Man,” “The Invaders,” “Eye of the Beholder,” and five more during the show’s first two seasons. Heyes was the director brought in to tackle technically challenging episodes and often displayed innovative camera work rarely seen on television. This interview is a treasure for those interested in behind the scenes of The Twilight Zone as Heyes provides detailed accounts of the making of many favorite episodes.  

-Although a small semblance of Heyes’s full writing and directing career is given in a brief biographical section preceding the interview, and in places in the interview itself, the majority of the interview is given over to an in-depth discussion of Heyes’s years working on The Twilight Zone. After a brief exchange in which Heyes discusses his development as a director, the discussion turns to such TZ favorites as “The Howling Man,” “The Chaser,” “Eye of the Beholder,” and “The Invaders,” with attention paid to makeup, special effects, writing, and Heyes’s camera work. Heyes also discusses the creation of Rod Serling’s opening narration segments in such episodes as “Dust” and “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room.” Heyes discusses how he was brought in to steer Boris Karloff’s Thriller toward the type of Gothic horror series suited to its host (a claim disputed in some circles) by revisiting his episodes for the series, including “The Purple Room,” “The Hungry Glass,” featuring TZ favorites William Shatner, Russell Johnson, Elizabeth Allen, and Donna Douglas, and an adaptation of Poe’s “The Premature Burial.”  Heyes also discusses working with his wife, Joanna, on “Eye of the Beholder” and “The Hungry Glass.”

-Heyes’s work on Rod Serling’s Night Gallery is, unfortunately, not discussed in any detail. Heyes wrote and directed the segment “The Dead Man,” based on Fritz Leiber’s story, and wrote the segments “The Housekeeper” and “Brenda,” the latter based on the story by Margaret St. Clair. Nevertheless, this interview remains essential reading for TZ fans.

--“The Lighthouse” by Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Bloch
Illustrated by José Reyes
“Two masters of the macabre in a posthumous collaboration: a tale of isolation, horror, and the human will.”

-A lighthouse keeper narrates his struggles (as well as those of his dog Neptune) to remain sane amid isolation and the storms which batter the structure. To alleviate the strain, he becomes lost in his imagination. He imagines a rose and is astounded to find a rose floating upon the water outside the door to the lighthouse. Believing himself to have created the rose with his imagination, he resolves to create a companion for himself, the perfect woman to ease his loneliness. Although the rose soon transforms into a rotten bit of seaweed, the narrator is determined to see it through. He conjures a beautiful woman during a raging storm but her true essence soon becomes horribly apparent. She is created from the remains of something long dead from the depths of the sea. The narrator is rescued by his dog Neptune before the woman can claim him for the sea.

-“The Lighthouse” began as an untitled story left unfinished at the time of Edgar Allan Poe’s death in 1849. The manuscript pages were scattered, with a portion landing in the hands of a private collector and the remainder with the family of Poe’s literary executor, Rufus Griswold. The fragment was given the title “The Lighthouse” by Professor George E. Woodberry (1855-1930) when Woodberry included the Griswold portion in the appendix of his two-volume Life of Poe (1909) as Fragments of Poe’s Tale: The Lighthouse. The manuscript pages were eventually collated and in 1942 another Poe scholar, Professor Thomas O. Mabbott (1898-1968), published the fragment entire. It was Professor Mabbott who set in motion the posthumous collaboration between Poe and Robert Bloch.
Uncredited illustration
"The Man Who Collected Poe"
Famous Fantastic Mysteries (Oct, 1951)

