At some point, you can only watch your favorite Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episodes so many times for so many years until it dawns on you that there must be more sci-fi or mystery goodness from the same era that has somehow slipped past your radar. Many of us have some familiarity with the long running television show Unsolved Mysteries and its steely-eyed host in a trench coat, Robert Stack. The premise of that show, of course, was re-enactments of supposed true life mysteries ranging from unusual missing persons cases to mysteries surrounding paranormal events and conspiracy theories.
This brings us to The Veil and One Step Beyond, two lesser known anthology TV shows as compared to The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. Like Unsolved Mysteries, The Veil and One Step Beyond were in the style of a docu-drama and presented as portraying fictionalized accounts based on real life events, although I would say the latter two were a lot looser on the criteria for what events were considered “real life”.
Over the course of the last couple of years, I made my way through all of the available episodes from The Veil and One Step Beyond, and found them to be perfectly compatible with my taste for the more well-known and respected Twilight Zone and Outer Limits series.
The Veil (1958)
Boris Karloff liked to star in stuff. In between starring in many famous and not-so-famous horror movies, he also hosted and acted in some TV shows. With a premise similar to Unsolved Mysteries and One Step Beyond, Hal Roach Studios produced the horror/suspense anthology The Veil in 1958 with Karloff as host and lead actor. However, the series was never aired in its original form until the 1990s.
The show is definitely worth watching, particularly as a great late night time filler. That said, seeing Karloff in each episode gets a bit old and none of the stories are particularly spectacular or have any standouts.
One Step Beyond (1959)
What you are about to see is a matter of human record. Explain it? We cannot. Disprove it? We cannot. We simply invite you to explore with us the amazing world of the unknown. To take that...one step beyond.
Such was the standard episode introduction from One Step Beyond host John Newland. This show would run for three seasons between 1959 and 1961. Unlike Karloff in The Veil, Newland did not also star in each story (save one!), but limited himself to a more Rod Serling-like role by introducing and concluding each episode.
Like The Twilight Zone, OSB had several notable actors early in their careers such as Donald Pleasence, Christopher Lee, Charles Bronson, William Shatner, Elizabeth Montgomery, and Louise Fletcher.
Compared to The Veil, OSB put more emphasis on the concept that all the stories had real life roots, and indeed, many of the shows will have you running to Google to investigate the origins. I can tell you now that those searches will mostly lead back to OSB results, but there are a few exceptions, such as “The Peter Hurkos Story”, which is broken up into two episodes.
- The Peter Hurkos Story (1 & 2)
- The Clown
- Vanishing Point
- The Riddle
- The Sacred Mushroom
The Sacred Mushroom
Science has not yet given it a name, for science knows scarcely anything about it. But, it is felt that “X” might have one remarkable quality: that it stimulates extrasensory perception, enabling the mind to become telepathic and clairvoyant. Now, that’s a rather large claim. Is it true or false? The answer to that question took us on a unique and distant journey.
Inspired by a 1959 book of the same title, “The Sacred Mushroom” first aired in January of 1961 and was One Step Beyond’s most popular episode. I couldn’t see current prime time TV airing a show like this, let alone American television over 50 years ago, so it’s shocking that it aired at all. You were lucky if you caught it on that first airing, because it was eliminated from reruns in syndication.
Unlike other OSB episodes, “The Sacred Mushroom” was the most documentary-like and was presented as having no actors or scripted material. After taking a trip to a remote village in Mexico to visit with brujos, or priests, of the “mushroom cult”, intrepid host John Newland would himself go one step beyond for us, and with the cameras rolling, consume the shroom, as it were, and describe its effects. To do this, Newland visits Dr. Andrija Puharch at his Palo Alto, CA, home. Dr. Puharch was the author of The Sacred Mushroom and would supervise Newland’s televised trip.
Before actually eating the mushrooms, Dr. Puharch first has a blindfolded Newland go through a series of control tests to measure any level of existing ESP ability he might have. After some card and image guessing tests, it is determined that Newland does not possess any ESP ability of note.
“Tastes just like mushrooms.”
“Now we’ll lie you down on the bed.”
“Uh, what for?”
“To do some physical testing before the effects of the mushroom take hold.”
“Like what? Well, like what effects?”
“Uh, you’ll find out.”
“I see so many things I can’t tell you!
I see so many colors!
I’ve never been so aware of color.
I feel like I would like to dive into the middle of it!”
When this program began, the question was, were the claims for the mushroom true or false? Well, for those of us who made the journey, the answer is true.
The program then fades to black.
Full episode can be watched on YouTube, although be advised that all options seem to be of pretty rough quality.