"Doom by Prediction" was a story printed in the first issue of The Twilight Zone comic published by Dell.
Archie Ruber was an airline porter and was quite pleased with being just that. One day, however, Archie happened to help a man to find his luggage with uncanny ease. The man, Dr. Anton Gregor, just so happened to be a researcher of the paranormal and took an interest in developing and testing Archie's apparent abilities. He had dreams of Archie being much more than a simple airline porter. Where this meeting would lead the two men could scarcely be believed, if it had taken place anywhere else but the Twilight Zone.
Cast of characters
- Archie Ruber
- Dr. Anton Gregor
- airline mechanic
- airline porters #1-2
- airline workers #1-3
- ambulance crew
- bystanders #1-6
- elderly couple
- female traveler
- Gregor's assistant #1
- Gregor's assistant #2
- lecture attendees #1-5
- male traveler #1-3
- police officers #1-2
- stewardess #1-2
"To look at Archie Ruber you'd never dream he was talented--A man of remarkable gifts!"
Archie Ruber was a mild-mannered porter working for Icaurus Airlines as a baggage porter and handyman. His co-workers often preoccupied themselves with gossip about Archie's family tree. The rumor was that the Rubers had a lineage that could be traced back to the pilgrims that arrived on The Mayflower and that Archie was a direct descendant of the witches of Salem, Massachussetts. They found it difficult to believe that such a plain character could have such a vivid past.
Archie, however, was not as plain as he seemed. He somehow seemed to know things that no one should and see things that were not as clear to others. One day, while helping a rotund traveler find a lost suitcase, Archie displayed this talent by locating the missing bag in a pile of luggage. He handed the bag back to the man with a simple, "Here you are, Dr. Gregor!" The doctor was stunned at Archie's ability to choose the proper suitcase when there were a dozen that looked similar to it in the same pile. Archie, however, modestly downplayed it as a lucky guess.
Archie was less able to explain away how he had referred to the traveler by name—when the doctor had never introduced himself! It was then that Archie revealed that his family did indeed descend from the witches of Salem and had always had a knack for knowing things that remained unknown to others. Impressed, the doctor handed Ruber his card and introduced himself as a doctor at the Parapsychological Insitute, where he conducted experiments in mental telepathy and mind reading. He had come to town to deliver a lecture at the nearby New England University and invited Archie to attend the lecture to assist him with some of his tests. Archie was not sure he would be much help but his reluctance diminished when Dr. Gregor offered to pay him ten dollars for every night that he was able to help. With winter coming, Archie knew that his work at the airport would slow down and gladly accepted the offer.
That night, in front of a room filled with an eager audience, Archie Ruber's talents were put to the test. Postitioned behind a partition, Ruber was asked to identify a deck of marked cards held up one at a time without being able to see it. Gregor's assistant held up card after card and by the end of the experiment, Archie had correctly identified twelve of the twenty-five cards, one of the highest scores that the scientists had ever seen! The crowd was eager to continue with even more tests.
And so, over the next few evenings, Archie Ruber went through a rigorous battery of tests and his skills seemingly improved in accuracy with every experiment. The success inspired Dr. Gregor to attempt more ambitious plans to measure his subject's abilities. The first new experiment would be one in psycho-kinensis, the attempt to control an object's movement by means of thought alone. Archie was asked to roll a die on the table to come up with a number three. He stared intensely at the small white die, bending his brow in concentration, and imagined it rolling to the number three. By the end of the exam, the excited doctor and his assistant calculated that the gifted man had managed to turn up three eighty-five rolls out of a hundred! Dr. Gregor claimed there was not a chance in a billion that this could have occurred by accident. Archie Ruber clearly did possess an extraordinary skill!
The tests continued and required more and more extreme feats of Archie's mental abilities. Before long, however, it seemed to have begun to take a toll on Archie's health. He bagan to complain to the doctor of headaches and weakness. The parapsychologist's assistant suggested that they lower the intensity of the tests, but the corpulent administrator was insistent that the experiments continue to push Ruber's powers to the maximum level. This was an unprecedented discovery in the field and it seemed like there may be no limits to the power that Archie seemed to wield.
The tests would continue as usual for several more days until finally one of the tests produced an amazing result of a completely different sense. In the standard card test, Archie had failed to provide any correct answers! Dr. Gregor was outraged, while Archie sat back in his chair with a sly smile. He had hoped this atypical failure would mean the experiments would finally come to an end. His hopes were quickly dashed, however, when the doctor observed a stange phenomenon in the answers that Ruber had given. His answers were not correct for the card that the assistant had been holding, but they were correct for the next card in the series!
Archie was now able to guess the correct card even before the card was turned over! Everyone was astonished at the incredible feat of prediction, but Archie himself saw nothing but disappointment in what had happened. He had hoped that the failure might enable him to return to his mundane life and put parapsychology behind him. This newfound power of prophecyvirtually guaranteed that this would not happen.