-Mabbott was an avid reader of horror fiction and was already aware of Robert Bloch when he read Bloch’s story “The Man Who Collected Poe” in the October, 1951 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries. Mabbott was impressed by the story, particularly the way in which Bloch captured the Poe atmosphere and style. “The Man Who Collected Poe” concerns a book collector who chances to meet the foremost collector of the works of Poe. While examining items in the Poe collector’s home library, the visiting book collector is astounded to discover manuscript pages from several Poe stories of which he has never heard. In one of Bloch’s most memorable climactic flourishes, the house is consumed by fire as it is revealed that the Poe collector has brought the great writer back from the grave to create new works of mystery and imagination. “The Man Who Collected Poe” remains one of Bloch’s best, and best-known, tales. It is among his most oft-reprinted stories, appearing in anthologies compiled by such editors as August Derleth, Peter Haining, Helen Hoke, Marvin Kaye, Martin H. Greenberg, and Stefan Dziemianowicz. It was first collected in Bloch’s Bogey Men (1963), while also appearing in The Best of Robert Bloch (1977). The story was memorably adapted by Bloch for the 1967 Amicus horror anthology film Torture Garden, where Jack Palance portrayed the zealous book collector and Peter Cushing the man who collected Poe.
Illustration by Virgil Finlay
"The Lighthouse"
Fantastic (Jan-Feb, 1953)

-Mabbott wrote Bloch inquiring whether Bloch had ever read “The Lighthouse.” Bloch had not so Mabbott sent along a copy of the fragment with the suggestion that Bloch attempt to finish the tale. Bloch stated: “As a lifelong reader and admirer of Poe, I couldn’t resist. And thus it was, more than a century after Poe’s death, that I found myself collaborating with him. In order to do so I had to analyze his style and adapt myself to it.” Bloch completed the tale in 1952 and sold the story to Fantastic, where it appeared in the January-February, 1953 issue, with the cover proclaiming: “Scoop! Discovery! A NEW Edgar Allan Poe Masterpiece.” It was collected in Bloch’s Pleasant Dreams – Nightmares (1960).

-The challenge for the reader becomes finding where Poe left off and Bloch began. T.E.D. Klein is reticent to reveal the seam in his introduction to this issue but the line was revealed by editor Sam Moskowitz when he included the tale in his 1969 anthology The Man Who Called Himself Poe (1969). Poe’s contributions halt after the entry for Jan 3 with the words “. . . seems to me to be chalk.” Bloch begins with the Jan 4 entry of the lighthouse keeper’s fictional journal. Thus, Bloch wrote the majority of the tale, though he seamlessly binds his style to that of Poe’s. Bloch has not been the only writer tempted to finish the tale. Editor Christopher Conlon compiled a volume of noted horror, fantasy, and science fiction writers completing the fragment. Titled Poe’s Lighthouse, the anthology was published in 2006 by Cemetery Dance and includes new works from George Clayton Johnson, Earl Hamner, William F. Nolan, Conlon, and many more. Conlon has contributed significantly to the study of The Twilight Zone and the Southern California Group of Writers. We earlier interviewed Conlon about his work.

--“MS. Found in a Bottle” by Joseph Cromarty
Uncredited illustration
“As a postscript to the previous tale, and with apologies to Mr. Poe, we offer this modern variation on his . . .”

-A man walking along the shore discovers a bottle with a tiny young woman inside. He uncorks the bottle and attempts to free the woman but when she becomes insulting he replaces the cork and throws the bottle into the sea.

-This humorous short-short is a parody of Poe’s 1833 story “MS. Found in a Bottle,” itself considered a satirical take on seafaring tales. Joseph Cromarty contributed a few additional tales to TZ Magazine, including “The Screenplay” in the November, 1982 issue, and “The Neighborhood Assassin” and “Words, Words, Words,” in the January-February, 1984 issue.

--“Midtown Bodies” by John Bensink
Illustrated by E.T. Steadman
“‘Jump!’ ‘Don’t Jump!’ Did it really make any difference?”

-Office workers discover the secret of flying after following the example of a woman who attempted to commit suicide by jumping from an office building window but flew upon the air instead.

-This was a darkly humorous bit of surrealism and satire from a writer T.E.D. Klein describes as “one of the funniest writers I know.” The story was reprinted in the Winter, 1985 issue of Night Cry.

