Twilight Zone On Location – Part 1

Many of us can remember back in 1959, one of the more famous television series that came onto our black and white televisions sets.  It began with one of the most notable music introduction themes, that to this day is still used in many television commercials and video clips.  The penetrating background music, a gripping narration guiding us toward a vision of space…followed by a door careening towards us…a window which shatters into pieces…a creepy eyeball…e=mc2 …a flying spaceman…a crazy clock with its hand spinning uncontrollably…we just crossed over into…“The Twilight Zone”.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 50 years since we first heard those words, from the show’s extremely talented creator Rod Serling.  Rod’s genius, created a show that had been televised for 5 seasons, and had a generous following.   Over time, many shows have tried mimicking the shows vision and creativity, but many would agree, none were ever able to do so.

Over those 5 seasons, the show was mainly filmed on the studio lots in California, but occasionally, specific locations were required to accommodate explicit landscapes and backdrops for those various episodes.   Combining both the studio lot with these off-lot locations really gave some of these episodes a more realistic look and feel.

In 2010, a close friend of mine, Paul Giammarco, and I chose to take on the challenge of attempting to seek out these various off-lot locations.  With Paul’s passion, love, and extreme familiarity of the show, we felt that we might be able to create a “then-and-now” photo log of our journey to these somewhat forgotten locations.  With that, Paul began work on the project.  Utilizing DVD video stills to capture specific screen shots, along with various maps, and extensive Internet research, he and I were able to identify what we felt were some of these remote locations.   We booked our flights and our rooms and thus our journey began.

So as began our sojourn in the Death Valley area.  Our first region to visit was Zabriskie Point.   Zabriskie Point is a part of Amargosa Range located in east of Death Valley, in Death Valley National Park.  Named after Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, its composition is made up of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago, long before Death Valley came into existence.

Two episodes from the Twilight Zone series, “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air” (1960), and “The Lonely” (1959), were both filmed at Zabriskie point and at Desolation Canyon as well.  We eventually visited Desolation Canyon to obtain additional stills, and attempt to find those other filming locations and backdrops as they appear today.  Both episodes did involve space ships and asteroids, which made Zabriskie and Desolation Canyon perfect filming locations offering great backdrops, to create an un-earthly feel.  One interesting note I’d like to point out, is several of the “Star Wars” films were shot in and around Desolation Canyon, areas appropriately named “Banta Canyon” and “Jawa Canyon”, were home to many familiar scenes from those films.  These following photos depict screenshots from the original Twilight Zone episodes “I Shot an Arrow..” and “The Lonely”, comparing them to present day, from both Zabriskie and Desolation Canyon.

The episode titled “The Little People” was filmed was filmed at MGM; the process-shot with the landed rocket used Desolation Canyon as a backdrop.   Its premise, a spaceman finds tiny inhabitants on a planet and forces them to recognize him as a God.  Again, the backdrops of Desolation Canyon, do give it the look and feel of being on another planet.  The following are our photos from “The Little People” filming locations.

One of our final destinations was the town of Olancha, California.  Olancha is located in the higher elevations (3650 feet above sea level), just at the foothills on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  The episodes, “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” (1961) and “A Hundred Yards over the Rim” (1961).

“The Rip Van Winkle Caper”, an episode that involved four thieves, that in an effort to escape the police, create a plot to live in suspended animation for 100 years along with their stolen gold bars.   The foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range offered a great backdrop for this episode.  The barren and rugged terrain really conveys to the viewer the desolation and desert feel.  It drives home, what it must have been like for these individuals to fight for their lives.  The following are the photos from “The Rip Van Winkle Caper”.

And finally, we come to one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes.  “A Hundred Yards over the Rim”, tells the story of 19th-century western settler, portrayed by Academy Award winner Cliff Robertson, who sets off on his own to search for water to help his dying son, but instead finds he had stepped into the modern era.  Part of this “modern era” is a diner that we were fortunate to locate.  However, it was in a bad state of disrepair.  The gentleman that owned the property, was living behind the building, and structure did have a for sale sign in the window.   At first, it didn’t look at all like the original diner from episode, but with a little imagination, and after looking at it for a while you can see the similarity.   There were other scenes from the episode, where again, the director tries to convey the desolation and isolation that Cliff’s character was experiencing through the desert area.   Ironically, Paul and I experienced those same feelings of desolation and isolation when we first arrived.  Wondering how these earlier settlers could have managed with the extreme temperatures variations, lack of water, and isolation.   Death Valley temperatures have reached as high as 134 degrees, and virtually having no rainfall.  With that, photos from the “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” episode.

