“Nightmare as a Child”

I recently tweeted a quote from TZ’s “Nightmare as a Child” and got this reply from a follower: “Males didn’t like this one as it had women and children in it — that`s my slightly sweeping theory.”


An interesting thought, but I have to admit, I’m not aware of any gender discrepancies when it comes to the popularity of this episode. And plenty of male viewers are big fans of “The Hitch-Hiker” and “The After-Hours,” both of which have female leads.

Many TZs are greatly admired, of course. A few are actively disliked. But there are others that sort of float in the middle, neither loved nor hated. “Nightmare as a Child” is one of them.

I’ve seen a lot of viewer feedback in the four and a half years I’ve been doing my Twitter page, pro and con, and both men and women hardly say a word about it. It almost doesn’t register. Which is a shame, really. It’s a good episode. The story is fairly intriguing, and it ends on a happy note.


I think the problem is that much of the “action” takes place off-screen, and there’s no real peril. On paper, the idea sounds good: A woman has repressed memories of her mother’s murder, meets a girl who’s a projection of her subconscious trying to get her to remember, then encounters the murderer himself, back years later to finish the job.

Yet it comes across somewhat flat. Mind you, it’s not bad. Janice Rule does a decent job as the main character, Helen Foley, and Terry Burnham is appropriately unsettling as the little girl. But somehow Serling’s intriguing idea just sort of lays there. It’s enjoyable, but it strikes me as something that would have worked better as a radio script.


It surely didn’t help that “Nightmare as a Child” came amid a torrent of excellent episodes in TZ’s landmark first season. What would have shone as an episode of some other series couldn’t help but get a little lost airing in between Charles Beaumont’s “A Nice Place to Visit” and Serling’s classic “A Stop at Willoughby.”

As it stands, “Nightmare as a Child” is like the coffee offered with dessert after a fancy meal. It’s not why you came, but it’s nice to have.



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About Paul

Fanning about the work of Rod Serling all over social media. If you enjoy pics, quotes, facts and blog posts about The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and Serling's other projects, you've come to the right place.

Posted on 05/02/2015, in Twilight Zone and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. I watched this recently (crawling through the DVDs again) and I think the thing that bothers me (a little) is the presence of the child. She seems out of place, out of character until I realize what character she is. It just doesn’t fit well.

  2. “..action takes place off-screen and there`s no real peril”. Males always want perilous on-screen action! My niece (a strange child) was really spooked by this one. If nothing else, it demonstrates that TZ had episodes for all genders and generations. As a male, I was surprisingly charmed by this one.

    • Ha! Well, by “action”, I didn’t mean car chases and gunfights. :) I just mean that there’s an inordinate amount of talking. But yes, it does create a nice eerie tone, and it IS a bit spooky toward the end.

  3. I always thought this episode would have worked as a longer, a “ghost story” type scenario with a creepier take on the child Markie. I know that wasn’t Sterling’s style (he was far more elegant than that), but I believe if it was done that way now, with more time for it to unfold, it would make for an excellent show.

    • Interesting thought! That’s occurred to me about some other TZs, actually — that the half-hour slot really didn’t give the idea the room it needed. Looked at that way, it’s a shame this episode didn’t play out during Season 4, when TZ went to an hour in length.

  4. Natalie Davis

    I watched this episode, and it’s creepy. To be honest, I really don’t get this show. I watched a certain episode, and it could be a horror movie.

    • You mean you don’t get TZ as a series? If that’s the case, I’d suggest watching a few more episodes. Because it’s an anthology, one episode can be very different from another. Feel free to let me know what kind of series you like — I’d be glad to make some suggestions for good TZs to try.

      • Natalie Davis

        Yeah I don’t get TZ. I have watched a few episodes, and I don’t really want to watch them again. Thank you though!

  5. David Kiefer

    It should probably also be noted that Terry Burnham who played the role of Markie (Helen Foley as a child) is now better known as the actress Morgan Brittany.

    • Brittany did have a role in “Nightmare as a Child,” but it wasn’t as Markie (who, as you correctly note, was played by Terry Burnham). It was as the unnamed little girl on the stairs at the end. Brittany’s stage name as a child (when she did three TZ episodes) was Suzanne Cupito. Burnham, alas, didn’t go on to a successful career the way Cupito/Brittany did. In fact, she died in obscurity a few years ago.

  6. I’ve always thought this was an outstanding and powerful episode. It is actually about victim recovering repressed memories of a horrible event…there are some hints that it might have included child molestation. But, they couldn’t say that couldn’t say that on a 1960 TV show, so Serling tiptoes around it and emphasizes the murder. But, there are hints…Selden telling Helen that he had a crush on her when she was a child and Marky telling Helen that she was “just beginning” to remember.

  1. Pingback: SyFy’s July 4th Twilight Zone Marathon Schedule | Shadow & Substance

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