Tracing the Tower of Terror to the Twilight Zone

“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas; you’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.”

In an effort to get to know my favorite Walt Disney World attraction – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – I decided to watch every episode of The Twilight Zone. It is said that the Imagineers that created the attraction watched each of the episodes at least twice so it seemed like a good way to familiarize myself with the details of the attraction.

Tower of Terror
Disney World’s Tower of Terror

As many people know, the foremost episode that inspired the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is “Little Girl Lost” from season three. In this episode, a young girl falls through a portal behind her bed and finds herself in another dimension. During the episode, a physicist draws an outline of the portal in chalk on the wall to identify where the portal is. To pay tribute to the episode, this portal can be found at each of the three Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attractions. (You can find it in the ride exit area where you see the on-ride photos at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.) The idea for the Fifth Dimension also stemmed from this episode. 

When I finished all of the episodes, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at what I watched. I decided to create a list of the five best episodes – judged with no specific criteria except which ones I enjoyed or thought were best representative of the style of the show. This, as you may recognize, is a maintenance service elevator, still in operation, list of the top five Twilight Zone episodes, waiting for you.

One last thing: it’s hard to describe Twilight Zone plots without revealing spoilers but I tried my best to not reveal the endings.

5. “A Stop at Willoughby”
In this episode, a man falls asleep while riding the train home from a rough day at work. In his sleep, he finds himself in a mysterious utopian town called Willoughby. One of the things that I particularly love about this episode is its relatability today. It’s one of the few episodes that reference actual towns. With stops like Westport-Saugatuck and Stamford, it appears that Mr. Williams was riding a Metro-North train from Manhattan towards New Haven. Next time you ride the Metro-North into Connecticut, ask the conductor if they’ve heard of a town called Willoughby.

Connection to the Attraction: A sign for “Willoughby Travel” is found in the image capture area of the attraction at Disney California Adventure.

Willoughby Travel in Disney California Adventure
Willoughby Travel in Disney California Adventure

4. “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”
When the power goes out in a small town, the residents turn against each other suspecting that each may be cooperating with aliens or monsters. This episode is a great example of human behavior. Even without a direct threat from aliens, the fear that these characters experience causes a riot in their community.

3. “The Invaders”
“The Invaders” is a very strange episode and one that is somewhat difficult to understand until the end, which I won’t reveal. The majority of the episode is about mini aliens that are attacking a woman in her house as she tries to escape them while they attack her. It’s a very confusing episode, and somewhat dull at times, but the end makes up for it.

Connection to the Attraction: Look for the little alien robots in the library of the Tower of Terror.

Tower of Terror Alien Robots
Alien robots in the library.

2. “It’s a Good Life”
Anthony is a young boy with superhuman powers. The adults, including his family, live in fear of him as he can hurt or kill anyone simply by his thoughts. As a child, Anthony doesn’t seem to understand the impact of everything he does and the adults constantly try to reassure him that his actions are good in order to protect themselves.

Connection to the Attraction: In addition to being a great episode, this is also the episode where Rod Serling’s dialogue introducing the Tower of Terror comes from (re-recorded by the voice impersonator): “Tonight’s story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a…” Anthony’s character is also referenced in the poster for the Tip Top Club orchestra in the Tower of Terror lobby. (The irony is that Anthony doesn’t like singing.)

Tower of Terror Lobby
Tip Top advertisement in the lobby.

1. “Twenty Two”

This is, without a doubt, the scariest episode of the series. (It gives me chills just thinking about it.) A hospitalized woman has a recurring dream where she finds herself walking towards the morgue of the hospital, numbered room 22, where the nurse tells her there’s “room for one more, honey.” While many episodes of the Twilight Zone might start out weak and seem dull until the “aha!” moment at the end, “Twenty Two” starts out strong and continues to provoke anxiety throughout the entire episode. There are also lots of elevators in this episode. And elevators are awesome when they’re in Twilight Zone episodes.

Connection to the Attraction: Disney California Adventure’s version of the attraction features a door with the number 22 in the lobby.

“A warm welcome back to those of you who made it…” (or just skipped ahead to the end of the list). I actually compiled my list before checking to see if there were any actual Tower of Terror references so I’m glad that four out of five were able to tie-in to the attraction! Credit for the references is due to Matt Hochberg’s and Wikipedia’s Tower of Terror entry.

Bonus fun fact for Walt Disney World fans: “I Sing the Body Electric,” while not one of the best episodes, also stuck in my mind. After doing some research on the episode, I discovered that it was the only Twilight Zone episode written by Ray Bradbury, who was also instrumental in the development of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth.

If you’re a fan of the attraction, consider watching Disney’s 1997 movie “Tower of Terror,” too. It was actually the first movie that Disney created based on a theme park attraction.

What’s your favorite Tower of Terror prop? And do you love Joshua as much as we do?? Leave him some comment love so he’ll join us again sometime!

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