Mysteries from Beyond the Other Dominion was one of the Sci-Fi Channel’s first original programs in the early 1990s. While it may not have been a ratings hit, it predated many other paranormal-oriented shows that would become popular in later years. Arthur Maturo worked on Mysteries as a segment producer, and his relationship with the show’s quirky host, Dr. Franklin Ruehl, extended well beyond the cancellation of Mysteries. In March 2022, Mr. Maturo answered Brett Homenick’s questions about his work on Mysteries from Beyond the Other Dominion.
Brett Homenick: When and where were you born?
Arthur Maturo: I was born in Brooklyn, NY, on February 8, 1957. This date was strange in its own right since my uncle died exactly one year prior in a plane crash off the coast of Nova Scotia. My grandmother thought I was her second chance at a son and of course was her favorite grandchild.
On the way to the hospital, my mother witnessed a double suicide by our neighbors who leapt off the 13-story building next door. They suffocated their daughter, headed to the roof, and jumped. My father who was driving thought she was imagining it. But, on the way home, he saw the carnage.
BH: Let’s talk about your early years. What were your hobbies or interests when you were young?
AM: On February 9, 1964, the day after celebrating my 7th birthday, I watched the American debut of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was hooked and asked my mother to buy me a record. She did; it was the Beatles’ cover of “Slow Down” and “Matchbox.” From then on, I was listening to WABC and WMCA, searching for rock ‘n’ roll.
My other interests were cars and motorcycles. I wasn’t old enough to get into the R-rated movies, but I did get into Easy Rider (1969) and Vanishing Point (1971). Both movies affected me to the point of buying a Harley-Davidson and later a 1968 Dodge Charger which was my source of transportation when working on Mysteries [from Beyond the Other Dominion].
BH: Did you go to college?
AM: In 1976, I made the cross-country trip from NJ to Denver on my 1948 Panhead Harley-Davidson. I was 19 years old. That’s where I went to Regis College. I graduated with a double major in mass media communications and sociology in 1979. Went back home to Englewood, NJ, and in the fall of 1980 at the age of 24 started work at Goodson-Todman [Productions], commuting to NYC every day.
BH: How did you break into the entertainment industry?
AM: I got into the television business through nepotism: My mother [who worked there from 1954-94] got me into it as a production assistant on To Tell the Truth. Then [I worked on] Child’s Play [in] 1982. When that was cancelled, I moved to L.A. [in 1983] because at that time all Goodson-Todman’s productions were located there.
BH: How did you get to know [director] Jim Carbonetti and [producer] Todd Stevens?
AM: I was hired by the executive producer of Match Game-Hollywood Squares [Hour] as a researcher and built the Mark Goodson Research Library. That’s where I met Jim and Todd. I worked there from ’83 to ‘91, when most of the game shows were cancelled.
BH: What led to your involvement with Mysteries from Beyond the Other Dominion?
AM: So it’s 1991-92; I was on unemployment, looking for work. The game shows were over. Todd and Jim recruited me as segment producer on Mysteries. I was excited about the opportunity; however, when I got to the industrial — what would you call it, park, strip mall, like rows of big garages in Sylmar, CA, surrounded by people who make anything from furniture to welding fences — I didn’t know what to think. This wasn’t Park Avenue or Sunset Boulevard. Todd had a crew converting the place into a soundproof studio. The crew was, I think, from Major Dad [a CBS sitcom produced by Todd Stevens].
BH: What were your initial impressions of the show’s concept and Dr. Franklin Ruehl himself?
AM: Dr. Ruehl had no script. He had notes but literally improvised the segments off the top of his head. That was kind of an amazing feat.
BH: Jim Carbonetti filmed an alternate opening for the show. Could you tell us about your involvement?
AM: The alternate opening was directed by Jim Carbonetti. I remember we showed it to Todd during Mysteries. I don’t know what he thought of it, but it was never aired until Weird TV. This was literally taped on Devil’s Gate [Reservoir], an area that separates Altadena, CA, from La Canada, CA.
I don’t know if you can freeze frame it, but there is a shot of me on my 1965 Triumph motorcycle in the alternate opening used on the Dr. Ruehl segments on Weird TV. Can you imagine nobody ever questioned that we had a body double for Dr. Ruehl in my sidecar? That was one of my fellow producers, Bob Hartman.
Like a lot of places that have the name “devil” in it, this place has a history strange [and] weird occurrences. Anything from the hanging of transvestites to the place where Rodney King did the drug PCP before his encounter with police on the 210 Freeway headed towards Lake View Terrace. I was going to do a segment on Devil’s Gate [Reservoir] on Strange Universe, but it was cancelled. There is a file on it in the Pasadena Library.
BH: What were your duties on Mysteries?
AM: My credit on Mysteries was segment producer. I basically read whatever I could and built segments around them.
I had a desk upstairs; that was basically it. Remember, this time was before the Internet, so everything was done the hard way. All of my research was usually done through the newspaper, or, if I heard of a New Age convention going on, I would be there.
BH: As segment producer, what were some of the more memorable or noteworthy segments that you produced?
AM: Jim and I went to the Bay Area to do a number of segments. One was a psychiatrist who hypnotized a woman who relived her alien abduction. Another interview was with a British man who talked about crop circles. I’m sorry I don’t remember their names.
