Paranormal television

Paranormal television is a genre of reality television. Its scope comprises purportedly factual investigations of paranormal phenomena, rather than fictional representations found in such shows and films as The Ghosts of Motley Hall, Ghostbusters, Scooby-Doo and Rentaghost.

History

Early precursors (1950s–2002)

Accounts of supernatural occurrences have always been common in the print media. The 1705 pamphlet "A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs Veal" by Daniel Defoe is a well-known example. Paranormal television proper can trace its genesis to local TV news programs in the UK and USA, which have featured ghost stories since the 1960s. The earliest TV show devoted exclusively to the paranormal was One Step Beyond which broadcast 96 episodes on the ABC network from 1959 to 1961. The stories were promoted as being based on actual real-life experiences, including historically well-known events such as sinking of RMS Titanic, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

It was followed 15 years later by In Search of..., hosted by Leonard Nimoy which ran for six years from 1976. Rod Serling was originally slated to host the series, but he died in 1975. In Search of... explored many paranormal topics, including UFOs, cryptozoological creatures (cryptids), lost civilizations, and other mysteries. Though the subject matter gradually lost popularity, the show gave way to future TV series following the same genre.

Unsolved Mysteries, which began airing in 1987 and ended in 2002, would feature paranormal cases from time to time, and further popularised the documentary aspect of paranormal television. Ghostwatch, a fictional news broadcast about a haunted house in the UK that aired in 1992, created controversy when a majority of viewers believed the televised show was real. Discovery Channel started to explore the genre with some success from 1996. The Fox Broadcasting Company aired a news-style oriented show Sightings which lasted for six years. MTV's Fear premiered in 2000, establishing a visual look and editing style followed by many paranormal reality television shows. In 2002, the British satellite channel Living TV launched the paranormal documentary-investigative series Most Haunted, a series which airs as of 2019.

Modern success (2004–present)

With the series Ghost Hunters, which premiered in 2004 on Sci Fi (later Syfy), the paranormal TV genre and ghost-hunting became popularized and the show inspired spin-offs on Sci Fi (as well as later successor shows after its initial run) and many paranormal television productions on other networks.[1][2] Sci Fi would move into airing many other paranormal shows around that time, such as Destination Truth. Ghost Adventures, another ghost-hunting program, which premiered on the Discovery Networks-owned Travel Channel in 2008, was the successor to a documentary film of the same name that aired on Sci Fi in 2007. A&E aired the prominent ghost-hunting series Paranormal State from 2007–2011, and History Channel began to compete in the general paranormal genre around this time with series such as UFO Files, MonsterQuest, UFO Hunters and the documentary special Ancient Aliens, which led to a successor series that began airing in 2010.

Syfy would abandon their focus on paranormal programming by 2015, and Ghost Hunters itself left the network in 2016 after 11 seasons. Around that time, Travel Channel moved completely into airing exclusively paranormal television series (the network initially centering programming around Ghost Adventures) frequently featuring ghost hunting, including series related to Ghost Adventures, as well as later productions featuring former Ghost Hunters members such as Kindred Spirits (2014–present) and Ghost Nation (2019–present). Destination America planned to compete with Travel Channel's paranormal programming (seasons 1-2 of Kindred Spirits aired on DA and TLC), but reversed course after it and TLC were reacquired by Discovery Networks during their acquisition of Scripps Networks Interactive in 2018. In 2019, Ghost Hunters was revived by A&E and aired a 12th season on the channel with a 13th season coming in 2020.[3][4]

Reactions/critics

Noting the recent trend in reality shows that take the paranormal at face value, The New York Times Culture editor Mike Hale[5] characterized ghost hunting shows as "pure theater" and compared the genre to professional wrestling or soft core pornography for its formulaic, teasing approach.[6]

Los Angeles Times staff writer Ed Stockly wrote that "the paranormal/supernatural-investigation subgenre that has cropped up on cable television over the last few years, which includes Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters International and a few others" promises to "take a skeptical approach in its investigations and to rely on science to confirm or disprove paranormal claims. So far not one has been able to consistently keep that promise."[7]

Writer Diane Dorby proposes that paranormal reality TV shows provide "plausibility structures" that people use for "interpreting the meaning and experience of death".[8]

According to science writer Sharon A. Hill, "Paranormal reality TV shows are designed as entertainment for the curious, not science documentaries to discover truths. If the tempo is too slow it will be sped up by giving "reality" a boost".[9]

