The Grave

summer of ghosts

The Twilight Zone has more than a passing familiarity with American folklore and urban legend. It is not infrequent for episodes to be based, sometimes lightly and sometimes with an almost word by word retelling, on urban legend and established ghost stories.

The Grave is episode 72 of the original series and first aired just before Halloween 1961. The basic plot should be familiar to anyone fond of American folklore-the story is essentially a Western retelling of the knife and the grave. Conny Miller, a bounty hunter, returns to the town who had hired him to take down the outlaw Pinto Sykes to find that Sykes has already been killed. During conversation with the townspeople, he is taunted into visiting Sykes’ grave by Sykes’ sister and others. Sykes had made a promise to kill Miller if Miller ever visited the grave site.

The next day, Miller has gone missing and several men decide to go to the grave. Sykes’ sister is already there, with the corpse of Miller pinned to the grave with his own knife-he was supposed to leave the knife in the grave to prove he had been there. The town assumes that Miller had pinned himself to the grave and died of fright, while Sykes’ sister tells them that it was Sykes who had killed him, in order to fulfill the promise he had made.

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