BH: In terms of the hypnosis session with the alien abductee, how real would you say it was? Was it staged for the cameras?
AM: The alien abduction hypnosis segment was kind of amazing. Jim and I traveled to the Bay Area set up the camera, and both participants were very serious about it. If they were putting us on, I would have to congratulate them.
BH: Generally, what was Dr. Ruehl like away from the camera?
AM: I could say the same about Dr. Ruehl; he took his segments very seriously. We stayed friends for years. Any time I had the opportunity to hire him as an interviewee, I would jump at it. I wanted to keep him employed.
BH: Did you produce the interview with author Frank Stranges, author of Stranger at the Pentagon? While I can’t say that I believe his story, he at least appeared to be more credible than most others who would claim such things.
AM: I didn’t produce Stranger at the Pentagon. That might have been Martha Feinberg.
BH: Did you work much with fellow segment producer Martha Fainberg?
AM: She was a great person, and it was a pleasure working with her.
BH: Jim Carbonetti recruited many of the show’s staff members for what he called the “Re-creation Players,” who were essentially extras who acted out some of the stories that Dr. Ruehl told on the show. Which characters did you play?
AM: I know this sounds ridiculous, but the only person I remember portraying on Mysteries was either a scientist or a doctor. I’m so sorry, but this was almost 30 years ago. I don’t remember the segment.
Jim and I produced most of the re-enactments. I played many parts. Dr. Ruehl wanted me to play General George Custer, but the show wasn’t picked up for a second season.
BH: Both Jim Carbonetti and Dennis Michael Miller [who played the nerdy correspondent Dennis Michaels] discussed how the show changed after new directors and producers were brought onboard during production. How did you feel about these changes?
AM: It was kind of an insult to Todd Stevens that the studio sent in a producer to oversee our production. I can’t remember who it was. I didn’t notice that the show had changed that much.
BH: There was a second Dennis who did a story on John Wilkes Booth. When I asked Jim Carbonetti about him, he couldn’t remember anything about him. Would you happen to recall anything?
AM: I’m sorry I don’t remember another Dennis. I kind of remember a segment on John Wilkes Booth. What’s interesting about that is [on] the History Channel’s Decoded circa 2014 I produced a segment on that very subject.
BH: How did you find out the show was being cancelled?
AM: I don’t remember who told me Mysteries was cancelled. I actually thought, according to Todd, that it was coming back.
BH: How did you get hired to work on Weird TV?
AM: After Mysteries was cancelled, Todd contacted me and said it was coming back. He wanted me to start researching for the next season. I worked out of his basement in Silver Lake. He said, “By the way, if you can create anything else, go for it.” I created an idea for a network called Weird TV, kind of like MTV, but [about] strange phenomena. It was supposed to be a network.
Todd and I created a show called Strange World and Road Trip, recruited Chuck Cirino’s “Weird America” and Corky Quackenbush’s stop[-motion] clay animation show. These people were geniuses.
I got us on satellite TV. We aired all over the country; however, you would have to have [had] a giant satellite dish in your backyard on a Galaxy IV transponder [No.] 6. These were the mid-1990s; today, people don’t understand what this is.
We only had four shows, not really enough programming to fill an entire network, so we decided to create one program called Weird TV. Chuck Cirino was hosting the show from his SUV and would introduce the segments. Todd, who was now [a] line producer working for the most watched show on network television, Friends, funded seven episodes.
I contacted Richard Perrin in NY, told him that we were about to replace his show called Night Flight — a total lie on my part — in some East Coast markets, he being semi-intoxicated said, “Send me this Weird TV show.” He called me back and said, if we could create six more episodes, he will put us on syndicated television in 35 markets, meaning cities across the USA!
We were desperate for material, so enter Dr. Ruehl on a sidecar. It was great; he had one segment per show from that point on. We aired in L.A. [at] midnight [in] 1995 on Channel 13. Our production company, TV Farm, never made a cent. We were all going broke and crazy. Todd couldn’t support us; we had to disband.
BH: How did you get Dr. Ruehl involved with The Roseanne Show and other such media appearances?
AM: In my unemployment stage, I interviewed for a segment producer position on The Roseanne Show. The interviewer asked me who would I recruit as a guest for Roseanne Barr. Dr. Ruehl, of course! They never heard of him and didn’t hire me but did contact Dr. Ruehl, who made a great appearance and got along really well with Roseanne. Such is Hollywood.
Speaking of L.A., I got another job at Rysher Entertainment’s Strange Universe [in] 1996–97, another syndicated show. They knew I had something going, and I introduced them to Dr. Ruehl. It was great seeing him again and putting us both on payroll.
BH: What was it like to work with Dr. Ruehl on Ancient Aliens for the History Channel?
AM: After several years of going from production company to production company, I finally landed a regular gig at Greystone Communications in 1999, producing A&E Biography and other specials for the History Channel. That lasted for four years.
Ancient Aliens was literally the last show I worked on with Dr. Ruehl. I contacted him for the “Aliens and Monsters” episode. I think he was on some other episodes, but I can’t remember them. That was 2011-12.
BH: How did you find out that Dr. Ruehl died?
AM: I heard about Franklin Ruehl’s death from Jim Carbonetti in 2015 while in Europe.
BH: What would you say is Dr. Ruehl’s legacy?
AM: A lot of Dr. Ruehl’s segments were later redone on other programs. He was ahead of his time.