Blog Archives

The Story of Twilight Zone’s Real-Life Ax Murderer

No matter how disorienting or even frightening a Twilight Zone episode is, we can always comfort ourselves with a simple thought: It’s not real. The stories are all made up.

But that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter some real-life horror stories via the fifth dimension. Take the homicidal wax figures in “The New Exhibit,” all of whom were modeled on actual killers, as I detailed in this blog post last year.

Since then, I’ve had the chance to learn more about one of those killers: Albert W. Hicks. The hatchet-wielding sailor is the subject of a fascinating new book called “The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghost Ship, A Killer, and the Birth of a Gangster Nation“. If you like a mix of true crime and a good detective story, I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Mind you, it’s a macabre tale — at least the crime itself. Just reading about how Hicks hacked up his crew mates (and all just to rob them) is bad enough. To have actually seen the aftermath must have been truly horrifying.

Fortunately, most of the book focuses on the aftermath of the murders: the discovery of the boat and how a dogged detective methodically tracked Hicks down through the streets of 1860’s New York City. We meet his wife and child. We’re there throughout his trial, sentencing, and execution. Read the rest of this entry

Meet the Monsters Behind Twilight Zone’s “The New Exhibit”

Ah, Halloween. Could there be a more ideal time to watch one of my favorite episodes from Twilight Zone’s fourth season: “The New Exhibit”?

If you aren’t familiar with it, I have three words for you: murderous wax figures. Yes, this is definitely one you should watch in the dark.

Or rewatch. After all, this is the fifth dimension, where one viewing is never enough. And I think I have a way to make the experience a bit creepier. (You’re welcome.)

One thing I wondered about when I first watched “The New Exhibit” is the backstory behind the five wax figures. Were these all real-life murderers, or were they made up for Charles Beaumont’s script?

I say “all” because one of them is the very famous Jack the Ripper. His reign of terror in the Whitechapel area of London in the late 1880s is so legendary that hardly anyone hasn’t at least heard of him. I certainly knew HE was real.

But what about the other four? Maybe there are some crime buffs out there who watched this episode and immediately recognized Albert W. Hicks, Burke & Hare, and Henri Landru. But not me.

And not, I think, most other viewers. So although ill-fated museum curator Martin Senescu gives us a brief introduction to each of these notorious criminals at the episode’s start, I thought I’d provide a little more info about this infamous rogues’ gallery. (Warning: Some grisly details ahead.) Read the rest of this entry

In “The New Exhibit”, Who Was the Killer? A Poll Post

What would The Twilight Zone be without its twist endings? Still one of the most well-written, thoughtful series that ever aired, of course! But Rod Serling and company obviously made their points more effectively by using irony and surprise.

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So I always try to give spoiler warnings when I write about the endings to certain episodes. I know — it’s a legendary series that debuted over 50 years ago, so who doesn’t know how they end?

Actually, a lot of people. Think about it — new fans are born all the time. I came along well after “Psycho” was a new movie, but I would have enjoyed seeing it without the ending spoiled. It must have been fun to see it when you didn’t know.

All of which is a slightly long-winded way of saying “spoiler alert”! Especially because I want to discuss, briefly, the ending to “The New Exhibit”, which aired during TZ’s lesser-known 4th season (the one with the hour-long episodes) — and ask you to vote on it. Read the rest of this entry

After the Zone-a-thon IV: More Missing Episodes

We had quite a treat last New Year’s, didn’t we, Twilight Zone fans? Syfy surprised us with an extended marathon of every episode, in order and in high-def. Talk about “what you need.”

What You Need

It did, however, put the kibosh on one of my favorite post-marathon activities: writing a blog post to highlight a few episodes that didn’t make the schedule. But I figured I’d have another chance when the July 4 marathon rolled around … and here we are.

Syfy aired 57 episodes this time out. That’s about a third of the 156 that aired during the show’s run, leaving me 99 to pick from. That’s a daunting task. Many worthy episodes didn’t make the cut. But here are five that I think merit a watch — or rewatch. (Note: I didn’t repeat any picks from my previous “Zone-a-thon” posts.) U.S.-based fans, click on any title to watch the episode on Hulu.

MR. DENTON ON DOOMSDAY

Season 1, Episode 3 – October 16, 1959

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You don’t have to be a Twilight Zone fanatic to know the fifth dimension is a place where bad things sometimes happen to good people. But it’s also a place where the down and out can catch a much-needed break. Case in point: this early episode, in which a mysterious peddler helps a former gunslinger find a better way to ease his guilty conscience than by drowning it in booze. Is another kill-or-be-killed situation in his future? Not if Rod Serling can help it. Read the rest of this entry