In closing, Paul and I really enjoyed our experiences in visiting those vintage locations.  This trip helped us develop a deeper appreciation, for the area, and for what the cast and crew must have dealt with on a day to day basis working in Death Valley.  On one occasion, Paul did make a comment to me during one of our photo shoots, “they call it Death Valley, this place is anything but death…”.   I really thought about his comment, and I couldn’t agree more.  Despite all its potential harshness, we discovered that Death Valley does have an abundance of natural beauty, making it truly come alive.   Artist Palette, The Devils Golf Course, Furnace Creek, Mesquite Dunes, are just a few of the other areas we visited, all of which offer life to this beautiful landscape.  As stated at the beginning of this post, this is “part one” of our journey.  Paul and I hope to return some day to visit several other Twilight Zone locations.  Please visit the following link to view Paul’s short video clip, “Twilight Zone On Location”.



  1. John ~ New Hampshire says

    Fantastic effort here and extremely interesting. 🙂 Thank you. We will be out there in a week. Can’t wait.

  2. Jimmy Holloway says

    Very cool! I really enjoyed reading this, and it truly makes me want to visit as well!

  3. Really well done, Thanks

  4. Thank you for posting. The Lonely is my favorite TZ episode. I hope one day to get out to this location as well. Great job guys!!!

    • Hey Frank-

      Glad you enjoyed it! We had a blast shooting that. We are planning a return trip because there are a few more locations for some different episodes that we just didn’t have time to visit.

  5. Thank you so much! I have always wanted to visit these film locations. Can you post grid coordinates or maybe put pins (to mark the locations) on a map. I would love to make the journey out there. Again if you could mark the exact points near Zabriskie Point and Olancha it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much again for your awesome work!

  6. Great job. Excellent research and camera angle recreation. Very impressed.

  7. Wow thank you, wanted to know where over the rim was filmed for 40 years !
    Great idea
    Thank you soo much, maybe you should make a tour of this for us Twilight Zone fanatics !

  8. joel ewing says

    Wow…I’m posting the first post since a year ago today (1-1-2016)! Happy New Year, everybody. I’m here because I just got done watching “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” moments ago. All yesterday and this evening, our “Dish Network” system has a channel that has been playing each Twilight Zone episode that was ever made. Something in the desert scenes of this episode compelled me to see if there was such a website that dealt with folks who have sought out what those old Twilight Zone background scenes that were not studio shots but rather real places look like now….50-55 years later. I am so grateful that you guys who did this research posted your photos of your findings. Man….I’d LOVE to have that old gas-station that was in “100 Yards” that’s in disarray and for sale. Geez I hope somebody with a nostalgic heart buys it and gets smart…and charges a little admission fee for travelers to take a quick stop and tour the place. Problem is I guess that other than us old baby-boomers…..I doubt anybody in Gen. X or this new “Millennium Generation” really has ever seen the old episodes or cares about ’em. So….just like us baby boomers….that old gas station will turn to dust and return to the earth too…lol. Seriously…thanks for the great effort to provide us fans the before and after shots of the location. God Bless joel In tucson

  9. Amazing research. Thank you.

  10. Great job with your research — thank you! Has anyone tracked down the location of the small Western town seen in the “Twilight Zone” episode “Dust”?

    In response to Joel’s comment above, fortunately I think a lot of us Baby Boomers still have some good mileage left, and if we keep plugging away at it and leave behind a legacy of solid research tracking down filming locations for the classic productions — as exemplified by Sal and Paul’s great work on display here — I believe there will be those among the later generations who will eventually pick up where we leave off.

    Gen-X’ers and Millennials may not have the childhood memories of “Twilight Zone” and other classic shows that we Boomers do, but a few of them are likely to take an interest as long as the reruns continue to circulate.

    The better the research foundation this generation creates, the better the job later generations will be able to do to “complete” our work. I put “complete” in quotes because as any location hunter is well aware, this work is never completed.

    If you get a chance, check out the location history work being done in connection with the Iverson Movie Ranch and other classic location ranches:

  11. Rick
    I would like to see if you can find out the backdrop (mountains in distance) on Second Season Episode “Dust” which appear behind the gallows. They look like the backside of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico looking South from near Santa Fe (LA Bajada hill)

    • The western street sets used in Twilight Zone episode “Dust” was located on MGM Lot 3 in Culver City, California. The sets were identified as ‘Ghost Town Street’. MGM Lot 3 was bulldozed and redeveloped into a townhouse community in August 1971.

  12. Absolutely outstanding. What a wonderful surprise to stumble across tonight. I raised both of my daughters (now in their 20s) on my favorite show and they love the twilight zone and know every episode just as I do. We have talked for years about going to the desert and doing exactly what you did. However, I can’t imagine that we ever could pull it off as well as you did! Perhaps someday we will get out there now that you have shown us the way 🙂 In the meantime, THANK YOU for your magnificent work – truly a work of art!

  13. Christian Horn says

    Great work, but I agree with Robert who posted on August 8 of 2014. Please be so gracious as to provide grid coordinates so that we, too, can visit these sites. I am an Army officer at Fort Bliss, Texas, and would love to fly to southern California and explore these areas before my tour here is finished and I have to move on (further away). I know where Zabriskie Point is, but I do not know the locations of the Rip Van Winkle Caper, The Lonely, and A Hundred Yards Over the Rim. Thank you.

