Lessons from The Twilight Zone on Civilzation Post-IHTF

The following is a guest post entry into our Survival & Preparedness Writing Contest.

 “In order for civilization to continue, man must remain civilized” – Rod Serling

Lessons from The Twilight Zone on Civilzation Post-IHTF by Flutterby

I was watching TV. last night, a 1961 episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled, “The Shelter”. Well, of course, this grabbed my attention!

The story line is a group of friends gathered in the home of a doctor/friend in order to celebrate his birthday. Apparently, this group is comprised of all close neighbors and they get together on a regular basis, so, supposedly, they are all quite friendly and well known to one another.

They have just enjoyed a fine dinner served on fine china with crystal glasses and silver tableware, and are in process of enjoying a lovely decorated birthday cake.

Then it hits. A message comes across the radio (not t.v. – radio – it is 1961, after all, and not everyone had a t.v.!). The message is that something has gone horribly wrong, and the government is issuing a warning that  “missiles are on their way” and “everyone should take shelter immediately”.

The radio message warns them to gather food, water, clothing, medicine, and go to a “safe” place, where they are to “shelter in place”. But, where is that “safe place”?

Everyone panics. Everyone suddenly goes from celebrating this wonderful doctor/friend and enjoying his birthday dinner to total chaos – where to go? What to do?

Well, it seems that the doctor/friend, in whose house they are partying, has built a small shelter for just such an occasion in his basement, and stocked it with sufficient supplies for his family of three, to last quite some time. It also seems that he has made this no secret to his fine neighbors., whom he has known for years and finds trustworthy. But that’s for a family of three, and the safe shelter is no more than a small room – sufficient only for a family of three, of course.

The neighbors all run to their respective homes, gather the kids and supplies, and, one family by one family, return to the doctor’s house. All want to gain entrance to the doctor’s “safe shelter”, but none can. Now, how this is supposed to be practical, I don’t know, but they’re shouting at each other through a metal door. One-by-one, the neighbor men scream to be “let in”, while the doctor tells them all, “I cannot; there is not room, and I did not provide for all of you”.

As the tension mounts and the neighbors gather in the basement, trying to figure out how to get in, shouting through the door and at each other, things get out of control.

An Italian-origin family who was a part of this “community” is now verbally attacked by one of the other “neighbors”, told they don’t belong there, they need to “go home”, and the neighbors actually end up in a fist-fight, in which the Italian man is injured and unable to rise up from the floor on his own.

One family has a three-month old baby, and begs entrance. Still, the doctor refuses. He will not open the door for any of them.

The neighbors continue to demand entrance, escalating into threats of destruction. Then one of the men remembers they have a “battering ram” available; a long metal pole that is actually part of a utility pole. They run to get it, bring it to the basement, and proceed to batter the metal door, until they make progress and it begins to come off the hinges.

These people have lost all reason; they are willing to destroy the one “safe place” available to them, because none of them can enter. They do not stop to ask what good it will do to tear down the door. They do not care; they only want to destroy it because they are denied access. They want “in”, even though “in” will be useless because of their own actions. There will be no metal door on this “safe room” to act as a buffer from nuclear fallout, there will be insufficient water and food for all of them, so they are all wasting everyone’s time. But that does not occur to them. They are not thinking clearly.

Just as the metal door is hanging on its last hinge, another message comes across the radio, and is shared with all of them by one of the neighbors who happens to overhear this new message. It seems that the incoming were not missiles at all, but “something else” (I don’t recall what explanation they gave). And they are told they can all go back to business as usual.

Now what?

They all look at each other, the destruction they have caused physically, and start apologizing to one another. The doctor, his wife, and child, walk out of their “safe shelter”, through the damaged door.

The neighbors offer to pay for the damages, repeatedly apologizing.

The doctor tells them there was much more damage done here than can be repaired, and the episode ends.

What struck me is that this was made in 1961 – 52 years ago! If it happened today, I do not think the response would be all that different. Oh, yes, it would start off with a rebellion of a more civilized nature, and it would most assuredly escalate until there was no semblance of civility remaining, even to destruction of the one place of safety.

The deterioration was rapid, and it involved all of them – not one chose to go home and tough it out with what they had failed to prepare for themselves. I do not think it will be any different when IHTF here, and it is coming – soon.

If you are sheltering in place (no BOL), then you need to think through, in advance, how you will deal with lack of civility post-IHTF, because you will have to deal with it. All of us will – but those in areas with lots of people who have made no preparations will get there almost immediately.

