Charlotte, NC. Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. Halloween Day. Every neighborhood in the Queen City is usually filled with energy and excitement. However, due to the pandemic, this Halloween will be different. Instead of the usual festivities, all the neighborhoods are following a protocol. The purpose of the protocol is to keep everyone in Charlotte safe and prevent more people from getting sick. However, not everyone will abide by the rules and will do anything to celebrate Halloween, despite the virus being present.
On Oct. 2, 1959, Rod Serling introduced a new science fiction series called the “Twilight Zone.” For five seasons and 156 episodes, audiences tuned in to see what unusual situation the character(s) would face and their response to the situation. One of the memorable episodes from the series is “Monsters are Due on Maple Street.” While it has been 60 years since the episode was first broadcasted, the theme of the episode remains present, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The episode opens with the neighbors on 300 Maple Street enjoying a nice Saturday afternoon. Children are playing in the streets, and parents are doing odd jobs (cleaning the cars, mowing the lawn, etc). Then at 6:43 p.m., a flash of light and a hovering noise passes over the street. The neighbors think nothing of it, until their machines stop working. In the midst of confusion, two of the neighbors, Charlie Farnsworth (Jack Weston) and Steven Brand (Claude Atkins) decide to go to town to see if they are experiencing the same problems. However, a young teenager named Tommy (Jan Handzlik) tells them not to leave Maple Street and that the strange activity taking place on their block is similar to a story about an alien invasion and monsters—who are humans—he read recently. The adults do not believe Tommy’s story at first, until Les Goodman’s (Barry Atwater) car starts on its own, leaving everyone to believe he is responsible for the power outage. This sets forth a domino effect. Whenever someone’s machine starts on Maple Street, everyone thinks he/she is the monster. The backbreaker is when Charlie mistakes Peter Van Horn (Ben Erway)—who was returning from Floral Street to see if their people were experiencing the same problems—for the monster and kills him with a shotgun. After being declared the monster and attacked by one of the neighbors, Charlie blames Tommy for the events on Maple Street. As the neighbors begin chasing Tommy, the lights inside their homes begin turning on involuntarily. Everyone begins to panic and destroy everything, including themselves, in hopes of finding the real monster; which is everyone on Maple Street. Unbeknownst to the people on Maple Street, overlooking the chaos are two aliens disguised as humans. The aliens had manipulated their machines to see how the people on Maple Street would respond. After the people began turning on each other, the aliens realize Maple Street is no unique place. As they depart, alien number one (Sheldon Allman) summed up the madness on Maple Street by saying, “They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it’s themselves. Their world is filled with Maple Streets and we’ll go from one to the other and let them destroy themselves.”
The reaction and response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States are similar to the premise of “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.” This year started like any other year. There were large gatherings, the economy was booming and life was normal. However, everything changed in March when COVID-19 hit the United States. Due to the number of cases, the country was forced to shut down, everyone had to follow social distancing guidelines and wear a mask whenever they go out in public. As long as everyone followed these regulations, cases would decrease and the country would return to normal. Parallels to Maple Street resurfaced when people started denying the existence of the virus, began protesting the lockdown protocol, accusing or blaming politicians for the spread of the virus, and ignoring the social distancing guidelines. As a result, cases continue to increase, impacting several holiday events, including trick-or-treating or throwing parties on Halloween.
This Halloween will be different due to COVID-19. Halloween festivities will be limited or canceled this year in order to prevent more cases. However, this pandemic has allowed everyone to stay home and binge-watch their favorite TV shows. What better time to watch the classic “Twilight Zone” episode “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” than right now. It will keep audiences on the edge of their seats and remind them what happens when egos clash during a time of crisis.