  14. We are near Olancha now. Can’t wait to see the “diner”. The Twilight Zone has been one of my favorite shows since I was a child in the sixties. Thanks for all of this great information. It was super interesting. Dns

  15. Now that I know where this town is, I want to plan a trip in the winter
    When it’s not 115 degrees !! I live in the SF Bay Area
    Thank you !!
    Hey we should do arenuion tour Zone buffs like the Trekes do !

  16. Noticed many years ago that the semi-truck that causes Horn’s gun to go off in a Hundred Yards Over the Rim is they same Moving van truck used in Rip Van Winkle Caper.

  17. Wonder where that semi is now !

  18. AL Valiente says

    Was the very first episode filmed in Binghamton NY…at the Greyhound Station?

  19. Coordinates:
    Hundred yards Over The Rim
    36.258430, -117.994669

    The Lonely
    36.396630, -116.847477

  20. James Burrough says

    I enjoyed reading about your trip immensely. Your pictures were great and I found myself wanting to plan a trip to Death Valley to see the filming locations. I am a huge fan of the series and still watch them all the time. I am the type who is always trying to get a peek backstage or in areas at Disneyland that nobody else gets to see. My interest gets the best of me.
    Thank you your story was awesome

  21. Bruce Stevens says

    October 21-23 2018 I drove to Olancha Dunes, (A Hundred Yards Over The Rim) then to Zabriskie Point, (I Shot An Arrow Into The Air) then to Desolation Canyon (The Lonely) and had some fun with two Halloween Characters at Zabriskie, a Haunted Girl and a Screaming Werewolf with Manly Beacon behind. I also took some night pictures of Manly, using the full moon for illumination and also another night shot with the moonset happening. The pics came out absolutely beautiful and was worth the trip. Bruce Stevens

  22. Exciting ! That’s on my bucket list. Does it look the same, at Olancha Point !

  23. Thanks Scott

  24. Kelly Siegfried says

    This is great! Thanks for this! I was in Lone Pine which i belive is in Olancha county, with out seeing this article, I looked around and thought it looked like a place TZ would have been filmed.

  25. Andy Berko says

    Thanks so much for the views down memory lane. I too am a Twilight Zone enthusiast and have often thought about visiting the desert filming locations. Re: providing actual locations, I myself would be against doing so. Perhaps share the general area but not precise GPS coordinates – this would eliminate most of the fun and mitigate the uniqueness of the quest and experience.

  26. Andy Berko says

    P.S. – I grew up in the 70s watching the TZ and introduced my (Brazilian) wife to it 20 years ago. She and our two daughters love it too as do their (young) friends. It’s a pleasure to see the enthusiasm that the show evokes in younger people. It’s a timeless classic that will endure for many generations to come.
    P.P.S. – It was very kind of you to share the coordinates – the noblest TZ fans will certainly appreciate that gesture.

    • Hey Andy! So sorry it took a bit to get back to you! Interestingly enough, your comments are very timely. Paul and I just picked a date for our “TZ-On Location Part 2” trip for next year. A few more locations that we need to get to. Heading to Burbank, and Alabama Hills, among other locations to see if we can locate and photograph a few more!!

      • Fantastic, when are your dates, maybe some of us can also meet up for this adventure !

      • WARREN Blum says

        Wife and I are in the vegas area. Been to Joe’s airlift diner numerous times with east coast friends who are also TZ fans. Just signed up. Let me know of and of your plans with other locations. Thanks

  27. Any idea how they came to film 2 episodes in Olancha? Rather an out of the way location.

    • Paul Giammarco says

      Hi, Paul here. Olancha is truly a bit of a ride from the studios, but only a small hop and jump when traveling by plane! The Martin Grams Jr book, “Twilight Zone – Unlocking the Door To a Television Classic”, describes how Olancha (and its neighbor to the north – Lone Pine), were scouted and chosen for the two episodes. In fact, both episodes were filmed together during a 5-day shoot. Grams’ book actually has a copy of the itinerary/flight schedules, which also lists which characters were coming and going on each flight!
      And yes, that moving van was utilized in both episodes…

  28. TZfanatic says

    The still shot with the eroding limestone mountains in the background in several shots including the giant men from space at the end of the show is in Red Rock Canyon State Park near Cantil, CA off the 14 freeway (east side of the park) in between the town of Mohave and Death Valley NP.

  29. Richard Wagenblast says

    Absolutely wonderful that you did this…just revisited two of these Twilight Zone episodes, and have always been fascinated with then and now comparison photography. So I Googled it…and you had done it. Bravo! I’ve done this over the years with family photographs back to the early 1900s. It’s absolutely what you can find, even after 100 years, that is still recognizable. I have one that goes back well over 100 years, and it is absolutely amazing. I’d love to share it.

  30. Michael Kenihan says

    I applaud the effort made here to do this. a big THANK YOU for this. I would love to know if Valley Of The Shadow was filmed strictly back lot (?).

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