Archie was correct. Doctor Gregor had no intention of letting his magnificent find go. The experiments continued for several days, exploring all manner of telepathic, telekinetic and precognitive abilities, before Archie could no longer take any more testing. His headaches had grown increasingly worse and he angrily informed the scientists of this. He then refused to take part in any more experiments, despite the doctor's promises that he had only two more planned. The two men launched into a verbal dispute before Archie crashed to the table, cradling his head in agony. The pain had become unbearable.
Suddenly, Ruber stood and strangely pointed to the far wall. He said that there was danger nearby, that there were test tubes and vats of liquid in the next room that were dangerously close to a violent chemical reaction. The assistant revealed that was a possibility. A chemical labratory was located on the same floor of the university building they were housed in. The group of men stepped out into the corridor to investigate and saw a column of smoke rising from the next doorway. They ran out of the building just before the entire floor was destroyed by a terrible explosion! His headache had been a warning. Archie's gift of precognition had saved them all.
The next day, Archie saw Dr. Gregor at the airport while he was performing his daily porter duties. The man had his suitcase with him again and he informed Archie that he was on his way to visit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. to notify the American military about this spectacular new tool that could be utilizied for national defense. Archie was overwhelmed with anxiety. He didn't want to be used as a tool for anything. He just wanted to be himself and live an ordinary life. It was then that he hatched a plan. He would convince the doctor that it all had been a hoax and he was a fraud. He yelled to the doctor, "Dr. Gregor! Wait! Don't take that plane! You'll never leave the airport alive!" He had hoped that once this prediction was proven false after the plane lifted off, the parapsychologist would assume that Archie was nothing but a phony. Unbeknownst to him, the husky man had never heard that warning before he climbed aboard the plane and it took flight.Only a half hour later, however, word had begune to spread through the airport that the flight for Washington was set to return to the airfield. There had been trouble with the engine and were forced to make an emergency landing. On approach, it appeared to the crowd of concerned airport staff that the plane was beginning to veer out of control, headed for a crash landing. Archie wished with all his might that the plane would land safely and miraculously it did! The plane had landed safely thanks to Archie Ruber's strange gift.
He began to run to the plane to see if anyone needed to assistance, when he was stopped by a fellow employee. Despite the successful landing, there had been a casuality onboard. Two airport workers carried a body off the plane in a sctretcher. The employee told Archie that the person had died from heart failure while on board the flight. The victim's name was Dr. Anton Gregor! Archie had said that the doctor would never leave the airport alive! Even his false prediction had come true! Archie knew now that his power was more than just prophecy. It was a gift of life and death. Anything he could imagine, he could make happen through willpower alone.
The responsibility of his gift weighed heavily upon the meager airport handyman. "No human being should have power like that!" he exclaimed. This thought led to an epiphany: he could will himself to never be able to use his strange powers again! And so he did. He predicted that before the day ended, he would no longer have the ability to see or control the future. And the prediction came true. Archie never saw the bus that would strike him dead as he stepped off the curb outside the airport.
"Well, Archie's prophecy came true! He doesn't have those weird powers of his any longer...because, you see, Archie's dead! Poor Archie! What a way to end such a promising career! Oh well, maybe they'll find some use for his talents--out there in the Twilight Zone!"
Response and analysis
Notes and annotations
- The name of the airline Archie Ruber worked for was Icarus Airlines. Icarus was a legendary character from Greek mythology. Icarus was the son of the inventive genius, Daedalus. The father and son were imprisoned in a tower on the island of Crete by King Minos for helping the hero Theseus escape the Labyrinth. They managed to escape when Daedalus ingeniously engineered two pairs of wings which they could use to fly away. The plan worked perfectly until Icarus, overcome by the thrill of flight, flew too close to the sun and the heat from the sun's rays melted the wax that held the wings together. Icarus fell to his death in the sea below as a result.
- It has been revealed that the United States Federal Government did have a covert program that was started to evaluate the usefulness of psychic phenomena in conducting reconaissance in military and domestic operations. Of particular concern was the ability of particpants to engage in remote viewing, allegedly an abillty to gather information about events or locations from a distance through psychic means. Reports have also made claims that the viewers were able to psychically "see" objects and events that had not yet happened, much as Archie Ruber did. These projects operated under the umbrella code name, the "Stargate Project," which ran from the 1970's until 1995. Similar research was conducted prior to the project by The Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in the 1970's and The American Society for Psychical Research, which has conducted psychic research since its founding in 1882.
- There is no actual New England University in the United States, but there is a University of New England, and a New England College. Similarly, there does not appear to be a real world Parapsychological Institute, although there are several parapsychological institutions.
- Dell - Publisher
- Cayuga Productions - Production Co.
- Originally published in color
- Printed on newsprint, 10 pages
- Reprinted in The Twilight Zone (Gold Key) 25, Mystery Comics Digest 18
- The plane that Ruber was unloading baggage from at the start of the story was numbered "N60050."
- The number of the flight that Dr. Gregor boarded for Washington, D.C. was 603.
- The number of the bus that hit Archie was "H41076."
Notes and references
- Bob Klein and Mike Tiefenbacher. "Four Color 1173 (1942 series)." Grand Comics Database. Retrieved: July 14, 2009.