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SYFY WIRE The Twilight Zone

How One Writer's Real-Life Fears Inspired an Early Twilight Zone Episode

Writer Charles Beaumont poured his own fears into his first Twilight Zone episode.

By Matthew Jackson
Maya stands on stage and points at Edward Hall in The Twilight Zone.

When The Twilight Zone (airing regularly on SYFY) began, it was very much Rod Serling's show. The legendary creator and narrator of the series also served as writer for the first eight episodes of the show to make it to air, and continued to script much of the first season. Eventually, though, Serling knew he'd have to bring in other voices to keep the show vital, and that meant more writers stepping in to make The Twilight Zone possible.

One of those writers, beginning with Episode 9 of the show's first season, was genre writer Charles Beaumont, who poured some of his own unique fears into his first Twilight Zone episode.

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How Writer Charles Beaumont Poured His Own Fears into The Twilight Zone

"Perchance to Dream," which arrived on TV in November of 1959, was adapted by Beaumont from his own short story of the same name, and importantly, it marked the first time in the series that another writer took over scripting duties from Serling. The episode follows a troubled man (Richard Conte) who arrives at a psychiatrist's office with a terrifying dilemma. He's dreaming in serialized chapters, and in his dreams a woman is luring him into an amusement park, where she aims to scare him to death by overwhelming his weak heart. The man is convinced that if he keeps dreaming in this way, he will die, but he also knows that if he stays awake, he will die. It all builds to a typically Twilight Zone conclusion, and it turns out, the whole thing was inspired by Beaumont's own concerns.

According to fellow genre writer William F. Nolan, a longtime friend of Beaumont's, Beaumont himself was quite frightened and affected by amusement parks, from a strange incident at a funhouse in his 20s to a lifelong fear of roller coasters. Even more profound than that connection to the story, though, was Beaumont's own thoughts on dreams, as Nolan explained in The Twilight Zone Companion.

"He was always frightened of dreams," Nolan said of Beaumont. "He always felt that dreams and reality impinged on each other, and this [episode] is just another version of his own fear. He was also terrified of roller coasters. He would ride a roller coaster but he would always be terrified while he was doing it and he would say afterwards that it was the last time he'd ever ride one."

So, the next time you see "Perchance to Dream," know that it came from the writer's own life, and see how that knowledge affects your own dreams.

The Twilight Zone airs every week on SYFY. Check the Schedule for more details.

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