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This page is about The Twilight Zone episode. For the theater technique, see Shadow play.

"Shadow Play" is an episode of the The Twilight Zone.

From the CBS Video Library cover:

"Adam Grant is convicted of murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair. Every night, he wakes up screaming, drenched in a cold sweat. Quaking with fear, he is like all other criminals meted out the same fate. Except what he fears is worse than prison, worse than death. He fears that he is living a nightmare -an actual dream! And if he dies now, the world will disappear with him...into The Twilight Zone.[1]

Episode Details

Opening Narration

Adam Grant, a nondescript kind of man, found guilty of murder and sentenced to the electric chair. Like every other criminal caught in the wheels of justice, he's scared, right down to the marrow of his bones. But it isn't prison that scares him, the long, silent nights of waiting, the slow walk to the little room, or even death itself. It's something else that holds Adam Grant in the hot, sweaty grip of fear, something worse than any punishment this world has to offer, something found only in - The Twilight Zone.

Episode Summary

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. 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 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. The district attorney is persuaded to visit Grant by his friend, a reporter who is questioning reality given the unlikely perfect life that he enjoys. He speaks to Grant but does not believe him. He asks Grant if 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 a friend. The friend 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 we discover 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).

Closing Narration

"We know that a dream can be real, but who ever thought that reality could be a dream? We exist, of course, but how, in what way? As we believe, as flesh-and-blood human beings, or are we simply parts of someone's feverish, complicated nightmare? Think about it, and then ask yourself, do you live here, in this country, in this world, or do you live, instead, - in The Twilight Zone?"

Preview for Next Week's Story

Next week, the very considerable talents of Mr. Shelley Berman are utilized to bring you another in our weekly excursions into the never-never land of the wild, the woolly and the wondrous. He plays the role of a little man who yearns for the serenity of a world without people and as it happens, he gets his wish: to walk an uninhabited Earth and face the consequences. Our story is called "The Mind and the Matter". I hope we see you then.

Promo for Oasis Cigarettes

Now, this isn't just a word from the sponsor. It's simply a very good suggestion. It stands for real refreshment. Before we meet again, try Oasis for the softest taste of all.

Production Companies


  • Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (1959) (USA) (TV) (original airing)

Home media release

This episode is included on the Image Entertainment Vol. 7 DVD along with "Perchance to Dream", "The Hitch-Hiker" and "King Nine Will Not Return".


  • Inspired 12:01 PM, Groundhog Day, Allegory of the Cave, Dark City and End Day.
  • Was remade in the 1986 revival series. See "Shadow Play (1986)".
  • 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.
  • Rory Gallagher and Joy Division both used this title for songs.
  • The X-Files episode "Monday" was inspired by Shadow Play.


  1. CBS Video Library: Twilight Zone #? "?/?"; UPC: ?, EAN: ?, ASIN: ?; Format: NTSC, VHS, Collector's Edition (1987)

External Links