The classic television show The Twilight Zone had many different takes on what happens to you after you die. The series also had nearly a half dozen different incarnations of Satan as played by various actors. Interestingly enough, there were angels but no specific personification of God. To get the many different takes of Twilight Zone writers on what happens to you after you die, you can watch over a hundred episodes of the series. You can also simply read this list. However, in our humble opinion, we would encourage you to do both.
10. A Nice Place To Visit
In A Nice Place to Visit, a small time hood named ‘Rocky’ Valentine dies in the commission of a robbery. He is introduced to the afterlife by a white haired old gentleman named Mr. Pip. At first, Valentine believes that he has gone to Heaven where all of his dreams come true. The catch is that Valentine can’t stand an environment with no risk or danger. When he confronts Mr. Pip on this, Mr. Pip informs Valentine that there was no assurance this was Heaven at all. This vision of the afterlife reveals that Hell can take many forms beyond simply burning for eternity. Sebastian Cabot (who played Mr. Pip ) had his hair dyed white for the episode to look older. Cabot’s voice will also sound familiar as Cabot was the voice of Bagheera in Disney’s The Jungle Book as well as The Narrator in several Winnie The Pooh cartoons.
9. Judgment Night
Judgment Night is the story of the repeating horror of Carl Lasner. Lasner is forced to live the same night over and over again aboard a British ship during World War 2. Presumably, every night Lasner comes to the realization that he is going to drown in a sinking ship. The main reason that Lasner must relive this night over and over again is because Lasner was actually the U-Boat Captain who sunk the British vessel. Valentine had the eternal realization that he was trapped and could not leave. Lasner differs in that he has to figure out this lesson as well as the ensuing horror every night for eternity. Incredibly, the actor who played Carl Lasner (Nehemiah Persoff) is still alive at 92 years old.
8. Death Ship
Death Ship is interesting in the implication that it proposes the theory that we have some control over how we enter the afterlife. Death Ship stars the always fantastic Jack Klugman as Captain Paul Ross. As Ross, Klugman keeps repeating the same circumstances the lead to the crash of his spaceship repeatedly. After every crash, Ross can either simply accept the inevitable or try again and get the same result. Ross has the power to release his crew to their own respective fates. He continually chooses not to in an attempt to cheat death. There is hope though that eventually Ross will allow his crew to go on and pass over into the true after life. Unlike A Nice Place To Visit and Judgment Night, the trap seems entirely set by the will of one of the spirits which is a fascinating concept.
7. Night Call
Night Call plays expertly on both the hopes and fears associated with the coming specter of death. An elderly woman played by veteran actress Gladys Cooper (she was Mrs. Higgins in My Fair Lady) gets repeated unintelligible calls at night. She pleads for the calls to stop before learning they are coming from the grave of a boyfriend who died in a crash many years ago. Upon realization, she looks forward to the next call but is informed that call will be the last. After all, she said to stop calling. People tend to be both terrified of the great beyond as well as long to hear from lost loved ones. In Night Call, Twilight Zone straddles the thin line between those two basic human emotions.
6. A Game of Pool
A Game of Pool is a Twilight Zone classic which was actually done in both the 1960s as well as the 1980s versions of the show. In both versions, upcoming pool player Jesse Cardiff challenges deceased legend Fats Brown to a match. Brown accepts if Cardiff is willing to bet his life. Interestingly, the 1980s version is the one which features the original ending. In that ending, Fats wins and tells Jesse that he will die in obscurity rather than living forever in legend. In the Jack Klugman/Jonathan Winters version, Cardiff wins but must answer the challenge of everyone who aspires to beat him as Fats did. As such, you are free to judge which version you believe is better or a more fitting end for Jesse Cardiff.
5. A Passage For Trumpet
In A Passage for Trumpet, Jack Klugman plays Joey Crown. Do you ever notice how confronting death in the Twilight Zone seems to often involve Jack Klugman? Crown is a trumpet player who is also given to drinking as well as many other human frailties. After Crown pawns his trumpet and is hit by a bus, Crown faces a life and death decision given to him by an angel. Crown comes back. He is given some money by the bus driver. Crown uses the money to get his trumpet back. At the end of the episode, Crown meets a girl. It is not the greatest life ahead for Crown but there does appear to be a life ahead for him. In this one at least, Klugman does play a character who manages to live. The episode also implies that any life is infinitely better than the uncertainty of a Shadow World in the great beyond.
4. The Passerby
The Passerby is a Civil War episode in which a woman sees soldiers passing by her house on a worn trail. The woman sees a soldier from the opposing army which she tries to shoot. Eventually, she sees her own husband who moves on down the road without her. Finally, the woman sees Abraham Lincoln and realizes that the road has been ferrying spirits. She is a spirit herself and died of a fever. It is never actually show where the road led or whether or not there is a fork on down the road. The main message of the episode is that we all must eventually move on and leave attachments behind. Those attachments can not only mean people and possessions but also attitudes and possibly prejudices in order to ascend to another level.
3. A Stop At Willoughby
A Stop At Willoughby features a man who is quite frankly disgusted as well as beaten down by life. He has a wife at home who hen pecks him and does not seem to do much of anything. He has a job in which his boss is continually on him for excessive production. The only joy he seems to experience is work related train rides where he can relax. Often, the man seems to dream about a place called Willoughby. Willoughby is a small town where people are pleasant and life seems just a little bit easier. Finally, he just gets off at the stop at Willoughby. The man seems legitimately happy in this paradise. At the end, Willoughby is revealed to be the named of the funeral home which the man’s body is carted off to. At his funeral, people will probably play lip service to the idea that he is in a better place. Little do they know, that patch of Heaven had a name like Willoughby.
2. The Hunt
No one really knows what sort of form an afterlife will take. However, The Hunt postulates that we might well find ourselves in a familiar surrounding. It is certainly true for Hyder Simpson in the Twilight Zone episode The Hunt. Hyder drowns with his dog (Rip) and must face two different fence posts on whether to enter Heaven or Hell. The first man at the post tells Hyder that Rip is not allowed. The second man explains that the first place was the gates of Hell. The angel tells Hyder that a man ‘will walk into Hell with both eyes open’ but its harder to fool a dog. With that, Hyder enters a Heaven which has square dances and raccoon hunting. The Hunt was one of The Twilight Zone’s first real forays into a country setting. The episode was written by Earl Hamner Jr. Hamner would go on to create as well as oversee another classic in American television – The Waltons.
1. Nothing In The Dark
Gladys Cooper was one of very few women to make multiple appearances on the Twilight Zone. Nothing In the Dark is a stellar classic on several levels. First of all, the writing allows you to have a real sci-fi feel even though you are essentially watching two actors on a single room stage. Cooper plays an old woman trying to avoid death as well as claiming that she can see Death personified. How does Death actually appear? He appears as a young Robert Redford in a cop’s uniform. You can tell that this is a very special prize for Death as he is greeting a worthy opponent. Death comes softly with the slightest touch of a friendly hand. The episode was written by George Clayton Johnson who also penned the Twilight Zone classics A Game of Pool and Kick the Can. The Harry Potter fable about the Deathly Hallows seems to be reminiscent of Nothing In the Dark when Death greets the holder of the invisibility cloak as an old friend.