Programs

ProgramOriginal Run Years (Premiere–Finale)CategoryFormatOriginal Channel/Network
6ixth Sense2002–2003PsychicsLiving TV (UK)
10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty2014CryptozoologyRealitySpike
13: Fear Is Real2009ParanormalRealityCW
A Haunting2005–currentGhostsAnthologyDiscovery Channel
Alien Encounters2013UFOs–aliensScience Channel
Alien Mysteries2013UFOs–aliensDocumentaryDiscovery Channel (Canada)
America's Psychic Challenge2007PsychicsCompetitive realityLifetime
America Unearthed2012–presentConspiracyHistory
Ancient Aliens2009–presentUFOs–aliensDocumentaryHistory
Ancient Mysteries1994–1998ParanormalA&E
Ancient Secrets2012National Geographic Channel
Ancient X-Files2010ParanormalNational Geographic Channel
Animal X2014CryptozoologyDocumentaryDiscovery Channel
The Antiques Ghost Show2003GhostsRealityLiving TV (UK)
Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe1995ParanormalITV (UK)
Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World1980ParanormalITV (UK)
Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers1985ParanormalITV (UK)
Beast Hunter2011CryptozoologyNational Geographic Channel
Beyond2005-2007ParanormalDocumentaryCanada
Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction1997–2002ParanormalAnthologyFox
Beyond Reason1977–1980ParanormalQuiz showCBC Television (CAN)
Brad Meltzer's Decoded2010–currentConspiracyInvestigationHistory
Celebrity Ghost Stories2009–2014GhostsRealityBiography Channel
Celebrity Paranormal Project2006–2007GhostsRealityVH1
Chills2012Investigation(UK)
Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura2009–2011ConspiracyTruTV
Creepy Canada2002–2006ParanormalOLN (CAN)
Critical Eye2002ParanormalScience Channel
Crossing Over with John Edward1999–2004PsychicSyFy
Cuarto Milenio2005Cuatro (TV channel) (SPA)
The Curse of Oak Island2014 – presentPseudo–archaeologyRealityHistory (Canadian TV network)
Dark Matters: Twisted But True2011–2012ParanormalScience
Dead Famous2004–2006GhostsRealityLiving TV (UK)
The Dead Files2011–presentPsychicsTravel Channel
Deadly Possessions2016–presentParanormalTravel Channel
Decoding the Past2005–2008ParanormalHistory
Deep South Paranormal2010–2013ParanormalSyfy
Derek Acorah's Ghost Towns2005–2006GhostsRealityLiving TV (UK)
Destination Fear2012ParanormalTravel Channel
Destination Truth2007–2012ParanormalRealitySyfy
Encounters: The Hidden Truth1994–1996Paranormalnews/documentaryFox
Enigma2005ParanormaldocumentaryVision TV (Canada)
The Extraordinary1993–1996ParanormalDocumentarySeven Network (AUS)
Extreme Ghost Stories2006–2007GhostsDocumentaryITV1 (UK)
Extreme Paranormal2009GhostsDocumentaryA&E
Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files2010–2012ParanormalInvestigationSyfy
Finding Bigfoot2011–presentCryptozoologyDocumentaryAnimal Planet
Fortean TV1997–1998ParanormalDocumentaryChannel 4 (UK)
Ghost Adventures2008–presentGhostsTravel Channel
Ghost Adventures: Aftershocks2014GhostsDocumentaryTravel Channel
Ghost Asylum2014–presentParanormalRealityDestination America
Ghost Brothers2016ParanormalRealityDestination America
Ghost Hunt2005–2006GhostRealityTV2 (New Zealand) (NZ)
Ghost Hunters2004–presentGhostsRealitySyfy
Ghost Hunters Academy2009–2010GhostRealitySyfy
Ghost Hunters International2008–2012GhostRealitySyfy
Ghost Lab2009–2011GhostsDiscovery Channel
Ghost Mine2013GhostRealitySyfy
Ghost Stalkers2014ParanormalRealityDestination America
Ghost Stories2009–2010GhostsTravel Channel
Ghost Trackers2005–2008GhostsRealityYTV (CAN)
Ghosthunters1996–1997GhostsDocumentaryDiscovery Channel Europe (UK)
Ghosthunting With...2006–2011GhostsITV2 (UK)
Ghostly Encounters2005–2011GhostsDocumentaryViva/W Network (Canada)
