Carol Serling, who helped extend the legacy of her husband, Rod Serling, the television writer best known for creating “The Twilight Zone,” through publishing, academic and screen ventures, died Jan. 9 at her home in Pacific Palisades, California. She was 90.
Her daughter Anne Serling confirmed the death.
Rod Serling, who died in 1975 at age 50, made a mark in various television projects through the years. But Carol Serling’s work focused largely on “The Twilight Zone,” the seminal horror, science fiction and fantasy anthology series that ran from 1959 to 1964. Rod Serling wrote 92 of its episodes, many bearing the imprint of his socially conscious ideas. As the host, he invited viewers into “a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.”
For Carol Serling, “The Twilight Zone” never ended.
She was the associate publisher and consulting editor of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, a monthly magazine, in the 1980s. She was a consultant to “Twilight Zone: The Movie” (1983), a segmented film adaptation whose four directors included Steven Spielberg. In one segment she had a cameo role as an airline passenger in a remake of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” the 1963 episode in which a terrified fellow passenger believes he has spied a gremlin cavorting on the wing outside his window.
In 1994, Carol Serling found two unproduced stories by her husband in a trunk at her home and sold them to CBS, which televised them as “Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics.” In 2009 and 2010, she edited anthologies of stories inspired by the series.
Perpetuating Rod Serling’s work gave her “an entry into the world that I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she told Cemetery Dance, a horror, mystery and suspense magazine, in 2005.
“I have made a business out of his legacy,” she said.
More recently Carol Serling was an executive producer of a “Twilight Zone” reboot, a series, of the same title, that began streaming on CBS All Access last year, hosted by Jordan Peele.
Serling cemented Rod Serling’s place in the academy by donating many of his television scripts and movie screenplays to Ithaca College in upstate New York, where he had taught courses in creative writing and film and television criticism. The gifts helped the college establish its Rod Serling Archives. She also helped create scholarships and an award at the college, where she was a trustee for 18 years.
Carolyn Louise Kramer was born Feb. 3, 1929, in Columbus, Ohio, to Warren and Anne (Caldwell) Kramer, who were chemists. After her mother died when Carolyn was 2, she was raised by her grandparents, Frank and Louise Caldwell.
She met Rod Serling in 1946 when they were students at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. When they married two years later, they lived on campus in a trailer. They graduated in 1950, she with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, he with a B.A. in literature.
By the mid-1950s, Rod Serling was one of television’s leading dramatists, with his work performed live on various anthology series. His best-known scripts were for the Emmy Award-winning “Patterns” (1955), about a corporate boardroom struggle, which aired on the Kraft Television Theater, and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1956), another Emmy winner (for best teleplay) about a washed-up boxer, broadcast on Playhouse 90.
In late 1959, soon after “The Twilight Zone” began its first season, Rod Serling praised his wife’s instinctive understanding of his work when they were interviewed by The Press & Sun-Bulletin of Binghamton, New York. (Rod Serling had lived there for a time as a youth.)
“Her taste is excellent,” he was quoted as saying, “and she has an unerring instinct about whether my work is good or bad — except for ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight.’ She disliked the play because she disapproves of boxing.”
They had 16 more years together, during which Rod Serling also created and wrote episodes of a short-lived Western series, “The Loner,” which premiered on CBS in 1965, and helped write the screenplay for the hit 1968 movie “Planet of the Apes.”
He also created a horror series, “Night Gallery,” that began its weekly run on NBC in 1970 and lasted three seasons. He hosted it and wrote some of the episodes.
He died June 28, 1975, in Rochester, New York, after having a heart attack and open-heart surgery.
“Rod’s father died at the age of 52,” Carol Serling told Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone magazine in 1987. “So I think Rod always felt this was hanging over his head — I know it did.”
In addition to her daughter, Anne, who wrote a memoir, “As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling” (2013), Carol Serling is survived by another daughter, Jodi Serling; three grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and a half sister, Cordelia Bedowsky.
Carol Serling told Twilight Zone magazine that her husband had read science fiction, ghost stories and horror tales and had wanted to believe in ESP and alien visitations but was a skeptic.
“He was pretty even-keeled,” she said, “I mean, people must have thought he was kind of a far-out guy and kind of nuts, but he wasn’t. He really wasn’t.”