Twilight Zone. Every year on the New Year’s holiday they run a Twilight Zone marathon that I record and enjoy whenever there’s a spare moment to watch an episode. Reading the information about the episode that’s provided, I realized I was about to watch one that elicits a strong memory in me and when I begin to watch it I recall why - it scared the begeezus out of me as a child and now I was about to revisit that emotion some four decades later.
While many of the Twilight Zone shows cause me to have deep philosophical thoughts, very few of them truly frightened me. The exception is the one titled, “Night Call” (1963). The description reads, “Mysterious phone calls haunt a disabled woman.” I knew right away this one is about the woman who is in bed at night and the phone rings. When she answers the call only static greets her. Over the next few days and subsequent calls, she hears a man’s voice: “Hello? Where are you?”
The episode concludes with the old woman discovering that the calls are being made from the grave of a man she was meant to marry, but who, due to her reckless behavior, died in a car accident. “It’s Brian, he is trying to reach me” the woman exclaims upon seeing the evidence of the phone line leading to the man’s grave.
I am telling you, watching that episode again brings forth a real physical response in me all these years later; my heart races, I get inner shakes and I feel anxious. I am once again that little girl who was so impressionable.
All my life I have carried an irrational anxiousness about phone calls where people are either pranking me (using someone else’s name and I am to guess who it is) or the rare pervert on the other line. My reaction is to hang up quickly. There is just something about the very personal nature of a call, me holding the receiver and the intimacy of hearing another’s voice in my ear. Is this the result of that Twilight Zone episode? Does a show have that much power to traumatize someone so that it lasts with them for a lifetime? After my recent experience revisiting the show that frightened me so long ago, I’d have to say yes.
That’s why it frustrates me so much when I hear about young children being allowed to watch movies and television shows that are clearly not meant for their age group, who have parents that do not realize the long-term consequences of the images and storylines such young minds process.
How about you? Did you watch TheTwilight Zone and do you recall any episode that stands out in your mind, any that have affected you as profoundly as this one did me?
I need to go watch a Disney film now to take my mind away from the old woman alone in her bed at night and the ringing of the phone and the haunting voice of the long-dead man. Yes, I think a showing of Cinderella or The Lady and the Tramp is in order to restore my balance. And for the time being I won’t be answering the phone late at night, so don’t call me!