“The story you are about to see is a matter of human record.” Those were the words of host John Newland as he introduced each half hour. The year was 1959, and the show was called “One Step Beyond.”
One Step Beyond was a show about the paranormal: everyday people walking into strange, and often frightening, supernatural situations that included possessions, hauntings, premonitions, and other deadly forces beyond the grave. It was like the Twilight Zone in the whole fiction anthology sense. Every episode was about a different character in a different situation. But One Step Beyond was strictly about the paranormal.
And that’s what made it scarier. From the eerie theme music to the ever-present supernatural undertone, watching each episode was like a having a chill creep slowly down your spine.
How do I, a young 20-something, know anything about this show? My Mom used to watch it when she was younger. Having older parents gives you the enrichment of being exposed to a wider array of things culturally. When I was little, she used to entertain me with ghost stories, most of which she had seen in anthology movies and tv shows. I mean, good-old, classic ghost stories that really left an imprint once you got done hearing them. (I’ll be writing another post soon about my favorite classic scary movie, The Haunting soon).
Most of these stories came from One Step Beyond. The more I heard, the more I became curious about the show. So I went to Amazon, and found the DVDs. They were all pretty much in horrible quality, but I still remember my excitement the first time I got to watch the episodes. And the chills.
To summarize a few of the REALLY creepy ones: there’s an episode where a traveling photographer (Cloris Leachman) moves into an old French mansion and meets a strange new visitor that she thinks is a model sent from the agency. The twist (spoiler): he’s ghost of an executed murderer (The Dark Room).
There’s another one (my favorite) where a French aristocrat poisons his wife, re-marries, and then sees the face of his dead first wife appearing slowly, day-by-day in a stain on the wall (The Image of Death).
Another scary one features a couple moving into the house of old sea captain whose ghastly portrait still resides on the wall. The husband is slowly taken possession of by his spirit, until the portrait (and house) burn down at the end, releasing him from the spell (The Captain’s Guests).
Another scary one features a necklace endowed with a spirit of its own, that strangles its wearers (The Inheritance). Then there’s the creepy clown episode. And the one with the evil, dead twin sister setting fires to schools and orphanages (Dead Ringer). There’s the one where the solider wakes up with the face of dead pharaoh (The Mask). And the one with the teacher who starts scribbling in the handwriting of a dead woman (Message From Clara).
Just watch the show if you’re curious. If you find it old and boring, oh well. If it doesn’t quite measure up to all the cheap jump scares you’re used to seeing today, then try something else. But for all you who enjoy creepy, classic television, I would invite you to give it a shot. Most of what you find won’t necessarily be in the best quality. But you’ll still find it dark and spooky.
One Step Beyond only lasted for three seasons, from 1959 to 1961, before it was cancelled. If you look it up you’ll find very little information on the show itself, as it wasn’t very well known. They did try to do a spinoff in the 70s called The Next Step Beyond, but it only lasted one season. It was also extremely low budget (filmed on video camera).
But the old, classic show is what a lot of baby boomers like my Mom remember watching on television as a kid and getting completely creeped out by. Despite its obvious age/datedness I also found it pretty scary at times. And would recommend the following episodes to watch:
(1). The Image of Death
(2). The Dark Room
(4). The Captain’s Guests
(5). The Inheritance
(6). The Mask
(7). Dead Ringer
(8). The Secret
(9). The Avengers
(10). The Navigator