It’s Haunting on Film Street Month at Nightmare of Film Street and the official start of the spooky season. Since we have all had a lot more TV time in recent months, we here at NOFS thought we would search through the annals of reality television and uncover some of the best shows that dare to delve into the world of ghosts, specters, phantoms, poltergeists, and demons. We present to you, Hunting the Haunt: The Top Ten Paranormal Reality TV Ghost Shows.
10. Paranormal State (2007-2011)
Personal problems of host Ryan Buell aside, Paranormal State scared audiences on the A&E Network between December 2007 and July 2010. The program followed the Pennsylvania State University Paranormal Research Society, a student-led college club as they investigated alleged paranormal phenomena at supposedly haunted locations.
Buell and a cast of revolving investigators called it quits citing a need to grow outside the confines of the show and the trappings of celebrity life, but not before leaving a body of work that played out like a rollercoaster ride. Throughout the show, a secondary story arc featuring a demon that had been following Buell for most of his life was introduced and became a focal point in many later episodes.
9. Celebrity Paranormal Project (2006-2007)
On October 22, 2006, to November 1, 2007, music television station VH1 launched Celebrity Paranormal Project, a show which featured a handful of celebrity participants who are taken to an allegedly haunted location where they are left to investigate from dusk until dawn with each celeb given the task of identifying said paranormal activity.
Similar to MTV’s Fear (2000-2002), Celebrity Paranormal Project relied heavily upon societies obsession with stardom by included D-Listers such as Gray Busey (Lost Highway, 1997), Donna D’Errico (Candyman: Day of the Dead, 1999), Traci Lords (Serial Mom, 1994), the late David Carradine (Kill Bill vol.2, 2004), Nicole Eggert (The Haunting of Morella, 1990) and rapper Coolio (Dracula 3000, 2004) all dove into the dark end of the paranormal pool. This was the show’s only hook to separate it from a slew of other similar shows and it ultimately only lasted eight episodes.
8. Buzzfeed Unsolved: Supernatural (2016-present)
If you like your ghost hunting with a side of humor, believer Ryan Bergara and his skeptic buddy Shane Madejare are gonna be your cup of ectoplasm. The show’s premise is simple, Ryan tries to convenience Shane that ghosts, demons, and other things that go bump in the night are real by dragging him to many different allegedly haunted locations.
While there is a large amount of comedy involved, there are some truly spooky moments once the pair’s investigations become more technologically advanced. They acquire a spirit box and things get real creepy real fast. They also have a couple of special episodes where they investigate fellow Buzz Feeder’s alleged haunted homes which surprisingly adds another element of terror.
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7. Most Haunted (2002-present)
Most Haunted, the Britsh reality show that features ghost hunters and show creators Yvette Fielding and Karl Beattie as they investigate paranormal activity in many different locations mainly within the UK and Ireland, has had a few starts and stops in its nearly twenty-year run. The show, which first aired in 2002, ran on the pay-TV channel LivingTV until 2010. It was picked up by digital channel Really 2014 and has remained there since.
While early seasons of the show tended to dress for its audiences by using elaborate camera shots, dry ice, and illuminated windows, the newer seasons have relied more on the esthetic of their surrounds and the strength of the stories they’re investigating to give the show a more legit vibe versus the manufactured feelings used in the beginning.
6. Dead Famous: Ghostly Encounters (2004-2006)
Another British entry in our list is Dead Famous: Ghostly Encounters. Running for three seasons, the show saw the adventures of skeptic Gail Porter and clairvoyant Chris Fleming as they combed the American landscape in search of the spirits of dead celebrities from stage, screen, and music. Each episode features a visit to three locations that are connected to the celebrity Porter and Fleming are attempted to contact.
Part ghost hunting, part travel show, the program searches out the ghosts of some of America’s most beloved personalities. Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, James Dean, Lucielle Ball, Jim Morrison, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, Marilyn Monroe, and John Wayne are the spectral subject matter with equally iconic locales such as Lake Tahoe’s Thunderbird Lodge and the infamous Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay.
5. Ghost Asylum (2014-2015)
Running just three seasons from September 7, 2014, to June 5, 2016, Ghost Asylum follows the Tennessee Wraith Chasers, a group of ghost hunters who attempt to trap ghosts with with their own supernatural inventions. Sounds pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? Kinda like Ghostbusters (1984). Only they do so by investigating the country’s most haunted abandoned asylums, sanitariums, and mental hospitals.
