Original Air Date: November 14, 1960
Writer: Charles Beaumont
Director: Douglas Heyes
“I know it’s an incredible story -I of all people know this- and you won’t believe me, no, not at first, but I’m going to tell you the whole thing. Then you’ll believe because you must believe!”
In “The Howling Man” we return to Germanic folklore as the Devil roams the world causing the great calamities of the 20th century. This Gothic horror-inspired episode features a unique flashback within a flashback as we are transported to a medeival European castle. The plot is based on a 1959 Charles Beaumont short story. Much credit in this episode should be given to the masterful cinematography of George T. Clemens and the shocking make-up effects created by William Tuttle.
“The prostrate form of Mr. David Ellington, scholar, seeker of truth and, regrettably, finder of truth. A man who will shortly arise from his exhaustion to confront a problem that has tormented mankind since the beginning of time. A man who knocked on a door seeking sanctuary and found, instead, the outer edges of The Twilight Zone.”Rod Serling
A disturbed man named David Ellington (played by H. M. Wynant) recounts a flashback. While on a walking trip across central Europe following World War I he gets caught in a rainstorm. To escape the storm he comes upon a remote hermitage. He hears a deep howl from within the hermitage. The monks that live there instruct him to leave, but in a state of delirium, he blacks out.
When Ellington awakens he meets a strange-looking man who is imprisoned at the castle. The man tells him the monks are lying and that the elder monk, a figure who appears like Moses named Jerome (played by John Carradine), is the maddest of them all. Ellington confronts Brother Jerome from whom he learns that the monks have not imprisoned a man, but rather the devil himself! Jerome once hunted for years to capture and imprison the devil. Prior to his capture the devil was allowed to roam the world and a world war fell upon humanity. He now remains trapped in the castle behind the “staff of truth” which barricades his door.
Ellington is skeptical of Brother Jerome’s fanciful story. Later that night he sneaks out of his cell and sets free the strange man, but the moment he does so, in a fit maniacal the man knocks Ellington down. As he walks past a series of pillars we see a terrific film technique wherein he increasingly looks more and more in the visage of a goat-like devil. He vanishes into thin air and Ellington realizes the monks were right -he has unleashed the devil.
In the epilogue we exit Mr. Ellington’s flashback. It is the present-day. Mr. Ellington appears sweaty and disheveled. After the devil was released from his prison the world encountered yet another World War as well as the Korean War along with nuclear weapons. As we pan out Mr. Ellington is explaining this whole story to his housekeeper. He shows her where he has the devil trapped inn his closet behind the “staff of truth.” Ellington has to run an errand before he ships the devil back to the hermitage with Brother Jerome, but as he leaves at the end we witness Ellington’s housekeeper removes the “staff of truth” and unleashes the devil again.
“Ancient folk saying: “You can catch the Devil, but you can’t hold him long.” Ask Brother Jerome. Ask David Ellington. They know, and they’ll go on knowing to the end of their days and beyond — in the Twilight Zone.”Rod Serling
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This was the first aired episode of the second season that was not written by Rod Serling.
- Charles Beaumont had originally envisioned that the monks would keep the Devil imprisoned by putting a cross in front of his cell door. Fearful of a backlash in the religious community, the producers substituted the cross for the “staff of truth” over Beaumont’s objections.
- Wolfring Castle is referred to in the episode as the “Hermitage.”