Richard Matheson, ‘I Am Legend’ and ‘Twilight Zone’ Writer, Dies at 87

Richard Matheson

Writer influenced numerous creators with his fantasy and horror stories

Richard Matheson, novelist and screenwriter whose high-concept stories and novels were favorites for adapting into films such as “I Am Legend,” died on Sunday at his home in Calabasas, Calif,  according to his publisher. He was 87 and had been ill for some time.

As well as creating source material for films including “What Dreams May Come,” “Real Steel,” “A Stir of Echoes” and “The Incredible Shrinking Man,” Matheson was a prolific film and TV scribe. He was responsible for some of the most popular “Twilight Zone” episodes as well as writing for nearly every other anthology series of the 1960s and 70s with credits including “Lawman,” “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery,” “The Martian Chronicles,” “Amazing Stories” and “Star Trek” episode “The Enemy Within.”

For “Twilight Zone,” Matheson wrote the classic William Shatner episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” The Hugh Jackman film “Real Steel” was adapted from his “Twilight Zone” episode “Steel.” Matheson also wrote both the novel and screenplay for Christopher Reeves’ time travel film “Somewhere in Time.” Among his other screenplays were “Jaws 3-D” and 1959’s “Beat Generation.”

Numerous sci-fi, horror and fantasy writers and filmmakers were influenced by Matheson’s work, including Stephen King, who called him “the author who influenced me most as a writer” and George Romero, who said the vampires that appeared in the Vincent Price version of “I Am Legend” served as inspiration for the zombies in “Night of the Living Dead.”

In the early 60s, he adapted Edgar Allen Poe stories such as “The Raven,” “The Fall of Usher” and “Pit and the Pendulum” into low-budget scarers for Roger Corman.

His short story “Duel” was the basis for Steven Spielberg’s first feature-length film as a TV movie, and he won an Edgar award for his screenplay for “The Night Stalker,” one of two TV movies that preceded the category “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.”

Born in Allendale, N.J., he was raised in Brooklyn and served as an infantry soldier during WWII.

He is survived by his wife Ruth Ann and four children, three of whom (Chris, Richard Christian and Ali Matheson) are writers.

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  1. Randy Russell says:

    He was one of the reasons I began writing screenplays and short stories and followed his work greatly. It’s a sad that I can never meet him, but he himself, is a legend.

  2. Frank W says:

    Before I learned his name, I loved his stories. His Twilight Zone episodes–Terror at 30,000 Feet was the only first run TZ I remember seeing–Omega Man with Heston inspired my own last man on earth stories and Somewhere in Time taught me what romance was all about.

  3. Paul Zotos says:

    Recognizing his work before i knew
    His name is what got me going to
    The library searching for more
    And later discovered everyone
    Who was inspired by him
    Thats what makes richard extra special
    Im re- reading shrinking man
    Right now! Give someone his books!

  4. When I was a teenager, my girlfriend introduced me to “Somewhere in Time”, where we both were transported away by love and timelessness. Sad to hear of his passing yesterday at 87, but happy that 87 years from now, in 2100, Matheson will still be with us.

    • Paul Zotos says:

      You’ll be happy to know
      A famous producer is developing somewhere in time for broadway
      With songs!!!
      Cant wait!

  5. Reblogged this on HORROR BOOM and commented:
    He is legend.

  6. Paul Zotos says:

    When i found out all those twilight Zones
    And movies and tv shows and screenplays
    Were all done by the same person
    I was shocked, but it made me realize
    I recognized his style and that
    Sent me to the library , got me reading
    All my life and got me reading everyone
    He inspired , thank you for enriching my
    Life , im re- reading the shrinking man
    Right now!

  7. A sad loss for the genre of science fiction, and all things cool. Look Matheson up on IMDB and you’ll be amazed at how much of his work you’ve seen. Damn.

  8. Chris K. Rogers says:

    I loved his work, he will be heavily missed.

  9. Philip Cowan says:

    “I am Legend” is as profound an existentialist novel as Camus’ “The Outsider”. A pulp writer with the heart and mind of an artist.

  10. Kenmandu says:

    Another great is gone!

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