Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959, and over the course of its five-year run would churn out 156 episodes and cement itself as a classic of science fiction television. Its influence would be felt in any number of shows and movies that would follow -- from The Walking Dead to Stranger Things -- and beyond, becoming one of the enduring pop culture staples of its era. This Day in Twilight Zone History presents key commemorative facts about the greatest science fiction/fantasy television series of all time, presented by author Steven Jay Rubin, whose latest book is The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia (arriving this October). Whether it’s a key performer’s birth or death, the date an episode debuted, or any other related fact, This Day in Twilight Zone History presents a unique aspect of the rich history of this television series and the extraordinary team that created it.
Today, August 15, This Day in Twilight Zone History wishes a happy birthday to actress Janice Rule, who was born on this day in 1931 and who starred in the very creepy episode “Nightmare as a Child.” One of the reasons that writer/creator Rod Serling turned to the genre of science fiction/fantasy to tell his stories is that it allowed him the freedom to tackle difficult subjects that were taboo on the small screen in the 1950s – in this case, child molestation. If he hadn’t wrapped “Nightmare as a Child” in a ghostly framework, this probably would have never aired. Serling gave Rule the character name Helen Foley -- which was the name of his favorite junior high school English teacher back in Binghamton, New York. Rule, a busy working actress in film and TV, cut her teeth on live television in New York, and later married actor Ben Gazzara (Run For Your Life). She plays a very subdued woman in this episode, playing well with young Terry Burnham, who turns out to be ... well, no spoilers today.