The Shelter (The Twilight Zone)

"The Shelter" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.

Opening narration

What you're about to watch is a nightmare. It is not meant to be prophetic; it need not happen. It's the fervent and urgent prayer of all men of goodwill that it never shall happen. But in this place, in this moment, it does happen. This is the Twilight Zone.


A small gathering of neighborhood friends in a typical suburban community is having a small dinner party to honor the local Dr. Stockton at his house. Dr. Stockton is well-known and liked by this gathering because he has either administered to the health and well-being of his guests or has delivered their children. Everybody is especially friendly and jovial and mention is made of his late night work on a fallout shelter that he has built in the basement. Suddenly, a Civil Defense announcement, overheard by Dr. Stockton's son, is made that unidentified objects have been detected heading for the United States. In these times, everybody knows what that means: nuclear attack.

As panic ensues, the doctor locks himself and his family into his basement bomb shelter. The same gathering of friends becomes hysterical and now wants to occupy the shelter. All of the previous friendliness has vanished and is now replaced with bitter hate and soaring desperation as pent-up hostility and suppressed emotions boil to the surface. The end is moments away and everyone's mind is now vehemently poisoned by the clawing desire to survive, at any cost - the feelings of a neighbor, the sanctity of a friend's home, friendship itself, or the raw submission to violence. The last scene shows the once-friendly neighbors breaking down the door to the shelter with an improvised battering ram. Just then, a final Civil Defense broadcast announces that the objects have been identified as harmless, falling satellites, and that no danger is at all present. The neighbors apologize for their behavior, but Dr. Stockton wonders if they had not destroyed themselves, even without a bomb.

Closing narration

No moral, no message, no prophetic tract. Just a simple statement of fact: "For civilization to survive, the human race has to remain civilized." Tonight's very small exercise in logic from the Twilight Zone.

Short story

In its anthology form, the nuclear attack is actually real. The people of the town gather around the shelter, begging to be let in. One woman cries out, "At least take my children." Finally, the parents in the shelter can stand it no longer. They open the door and let two children in, in exchange for them.

Popular references

  • This episode was parodied in "Bart's Comet," the 14th episode of The Simpsons' sixth season, where everyone is inside a bomb shelter, attempting to escape a meteor that would destroy all of Springfield, although there are too many people inside the bomb shelter, causing somebody to have to die for the rest to survive.


  • Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
  • DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1593931360
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0970331090

External links

Twilight Zone links

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