The Essentials – Nightmare at 20,000 feet

Remember that Twilight Zone episode in which Captain TJ Hooker Kirk spots a wee beasty on the wing of the aeroplane he is a passenger in? You do, – good. Well that episode was based on the short story, Nightmare at 20,000 feet by Richard Matheson. So popular was the Twilight Zone episode that it was again remade as one part of the Twlight Zone movie.

The short story was originally published in the 1961 pulp, Alone By Night but is currently available in the anthology  book Nightmare at 20,000 feet which collects many of Matheson’s most famous stories.

As Stephen King notes in his introduction – Richard Matheson doesn’t hold back and he certainly doesn’t in the titular short story. Anyone who is interested in the genre needs to read this story – it’s tremendously effective and leaves the reader unsettled. Was there really a man creature on the wing of the plane? Was the protagonist deluded, driven mad by a life that was going nowhere?

I won’t give it away but will say that anyone only familiar with the Twilight Zone version of the story is in for a surprise. This is a totally different experience with many differences to the story told on the screen. It also offers a masterclass in horror writing.


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