"A Passage for Trumpet" is the 32nd episode of The Twilight Zone, first broadcast in May of 1960. It starred Jack Klugman (most famous for his later work on The Odd Couple) as impoverished trumpeter Joey Crown and John Anderson as mysterious figure Gabriel.
Joey Crown is trying to find some work, and although his old band leader admits he is a talented player, his drinking habits have made him too difficult to work with. Crown sells his trumpet for eight dollars, and precedes to get drunk with the money. When he sees his beloved trumpet being sold at a considerable mark-up, he steps in front of a truck. He wakes up to find that people around him don't acknowledge his presence, and that he casts no reflection in the mirror. He (along with the audience, who are used to seeing adjustment to the afterlife) comes to assume he is dead and in the afterlife, but in a further twist, the appearance of a kindly man named "Gabriel" shows Joey yet another truth.
As with many of the best Twilight Zone episodes, this episode explores the basic premise of the show: the state of being in-between.
"Right now you are in a kind of limbo, Joey, you're neither here nor there. You're in the middle, between the two. The real, and the shadow."
As with many Twilight Zone episodes, many of the issues have been explored before, and many of the answers given could be seen as pat. In the third episode of the show, Mr. Denton on Doomsday
, we saw another story about an alcoholic man who is given a new lease on life by the actions of a mysterious figure. However, for whatever reason, this episode came across as a genuine story about the human spirit and the miraculous, rather than a pat and saccharin story.
If I can inject a personal note about why this story might have appealed to me, I watched it at 6 AM after being up all night, unable to sleep after having watched 20 minutes of Marble Hornets, a nightmare-inducing horror series that gently chisels away parts of my sanity. It made me realize that part of the appeal of The Twilight Zone is that it is able to be eerie at the same time as it is comforting, and in fact is comforting because it is eerie, and eerie because it is comforting. I don't know exactly why this is, but I do know that I am feeling almost ready for sleep by the time the sun edges over the horizon.