Covering several states throughout the south east and eastern seaboard, the Tennesse Wraith Chasers check out all of the infamously haunted hospitals where at one time or another, horrific crimes against humanity were done. Rolling Hills Asylum in East Bethany, NY, and the spirit of sadistic Nurse Emma, Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, OH and its tragic history or suicides and assaults, and Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, KY with it’s host of tuberculosis patients that still haunt the place are all on the dockett making for some truly terrifying TV.
4. Ghost Lab (2009-2010)
Brothers Brad and Barry Klinge founded a paranormal society in October, 2007 calling it Everyday Paranormal or EP for short. Producers for the Discovery Channel caught wind of the brothers and offered them a show based on their paranormal accumin. The show was called Ghost Lab and the reason for the scientific moniker was the brother’s method of investigation, science.
Using fringe-scientific methods, the team’s mission statement was more about fact that folklore. Their mandate was to find evidence of the existence of ghosts through the use of such real science tools as thermographic and infrared cameras, digital audio recorders, EMF (electromagnetic field) meters, motion detectors, and EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recorders to assist in their psuedo-scienctific research. There was also a literal Ghost Lab, where the team could further investigate evidence by utilizing more gadgetry like data loggers and noise filtering audio programs.
3. Ghost Hunters (2004-2020)
Following the investigative team, TAPS ( The Atlantic Paranormal Society), Ghost Hunters has seen both huge success in popularity and several incantations of itself along with several spin-off shows. Originally starring TAPS founders Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, the show featured the team investigating hauntings in variously places around the US (and later internationally in the Ghost Hunters International (2008-present) spin-off) where they would do their best to debunk evidence before claiming any actual hauntings.
The series was initially made as a ten episode reality-soap opera but a shift to a more traditional documentary style came in subsequent seasons. The TAPS teamhave investigated in places from the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland with some episodes even featuring celebrity investigators such as Bat Out of Hell singer Michael “Meat Loaf” Aday, WWE stars CM Punk and Elijah Burke, Warehouse 13 actor Eddie McClintock, and Being Human actress Meaghan Rath.
2. Ghost Nation (2019-present)
Out of the ashes of Ghost Hunters came Ghost Nation. Stars Jason Hawes, Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango have left the Ghost Hunters umbrella in search of more paranormal activity on their own terms and Ghost Nation is where they begin anew. Under the new paranormal society name United Paranormal Research Organization (UPRO), the focus of the new show is a more intimate one.
While Ghost Hunsters went bigger with their locations and investgations as the show’s run progressed, Ghost Nation’s new mantra is to investgate residential hauntings while using a global network of paranormal investigators. It is the latter that is the heart of this new show. The UPRO connection to local investigators allows the ghost hunting stars to brings things back to basics and offer real help to frustrated investigators who may have encountered obstacles in their work.
1. Ghost Adventures (2008-present)
Remember that time Ghost Adventures host Zak Baggins bought a house in Gary, Indiana that sat over a protal to hell? That was fun. But Baggins and his team, who have been investigating ghosts for the Travel Channel since 2008, have had their fair share of spooky happenings. This hit show began as an independant film shot in a docu-style featuring Baggins and the team checking out the haunted happenings in Virginia City, NV and more specifically at the Goldfield Hotel in nearby Goldfield, NV. It was this film that scored the gang the Ghost Adventures gig.
Similar to other shows of the same ilk, Ghost Adventures has featured some celebrity investigators in various episodes. Motley Cure’s Vince Neil tries to evoke the spirit of Frank Sinatra at the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, rapper Post Malone roams an old slaughter house in Tuscon, AZ and country legend Loretta Lynn has her plantation home investigated by the team after Civil War soldiers and a strange woman in white have been sighted inside the house. Horror legends Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th Part VII The New Blood, 1988) and R. A. Mihailoff (Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) even form their own paranormal research society for an episode. They’re aptly called The Real Hollywood Ghost Hunters.
There has been an explosion of paranormal relaity television in the past fifteen to twenty years. These cheap to make, easy to sell formulas tap into the imagination of viewers drawing up images of ghastly ghouls that are far scarier than anything an F/X team could conjure up. What did you think of Hunting the Haunt: The Top Ten Paranormal Reality TV Ghost Shows list? Does it include the best or are there others that didn’t make the list that you think should have? Let us know on our Nightmare of Film Street Twitter, Subreddit and Horror Movie Fiend page on Facebook. Until next time, fellow fiends… stay creepy!