|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3|
|Directed by||Montgomery Pittman|
|Written by||Montgomery Pittman|
|Original air date||October 27, 1961|
Normally, the old man would be correct. This would be the end of the story. We've had the traditional shoot-out on the street and the badman will soon be dead. But some men of legend and folk tale have been known to continue having their way even after death. The outlaw and killer Pinto Sykes was such a person, and shortly we'll see how he introduces the town and a man named Conny Miller, in particular, to the Twilight Zone.
The outlaw Pinto Sykes is ambushed by the men of the town in the middle of the street. Some time later, gun-for-hire Conny Miller, who had been hired to track down Sykes, arrives in town. He goes to the saloon where the men who hired him are gathered and is angry to learn that they had dispatched Sykes themselves. Moreover, on his deathbed Sykes accused Miller of being a coward, saying he left a clue he was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Miller never followed it up, presumably being afraid to confront Sykes. He also made a vow to reach up and grab Miller if he ever came near his grave.
Miller says that Sykes was a liar, claiming he went to Albuquerque and found no sign that Sykes had ever been there and also denies that he is at all frightened by Sykes's threat of vengeance from beyond the grave. The men are not convinced, openly admitting they themselves are frightened of Sykes and dare Miller to make a midnight visit to Sykes's grave. Miller is told to stick a knife into the burial mound as proof that he had visited the grave. After being confronted by Sykes's vengeful sister Ione, Miller treks in the cold, windy darkness to the cemetery and at midnight kneels at the grave and plants the knife. But as he attempts to leave, he is suddenly pulled back down.
The next day, Miller has still not returned. The townsmen, accompanied by Ione, visit the cemetery in search of Miller. They find Miller lying dead atop Sykes's grave with his knife through his coat, pinning him to the ground. Steinhart deduces that the wind blew Miller's coat over the grave, he stuck the knife through his coattail unknowingly, and as he stood up afterward, he mistook the pinned coat's resistance for Sykes's grip and died of fright. However, Ione points out that since the wind was blowing from the south that night, it would have blown Miller's coat away from the grave, not over it. She then laughs mockingly at the stupefied men.
Final comment: you take this with a grain of salt or a shovelful of earth, as shadow or substance, we leave it up to you. And for any further research, check under 'G,' for 'ghosts'...in the Twilight Zone.
"The Path Through the Cemetery"Edit
Leonard Q. Ross published a similar story in 1941, called "The Path Through the Cemetery." The tale, set in Imperial Russia, describes a very timid man, named Ivan, who responds to a similar challenge from a Cossack officer in the Tsar's Army (some printings identify this officer as a captain, some as a lieutenant) with the sword he receives from the Cossack officer for the purpose—and who meets a similar fate.
Maria Leach authored a compilation of ghost stories called The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales in 1959 that included a story called "The Dare", in which a group of kids sitting in front of a fire telling ghost stories dare one of the group to go to the grave of a man who was just buried earlier that day. The boy takes the dare, states he will stick a knife in the grave to prove he was there, and then proceeds to meet the same fate that night.
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0
- Ross, Leonard Q. "The Path Through the Cemetery." Saturday Review of Literature.; 29 Nov 1941, Vol. 24, p12. ISSN 0147-5932.
- Leach, Maria (1959). The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales (First ed.). Cleveland, OH: The World Publishing Company.