In the small town of Binghamton, New York there spins a 1925 carousel that once inspired Rod Serling and has since become a portal into... the Twilight Zone.
We all have a favorite Twilight Zone episode. (I happen to have about forty.) One of mine is “Walking Distance,” in which an overstressed New York City advertising executive sojourns to his childhood town of Homewood, only to enter a vortex of the past in which he encounters the town – and his boyhood self of age eleven – as they existed twenty-five years earlier.
In the episode’s denouement, the ad man pursues his younger self on a carousel, desperately wanting to urge the boy to cherish this time of youth, with its freedom from careerism and commerce. In “Walking Distance,” the fifth episode from the show’s first season, creator Rod Serling captured his pangs for youthful yesterdays, which the writer associated with his own “Homewood” of Binghamton, New York.
Now, an intrepid young documentarian, Jonathan Napolitano, is preparing to tell the story of the real-life Binghamton carousel that inspired Serling’s vision. The George F. Johnson Recreation Park carousel, built in 1925, not only still stands in Serling’s central New York hometown – but today forms a panoramic memorial to the Twilight Zone creator himself.
In 2011, the carousel was restored with weirdly spectacular panels painted by artist Cortlandt Hull, which highlight images from some of the best-loved Twilight Zone episodes, including “To Serve Man” and “Time Enough at Last.” One panel features Serling standing, narrator-style, before an idealized, small-town gazebo.
Napolitano’s documentary, The Carousel, will track the history and restoration of Serling’s object of inspiration, and feature interviews with the restorers, artist Hull and master carver Bill Finkenstein, as well as Serling’s daughter and biographer Anne Serling.
At the opening of “Walking Distance” Serling intoned: Somewhere up the road he’s looking for sanity. And somewhere up the road he’ll find something else… For Serling, that “something else” was a carousel that anchored him to a time and place beyond the nightmares of the Twilight Zone.
Published 10:41 am Mon, Jan 27, 2014
About the AuthorVice president and editor in chief at Tarcher/Penguin, Mitch Horowitz is the author of Occult America (Bantam) and One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life (Crown). He appears in recent mini-documentaries on the history of positive thinking; Ouija Boards; and occult New York.
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Ian Miller is a fantasy illustrator and writer best known for his quirkily etched gothic style and macabre sensibility. Miller is noted for his book and magazine covers and interior illustrations, including SF fiction covers, a host of illustrations for the Realm of Chaos supplement and the first edition of Warhammer 40,000, work for Fighting Fantasy gamebooks and covers for Terror of the Lichmaster, Death on the Reik, andWarhammer City. Featuring over 300 pieces of artwork spanning decades of Ian's work, The Art of Ian Miller is a treat for all lovers of great fantasy art - from Lovecraft novel covers to Tolkien bestiaries to Warhammer 40,000 concept art, through a veritable trove of gothic humour, fantasy battles, dragons, beasts and a world of nightmarish visions.