So, what else can we learn from this episode of “The Twilight Zone”?

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12 thoughts on “Lessons from The Twilight Zone on Civilzation Post-IHTF”

  1. Interesting Flutterby, the word that comes to mind is “Prophetic”.
    I looked it up and it is available on Amazon Season 3, Episode 3 and anyone can watch it for $2.99. If you are a Prime Member you can watch it for free.
    This episode suggests that OPSEC is always a good idea. Loose lips sink ships.

  2. The episode can also be found on YouTube for free to watch. Since these were made in the 60’s and 70’s, a time when peaceful protests often became violent, it is not surprising how things transpired. After all they played on the animal instincts of human beings in most of the episodes.

    I love how the fiction of the past becomes the fact of the present. Star Trek flip communicators of the 60’s become the flip phones of the 80’s and such.

  3. Make certain that every person you confide in is already prepared. We will need people we can work with to survive in the long term.

    But, as seen in this episode, you cannot provide for those that refuse to provide for themselves. At that point, you have to be ready to defend your family or perish with the unprepared as if you did nothing yourself.

  4. Anyone who doesn’t believe how society will act post SHTF, only needs to watch a few episodes of Gangland on Spike TV. You will see exactly what we will be up against. This scum knows nothing but killing and taking what they want and they have the fire power to do it.

  5. I saw that one years ago, many, many years ago. You see my father was like the good doctor in the late 60’s. When he retired in 88 he began to look for property in Southern WV. SW NC. and NW SC. he wanted to build a compound on a farm and have all of us build homes around the property. We all thought he was a little nutty, but we were all settled into careers and just could not pickup and go, so it never happened. Boy do I wish now we had done that or at least had the land and one house. As it turned out in 94 he bought a place in the Neuse River between New Bern and MAS Cherry Point. Till his death in 2006 he was still telling us if anything happens to all come home as quickly as possible.

    The main point is that people will get that ugly that quick, even family and friends.

  6. There was another TZ episode starring Elizabeth Montgomery in another post IHTF story. She appeared to be the last woman who meets the apparent last man. Each was on opposite sides of the war that destroyed everything. He tries to convince her to put the past behind them and help him to rebuild. She wants to do this but as she reads the propaganda left on the walls she grabs a gun and tries to kill him instead. I don’t remember the exact ending. I think it was because the ending was left to the imagination.

    Once we survive the SH*T event, we will still have to deal with other survivors. Trying to pick up the pieces with others who don’t see eye to eye will be one of if not the biggest challenge all survivors will face.

    The ones who get ugly and take from others always seem to survive. There will be hard decisions to make on who to trust and who to tell take a hike. May we all take time to make the right choices, not to judge to quickly and remember no one will be at their best.

  7. I remember both those TZ shows and I think that if the same situations occurred today the response by people that are unprepared would be the same. After coming out of your shelter when the situation appears safe is when you should be more alert till you find out who among the other survivors .is friend or foe

  8. Merely guessing – But it seems the best way to have a chance for survival WTSHTF is in associations – friendships, if you will, and hopefully with like minded people who will prepare in similar manner to what you have done. Our (very) small group covers many different abilities; mechanic, armorer, multilingualism, veteran, medic (with austere medical training), food preserver and preparer, gardener, livestock farmer and security specialist to name a few.

    Certainly no guarantees there, but we can only do what we can do. None of us own an underground bunker with solar and air filtration, or an island in forgottonville. We will do the best we can do, trade with others and expand our group as possible. going forward cautiously and prayerfully is our best hope, I feel.

  9. I have been a huge Twighlight Zone fan since childhood. Rod Sterling was truly a genius! I recall both episodes mentioned, the Shelter and the show where Elizabeth Montgomery is the last woman on earth. The last man in that show is a young Charles Bronson! There is another episode where man’s weakness is portrayed that comes to mind. An alien spacecraft is spotted in a quiet, average American town. The neighbors are all out in the street, discussing what was happening. Suddenly, odd things started happening at one house, lights going on and off uncontrollably. Quickly the people begin to accuse the family who owns the home of being the aliens. This continues with each house, with the former friends shifting blame on each family with the abnormalities. At the conclusion of the show, 2 aliens are seen hidden, controlling all these odd occurrences. One says to the other (paraphrased) “Conquering Earth will be easy. They distrust each other so much, we won’t have to fight at all. They’ll kill each other.”


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