Saturday, January 2, 2010

Don't Call Me! Why the Twilight Zone Makes Me Afraid of My Telephone.

I love the old television series, the 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!


L.T. Elliot said...

I haven't really watched the Twlight Zone but I remember watching a horror movie about paranormal things regarding electricity, video, phones, and recording devices. I couldn't turn on my car radio for a week. The static scared the hell out of me!

Vegas Linda Lou said...

I used to love The Twilight Zone when I was a kid! Every one scared the crap out of me, but I can't remember one in particular. I can't watch it now--I live by myself and wouldn't want to get too scared!

Jack Matthews said...

I remember the Twilight Zone. Really scary. I remember the episode you write about. Long-term consequences do occur if exposed to children, those not ready. Agreed. Books affected me when I was young. I still remember "Call of the Wild," "White Fang," and "Old Yeller" (sp.). I recall where I was when I read those. Spooked me, in a way, I guess. As to movies, I recall my mother covering up my eyes at certain scenes in the film, "Twelve O'Clock High," one of my favorites.

By all means, let's watch something light to get our minds going in another direction. I like SNL episodes to get me going in a lighter direction.

Take care, Lisa.


Jeanie said...

Ooh, I remember some of those old telephone episodes of Twilight Zone. I watched a lot of Twilight Zone, but I think it was a result of having only one TV and my brother being in charge of that. I am not a big fan of horror movies, but Rod Serling made that show good.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I, too, like Twilight -- but not AT Twilight. During the day!

Have a happy new year all year long!

ajgallion said...

Funny, but not funny! For a second I thought you were going to refer to the Twilight Zone episode with the little boy whose grandma calls him from -- beyond. Don't feel bad, I still get the creeps from watching old Tales from the Darkside episodes.

Lisa Gioia-Acres said...

Ohhhh, ajgallion, that one is creepy, too. What a great show Twilight Zone was and continues to be.

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