False Alarm at a Funhouse

To say it takes a writer with a fertile imagination to write a Twilight Zone is an understatement. Rod Serling and others could spin a spellbinding story from remarkably ordinary circumstances.

Take a trip to a funhouse. Ever been through one? Nearly everyone has. But for Charles Beaumont, the writer of nearly two dozen Twilight Zone episodes, it wasn’t the same experience it is for the rest of us.Perchance to Dream Funhouse TicketBooth

I’ve always loved Beaumont’s “Perchance to Dream”. It’s such an enjoyably frightening TZ that I’ve written not one, but two previous blog posts about it. And with Halloween approaching, I wanted share one of my favorite behind-the-scenes stories about Beaumont, as related by Marc Scott Zicree

In “Perchance to Dream,” the dominant image is that of the seductive and frightening nightmare world of the amusement park, an image that was more than an expedient construct to its creator. For Charles Beaumont, both dreams and amusement parks had potent personal meaning. He shared with the lead character of “Perchance” the trait of dreaming in chapters.

“He was always frightened of dreams,” William F. Nolan observes. “He always felt that dreams and reality impinged on each other, and this is just another version of his own fear. He was also terrified of roller coasters. He would ride a roller coaster but he would be terrified while he was doing it and he would always say afterwards that it was the last time he’d ever ride one.”Perchance to Dream Funhouse

Nolan recalls an incident that occurred several years prior to the writing of “Perchance to Dream” that well illustrates the mixture of attraction and horror that amusement parks held for Beaumont.

“We went down to Pacific Ocean Park to go through the funhouse,” he explains. “We both loved amusement parks as kids so we thought, look, we were in our twenties, we haven’t gone through a funhouse for years, let’s just go through the old funhouse. Well, the guy at the funhouse gate was a young punk kid wearing a leather jacket and cleaning his fingernails with a switchblade knife, and he kind of gave us a look.

Perchance to Dream Maya Shadow“About ten minutes later, we were in the middle of the funhouse, groping our way along one of these corridors, and Chuck said, ‘I think that kid’s in here with us.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about? What kid, Chuck?’ ‘The kid with the knife,’ he said, ‘I just think he’s in here with us. I’ve got a feeling that that leather-jacketed son-of-a-bitch with the knife is in here with us.’ I said, ‘Oh, come on, Chuck. He’s out there. He’s got to take the tickets.’

He said, ‘Who knows the funhouse better than that kid? He’s been here by day and by night, he’s been here when the lights were on. He could kill us so quick in the dark. How many bodies have been washed under the pier?’ — We were on the pier and we could hear the water lapping — ‘How many trapdoors have opened and how many people have gone in one end of this funhouse and never come out the other?’Perchance to Dream Skull

I said, ‘I guess that kid could be in here all right.’ ‘Did you see the look he gave me? He didn’t like me,’ he said. ‘He’d put me away like that!’ And he had me convinced that that kid was in there with the knife, and by the time he had finished talking we were running through the funhouse to try and get out before the kid could get us. And I said, ‘Here, this way, Chuck, this way!’ And he’d say, ‘Over here! Over here!’

And when we got out, we ran out — and the kid was still there at the ticket stand and he was still picking his nails. And I looked at him, and Chuck looked at me and he said, ‘Well, I could be wrong.’”

Perchance to Dream Beaumont Credit

***

Photos courtesy of Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. WordPress followers, just hit “follow” at the top of the page.

Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

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About Paul

Hard-working, hard-playing fan of all pop culture, especially the Twilight Zone. Which led to a Twitter page. And then to a blog. And then to ... stay tuned. Yes, that's a picture of Rod Serling, not me. You can find the real me under the "Your Host" tab on my blog, along with biographical details that, while 100 percent accurate, sound kind of boastful and braggy. Sorry.

Posted on 10/25/2014, in Twilight Zone and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I really enjoy when you showcase a little behind the scenes story like this. What a wonderful peek into the mind of Charles Beaumont.

    I got such a kick out of this story the first time I heard it. Ah, the power of suggestion! The mind is truly a powerful thing. Even the way the story is recorded — when I got to the end, I had a huge grin on my face. It SOUNDS good. A little spooky, but still somehow a lot of fun. Just like “Perchance to Dream” turned out to be.

    It’s not one of my favourite episodes, but it has a vibe to it unlike any other TZ. One thing’s for sure, it’ll stick in your mind and make you wonder about your dreams. And let’s be honest — funhouses and roller coasters ARE scary — switchblade knife-wielding ticket taker, sexy cat girl, or not!

    Definitely looking forward to more posts like this, Boss!

    • Great point, GF — it DOES sound a bit like a funhouse ride, the way it’s paced. It makes me smile, too, every time I read it. Shows in a humorous way how the mind can play up our fears like crazy and get us all worked up. :)

      It shows, too, I think, how suggestion works much better than any graphic depiction when it comes to stoking fear. No special effects can top what we can conjure in our minds, which is one reason TZ still has the power to move audiences more than 50 years later.

      I really enjoy shining a spotlight on behind-the-scenes stories like this. Glad you enjoy them as much as I do. So yes, you can expect more posts like this! :)

  2. Thanks for sharing this story. I often wonder what kind of person has the mind to write stories like this. Perchance to Dream I’d one of my favs. I know, they all are but this one is. The ending is really unexpected and it’s not a simple twist.

    I like amusement parks. I love roller coasters but I’ve never been in a fun house or house of mirrors that you walk through. I think TZ established a pattern that I didn’t/don’t want to experience.

    • You’re welcome, Dan. No question about it — Beaumont had a unique mind. You may have heard me say this elsewhere: it’s been said that Rod Serling created the Twilight Zone, but Charles Beaumont lived there. And with a story like this, I think we can see why!

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