Charles Beaumont, the Lost Sorcerer

Tom Stewart
4 min readJan 9, 2022
Charles Beaumont meets Satan, 1960. Beaumont is on the left.

The Twilight Zone premiered in 1959, and while an intelligent, well-written and acted show, it was never a huge ratings hit (it was canceled twice during its five seasons) but is still one of the best-loved, remembered, respected, and influential series in television history.

At its center was a young man who had gained his reputation as a playwright by writing live television dramas. This was his first series and was born out of a desire to write something that wouldn’t be rewritten by the censors. ‘You can’t have two senators talking about the issues, but two Martians…?’ Serling admitted thinking. And the kernel of the series was born.

Serling and some of the most talented writers of the day (Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson among others) created some of the best TV not only of the day, for decades after, with Serling himself writing 156 episodes. Over 60 years later, it still has an impact.

But, we’re talking Charles Beaumont, one of Serling’s go-to writers for scripts and writing talent, as he seemed to know most of the top writers in California at the time.

Who was Charles Beaumont? He was a writer, a force of nature, and a genius. Writer/essayist/scriptwriter/screenwriter, Beaumont was one of the initial writers approached by Rod Serling to write for the Twilight Zone. Serling was impressed with his short story collections and wanted him, and his friends, as part of his series.

Who were his friends? The writer was part of a group later called the ‘California Sorcerers’, which included Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, and George Clayton Johnson (look them up, you’ll be astonished at their output), and almost all would regularly write for regularly for the Twilight Zone because Beaumont had vouched for Serling).

Beaumont was a leader in SF and horror fiction, writing award-winning short stories in both genres, and writing TV and movie scripts for people like Roger Corman (adapting his book ‘The Invader’ for Roger Corman), and working on Corman’s Poe adaptions.

For ‘The Twilight Zone’, he is credited with:

“Perchance to Dream”

“Elegy”

“Long Live Walter Jameson”

“A Nice Place to Visit”

“The Howling Man”

“Static” (story by OCee Ritch)

“The Prime Mover” (story by George Clayton Johnson)

“Long Distance Call” (co-written with Bill Idelson)

“Shadow Play”

“The Jungle”

“Dead Man’s Shoes” (story only; ghostwritten by OCee Ritch)

“The Fugitive”

“Person or Persons Unknown”

“In His Image”

“Valley of the Shadow”

“Miniature”

“Printer’s Devil”

“The New Exhibit” *

“Passage on the Lady Anne”

“Living Doll” *

“Number 12 Looks Just Like You” (co-written with John Tomerlin)

“Queen of the Nile”

Many of these were adapted from his own short stories. From what his friends say about him, he was a wild man and instigator; the one who called the group together, and who suggested they see how fast their cars could tear around the Hollywood Hills. He was the leader, and his fellow writers loved him and were probably somewhat intimated by his energy and talent. The group loved talking, passing around ideas, and supporting one another. And they loved Charlie. And he loved them back and worked as hard at getting them work as he did himself.

As brilliant as he was, his life ended with a tragedy that robbed him of his energy and his talent.

People thought in his later career he had a problem with alcohol. No. He actually had a problem with undiagnosed dementia. In his early 30’s, he started suffering from early-onset dementia, and he tried to cover it up by turning to alcohol to ease his confusion and disguise what was happening to him. He could still pitch stories to his friends (like Serling) but could not concentrate enough could not formulate the thoughts to write the script. The actual script he would farm out to others, like friend OCee Ritch, usually crediting them as co-writer of for ‘story idea’. Over time, he grew too foggy and unfocused even for that.

He died in 1967, at the age of 36, leaving family, friends, admirers, and colleagues (with many crossovers in those groups) who still miss him to this day, and talk of stories, bullshitting sessions, and racing their cars against the moon.

Find his collections of stories (they’re out there still in print and in dusty hardcover and paperbacks) and remember a sorcerer whose magic ran out too soon.

Originally published at http://www.tompstewart.com on January 9, 2022.

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Tom Stewart

Actor, writer, artist living in Seattle WA. I write plays, articles on comic book history or any other odd thing that crosses my mind. More to come!