Original Air Date: November 24, 1961
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: James Sheldon
“If I read aloud from this book it’ll be the Confederacy that’s damned.”
“The time is 1863, the place the state of Virginia. The event is a mass blood-letting known as the Civil War, a tragic moment in time when a nation was split into two fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation… This is Joseph Paradine, Confederate cavalry, as he heads down toward a small town in the middle of a valley. But very shortly, Joseph Paradine will make contact with the enemy. He will also make contact with an outpost not found on a military map—an outpost called the Twilight Zone.”
“Still Valley” begins with two Confederate soldiers sitting atop a hill, gazing down over a valley in Virginia. They are scouting the location of a nearby Union regiment. Paradine, the battle-hardened elder of the two (played by Gary Merrill) decides to head down to a nearby town where he hears a commotion. However, as he approaches he senses an eerie quietude. To his horror, everything around him has been stopped -including a full regiment of Union soldiers who stand frozen in time with cold, grey eyes.
As he roams through this silent, stone-faced town Paradine happens upon a strange “witch man” named Teague (played by Vaughn Taylor who appeared in numerous classic films including Psycho and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof as well as several other Twilight Zone episodes). The two men discuss the nature of witchcraft and how it might be used against the invading Union army, though the Confederacy would be required to make a deal with the Devil. Teague gives Paradine his book of “Witchcraft” but when Paradine brings it back to his regiment, they debate the merits of using black magic. Ultimately, Paradine decides to burn the book, and the troupe makes way for Gettysburg.
“On the following morning, Sergeant Paradine and the rest of these men were moved up north to a little town in Pennsylvania, an obscure little place where a battle was brewing, a town called Gettysburg, and this one was fought without the help of the Devil. Small historical note not to be found in any known books, but part of the records in the Twilight Zone.”
“Still Valley” is amusing tale of mystery and black magic –it leaves us wondering what might have happened if witchcraft was used during the Civil War? Would the Confederacy have won at Gettysburg? All things considered “Still Valley” is not one of the better episodes of The Twilight Zone even though it is an alluring little folktale in line with certain later episodes containing fanciful ghost stories of the Appalachian variety, such as Season 3’s “The Hunt” or Season 4’s “Jess-Belle.”
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- Based on a story called “The Valley Was Still” by Manly Wade Wellman first published in an August 1939 issue of Weird Tales. Manly Wade Wellman is often fondly remembered for his folkloric horror tales focused on Appalachia.
- The episode originally aired 100 years after the start of the American Civil War (1861). This episode takes place in June 1863.
- This was the second Civil War-themed episode in the Third Season.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.