Discovery+ has nearly 100 series that it classifies as “Paranormal & Unexplained.” Some focus on cryptids, like Alaskan Killer Bigfoot or The Mothman Sightings. Others attempt to make sense of extraterrestrials, like The Visitors or Ancient Aliens. But an overwhelming majority of that particular category focuses on one thing: ghosts.
I used to be too scared to even consider that ghosts could be real. If ghosts were real, then they could be anywhere with who knows what kind of intentions! Horror stories have us believing that ghosts are always out to get us, but if they didn’t exist they couldn’t hurt me. But as my life has gone on, I can’t deny their existence. And now I know that the more we acknowledge that, the less vengeful they may be.
On a trip to New Orleans, where the veil between the land of the living and the dead is said to be very thin, I felt a ghostly presence for the first time walking through a cemetery in broad daylight. There was a tap on my shoulder but then nothing to be seen, though a candid photo captured by my sister showed a glowing orb hovering right where I felt I’d been touched. From then on, I started embracing paranormal experiences everywhere. And now that I have my own eerie encounters to reference, I believe even more that what some of television’s most prolific ghost hunters see, hear, and feel is completely genuine.
Plenty of people out there who make it their mission to debunk these series — there are countless Reddit threads trying to get to the bottom of things, and things like this exposé written by a former Ghost Hunters paranormal investigator about how easy it is to fake a paranormal encounter for the camera. But even he admits these techniques only make him angry because he wants to do a true investigation into ghostly encounters that he believes to be very real.
Supposedly there are tricks that alter radio waves and blinking lights that would be easy for any of these productions to employ. Maybe, just maybe, some of these specters are man-made for the sole purpose of entertainment. But what if they’re not? Are we just ignoring the pleas of the dead hoping for a little help to move on? Plus, dozens of these shows can’t be wrong, right?
Consider the recently resurrected Ghost Adventures, which ran for a whopping 27 seasons on The Travel Channel before moving over to The Discovery Channel earlier this year. The encounters that ghost hunter Zak Bagans leads his team through on that series are reliably terrifying — the crew’s recent visit to the very haunted Mira Loma Detention Center in California shows the crew members experience a new level of terror in the while spending the night in the prison among what they deem troubled and restless spirits. Their emotional outbursts and moments of panic upon hearing unidentified voices and seeing unexplainable movements through the cells of the prison are spine-chilling. It’s hard to say what’s more unbelievable: the existence of ghosts or that these men would be such top-notch actors.
Not every series takes things quite as seriously as Bagans and his team. Ghost Brothers leans heavily into humor, making it even more jarring when an unsettled spirit makes its presence known with a loud clang or a flickering light. Hosts Dalen Spratt, Juwan Mass, and Marcus Harvey approach many situations like they’re really hoping a place isn’t haunted to ensure they’ll make it out alive. If ghosts aren’t real, why would the Ghost Brothers make themselves so scared on purpose?
To that point, why would we watch these often nightmare-inducing shows (especially the true scaredy cats among us) if not for the pursuit of knowledge? There are so many other horror movies and series to turn to for cheap thrills — shows like American Haunting, The Ghost Town Terror, and Ghosts of Devil’s Perch are exposing the truth.
Ghosts, I’ve learned, often make themselves known because they need assistance from the living to address some unfinished business. Sometimes that means solving a crime, unearthing a family heirloom, or simply acknowledging that they were once a real person with an astonishing life of their own. The best way to treat ghosts is with respect — every time I enter what I think to be a haunted space I say a quick “thank you” to whatever spirit might be hanging out, letting them know I mean no harm and appreciate them sharing their space with me. I haven’t experienced any negative hauntings or unexplained heebie-jeebies since, and who knows, I just may have settled a few souls enough for them to cross over along the way.
So it makes sense to me that ghosts would show themselves to an entire film crew. Being able to reach millions of people via streaming makes it much more likely that at least one person watching will find the key releasing at least one ghost into the great beyond. But in order for those souls to truly find peace, those watching have to just give in and believe.
Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R.