8 spooky facts about ‘One Step Beyond’
Before The Twilight Zone, there was One Step Beyond. This anthology series that told stories of “the world of the unknown” ran from 1959 to 1961. Though it tends to be overshadowed by its successor, which began in October 1959, it’s still a cult favorite. One Step Beyond tended to focus more on paranormal stories than The Twilight Zone, with less of an emphasis on social commentary.
For those who are new to the show, here are some facts about One Step Beyond to get you ready to watch this month:
There were lots of notable guest stars
Like most anthology series, the cast was different with each episode. A few of the biggest stars who guested on One Step Beyond include William Shatner, Cloris Leachman, Christopher Lee, Jack Lord and Warren Beatty.
They were marketed as true stories
When One Step Beyond hit the air, it was advertised that each episode was based on true events. Imagine the frenzy when the pilot aired: “The Bride Possessed” was about a bride on her honeymoon who is possessed by a woman who was murdered in an effort to reveal her killer.
Creator John Newland said in an interview that he received letters accusing him of being the antichrist for telling these stories, especially ones with true roots like “Night of April 14,” about the sinking of the Titanic, and “The Day the World Wept,” about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
The full title was actually 'Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond'
According to John Kenneth Luir’s Retro TV File, the pilot episode cost $30,000 to make - in 1959 - and many episodes cost upward of that. It was understandable then, that Newland would be interested in sponsorship. He met with a number of companies about sponsoring the show and the Aluminum Company of America was the one that bit. The show initially included ‘“Alcoa Presents” in the title, then dropped it.
There were no hard feelings between Newland and Rod Sterling
“I knew Rod, and he knew me as a director, and he was a splendid person to work with, and a real supporter. He called me up and asked me to meet him for drinks,” said Newland. “Well, once we were at the bar, Serling told me he was going to be producing and writing an anthology series of his own. He assured me that The Twilight Zone was going to be pure fantasy, with no discussion of proof or psychic powers.”
“The Sacred Mushroom” episode was legit
To film the episode about mushrooms obtained from a brujo that were meant to enhance psychic abilities, Newland literally went to Mexico and took a donkey trip to get the mushrooms from the village of Wahaca. The footage of Newland in a laboratory, sampling mushrooms is completely real, and he really did experience psychotropic effects.
“I felt light-headed and a sense of well-being. The stuff was distilled,” Newland said. “It was very powerful, but not poisonous, so I didn’t have any trepidations. I had flashbacks and hallucinatory moments for about a month.”
It was one of the first shows that focused on the paranormal
The original concept was an anthology series called Fantasy. Each episode would focus on fantasy, horror and science fiction. However, they determined this had already been done by other shows, so creators decided to solely focus on stories about paranormal activity.
The show wasn’t canceled
After three seasons, Newland decided to call it quits, despite the fact that they were still getting good ratings. They had been veering away from the paranormal aspect of the show and recycling old material because they were running out of ideas for episodes. In total, 96 episodes of One Step Beyond were aired.
There was a revival series
The Next Step Beyond was shot on videotape aired for a single season in 1978, and though Newland had a hand in its production, he wasn’t happy with how it turned out.
“It was very inferior quality. We thought videotape was the medium of the future, but the results were not what we had in mind,” he said. “We switched to 16mm halfway through the series to try to improve its look, but by then it was too late.”