Bookshelf: Chilling Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone

Chilling Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone
First Published in August of 1965
Published by Tempo Books

This short story anthology, which cost fifty cents when it was published in 1965 as a paperback, contains ten short stories written (or adapted) by Walter B. Gibson. They were originally published in 1963 by Grosset & Dunlap as Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, a hardcover book that included an additional three stories and sold for $3.95. A second hardcover volume, titled Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Revisited, was published in 1964 and also later released as a paperback. A 1984 omnibus collection reprinted both anthologies, but I’m not sure if it included all of the short stories from the hardcover editions or those from the paperback versions.

The forward claims that the stories included in the anthology are “all newly written and original in treatment,” but three are adaptations of episodes from The Twilight Zone: “Back There” (originally broadcast January 13th, 1961), “Judgment Night” (originally broadcast December 4th, 1959) and “King Nine Will Not Return” (titled “Return from Oblivion” in the anthology, originally broadcast September 30th, 1960). The other seven are indeed original tales of horror and the occult. As the forward explains:

To give them authenticity, [the stories] have been based in varying degree upon well-recorded incident or experiences in which many persons have sincerely and implicitly believed; particularly those who participate in weird events. As a result, these tales combine the elements of actuality and fantasy, putting them in that bourne where they so rightfully belong–The Twilight Zone.

[...]

Such is the impact of a full-fledged ghostly experience, the sort of “shocker” that turns a doubter into a believer. While such adventures may not be too happy in real–or unreal– life, one thing is certain. It is fun to read about them, as you will find out when you delve into the pages that follow.

Frankly, I think most of these stories focus far too heavily on the horror, something The Twilight Zone rarely did. There are lots and lots of ghosts (two of the stories even have the word ghost in the title) and off the top of my head I can only recall one episode of The Twilight Zone that involved ghosts (“The Changing of the Guard,” originally broadcast June 1st, 1962).

Chilling Stories from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone
Chilling Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Cover – Copyright Tempo Books

Here are the titles of the ten stories:

  • “The Ghost of Ticonderoga”
  • “Back There” (adaptation)
  • “Judgment Night” (adaptation)
  • “The Curse of Seven Towers”
  • “The Avenging Ghost”
  • “Return from Oblivion” (adaptation)
  • “The House on the Square”
  • “Death’s Masquerade”
  • “The Riddle of the Crypt”
  • “Dead Man’s Chest”

The first story, “The Ghost of Ticonderoga,” tells the tale of Donald Campbell, Laird of Inverawe in Scotland, who hides the killer of his cousin and in turn is haunted three times by the ghost of said cousin, who warns him not to shield the murderer. But Inverawe made a promise to the man before learning about his cousin’s death and doesn’t listen to the ghost. So, the ghost warns Inverawe that the two shall meet again at Ticonderoga where he shall pay. Years later, during the French and Indian War, Inverawe is fighting with the British in America and is among those charged with taking Fort Carillon (the 1758 Battle of Ticonderoga). He is wounded in the fighting and meets his cousin’s ghost again before dying. The curse has been fulfilled. The story, unfortunately, was very predictable.

Another story, “The Curse of Seven Towers,” deals with a castle that is said to be haunted by a bunch of ghosts and a curse that follows the family that owns the castle. The current owner has sold the castle and is throwing one last party. When a few of the guests see a ghost or two, the owner gets really, really scared; he thinks the curse is about to kill him. It turns out one of the guests is a cousin who actually has a better claim to the castle and is the true owner. While being shown around, the guest is killed and the curse fulfilled, leaving the owner free and clear. This wasn’t a predictable story but neither was it very engaging.

Chilling Stories from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone
Chilling Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Back Cover – Copyright Tempo Books

I’m not going to discuss the other stories, in case anyone wants to track down a copy of the book and read them. Again, these don’t fit very well into The Twilight Zone mold and I can’t see fans of the series enjoying them. Interestingly, the author of these short stories — Walter B. Gibson — is much better known as the creator of The Shadow (aka Lamont Cranston), the long-running radio and pulp hero of the 1930s and 1940s.

4 Comments

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    I have a copy of this somewhere. Gibson treated the concept of “THE TWILIGHT ZONE” as if it were just an anthology of ghost and “spooky” stories. All of his original tales have something to do with spectres and “hauntings”. There was one other Gibson adaptation of a Serling teleplay I recall reading in the original 1963 hardcover edition: “The Man In the Bottle” [10/7/60], which involved a genie, not a ghost {he couldn’t turn THAT into a “ghostly tale”!}.

    “Back There” is almost the same story as in Serling’s teleplay, but Gibson suggests “ghostly forces” were at work sending Peter Corrigan back in time to 1865 Washington to witness Lincoln’s assassination- and instead of discovering the handkerchief with the initials “J.W.B.” stitched into it (as Russell Johnson did at the end of the TV version), Corrigan discovers in his possession, while in a taxi, an unused ticket to Ford’s Theater for the April 14, 1865 performance of “Our American Cousin”..the one Lincoln attended when he was shot {“a one of a kind collector’s item”, Gibson notes}. Corrigan tears it up and lets the pieces flutter into the Potomac….

    In the case of “Judgment Night”, it’s basically the same as it unfolded in the original TV episode, but Gibson added an epilogue, twenty years later (1962): apparently, in his retelling, the SOLE survivor of the “S.S. Queen Of Glasgow” was Barbara Stanley [played by Deidre Owens in the episode], who’s cruising on a luxury liner passing the area where the “Queen Of Glasgow” and the German U-boat that sunk it both perished. A man stands next to her on deck, agreeing it was a shame the “Queen Of Glasgow” went down, and muses on the fate of the German sub with Captain Lanser and his crew. Then, Ms. Stanley wonders how HE could have known about the fate of the sub if there were no survivors…? The man, who identified himself to Ms. Stanley as Lt. Mueller [who warned Lanser his U-boat and the crew were cursed because they sunk the boat, and that they'd relive the sinking of the "Queen Of Glasgow" again and again, into eternity]…vanishes!

    Keep in mind that these stories were, as noted on the cover, “especially written for young people”. So they couldn’t be truly frightening, or as “intriguing” as the TV series. And, there had to be some “historical background” mentioned for the kids’ edification {the half-finished Washington Monument in 1865 is mentioned in “Back There”; Serling wouldn’t have thought of adding this piece of “historic trivia” in his teleplay}. So, if you’re looking for the “Twilight Zone” experience, you won’t find much of it in this book.

  • HCH says:

    There were quite a few ZONE episodes featuring ghosts, among them DEATHS-HEAD REVISITED, THE TROUBLE WITH TEMPLETON, THE PASSERSBY, THE HITCH-HIKER and of course A GAME OF POOL, in which the ghost of Fats Brown appears.

  • RGJ says:

    HCH, I can’t believe I forgot “The Hitch-Hiker,” one of my favorite episodes. And Barry, I can’t believe I didn’t mention that the stories were written for younger folks in my review.

  • I really like twilight! I might sit and watch all day long if I did not have school..or life to stay me from doing it! lol Amazing Just Amazing!

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