Nightmare at 20,000 Feet – Horror Stories by Richard Matheson


“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.”

Whether in black-and-white or in color, we all have at one time or another watched an episode or more of the classic TV series The Twilight Zone. Many stories written by many authors, but one particularly stands out from the crowd. He has been known to influence great horror writers of today, such as Stephen King – but few actually know of the man named Richard Matheson. Writer of many an episode – every one a chilling thriller.

“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” the agonizing story of a man, trapped on an airplane – caught in a terrible lightening storm – when what should he see, but a man, or was it a creature of some sorts – out on the wing! Instantly we are pulled into the internal turmoil of this character – no one believes him – he’s gone mad – should he trust his eyes, is there really a monster on the wing, intent on bringing down the plane? What would you do in such a situation? Matheson takes the reader through the whirlwind of emotions involved in this spine-chilling story.

Meanwhile, we have Amelia in “Prey” – who has just returned home with a special gift for her boyfriend. ‘He Who Kills’ – a genuine Zuni fetish doll – how charming. There’s the spirit of an old Zuni warrior trapped within – only held there by a thin gold chain. By chance the chain slips off, releasing the deadly hunter. What ensues thereafter is a thrilling battle between human and soul. After all, how does one kill a soul – that is intent on killing them?

A phone call, in the middle of the night – whoever could it be? Night after night, the torture continues – a call in the middle of the night – at first, no answer – some breathing – piece by piece there is eventually a “Hello” from the other end. Is this all just a continuing nightmare for Elva – or is it something more? Why are there no records of any calls made to the phone? Why can’t the source be traced? Perhaps a “Long Distance Call’ is from farther away than anyone could imagine.

These are amongst twenty sorted stories written by Matheson, for The Twilight Zone and various publications – all collected in the novel titled Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. The collection is only a small ensemble of many of the memorable tales he has written over the years. Each touching on a different facet of fear buried deep within each human’s psyche and being displayed as only it could “in the Twilight Zone.”