The Twilight Zone eerily predicted the death of its most frequent actor

By: H&I Staff     Posted: June 27, 2023, 10:01AM   

The Twilight Zone certainly had its favorite guest stars. Burgess Meredith and Jack Klugman both headlined four memorable episodes. But those two TV legends do not hold the record for appearances in the Fifth Dimension. No, that honor goes to a relatively unknown performer. His name was Jay Overholts. 

Ohio native Overholts pops up – in some form — in eight different episodes from the original series. He's there in the very beginning, in the first episode, playing a reporter in "Where Is Everybody?" He's a passenger on "The Odyssey of Flight 33" and a cowboy in "Showdown with Rance McGrew." His voice alone can be heard in both "Twenty Two" and "Static." He must have been a pal of Rod Serling, as Overholts also found work in other screenplays by the writer, including installments of a local Cincinnati series from early '50s called The Storm, as well as the CBS anthology series Playhouse 90.

But we are going to focus on two particular Twilight Zone episodes featuring the familiar face — "A Thing About Machines" and "The Jungle."

The former must have made quite a mark on Stephen King, because the killer-car plot is quite similar to his Christine. At the end of the story, after the protagonist, Bartlett Finchley (Richard Haydn) has been run down by the vicious vehicle, a police officer and EMT ponder the death of the poor victim. Overholts plays the ambulance man, as seen above on the right.

"The Jungle," a season later, featured a man under the hex of a curse. At one point, the bewitched fellow (John Dehner) discovers that his taxi driver (Overholts) is dead. The image of Overholts slumped over in the front seat takes on an even eerier air when you learn what happened to the actor.

In 1966, the 42-year-old was killed in a head-on collision. The accident occurred "in Los Angeles, when [Overholts was] hit head-on by another driver in 1966. The other driver was charged with vehicular homicide." That little anecdote comes from an old fansite cataloging the many untimely deaths surrounding the sci-fi suspense series. In total, 18 actors from the series perished from untimely deaths.

Now, such statistics can likely be pulled from any anthology series with such a sprawling cast. But the nature of the series gives it all a much bone-chilling air, no?