--“The Chili Connection” by Hal Hill
Illustrated by Randy Jones
“Vasco Blanco had a mighty tough palate – but was he a match for Hot Throat, the chili-eating champ of the galaxy?”

-An extraterrestrial named Hot Throat arrives in the Mexican village of Los Fuegos Pequenos to challenge the local chili-eating champion Vasco Blanco. Although Hot Throat’s chili-eating abilities are unmatched, he is unprepared for the effects of the village’s traditional alcoholic drink.

-The story builds a nice setting and collection of odd characters to play out its small struggle between worlds. Hal Hill previously appeared in the September,1981 issue of TZ with “Chameleon Junction.”

--Tron, E.T. and Poltergeist: For the kid in you . . . by Ed Naha
Illustrated with color stills from the films
“Creating cinematic fantasies involving a child’s eye-view of the world can require a lot of grown-up ingenuity – as these three movies prove. Ed Naha reports.”

-Ed Naha reports on three films thematically linked by children-in-peril storylines. Naha interviews the creators behind E.T., Poltergeist, and Tron to examine the ways in which films about children are no longer just for children. Tron, in particular, is given a detailed look, including an examination of then-cutting edge computer generated graphics which defined the look of the film. Steven Spielberg, who directed E.T. and wrote and produced (some say directed) Poltergeist, is front and center in the feature and the color stills accompanying the texts.

--Fun in the Dark by Deborah Wian
Illustrated with Wian’s photographs
“TZ’s roving photographer takes us on a horror-house tour.”

-Deborah Wian, photographer for TZ Magazine, provides a photographic tour of East Coast spook houses, those fairground staples which largely went out with the twentieth century. Wian visits Dante’s Inferno at Astroland on Coney Island, the nearby Spook-A-Rama, The Flying Witch at Playland in Rye, New York, The Haunted Mansion in Longbranch, New Jersey, and The Haunted Castle at the Great Adventure Amusement Park in New Jersey. Wian interviews the creators and operators of the attractions and takes photographs showing the entrances to the attractions, the performers, and much of the garish decorations which give the attractions their charm. With professional haunts being such a big business these days it is interesting to see this older style of spook house where creativity often had to overcome limited space and small budgets.

--“Slippage” by Michael Kube-McDowell
Illustrated by Bruce Waldman
“In which a Mr. Richard Hall discovers that everything grows old and wears away – even the past.”

-Richard Hall finds himself slipping through the cracks of his own past as all evidence that he ever existed, including the memories of his family and friends, slowly disappears.

-This story is an effective take on a well-worn theme. Kube-McDowell manages to imbue the story with an emotional context which lifts the tale above the average offering. TZ writer Charles Beaumont wrote two very effective takes on the theme, the third season episode “Person or Persons Unknown” and his 1955 story “The Vanishing American.” Kube-McDowell is a well-regarded writer of hard science fiction who appears in the pages of TZ with a dark fantasy tale. He is perhaps best known for his novels in the Star Wars universe and in the universe of Isaac Asimov’s Robot City. He is not to be confused with the horror writer Michael McDowell (1950-1999), author of The Elementals and the Blackwater series, and films such as Beetlejuice and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, who also published in the pages of TZ. “Slippage” was adapted for the first season of Tales from the Darkside by writer Mark Durand and director Michael Gornick, starring David Patrick Kelly, originally broadcast November 11, 1984. The story was selected by Karl Edward Wagner for Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series XI (1983).

--“Something Evil” by Barbara Owens
Illustrated by Frances Jetter
“Her world was decaying around her – and revealing a horrible truth.”
The first of three stories under the banner title: 3 Highly Unusual Houses
-A woman’s poisonous personality begins to physically manifest by turning everything in and around her home into a rotting wasteland.

-Owens (1934-2008), an Edgar Award winner for her 1978 story “The Cloud Beneath the Eaves,” returns to the pages of TZ after her story “The New Man” appeared in the March, 1982 issue. Like that earlier story, “Something Evil” is a character study of something ominously supernatural intruding upon a “normal” life. Owens would place more stories in the pages of TZ, appearing with “Portrait: Edward Larabee” in the August, 1986 issue and “Sliding” in the August, 1988 issue.

