Sunday, June 3, 2012

Roots of Horror: You're Entering A Different Dimension

Greetings, all! And welcome to the second installation to my series, Roots of Horror, which explores the inspiration behind our favorite spooky stories and the fantastic phenomena of the spectral world.

Today we travel to a different dimension… a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. Journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination—that’s the signpost up ahead, your next stop, The Twilight Zone. A most beloved series created by Rod Serling, I’m sure all of you are as great of fans as I. Let us inspect a few episodes and the fascinating supernaturality that is rooted in them. (WARNING: Mild spoilers are issued below for those who are not familiar with these episodes)


Two episodes concern the same phenomena that is called simply and aptly, “phone calls from the dead”. Those two are “Long Distance Call” and “Night Call”.

Admittedly, the idea and very name of this particular supernatural occurrence may seem pretty silly to skeptics, but is very highly reported; so common that we see it twice in the original Twilight Zone series.

The first episode to deal with it is “Long Distance Call”, which appears in season two. The story is of a young boy and who is gifted a toy telephone through which he may contact his deceased grandmother. “Night Call” tells of an elderly woman who is plagued by mysterious phone calls in the middle of the night. The line is traced to a local cemetery, and eventually, to the grave of her late husband.

Although the name seems to say it all, there are a few consistent factors that are present in stories and reports of phone calls from the dead. The calls are almost always made by a lost relative or someone who very close to the recipient in life. In some cases the caller is thought to be conveying a message, but often the dead are simply believed to want to make contact, as seems the situation in these two episodes. However, there are a few differences between the episodes, and interesting enough, they both coincide with actual reports of phone calls from the dead!

Most often it seems that the phone calls occur within twenty-four hours of the person’s death, such is the case in “Long Distance Call”, when the little boy starts talking to his grandmother through his toy telephone within a day of her death. Another element that is highly reported is that the phone connection is usually very bad, as it is in “Night Call”. The old woman picks up the phone to hear mostly static on the line, with faint moaning speech breaking through every now and then. Indeed, she cannot even make out the words!

Another thing that is strange, but does not occur in either episodes, is that researchers on the subject have gathered that sometimes the deceased person making the call tell of someone allowing them to do so—a “they”. Any happening of this phenomena is quite mysterious, and it leads one to ponder just how the
 deceased are able to make this particular type of contact, and how difficult or unfavorable it might be.

These days parapsychologists don’t take the idea of phone calls from the dead very seriously, but in the mid-twentieth century reports could be found in newspapers, and two parapsychologists, D. Scott Rogo and Raymond Bayless, were so interested that they published a book in 1979. Simply titled Phone Calls From the Dead, the book became and remains the leading source on the subject.

By the way, anyone remember the movie One Missed Call? That movie was terrible…


My all-time FAVORITE Twilight Zone episode is from the very first season, and it is called “The Hitch-Hiker”. It follows a young woman, traveling cross-country on her own, who is stalked by the same mysterious hitchhiker the entire journey.

This story plays on the very common urban legend of “phantom hitch-hikers”. Tales of this like have been told all over the world, but most commonly in the United States. There are many variations, but the story usually goes that a person driving on some lonely road stops for a hitchhiker. The hitchhiker is quiet, not saying much, and is dropped off at a residence. Before the driver pulls away, they notice that their passenger has left something behind—a scarf, coat, hairpin, etc. They run quickly up to the house and knock on the door, which is answered by a stranger. The driver explains the situation, but the stranger sadly tells them that the person they are speaking of has died several years ago. The hitchhiker in the stories is usually thumbing up at the spot where they were killed, and often appear there on the anniversary of their death.

The Twilight Zone episode does not take on this structure, but a unique one applying the basic elements of the phantom hitchhiker legend and the result is an extremely unsettling and satisfying story.

Perhaps the most famous “real-life” phantom hitchhiker is that of Resurrection Mary from Chicago, Illinois. In life, she was a young girl in a dress and dancing shoes walking home from the dancing hall one night when she was struck by a car and killed. The driver fled, never to be identified. Now she stalks the road where she was killed, hitching rides and sitting quietly in the car until it passes Resurrection Cemetery, where she either vanishes or is dropped off, only to disappear through the iron gates…

If you have any experiences similar to these phenomena, please feel free to share! Also if you know of any legends, books, or movies that are relevant, let me know!



teddy crescendo said...

Thats Billy Mumy from "Lost in Space", and Gladys Cooper looking suspiciously like Burt lancaster.

Anonymous said...

When theres no getting over that

When my smallest of dreams wont
come true,

I can take all the madness the
world has to give but i wont last
a day without "Heather O`Rourke".

Marie Robinson said...

Danger, Will Robinson!

Gabriel said...

When i was in high school almost everybody had a 'friend of a friend' who had given a ride to a phantom hitchhiker. none were obviously real.
There's an episode of Supernatural called Roadkill that also deal with this urban myth.

Christine Hadden said...

I think I mentioned the movie "The Caller" to you, Marie - this is a perfect example of the 'phone calls from the dead' phenomena.

(And yes, One Missed Call was complete crap.)

are you afraid of the dark said...

This will be very interesting TV serial but I did not watch this one and If I want to buy DVD so you have recorded or not. When I was child that time I love too much Are You Afraid Of The Dark episodes and now I have bought DVD set and I watch it when I want..

Doug Brunell said...

Another excellent post! Thank you.

Marie Robinson said...

Thank YOU, Doug for reading it!!!!