Imagine you’re writing Twilight Zone‘s “Little Girl Lost”, and you get to the part where the father literally stumbles into that alternate dimension where his daughter is trapped. How would you describe it?
Sure, you could spell out what you’re imagining in detail. Nothing wrong with that. Or you could trust the Zone production crew and do what Richard Matheson did: His script at that point simply says: “INTERIOR: LIMBO.”
In “The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic”, author Martin Grams relates how TZ’s art director approached producer Buck Houghton, pointed out those two words, and asked, “What’s that supposed to be, Buck?” Houghton’s reply: “That’s up to you.”
His faith was certainly not misplaced. Added Houghton:
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. Please step inside. A dark and stormy night may seem ill-suited to an art tour … at least until you see the unsettling works we have in store for you.
As our founder, Rod Serling, once said, “You won’t find the works of the masters here, because in this particular salon we choose our paintings with an eye more towards terror than technique.” Our paintings and sculptures have an unmistakably sinister edge.
I know our museum is more shadow-laden than most, but don’t worry. You should be quite safe. We haven’t lost anyone yet. Well, almost no one.
People sometimes joke that Rod Serling and the other Twilight Zone writers must have been very strange people. Surely nobody sober and “normal” like the rest of us could come up with such wild story ideas, right?
The reality is reassuringly mundane. The show wasn’t written by eccentrics who consumed hallucinogenics by the handful. They were disciplined, talented writers who had sharp, quick, vivid imaginations.