The Twilight Zone is an amazingly diverse program that offers stories of almost every conceivable theme and setting within the overall structure of intelligent modern fantasy. One area in which The Twilight Zone excelled was in the story of terror, exploring the darkest aspects of human existence in myriad ways. To celebrate the Halloween season, we’re counting down the 31 most frightening and unsettling moments from The Twilight Zone, one for each day of October. We’ll be revisiting some of the episodes we’ve already covered and looking ahead to episodes from the final three seasons of the series. -JP
15. Room for One More, from “Twenty Two,” season two, episode 53
Written by Rod Serling, directed by Jack Smight, starring Barbara Nichols, Fredd Wayne, Jonathan Harris
Rod Serling’s “Twenty Two” is an episode which relies on the haunting refrain “room for one more,” along with moments of striking visual imagery, to deliver a compact and haunting story of premonition. Like Serling’s other stories of women on the verge of breakdowns being haunted and pursued, “Twenty Two” forms around a familiar motif, a recurring dream, to engage the viewer in piecing together clues to reveal a larger picture of the woman’s plight. The most effective scenes in the episode are those within the dream, in which a woman finds herself in a cavernous lower floor of a hospital. There she finds herself before the doors to the hospital’s morgue unit. The nurse that emerges from the doors to ominously intone “room for one more” is played to chilling perfection by Arline Sax (better known as Arlene Martel). Though “Twenty Two” is one of six episodes shot on videotape (a largely disastrous attempt to lower production costs), little of that format detracts from the episodes effectiveness. A unique twist on this familiar story type is that, in “Twenty Two,” the woman survives through the ordeal relatively unscathed, unlike similar characters in “The After Hours” (reverted back to a mannequin), “The Hitch-Hiker” (recognition of death), or “Mirror Image” (committed to an insane asylum). “Twenty Two,” though widely familiar as a story by the time Serling adapted it for the series, still manages to provide the eerie thrills of a traditional ghost story.
-“Twenty Two” is credited as being based upon an anecdote in Bennett Cerf’s 1944 anthology Famous Ghost Stories (Modern Library). The true source is the 1906 short story “The Bus-Conductor” by E.F. Benson. Benson wrote numerous ghost stories, a handful of which are acknowledged classics. To cause further confusion, “The Bus-Conductor” is not included in the Cerf anthology. The Benson story which is included is the 1904 story “The Man Who Went Too Far.” “The Bus-Conductor” has been reprinted and adapted so often since its initial publication (it has appeared in virtually every fictional medium) that the source of the story often becomes lost on those adapting it. Benson’s story was adapted for the excellent 1945 horror anthology film Dead of Night, as well as included, sans credit, as a story in Alvin Schwartz’s popular 1981 collection of folktales, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Read our full coverage of “Twenty Two” here.