The Howling Man
|"The Howling Man"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2|
|Directed by||Douglas Heyes|
|Written by||Charles Beaumont|
|Based on||"The Howling Man"|
by Charles Beaumont
|Featured music||Stock by Bernard Herrmann|
|Original air date||November 4, 1960|
The prostrate form of Mr. David Ellington, scholar, seeker of truth and, regrettably, finder of truth. A man who will shortly arise from his exhaustion to confront a problem that has tormented mankind since the beginning of time. A man who knocked on a door seeking sanctuary and found, instead, the outer edges of The Twilight Zone.
The story is told in a flashback by an American named David Ellington. While on a walking trip through post–World War I Central Europe (circa 1925), Ellington becomes lost in a storm. He sees a building, and walks towards it. It turns out to be a castle, which is now the home of an order of Brothers (Wolfring Castle, referred to in the episode as the "Hermitage") near the village of Schwarzhof. He knocks, the door opens, and he pleads for help. He is told by the monk who opens the door that they do not allow visitors. Ellington pleads, explaining he is lost, and begs for sanctuary from the storm; while the monk goes off to speak to a person he names as Brother Jerome, Ellington waits in the hallway. He hears a wolf-like howl coming from somewhere in the castle. The monk returns and, when Ellington asks him about this howl, says it is merely the wind. The monk takes him to meet Brother Jerome, who is the leader of the order. After Ellington explains that his only purpose in being at the castle is to escape the storm and perhaps obtain some food, Brother Jerome announces that there is no help to be had there and that Ellington must immediately leave. Bewildered, Ellington turns to leave, but gets only as far as the doorway before collapsing.
When Ellington awakens, he is inside the castle and again hears howling. He investigates and finds a bedraggled man in a cell. The man claims to be a prisoner of an insane religious order, locked up because he kissed his sweetheart in public, and beaten by Brother Jerome using the staff he carries.
Ellington is seen talking to the prisoner and is taken back to Brother Jerome. When an explanation is not forthcoming about the man in the cell, Ellington says he will leave, but also threatens to go to the police. Brother Jerome, realizing that Ellington's threat might set the prisoner free, then reveals the truth; the prisoner is not a man, but rather the Devil himself, and can only be contained by the "Staff of Truth", which Brother Jerome has. The Devil had come to the village shortly after World War I to corrupt it, but Brother Jerome had recognized him for what he was and used the staff to imprison him. These actions have given the world five years of relative peace, with only the evils created by mankind itself. Now convinced that Brother Jerome is insane, Ellington pretends to believe the incredible story. Brother Jerome is not fooled, however, and assigns another brother to watch him.
Ellington waits until his guard falls asleep, then creeps down to the cell. Seeing that the door is held shut only by a staff that is within reach of the imprisoned man, Ellington briefly wonders why the man has not simply removed it himself. At the man's urging, Ellington removes the staff. The prisoner exits the cell—and pins Ellington to the floor with a wave of his hand. As he walks toward the exit, he begins to change, taking on more and more of the appearance of the Devil with each step, before departing the castle in a plume of smoke. Brother Jerome arrives, realizes what has happened, and sadly explains that the inability to recognize the Devil has always been Man's great weakness.
The flashback ends. Ellington has been telling the story to a maid. He says that ever since then he has been hunting for the Devil to atone for his mistake, through World War II, the Korean War, and the development of nuclear weapons. He has finally succeeded; he has locked the Devil in a closet barred by a staff similar to the one Brother Jerome had used. Ellington intends to return him to the castle and Brother Jerome's keeping. He warns the skeptical housekeeper to not remove the staff under any circumstances, while he goes to make final preparations. As soon as Ellington leaves, the maid hears a howl from behind the door and, in her curiosity, removes the staff. The door slowly opens.
Ancient folk saying: "You can catch the Devil, but you can't hold him long." Ask Brother Jerome. Ask David Ellington. They know, and they'll go on knowing to the end of their days and beyond — in the Twilight Zone.
This was the first aired episode of the second season that was not written by Rod Serling.
Charles Beaumont had originally envisioned that the monks would keep the Devil imprisoned by putting a cross in front of his cell door. Fearful of a backlash in the religious community, the producers substituted the "staff of truth" over Beaumont's objections.
- Zicree, Marc Scott. The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition).
- 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