--“The Dreamhouse” by Gezarija Abartis
Illustrated by D.W. Miller
“The reality they’d shared seemed just another illusion in . . .”

-An unhappy couple on a long drive stops to rest at a beautiful farmhouse which strikes them both as familiar. Once inside the house, however, their secretly longed-for separation becomes real in a form of purgatory.

-“The Dreamhouse” was originally submitted to TZ’s story contest for unpublished writers but Abartis’s entry never reached the judges due to the fact that she became a published writer soon after submitting the story. Abartis placed additional stories with the magazine, including “The Rocking Horse” in the September-October, 1984 issue, and “The Witch of the New Moon” in the April, 1988 issue.

--“Garage Sale” by Janet Fox
Illustrated by Marty Blake
“The serpentine lady sold second-hand clothes, old furniture – and something far more permanent.”

-A city worker takes a trip to the suburbs where she finds herself at a strange garage sale. There she makes the unusual purchase of a husband and is sold another life in the bargain.

-Janet Fox (1940-2009) was a prolific short story writer and poet who began her career in the mid-1960s with stories in fanzines. By the 1970s Fox began appearing in book anthologies and professional magazines. Fox was a prolific writer of horror stories and appeared in the pages of nearly all the horror publications during and after the 1980s horror boom, with stories in Weirdbook, Cemetery Dance, 2 A.M., The Horror Show, Whispers, Fantasy Book, Fantasy Macabre, and many more. “Garage Sale” has been reprinted in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories (1984), 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories (1995), and was collected in A Witch’s Dozen (2003).

--The Twilight Zone: The Final Season by Marc Scott Zicree
-A prefatory essay by Zicree before beginning the fifth and final season of his original series episode guide. The fifth season turned out to be the most up-and-down season in terms of quality, with some episodes becoming classics and others viewed as among the worst of the series. The series switched back to a half-hour program after the fourth season but came to rely too heavily upon past themes and recycled ideas. Zicree explains how CBS came to cancel the series and how Rod Serling turned down an idea to bring the series (sans The Twilight Zone name) to ABC under the title Witches, Warlocks and Werewolves (a title derived from a 1963 book anthology edited by Serling). Ironically, though Serling balked at the idea of doing “a series about ghouls” with ABC at the end of the fifth season, he would soon become involved in just such a series with Night Gallery, though he rather disastrously did not ensure the same type of creative control he possessed on The Twilight Zone.

--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Seventeen by Marc Scott Zicree
-Zicree continues his guide to the original series by providing the cast and crew, opening and closing narrations, and summaries for “In Praise of Pip,” “Steel,” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Trade-Ins” by Rod Serling
-The full shooting script for Rod Serling’s third season episode about a near future in which the elderly can exchange their old bodies for young and beautiful bodies, if they have the money. The episode was directed by Elliot Silverstein and starred Joseph Schildkraut, Alma Platt, Noah Keen, and Ted Marcuse. It originally aired on April 20, 1962. Read our review of “The Trade-Ins.”

--Looking Ahead: In September’s TZ
-Next month looks to be another great issue. Paul Schrader, writer of Taxi Driver and director of Cat People, is interviewed, Thomas M. Disch returns to review books, Ron Goulart reviews three films, William Fulwiler compiles a quiz to test your knowledge of the first lines of famous works of SF and horror, and we have stories by Jere Cunningham, Gordon Linzner, Donald Tyson, John Skipp, and Jonathan Carroll. We also have set visits to Creepshow and Something Wicked This Way Comes, the return of Mike Ashley’s essays on The Essential Writers with a look at the works of Arthur Machen, along with “A Machen Sampler,” and a true rarity, an early radio script from Rod Serling, “A Machine to Answer the Question.” See you next time!