The Quick 10: 10 Twilight Zone references in Disney's Tower of Terror


Most people spent the weekend grilling out or boating or enjoying parades and fireworks; I spent mine refinishing our kitchen floor and watching The Twilight Zone marathon on SciFi (soon to be SyFy). I wasn't around for the first incarnation of the series, and I was too young to really appreciate the revival in the '80s. So, as blasphemous as it may be, my first real introduction to Rod Serling's fascinating mind was The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney World's Hollywood Studios (then MGM Studios). I got some of the sly references to Twilight Zone episodes on the ride just from being a bit of a pop culture freak, but now that I'm more familiar with the series (not just from the marathon), I realize there are tons of references. Each imagineer who helped develop the ride watched every single episode of the original series - that's 156 episodes - twice. Here are a few of my favorites:

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2. Caesar the Dummy. In "Caesar and Me," a ventriloquist starts to commit serious robberies at the insistence of his wooden partner, Caesar. Of course, we don't know if the ventriloquist has lost his marbles or if the doll is really alive, but we definitely find out at the end when the ventriloquist goes to jail and the dummy plans to run away with the girl who informed on his better half. Caesar is lurking in an especially spooky spot: after your elevator descends and you're waiting on the ride doors to open, look around the "elevator shaft." There's a display of old junk sitting in the dark like you're in the storage room of, well, an old hotel, and amongst the junk is the scheming Caesar.

3. Cadwallader. "Escape Clause" is about a man who makes a deal with the devil - he trades his soul in exchange for immortality. I don't need to tell you the end of the story to for you to get the reference - the devil calls himself Cadwallader. And after you check out the "inspection" certificate outside of the elevator you're about to get on, you might rethink your ride: it's signed by a Mr. Cadwallader and it's dated October 31, 1939. It's also certificate #10259, which stands for October 2, 1959 - the day the first Twilight Zone episode aired.

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5. Nan Adams. Miss Nan Adams is a character in "The Hitch-Hiker," an episode from the first season of The Twilight Zone. Nan is on her way from New York to L.A. when she gets a flat tire. While she waits for a mechanic to fix it, she notices a strange man watching her. She's a bit rattled, especially when she continues on her journey and keeps seeing the man pop up in odd places along the road. When Nan calls home to check in with her mother, she is informed that Nan's mom had a nervous breakdown upon hearing of her daughter's death in a freak car accident. It's then that Nan realizes that she died in the accident when her tire blew out, and the man following her is actually Death. This makes the handwritten note you'll find in the Hollywood Tower Hotel's lobby rather humorous: "Miss Nan Adams
Reservations for Oct. 31 - Arrival delayed Hold Room"


7. To Serve Man. It's one of the most famous Twilight Zone episodes ever - aliens come to Earth, but it's almost too good to be true: they help people end war, they show them how to produce enough food so that no one will ever go hungry, and they are all around-fabulous. They even offer to send humans to their amazing planet free of charge, just to open up a free exchange of sorts. The Earthlings find a book belonging to one of the aliens, and, not totally trusting them, decide to go on a covert mission to decipher the book. It takes them years, but they finally figure it out: the title of the book is To Serve Man and it's chock-full of delicious recipes. Apparently the humans didn't notice that no one ever came back from the aliens' planet. The book is now on display in the library in the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

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9. Chalk Marks. Before Poltergeist, there was "Little Girl Lost." A couple wakes up and hears their daughter calling for help but can't seem to find her anywhere. She's fallen into another dimension - the Twilight Zone, if you will - and they do everything they can to find her, including chalking off entryways on the wall (which is how they eventually find her). Someone has been looking for that otherworldly dimension in the boiler room of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, because there are similar chalk marks on the wall there.

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If you could throw in whatever TZ reference you wanted to, what would it be? I think I might throw in an old traveling salesman-style suitcase with junk in it to reference "One for the Angels." It's an episode starring Ed Wynn as a traveling salesman who has to pitch a sale to Death in order to save a little girl's life. Ed Wynn did a lot of work for Disney, including voicing the Mad Hatter and laughing on the ceiling in Mary Poppins, so I think it would be fitting. Share yours in the comments!