"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. Originally aired when memories of the Second Red Scare were still fresh in the minds of viewers, the episode is often presented commercial-free as part of the Cable in the Classroom series, to teach kids about the dangers of prejudice and hysteria. The question of whether the monsters of the title are the suspected aliens or the prejudiced residents of Maple Street is open to interpretation.
Maple Street, U.S.A., late summer. A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbecues, the laughter of children, and the bell of an ice-cream vendor. At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely 6:43 p.m. on Maple Street.
This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon. Maple Street...in the last calm and reflective moment...before the monsters came.
Steve wants to go into town but Tommy, a boy from the neighborhood, tells him not to. His reasons being; he read in his comic/action hero books that an alien invasion is taking place, and it is a family that looks like humans, but isn't.
Meanwhile another resident, Les Goodman, tries unsuccessfully to start his car. He gets out and begins to walk back towards the other residents when the car starts all by itself. The bizarre behavior of his car makes Les the object of immediate suspicion. The residents begin to discuss his late nights spent standing in the garden looking up at the sky. Les claims to be an insomniac. His problem becomes worse when the lights in his house come on, and the rest of the neighborhood remains in the dark. Suspicion then suddenly switches to Steve when he tries to defuse the situation and prevent it from becoming a witch-hunt. Charlie, one of the loudest and most aggressive residents, pressures Steve about his hobby building a radio that no one has ever seen.
A man is seen walking along Maple Street through the dark, towards the gathered crowd. Panic begins to build, and Charlie grabs a shotgun and kills the man. When the crowd reaches the fallen man, they realize that it is Pete Van Horn, returning from his scouting mission.
Suddenly the lights in Charlie's house come on and he panics, realizing how it looks. He is now the subject of the suspicion. He makes a run for his house while the other residents begin to chase him and throw stones. Terrified, Charlie attempts to deflect suspicion onto Tommy, the boy who originally brought up the idea of alien infiltration. Lights begin turning on and off in different houses; lawn mowers and cars start up for no apparent reason. A riot begins and the hysterical residents smash windows, fight and switch blame from one person to another with little justification.
The episode ends with two Martian observers watching the rioting on Maple Street and discussing how easy it was to create paranoia and panic, and let the people of Earth destroy themselves, one place at a time. One of them tells the other:
"Understand the procedure now? Just stop a few of their machines, and radios, and telephones, and lawnmowers, throw them into darkness for a few hours, and then sit back and watch the pattern."
"And this pattern is always the same?"
"With few variations. They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find.... and it's themselves. All we need do is sit back and watch."
"Then I take it this place, this Maple Street, is not unique."
"By no means. Their world is full of Maple Streets, and we'll go from one to the other and let them destroy themselves. One to the other. One to the other. One to the other."
The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosives and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own; for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to The Twilight Zone.
Next week, Mr. Richard Matheson lends us his fine writing talents when we bring you a unique and most arresting story of a movie actor who finds himself on that thin line between what is real and what is a dream. Mr. Howard Duff stars in "World of Difference," which I think you'll discover is a television play of difference, too. That's, next week, a journey into The Twilight Zone. Thank you and good night.
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