When I was young, I read a chilling story of astronauts coming to an unknown planet and found to their delight the occupants were all members of their family who were deceased. Each crew member goes off to their respective childhood homes to relive memories.

One astronaut however in the same bedroom as his brother suddenly wonders if aliens may have searched the memories of himself and fellow crew members and used this to gain power over the intruders. His brother asks suspiciously what he's thinking and doesn't believe the answer. The last scene shows astronauts being buried by aliens whose faces melt from human into something terrifying.

Anyone know the name of the story and author? I thought it might be something like Coming Home, but only a guess.

  • You might also be interested in a story by Lem - Solaris. It also revolves about austronauts seeing their dead relatives/friends on a foreign planet. It was a single inhabitant of that planet messing with their minds. Very interesting and philosophical.
    – Ans
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 12:40
  • see also scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/21416/… (about the mini-series adaptation)
    – Otis
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


"Mars Is Heaven!" a.k.a. "The Third Expedition", a short story by Ray Bradbury in his Martian Chronicles series; first published in Planet Stories, Fall 1948, which is available at the Internet Archive, as is the Dimension X radio adaptation. It was adapted to television as an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater, available on YouTube. You might have seen it under any of these covers.

Wikipedia plot summary:

It is the 1960s and the first spaceship from Earth is landing on Mars. The crew are shocked to discover a Rockwellian small town, eerily similar to those they left on Earth. The strangely familiar people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover old friends and deceased relatives in the town. Those who had been ordered to stay behind and guard the rocket abandon their posts in order to join the reunions and festivities.

Members of the crew split up to spend the night in the homes of their lost comrades and relatives. The ship's captain, John Black, remains skeptical, and realizes in the middle of the night that the entire situation may have been contrived by telepathic aliens to lower the Earthmen's guards. Before he can warn the others or reestablish a guard on the spaceship, he is proved right as he and the entire staff of the ship are killed by those whom they think are their family members.

Last scene shows astronauts being buried by aliens whose faces melt from human into something terrifying.

In the morning, the brass band played a mournful dirge. From every house in the street came little solemn processions bearing long boxes and along the sun-filled street, weeping and changing, came the grandmas and grandfathers and mothers and sisters and brothers, walking to the churchyard, where there were open holes dug freshly and new tombstones installed. Seventeen holes in all, and seventeen tombstones. Three of the tombstones said, CAPTAIN JOHN BLACK, ALBERT LUSTIG, and SAMUEL HINKSTON.

The mayor made a little sad speech, his face sometimes looking like the mayor, sometimes looking like something else.

Mother and Father Black were there, with Brother Edward, and they cried, their faces melting now from a familiar face into something else.

Grandpa and Grandma Lustig were there, weeping, their faces also shifting like wax, shivering as a thing does in waves of heat on a summer day.

The coffins were lowered. Somebody murmured about "the unexpected and sudden deaths of seventeen fine men during the night—"

Earth was shoveled in on the coffin tops.

After the funeral the brass band slammed and banged into town and the crowd stood around and waved and shouted as the rocket was torn to pieces and strewn about and blown up.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.