Original Air Date: December 1, 1961
Writer: Charles Beaumont
Director: William F. Claxton
“The carcass of a goat, a dead finger, a few bits of broken glass and stone, and Mr. Alan Richards, a modern man of a modern age, hating with all his heart something in which he cannot believe and preparing – although he doesn’t know it – to take the longest walk of his life, right down to the center – of The Twilight Zone.”
Alan Richards (John Dehner, who appeared in numerous film and television programs including several Twilight Zone episodes) and his wife have recently returned to New York City from a trip to Africa. Mr. Richards works for a hydro-electric company which will likely disrupt the fragile ecosystem in Africa. After returning home, Mr. Richards discovers a series of odd items in his wife’s purse –a severed human finger, and other unusual artifacts. She claims these are all protective items against a shaman’s curse placed on them while in Africa, but Mr. Richards mocks the very idea of a shaman’s curse and promptly burns the items in a fateful act of hubris. When he leaves the apartment he encounters a slain sacrificial goat lying in the hallway, and his evening steadily grows more deranged from here: he finds a lion’s tooth in his pocket, his car won’t start, he hails a cab but the driver dies, he spots an African warrior standing in a department store window, a public phone drops its service only for a call to come through moments later filled with animal noises. As he walks around the city, Mr. Richards hears a steadily thumping drumbeat coupled with disturbing animal noises. When he finally returns home to his flat Mr. Richards shockingly discovers his wife’s lifeless corpse lying beside a massive lion who suddenly lunges and slaughters Mr. Richards as the episode concludes.
“Some superstitions, kept alive by the long night of ignorance, have their own special power. You’ll hear of it through a jungle grapevine in a remote corner of the Twilight Zone.”
I loved the pacing in this episode. It consists of a simple story, mainly of one man walking around New York City at night, questioning whether or not his skepticism toward African shamanry is justified. The wild, untamed African jungle is amusingly introduced to the sterile concrete jungle. Perhaps there is something uncomfortable, even unsettling within the human mind leading us to embrace the idea that dark supernatural forces are secretly pulling the strings. As Mr. Richards discovers in “The Jungle” the self-satisfied refuge of skepticism is sometimes little more than a mirage.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- Rod Serling was generally regarded as a humanist and skeptic on matters of superstition.
- This episode is based on Charles Beaumont’s story published in a pulp fiction magazine in 1959 (If: Worlds of Science Fiction). This was a rare Charles Beaumont script which did not feature a psychoanalytic theme. It was Charles Beaumont’s first contribution to the third season.
- “Uchawi” is a Swahili word meaning sorcery or witchcraft.
- This episode owes a certain debt of gratitude to the great writer and mentor of Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson: Ray Bradbury.
- Apparently writers William F. Nolan and Charles “Chuck” Beaumont experienced some spooky activity behind-the-scenes on this episode, leading them to even go so far as to take a bus ride home out of fear.