On Rod Serling’s “The Whole Truth”

“Whoever owns that car –he’s got to tell the truth!”

In Rod Serling’s short story based on the memorably hilarious Twilight Zone episode entitled “The Whole Truth,” Harvey Hennicutt is a Stetson-wearing used car salesman –and an “exceptional liar.” He is the subject of numerous apocryphal tales. For example, he once bought the old General Sherman tank for $25, sending a postal worker riding home in an old-fashioned tank:

“Harvey wasn’t an innately dishonest man. He didn’t lie because he was some kind of devious bastard. It was just that his entire frame of reference was ‘the deal.’ He had to buy, sell, and trade the way most people find it necessary to breathe” (2).  

One day, he is found selling a 1928 beat-up Buick to an unsuspecting young couple, and then he buys a cheap 1938 Model A Chevy from an old man who claims the car is haunted. But Mr. Hennicutt simply laughs and buys the car anyway on the cheap only to find that he can suddenly no longer lie to his customers. This ghostly car has brought a cruse on his business! Some divine force is compelling him to admit the flaws in all the used cars sitting in his lot. As long as he owns the old Model A, he must continue to tell the truth. Imagine that? A car salesman forced to tell the truth.

Three days come and go, and Mr. Henniccutt has not sold any cars. This leads to a fight with his junior employee, Irving, who is requesting a raise and this is followed by a customer named Luther Grimbley who stops by the lot to learn about the car, only for it to be purchased by none other than the leader of the USSR, Nikita Kruschev! In a silly twist, the comrades in the Soviet Union will now be haunted by a car that forces truth-telling. Mr. Hennicutt picks up the phone and tries to call Jack Kennedy to share some urgent information. “The Whole Truth” is one of Rod Serling’s sillier stories that bears very little difference from the Twilight Zone episode of the same name, but it is still a charming bit of folklore that is sure to bring a smile. Only in the Twilight Zone could a used car salesmen and a communist politician be cursed with telling the truth!

Serling, Rod. New Stories From The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling Books: 1960 (republished in 1990 by the Serling family), Paperback Edition.

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

Click here to read my review of The Twilight Zone episode “The Whole Truth.”

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