For the most part, many people are familiar with The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling’s mysterious intros, the dramatic music, and that oh so catchy theme song have been cemented into my brain for as long as I can remember. Even if you haven’t watched the series, you have probably come across it at one point in time. The Twilight Zone is usually associated with being more of a science fiction anthology, but there are some episodes that are downright scary. These are my top ten scariest episodes of The Twilight Zone—not in any particular order because they are all equally scary to me!
1. Mirror Image
This is one of the episodes I remember watching when I was younger that really creeped me out, and it is because of this episode that I am terrified of the idea of doppelgängers. A woman gets increasingly frustrated at a train station when the people around make claims about her actions that she is certain are untrue. She gets more and more flustered and begins to question her sanity when she sees herself—her doppelganger—at the train station. I’m going to spoil this one for you because what really makes this one creepy is the smirk on her doppelgänger’s face as she boards the train, and the woman is taken to the hospital. That smirk still haunts my dreams until this day!
2. The Hitchhiker
A woman driving across the country from New York to California encounters a hitchhiker who appears to be following her along the way. Now, I’ve seen creepier looking hitchhikers, but there is something especially eerie about this specific one. He wears a simple suit and hat, yet he wears a subtle smile on his face that just gives you the chills. The suspense build up is incredible, as we hear Nan’s inner dialogue expressing how she is falling further and further into insanity.
3. The After Hours
If you have seen this episode, it is very possible that you have never been able to look at a mannequin the same way again. It follows a young woman named Marsha who encounters some very bizarre experiences as she makes her way through a department store. Looking for a gold thimble, she is taken up to the ninth floor—which is later revealed does not exist! She later passes out from fear when she discovers a mannequin that looks exactly like the saleswoman who sold her the thimble. She ends up waking up after the store has been closed, and finds herself locked in. While in the store, it appears as though the mannequins are talking to her. When she returns to the ninth floor, she comes into contact with the saleswoman and the other mannequins step down from their posts and come to life! I won’t say more because I don’t want to give away the ending, but it is extremely creepy and ultimately one of my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone!
4. Twenty Two
A woman suffers from a recurring dream while being treated in the hospital. She wakes up, reaches for a glass of water that falls to the floor and shatters, hears footsteps outside of her room which lead her to an elevator, she takes the elevator down to the basement to room twenty-two, where a nurse tells her in a rather creepy tone, “Room for one more, honey.” Her doctor assures her that she should not worry, for it is only a dream. However, when speaking to a nurse, he questions how she would know about room twenty-two in the basement—which is actually the morgue—if she had never been there. The story follows the young woman after she leaves the hospital, but I won’t spoil this one. What makes it especially creepy is for me was the lighting, and the way it was shot. It’s very gritty, and grim-looking. The blood-curdling scream that she releases multiple times throughout the episode also contributes to its creepiness!
5. Long Distance Call
This episode follows a little boy as he deals with the death of his grandmother, who he was very close to. Before her death, she gifted him a toy telephone on his birthday, and promises him that he will always be able to talk to her through that telephone. Things take a turn for the worse when the little boy claims to actually be talking to his diseased grandmother, and then starts basically attempting suicide so that they can be together. This subject matter in this episode is really dark, even for The Twilight Zone. The grandmother is pretty creepy on her own as well. She speaks slowly in a deep, raspy tone, and seems to hate her daughter-in-law. On her death bed she even goes so far as to claim that her son was taken from her by a woman, and that little Billy has become her new son. I’ll leave it to you to figure out whether Billy was actually talking to his dead grandma, or just finding a way to cope with her death, but overall it was a really creepy episode.
6. The Dummy
This episode was particularly creepy to me because ventriloquist dummies alone are kinda freaky. Basically, it follows a ventriloquist, Jerry, who is convinced that his dummy, Willie, is alive. There is a very suspenseful scene in which Willie taunts Jerry with his laughter as he leaves the nightclub where he performs. Willie’s laughter gets louder and more intense as Jerry returns to his dressing room to confront Willie. This laugh has literally scarred me for life, as it transforms from light-hearted chuckling to full on maniacal cackling. Of course, there is a shocking twist at the end, but I won’t spoil it.
There is another episode about a ventriloquist dummy called, “Caesar and Me.” It wasn’t as scary as “The Dummy” but it still packs a punch and is definitely worth watching if you enjoyed the story of Willie and Jerry!
7. The New Exhibit
I do not want to give away too much for this episode, because, of course, there is an amazing twist at the end that really makes “The New Exhibit” amazing and terrifying. It follows a man as he looks after the wax figures of infamous murderers in history. When people around him start dying, he begins to suspect that the figures have come to life to murder again! If you’ve ever been to a wax museum, you can probably understand why this concept is so scary. Sure, there are some wax figures that look extremely fake, but then there are the few that really seem to capture the image of their human counterparts. Unfortunately this episode is not on Netflix, but it is definitely worth watching if you get the opportunity to because it’s fairly terrifying!
8. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
We all know that being on an airplane is stressful, especially during a storm, especially after a nervous breakdown, and especially when you see a creature on the wing! We watch Bob helplessly claim that there is a gremlin on the wing, but no one seems to believe him. The part that actually made me jump was when he looked out the window only to see the gremlin up close with its face pressed against the glass. Overall, the gremlin creature isn’t too scary looking, and actually resembles a guy in what looks like a sheep costume with bad hair and a pretty ugly mug, but it definitely shocks you when you first see it. They actually remade this episode for the Twilight Zone movie, and the creature is slightly scarier, but ultimately the original takes the cake.
9. Living Doll
This episode was really creepy because it featured a talking doll. Now, don’t confuse Talking Tina with Chucky, she’s more passive aggressive than blunt and violet. Talking Tina taunts her owner’s stepfather by telling him that she hates him and that he’ll be sorry amongst other insults. What makes it really creepy is that she is one of those dolls with the real looking eyes and a permanent smile carved into her face. She also does that eerie little girl laugh, which is cute on a little girl but horrifying coming from a doll. Not to mention the fact that she is indestructible! This guy tries to saw her head off and she walks away without a scratch.
10. Night Call
This episode is the reason that I do not answer blocked calls! An older woman receives anonymous calls in the middle of the night that begin as static, but escalates into moaning, then the voice of a man speaking to her. The old woman is terrified and tells the caller to leave her alone. When the phone company traces the call, she learns that the calls are coming from phone line that had fallen into a cemetery. She visits the cemetery and is shocked to see which grave the line has fallen onto! I won’t ruin it too much for you, but there is definitely a twist and the episode ends up going from eerie to just downright sad.
Well by now it’s probably safe to say that watching The Twilight Zone produced a lot of my childhood fears; doppelgangers, mannequins, talking dolls and dummies, wax figures, airplanes, talking to people beyond the grave through creepy phone calls, hitchhikers, etc. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little trip down memory lane, as we traveled beyond another dimension, moving into a land of both shadow and substance, for you’ve just crossed over into… the Twilight Zone! (Yes, I’m aware that that was incredibly cheesy, but you knew it was coming.)
Post in the comments below to let me know if there are any particularly horrifying episodes of The Twilight Zone that you feel I might have left out! Most of the episodes are on Netflix as well if you are feeling a little nostalgic!