Why is National Twilight Zone Day celebrated on May 11? The answer itself lies in a mysterious 'twilight zone'
May 11 is like May the Fourth for the Twilight Zone fandom, even though nobody is quite sure just how or why it started being celebrated on the designated day
"You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead. Our next stop: the Twilight Zone" — Rod Serling's mystifying voice against that eerie background score is too real to forget any time soon.
All the way back in the '60s, before science fiction and horror even considered birthing a love child, creator, writer, producer and host Serling gave his audience a concept that today's pop culture likes to label 'Black Mirror'. Funnily enough, he wasn't the originator of the mysterious National Twilight Zone Day that nobody quite knows how or why is celebrated on May 11.
What was The Twilight Zone?
Aliens with books on how to cook man and hairy beasts apparating on wings of an airplane — such were the elements of horror in Serling's TV show 'The Twilight Zone' that ran for five strong years from 1959 to 1964. The show went as mysteriously off air as it had appeared on television. It was followed up by a Steven Spielberg film and later in the form of a 1985 CBS reboot that lasted for four years before 'The Twilight Zone' would disappear into another realm altogether. That was until film auteur Jordan Peele picked up a second reboot of the show, once again on CBS, in 2018.
Peele's reboot got a lot of new fans to flock to the already established fanbase immersed in dissecting and analyzing each episode of the anthology horror that had been off air for three decades. But nobody could quite figure out just why May 11 had been chosen to become the sci-fi-horror's designated May the 4th. The show revolved around science, fiction, comedy, social satire and of course inter-terrestrial horror with major emphasis on aliens and all things celestial. May 11 has no connotation or association with any of these elements, neither is it in any way related to the creator of 'The Twilight Zone', Rod Serling.
Significant dates in the show's timeline
Rodman Edward Serling, known as the 'angry young man' of Hollywood was born on December 25, 1924 and died on June 28, 1975 — neither of the days corresponding to the National Twilight Zone Day. The show also had premiered on the night of October 2, 1959, and aired with its last episode of Season 5 on June 19, 1964. Spielberg's film titled 'Twilight Zone: The Movie' also premiered on June 24, 1983, and the second round of the television series — the official first spin-off — premiered on September 25, 1985 and aired its last episode of the final Season 3 on April 15, 1989.
With none of the dates corresponding with the official day to celebrate the sensation Serling had crafted and blessed fans with, many have quipped how the origins of the day are probably lost in the same realm where the creator claims all events of the Twilight Zone take place. Spooky, right? The traditional ways to celebrate the annual event are even spookier.
How to celebrate National Twilight Zone day?
While some invest in board games — a franchise outcome of the popularity the show soared to, others invest time in watching marathons of all nine seasons of the show. With Peele's revisit of the original also panning across two seasons, this year's celebrations might turn out to be a little hectic for fans. But those still in lockdown mode amid the pandemic can sure find out some time to invest in a marathon of sorts to celebrate the annual event.
The popularity of 'The Twilight Zone' that seems to have lasted beyond time's confinements are perhaps best put by fans on the internet, who three decades after the show wrapped for good, still can't stop gushing about owning the show in video tapes. A Reddit user by the name r/Kleetus_Van_Dam gushed in the days leading up to the National Twilight Zone Day about having majority of the show in video tapes. "While these 15 tapes arent the full 1989 CBS Home Library, I'm happy to have them. Especially the 1st tape with a letter from Carol Serling describing the joy Rod would've had knowing people are watching 4 favorite episodes on their VCR 25 years after the show aired. Also Marc Zicree's liner notes," they shared.
Carol Serling's contribution in keeping the legacy alive
Carol Serling was Rod Serling's wife, who died in 2020, 25 years after Serling's death. At the time of her death, the New York Times had largely credited her as the "Tender of 'Twilight Zone' Flame" who had kept her husband's legacy alive by actively engaging with fans of the show, years after it went off air and Serling had died. Carol's role in keeping the burning passion of fans alive was crucial, especially as the associate editor of the magazine of the same name that the couple had started before Serling died.
Carol also actively pursued in getting two unproduced stories by her husband televised by CBS after she had found them in a trunk at her home all the way back in 1994. CBS did televise them into 'Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics', but once again, the production's date doesn't correspond to the annual event celebrated in the US. It is however worth noting that the 'Lost Classics' premiered on May 19, 1994 and that's as close a date to the national event that one can spot in the show's timeline. Some would say this surprise slot of new stories posthumously from Serling led to the inception of celebrating the day on May 11, while others would look at it as Carol's earnest quest in keeping Serling's unique gift to the genre alive. And like most things in the Twilight Zone, neither would be wrong, even though there's no guarantee if at all they are right.