Ghosts2019GhostsBBC One
The Girly Ghosthunters2005GhostsSpace (CAN)
Great British Ghosts2011–2012GhostsYesterday (UK)
Hangar 1: The UFO Files2014–2015UFOs–aliensDocumentaryH2
The Haunted2009–2011GhostsAnthologyAnimal Planet
Haunted Collector2011–2013GhostsDocumentarySyfy
Haunted Encounters2012ParanormalRealityBiography Channel
Haunted Highway2012–2013ParanormalInvestigationSyfy
Haunted History1998–2001GhostsDocumentaryHistory Channel
Biography Channel
Haunted History2013ParanormalDocumentaryH2
Haunted Homes2004–2010GhostsRealityITV (UK)
Haunted Hotels2001–2005GhostsRealityTravel Channel
Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories1991–1995GhostsAnthologyCBS, UPN
Haunted Towns2017-presentParanormalRealityDestination America
Haunted USA2017–presentParanormalRealityTravel Channel
The Haunting of...2012–2016GhostsDocumentaryBiography Channel
LMN
Haunting: Australia2014ParanormalRealitySyfy
Haunting Evidence2005–2008ParanormalDocumentaryCourt tv
The Haunting of...2012–2016ParanormalDocumentaryBiography Channel
History's Mysteries1998–2006ParanormalDocumentaryHistory
Hunting Hitler2015 – PresentConspiracyInvestigationHistory
I Was Possessed2015ParanormalRealityLMN
I'm Famous and Frightened!2004–2005GhostsRealityLiving TV (UK)
In Search of...1976–1982, 2002, 2018ParanormalDocumentarySyndication
Sci Fi Channel
History
In Search of Aliens2014UFOs–aliensH2
Is It Real?2005–2007ParanormalNational Geographic Channel
It's a Miracle1998–2004MiraclesIon Television
Joe Rogan Questions Everything2013ParanormalSyfy
John Edward Cross Country2006–2008PsychicWE tv
Khon Uad Phee2010–presentGhostsVariety talk showChannel 7
Channel 5 (THA)
Killer Contact2013ParanormalSyFy
Kindred Spirits2016–presentParanormalRealityTLC
Knock Knock Ghost2016–presentParanormalRealityOutTV (Canada)
Lawrence Leung's Unbelievable2011ParanormalComedyABC1 (AUS)
Legend Quest2011ParanormalLive actionSyFy
Leap in the Dark1973, 1975, 1977, 1980ParanormalAnthology / DocumentaryBBC Two (UK)
Living with the Dead2008–2009GhostsLiving (UK)
Long Island Medium2011–currentPsychicRealityTLC (TV network)
Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives2013pseudo–documentaryAnimal Planet
Mermaids: The Body Found2011pseudo–documentaryAnimal Planet
Monica the Medium2015PsychicRealityABC Family
MonsterQuest2007–2010CryptozoologyDocumentaryHistory
Monsters and Mysteries in America2013–2015CryptozoologyDocumentaryDestination America
Most Haunted2002–2010, 2013–presentGhostsRealityLiving (UK)
Paranormal Channel (UK)
Travel Channel (USA)
Really (TV channel) (UK)
Most Haunted Live!2002–2010GhostsRealityLiving TV (UK)
Paranormal Channel (UK)
Travel Channel (USA)
Most Terrifying Places in America2009–2010ParanormalDocumentaryTravel Channel
Mountain Monsters2013CryptozoologyDocumentaryDestination America
Mostly True Stories?: Urban Legends Revealed2002-2004Urban legendsDocumentaryTLC
MTV's Fear2000–2002GhostsRealityMTV
My Ghost Story2010–2013
2013–present
GhostsBiography Channel
LMN
Mysteries at the Museum2010–currentParanormalTravel Channel
Mysteries at the National Parks2015ParanormalRealityTravel Channel
Mysterious Journeys2002–2007ParanormalTravel Channel
Mystery Hunters2002–2009Skeptical, ParanormalDocumentaryYTV
Mystery Hunters India2012–2014ParanormalDocumentaryDiscovery Kids (Asia) (India)
MysteryQuest2009ParanormalHistory
The Next Step Beyond1978–1979ParanormalSyndication
Northern Mysteries2005ParanormalDocudramaGlobal Television Network
Nostradamus Effect2009PsychicsHistory
The One2008–2011PsychicsCompetitive realitySeven Network (AU)
One Step Beyond1959–1961ParanormalAnthologyABC
The Othersiders2009GhostsRealityCartoon Network
