"You're looking at Act One, Scene One, of a nightmare, one not restricted to witching hours or dark, rainswept nights. Professor Walter Jameson, popular beyond words, who talks of the past as if it was the present, who conjures up the dead as fi they were alive . . .In the view of this man, Professor Samuel Kittridge, Walter Jameson has access to knowledge that couldn't come out of a volume of history, but rather from a book of black magic, which is to say that this nightmare begins at noon."
Walter Jameson, a college professor, is engaged to a young doctoral student named Susanna Kittridge. Susanna's father, Samuel Kittridge, another professor at Jameson's college, becomes suspicious of Jameson because he does not appear to have aged in the 12 years they have known each other and seems to have unrealistically detailed knowledge of some pieces of history that do not appear in texts. Jameson at one point reads from an original Civil War diary in his possession. Later, Kittridge discovers the truth after recognizing his future son-in-law in a Mathew Brady Civil War photograph. Jameson had earlier denied having an ancestor in the war. Moreover, the man in the photograph has the same facial mole, and wears the same ring, as Jameson.
Jameson ultimately reveals his real-life history, which includes the fact that agelessness (but no kind of immunity to injury) was imparted to him by an alchemist more than 2,000 years ago. Jameson indicates that he is old enough to have known Plato personally. Jameson does not know what was done to him by the alchemist, only that the alchemist was gone when he recovered, and he then stopped aging while everyone around him continued with normal living. Soon, he had to leave and become a constant refugee.
Kittridge asks Jameson to share this "gift" with him, but Jameson does not know how. Jameson tells Kittridge that even if he could share it with him, it would only make him immortal from that point forward. He asks Kittridge if he would want to be a 70-year-old man forever. Jameson tells Kittridge that he learned a terrible lesson from living for so long and reveals his desire to die. Jameson mentions that he keeps a revolver in his desk drawer but does not have the courage to use it.
Kittridge soon realizes that if Jameson marries his daughter, she will grow old, and Jameson will eventually abandon her in order to keep his secret. Kittridge then refuses permission for Jameson to marry his daughter. In spite of this, Jameson proposes to Susanna, and they plan to immediately elope.
Unbeknownst to Jameson, he is being stalked by an elderly woman. She is Laurette Bowen (Estelle Winwood), one of his many wives and consorts through the years, whom he had abandoned when she grew old and frail while he remained young. She claims that she cannot allow Jameson to destroy another woman's life. She discovers Jameson's pistol lying on his desk, and impulsively shoots him. Kittridge passes by Laurette as she is making her escape. When he enters Jameson's study, he finds Jameson bleeding but seemingly at peace. Soon, Jameson starts to rapidly age. Kittridge attempts to help but nothing can be done, and Jameson collapses on the floor. Susanna enters the house, and Kittridge tries to stop her from seeing the aged Jameson, saying only that he is gone. He is unable to keep her out of the room, but once inside, she discovers only an empty suit of clothes with a white substance near the collar and sleeves. When Susanna asks what is on the floor, the professor replies, "Dust, only dust."
"Last stop on a long journey, as yet another human being returns to the vast nothingness that is the beginning and intothe dust that is always the end."
Preview for Next Week's Story
Next week, an excursion to Mars with Roddy McDowall and Paul Comi, two men trying to prove a point: a simple proposition that men are alike all over. And on Mars, they discover that this is just whistling in the dark. People are not alike and next week on The Twilight Zone, you'll see why. I hope you'll be with us. Thank you and good night.
Preview for Another CBS Show
"Be sure to see the fun-filled family life on one of America's greatest entertainers, The Danny Thomas Show, Monday nights over the most of these stations!"
Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (in association with)
Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1960) (USA) (TV) (original airing)
United Productions of America (UPA) (animated title)
The date of the diary entry of September 11, 1864 is said to be on a Tuesday, but in reality it was on a Sunday.
The scenes of Walter Jameson's aging was performed by using an old movie-making trick. Age lines were drawn on actor Kevin McCarthy's face in red make-up. During the beginning of the scene, red lighting was used, bathing the scene in red and hiding the age lines. As the scene progressed, the red lights were turned down and green lights were brought up. Under the green lights, the red age lines were prominent. The lighting changes were unseen by the audience because it was filmed in black-and-white. The ultimate result is the appearance of a complete make-up change with no cuts to the scene.
Kevin McCarthy revealed that one of the crew members told him the final aging effect for the episode cost around "$25,000".
For the DVD release, Kevin McCarthy returned to record an audio commentary for the episode, revealing that he never met Rod Serling and that aside from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, his appearance in this episode generated the most fan mail he ever received.