By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
“Halloween is Travel Channel’s Superbowl,” said general manager Matthew Butler of Travel Channel in an open statement. “We’re pulling out all the stops for ‘Ghostober’ this year–from a live ghost hunt in Salem, Massachusetts, and an iconic investigation of the house that inspired The Conjuring, to reopening the case files of America’s first ghost hunter, Hans Holzer. And we have the biggest stars and experts in the field to take us to every haunted, cobweb-covered corner in America, including Zak Bagans and the Ghost Adventures Crew, Jason Hawes and his team of paranormal pioneers and newcomer Dakota Laden, who will bring fear to a new level. There’s no better–and scarier–place to be this October than tuned in to Travel Channel.”
What that means to those who loves tuning in to these shows is that we’ll have content throughout the week and well into Christmas. Obviously we can’t obsessively try to watch everything that comes what may. This weekend was a busy one with another program finally airing on television. While the others have more than an episode to offer to viewers, I offer my thoughts about these new series that I’ve been able to find crossing a different barrier: regional broadcasts. A few became quickly available for streaming before being removed on YouTube.
Most Terrifying Places
Sam Fontana is exceptional in giving the creep needed this series about buildings and open spaces said to be haunted. He is better known for his voice over work in the animation world and shows he can provide that nuance to keep viewers engaged.
The cinematography is quite brilliant in creating that ominous sense of dread and the recreations are just that–made to give the accounts from witnesses that much needed sense of terror. Despite all this window dressing, the information provided lives up to the title of this show and each one-hour episode (commercials included) tries to cram in as many locals as possible. From Lake Shawnee’s Amusement Park in episode one to Ocracoke Island in episode four, the producers are leaving no stone unturned–especially when considering even the most innocent death can cause alarm!
The interviewees are sometimes flummoxed to say what the paranormal entity truly is. Without that reference to it possibly being evil or a curse was laid upon the vicinity, there’s no story. The historical information provided is most likely verifiable and this show makes research into these cases perhaps just as eerie. This series is worth the follow because they look at not so famous haunted hot spots around America. The question is: will it expand to include other countries? I’m simply thankful that I’m not seeing a rehash of Myrtle Farm.
4 Stars out of 5
The Holzer Files
Dave Schrader, radio host and follower of all things occult leads the team to look into the case files of Dr. Hans Holzer. He’s considered to be the father of the paranormal (at least in North America) and his 40 year career has been an inspiration to many. Cindy Kaza and Shane Pittman serves as medium and tech crew, and they look back at the most daunting of works which seem to still live behind walls and perhaps still going on to this day.
Holzer’s daughter, Alexandra aids the team in what she recalls. In this series, the father brought home his work and openly talked about it to his family. Despite having respectable names in this series, the added effects and jump shots are more distracting. Why can’t we have less extravagance in these programs? It’s easily answered: the viewer will fall asleep.
Schrader is the real deal since I’ve investigated with him when he was in Victoria, BC for a ghost conference back in 2008. The fact he’s delving into historical cases is a step in the right direction. Holzer is respected as a pioneer as much as Harry Price. They are people who just as well known as The Fox Sisters, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Society of Psychical Research.
3½ Stars out of 5
The original TAPS team–Jason Hawes, Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango–misses being on television and have formed a new umbrella organization called United Paranormal Research Organization (UPRO) to which this show is now the frontrunner to. While no charter of rights/standard code of practices is yet advertised on their website, this new front is recruiting.
This new group is more about helping their clientele understand what’s going on in their haunted home. This program includes moments where the team is also searching historical records to give them clues of what may cause the hauntings! While no different in structure to all the other programs that are out there, to see the return of America’s most influential celebrity ghost hunters is what will keep this program ongoing–until they finally retire.
The selling point of this program is in the producers are finally considering embarking on multi-day investigations! Nothing is ever solved overnight, and to help those troubled by it requires regular follow-up. Only future episodes on whether or not they return to past cases will offer any closure.
3 Stars out of 5
Dakota Laden spent the last few years investigating the paranormal with Zak Bagans and the Ghost Adventures crew and now he’s on his own with Destination Fear. The purpose is to test the limits of their sanity by staying (and if they can sleep) overnight at America’s most haunted places. He’s there with his sister Chelsea, and best friend, Tanner. Their RV is their only sanctuary and it’s going to be kilometers away from the locations. If they want safety, they better be wearing very good running shoes with bright lights to show them the way out!
Some viewers may recall MTV’s Fear. Landen’s project definitely borrows on the idea of isolating the individuals and randomly selecting hotspots to find the gold. The treasure here is in how they can overcome mankind’s greatest emotion instead of trying to helped the trapped spirits. They sort of try with the first episode when they visit a Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary (where James Earl Ray, who murdered Martin Luther King Jr. was locked up). When the night is over, the crew reminisces over what causes such places to emanate that poison known as oppression.
Curiousity favours the bold in this new show not to be confused with the 2012 program of the same name. I’d be more amused if this road trip mixes it up with stories told from Mysteries at the National Parks–where in one episode Hellhounds are reputed to stalk. Or they find the chupacabra.
2 Stars out of 5
STILL TO WATCH
Fridays on 10e|9c
Some folklorists argue many small communities across America has many a local superstition. Whether that’s with a folk belief or urban legend, the answers lay in a layer of mystery. Figures of ill repute, like the Mothman, has plenty ot lore to draw from. Other characters, perhaps not as much.
Hometown Horror is to “delve into these quiet communities to examine what is behind these stories and myths, and to shine a light on what lurks in the shadows of small-town America–such as the Pigman of Angola in New York, the hauntings of circus town Baraboo, Wisconsin, the blood-stained history of Perryville, Kentucky and more.”
This series is available on Amazon Prime and has yet to make it to Canada. As soon as its region locking is unkeyed, this series is one I’m eager to see!
The Alaska Triangle
Monday at 10e|9c
The paranormal is not always about the ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Well, in Alaska, the latter is more true than many may expect. Like the Bermuda Triangle, there’s a region of space where strange activity have regularly been taking place. These are commonly UFOs but some have spotted Bigfoot too!
This program is getting limited airings, but that won’t stop the alien encounter enthusiast in me from trying to capture one. I just hope I don’t have any regrets.