Shadow Play (1961 The Twilight Zone episode)

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"Shadow Play"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 26
Directed by John Brahm
Written by Charles Beaumont (adapted from his short story, "Traumerei")
Production code 173-3657
Original air date May 5, 1961
Guest actors
Episode chronology
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"The Silence"
Next →
"The Mind and the Matter"
List of season 2 episodes
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"Shadow Play" is episode 62 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on May 5, 1961, on CBS.


A man convicted of murder, Adam Grant (Weaver), tries to convince those about to execute him that the world all around them is just his recurring nightmare. The story opens with the jury finding Grant guilty of murder and the judge sentencing him to death. He laughs uncontrollably and then rants that he refuses to die again. He claims that the district attorney and lawyers are all people he has known in his past who are playing parts in his dream.

Speaking to others, including his cellmate and the district attorney, he points out obvious logical errors accepted as normal by those around him, such as the fact that his arrest, trial, and execution are happening on the same day, and the fact the prisoners seem to stereotypically look like what you'd see in a story. Paul Carson, a reporter and friend of the district attorney, who is questioning reality given the impossibly perfect life that he enjoys, persuades the district attorney to visit Grant. He speaks to Grant, but does not believe him. He asks Grant why he cares about dying if it's all a dream. Grant explains that he cannot get a decent night's sleep because he always wakes up screaming. He tells the district attorney to go home and he will find that what he thought was for dinner will be something else.

This happens and unnerves the district attorney, who discusses the issue with Carson. Carson reasons that the man's claims constitute reasonable doubt as to his sanity, and that the district attorney should ask the governor to issue a stay of execution. With reservations, he places the call and asks the governor to do so as Grant is being prepared for execution. He tells the reporter that the governor said he would make the necessary phone call. The stay of execution arrives too late, and it is revealed that Grant was correct: the world was a dream for them and a nightmare for him. Everything vanishes and goes dark.

Grant then finds himself in the courtroom being sentenced to death for murder again, with the same people each now in different roles (e.g., a fellow inmate is now the judge behind the bench).



Opening narration[edit]

Closing narration[edit]


It was remade under the same title as part of the 1980s series in which Peter Coyote played Adam Grant.

References in popular culture[edit]

In Werner Herzog's series of films, On Death Row, Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner refers to this episode when discussing his feelings about his numerous stays of execution.[1]

Rory Gallagher and Joy Division both used this title for songs.

The X-Files episode "Monday" was inspired by Shadow Play.

See also[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]