Mute (The Twilight Zone)

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The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no.Season 4
Episode 5
Directed byStuart Rosenberg
Written byRichard Matheson
Featured musicFred Steiner
Production code4858
Original air dateJanuary 31, 1963
Guest appearance(s)

Ann Jillian: Ilse Nielsen
Claudia Bryar: Frau Nielsen
Robert Boon: Holger Nielsen
Frank Overton: Harry Wheeler
Barbara Baxley: Cora Wheeler
Irene Dailey: Miss Frank
Oscar Beregi, Jr.: Professor Karl Werner
Percy Helton: Tom Poulter
Éva Szörényi: Frau Maria Werner
(credited as Eva Soreny)
William Challee: Man
Bill Erwin: Man In Flashback
Norbert Schiller: Man

Episode chronology
← Previous
"He's Alive"
Next →
"Death Ship"
The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series) (season 4)
List of The Twilight Zone episodes

"Mute" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It was written by Richard Matheson, based on his own short story of the same name. The episode deals with a young girl raised to communicate only through telepathy, and her struggles after the sudden death of her parents forces her to enter mainstream society.

Opening narration[edit]


Firefighters respond to a blazing fire in a family home. The fire is so massive that they immediately write off the house as a loss, and a search of the building turns up no survivors. However, twelve-year-old Ilse Nielsen is found outside, mysteriously having escaped unscathed from the blaze which killed both her parents. Sheriff Harry Wheeler and his wife Cora take Ilse in until her relatives can be found. Ilse does not speak, even though medical examinations show she does not have a speech disorder. The Wheelers deduce that her parents did not teach her how to talk, and naturally assume it to be a case of parental neglect. In actuality, Ilse's parents were part of a secret society who learned how to use the latent telepathic abilities possessed by all humans. They agreed to raise their children to communicate solely with telepathy and regularly send letters updating the other members.

Using the return addresses from the recent (unopened) society letters, Harry writes letters of inquiry about Ilse's relatives. Ilse now lives in a world of people who speak with voices instead of their minds. Having been taught to communicate in pure meaning instead of words, the sound of human speech is alien and painful to her. She looks forward to being reunited with the other telepathic children once Harry's letters are received. But Cora, who sees Ilse as a surrogate for her dead daughter, takes the letters from the mailbox and burns them to prevent Ilse from being taken away. Ilse witnesses the burning but, lacking the ability to speak or write, cannot tell Harry.

When weeks go by without reply to his letters, Harry enrolls Ilse in school. Her teacher is patient with her inability to speak, but firm, and daily prompts Ilse to say her name. She deduces that Ilse has telepathic abilities by the end of her first day. Without telling them why, she has the other students think Ilse's name in unison, thus teaching her speech through her telepathy.

Karl and Frau Maria Werner, society members from Austria, are alarmed by the lapse in the Nielsens' regular communications and come to check on them. After being informed of the situation, the Werners meet with Ilse and talk to her telepathically. Their telepathic speech is incomprehensible to Ilse, and after continued telepathic prodding she begins sobbing and repeatedly saying, "My name is Ilse! My name is Ilse!" The Werners realize that over her weeks in a non-telepathic society, she has lost all knowledge of how to communicate telepathically. They decide to allow the Wheelers to adopt Ilse, even though the Werners are her legal godparents. Though saddened by Ilse's loss of telepathy, they take comfort in telling themselves that Cora Wheeler loves Ilse more than her parents did. They also reveal how Ilse escaped the fire: Though hopelessly trapped themselves, the Nielsens could still telepathically guide Ilse safely out of the house.

Closing narration[edit]


  • DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0

External links[edit]