Name That Trauma by Proxy :: Frank via John Kenneth Muir on a Tar Beast

UNK SEZ:: In Kindertrauma‘s mail bag we discovered a letter from one of our favorite people, JOHN KENNETH MUIR of the excellent REFLECTIONS ON FILM/TV, check it out:

Dear Unk,

I recently received this intriguing reader e-mail at my blog, and frankly I’m stumped. It’s from Frank and reads:

“I wonder if you could solve one of the great mysteries of my life. About 1978, I saw the scariest show I’ve ever seen. I was 14, and the next day I asked if anyone had seen it.

No one had, although one guy had said that his brother had seen it and that he had told him his hands had been shaking the whole time. So had mine. It was on CBS at 10:00 Eastern time on a Friday night and I never heard of another episode being shown here in Miami.

I’m pretty sure the name was THE NEXT STEP BEYOND. I read your interview with JOHN NEWLAND. He didn’t seem to have much good to say about this series. It begins with a man telling how he had died and been brought back, but now had a connection with the dead who sometimes sent him to help their survivors. He finds his way to an isolated cabin (on an island?) and, I believe with the help of a diary, figures out how the scientist who lived there came to a violent end from a man he had created out of tar. It then comes after him. Does this ring a bell for you? I’ve looked up synopses and never come across this one, although it’s been a while since I really gave it a good shot and certainly more and more information is come out on the net. That’s how I found your site. I’ve only seen two of the original ONE STEP BEYOND‘s. They were on a video CD. One was with CHARLES BRONSON as a boxer. They were great.

I’d sure love to know if what I saw was indeed The Next Step Beyond, and if there was any way to see it again. I’ve even thought about making a pilgrimage to NY to check out the Museum of Television and Radio to see if I could find it, or at a least reference to it.

Thanks for any help you can give.


Anyway, does that sound familiar to you, Unkle Lancifer? There is a NEXT STEP BEYOND episode entitled “The Return of Cary De Witt” (September 13, 1978) set on an island, involving a man coming back from the dead following surgery…and astral projecting. But nothing about a Tar man, or helping other survivors. And the show aired in syndication, I believe, not on CBS.

So if you can, please help Frank and me figure out what the heck this was. I’ve ruled out, I think, QUINN MARTIN‘s TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED (1977) and GHOST STORY/CIRCLE OF FEAR (1972) and THE EVIL TOUCH (1973) as well. All too early for Frank‘s remembrance; and no synopses appear to fit on first blush.

Thank you,

John Kenneth Muir

UNK SEZ: Thank you JKM! I’m happy to say that I actually do know this one on account of we’ve gotten a Traumafession on it BEFORE. It’s gotta be the THE WORLD BEYOND/ THE MUD MONSTER from 1978 starring GRANVILLE VAN DUSEN and POLTERGEIST‘s JO BETH WILLIAMS. As soon as I learned about this frequent traumatizer I had to track it down and you can find my full review of it HERE!

I found it pretty darn effective and had no problem understanding why it left such an impression on folks. Thanks for sending Frank’s inquiry to us JKM and all you other folks out there make sure you drop by REFLECTIONS ON FILM/TV!

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John Kenneth Muir
11 years ago


You are amazing (as always). Thank you so much for solving this reader riddle, and for introducing me to the Mud Monster. Now I can’t wait to see The World Beyond. Sounds absolutely nightmarish…and fun.

All my best — and appreciation,
John Kenneth Muir

11 years ago

I ran — did not walk — to get a copy of this from Super Strange Video.

11 years ago

Oh hey! This is a movie I’ve been trying to identify for a while now…
For years I’d thought it was The Norliss Tapes… but rewatching that recently I discovered my mistake.
The scene where they find the mudman-shaped hole was the most vivid bit of memory.