“Rod Serling’s Wax Museum”
As Rod Serling might have put it, file it under “W” for “What might have been.”
Soon after Twilight Zone’s five-year run on CBS ended in 1964, Serling’s agent tried to sell the show to another network. CBS owned the rights to the name “Twilight Zone,” though, so when ABC’s Tom Moore expressed interest, they had to reframe the concept. Moore wanted to call it “Witches, Warlocks and Werewolves,” after a 1963 anthology of short horror stories edited by Serling.
According to Marc Scott Zicree’s “Twilight Zone Companion,” though, the former Zone host was less than thrilled with this idea. His counter-suggestion: a series called “Rod Serling’s Wax Museum.” It would open with a shot of Boldt Castle on Heart Island, then move inside, where Serling would be standing next to a shrouded wax figure. He’d then say:
A hearty welcome to my wax museum. For your entertainment and edification, we offer you stories of the weird, the wild, and the wondrous; stories that are told to the accompaniment of distant banging shutters, an invisible creaking door, an errant wailing wind that comes from the dark outside. These are stories that involve the citizenry of the night. In short, this museum is dedicated to … goose flesh, bristled hair and dry mouths.
Then Serling would uncover the wax figure and begin his introduction of that episode’s story.
But as Zicree goes on to explain, neither man would budge. “We have what appears to be a considerable difference of opinion,” Serling told Daily Variety. “I don’t mind my show being supernatural, but I don’t want to be hooked into a graveyard every week.”
Serling would revive this format a few years later, turning it into an art museum, rather than a wax museum. And he’d get the series he wanted — for a while, at least.
Considering the popularity of the paintings that would adorn Night Gallery, perhaps it’s just as well that Serling’s initial concept didn’t work out. But imagine if Moore had been swayed. Would Rod Serling, and not Vincent Price, now be pop culture’s most famous fictional wax-museum curator?
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!