Below is how Rod Serling ended a story From the Twilight Zone published in 1961.
The story begins with four criminals stealing $1 million in gold from a train on the way to Ft. Knox. One of the criminals – a chemistry expert by the name of Farwell – hid four suspended-animation chambers near the scene of their crime in the California desert and set them to wake the criminals in 100 years, believing they would be free from police pursuit and able to spend their stolen money in the year 2061.
But after they wake up, greed starts leading them to kill one another as they leave the cave. In the end, the last criminal survivor is Farwell, struggling to survive in the desert heat. Close to death while lying at the side of an isolated road, he musters his remaining strength to beg a man and woman who stop in the first vehicle to pass in days.
“This is gold here. This is real gold. I’ll give it to you if you’ll drive me into town. If you’ll give me water. I must have water.” He forced one hand to move across the sand where it pointed to that last bar of gold a few feet from him. “Gold,” the voice came again. “It’s real gold. And you can have it. I’ll give it to you. I’ll give it to you. . . .” The fingers clutched convulsively, and suddenly the hand opened. There was a spasmodic jerk, and then there was no movement at all.
The man knelt down to listen for Farwell’s heart beat. When he rose to his feet he shook his head. “Poor old guy,” he said. “I wonder where he came from.”
The woman in the vehicle rose from her seat to look across the road. “Who is it, George?” she asked. “What’s the matter with him?”
The man walked back to the vehicle and got into the driver’s seat. “Some old tramp,” he said, “that’s who it was. He’s dead now.”
The woman looked at the gold bar in her husband’s hand. “What’s that?”
“Gold. That’s what he said it was. Wanted to give it to me in exchange for a ride into town.”
“Gold?” The woman wrinkled her nose. “What in the world is he doing with gold?”
The man shrugged. “I don’t know. Off his rocker, I guess. Anybody walking in this desert at this time of day would be off his rocker.” He shook his head and held up the bar of gold. “Can you imagine that? Offered that as if it was worth something.”
“Well, it was worth something once, wasn’t it? Didn’t people use gold as money?”
The man opened the door. “Sure – a hundred years ago or so, before they found a way of manufacturing it.”
Given his insistence on including in “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” a strong opinion about the severed link between money and gold not being able to prevent the ironic deaths of his ignorant criminals, it would be fascinating to know what Serling, had he lived longer, would make of current reality.
As depicted by Serling, money and gold were indeed linked by the gold standard in 1961. But unlike the story’s fictional ending – depicting how the link was severed in 2061 and led to gold becoming practically worthless, due to society finding a way to manufacture the precious metal – in reality the link was severed due to government finding a way to manufacture money by ending the gold standard in 1971 – not a century but merely a decade after “The Rip Van Winkle Caper.”
Change under Barack Obama is leading to money becoming even more worthless, as shown in the above figure. The economy is crying out for a return to tradition — proven leadership that understands what’s needed for government to guarantee long-term economic health in America.
Rod Serling, “The Rip Van Winkle Caper,” in From the Twilight Zone (New York: Doubleday, 1961).