Paranormal?2005ParanormalDocumentaryNational Geographic Channel
Paranormal Challenge2011ParanormalCompetitive realityTravel Channel
Paranormal Lockdown2016–presentParanormalRealityDestination America
Paranormal Paparazzi2012ParanormalRealityTravel Channel
Paranormal State2007–2011ParanormalRealityA&E
Paranormal Witness2011–presentParanormalDocumentarySyfy
The Past Hunters2015–presentParanormalYourTV (UK)
Patrick Macnee's Ghost Stories1997
Penn & Teller: Bullshit!2003–2010ParanormalDocumentaryShowtime
The Pet Psychic2002–2003PsychicsAnimal Planet
Phenomenon2007CompetitionNBC
Proof Positive: Evidence of the Paranormal2004ParanormalRealitySci Fi Channel
Psychic Detectives2004–2008PsychicsCourt tv
Psychic Kids2008–2010PsychicA&E
Real and Chance: The Legend Hunters2010ParanormalRealityVH1
Rescue Mediums2006–2011PsychicRealityW Network (CAN)
Ripley's Believe It or Not!1949–1950ParanormalNBC
Ripley's Believe It or Not!1982–1986ParanormalABC
Ripley's Believe It or Not!1999ParanormalAnimatedFox Family
Ripley's Believe It or Not!2000–2003ParanormalTBS
Ripley's Believe It or Not!2008ParanormalGMA Network
River Monsters2009–currentSkeptical, CryptozoologyWildlife documentaryAnimal Planet
Scared!2002–2009GhostsStaten Island Community Television
Scariest Places on Earth2000–2006ParanormalRealityABC Family Channel
School Spirits2012GhostsDocumentarySyfy
Sci Fi Investigates2006ParanormalRealitySci Fi Channel
Scream Team2001ParanormalRealityLiving TV (UK)
Secrets & Mysteries1988–1989ParanormalSyndication
Sensing Murder2005–presentParanormalRealityBiography Channel
Sightings1992–1997ParanormalNewsFox
syndication
Syfy
Spøgelsesjægerne2013GhostsRealityKanal 5 (Denmark)
Stranded2013ParanormalInvestigationSyfy
Strange but True?1993–1997ParanormalDocumentaryITV (UK)
Strange Universe1996–1998ParanormalNews MagazineUPN, syndicated television
The Successor2007PsychicCompetition(Israel)
Survivorman Bigfoot2015CryptozoologyDiscovery Channel/Science Channel
That's Incredible!1980–1984ParanormalRealityABC
Truth or Scare2001–2003ParanormalDiscovery Kids
UFO Files2004–2007UFOs–aliensHistory
UFO Hunters2008–2009UFOs–aliensHistory
UFOs Declassified2015UFOs–aliensHistory (CAN)
The Unexplained1996–2000ParanormalA&E
The Unexplained2011–2012ParanormalDocumentaryBiography Channel
Unexplained Canada2006ParanormalSpace (CAN)
The Unexplained Files2013–2014ParanormalDocumentaryScience
Unexplained Mysteries2003–2004ParanormalDocumentarySyndication
Unsealed Alien Files2011–presentUFOs–aliensInvestigationHistory
Unsolved History2002–2005Conspiracy/ParanormalDiscovery Channel
Unsolved Mysteries1987–1997
1997–1999
2001–2002
2008–2010
ParanormalDocumentaryNBC
CBS
Lifetime
Spike
Weird or What?2010–2012ParanormalDiscovery Channel
History Television (CAN)
Weird Travels2001–2006ParanormalDocumentaryTravel Channel
Weird U.S.2004–2005ParanormalRealityHistory
Wrestling With Ghosts2017-2018ParanormalDocumentaryASY TV
The X Creatures1999CryptozoologyDocumentaryBBC

See also

References

  1. Craven, Scott. "Why those TV ghost-hunting shows are transparently fake". AZ Central. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  2. CNN, John Blake. "Ghost hunters haunted by new terror: competition". CNN. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  3. "A&E Network Returns to Paranormal Programming with New Shows Including the Return of "Ghost Hunters" with Original Team Leader Grant Wilson". The Futon Critic. June 26, 2019.
  4. Wilson, Grant (October 30, 2019). "The season finale of @GhostHunters is tonight at 10pm ET/PT! What does that mean for the future of the show???? Watch the video and find out! @aetv #GhostHunterspic.twitter.com/8mlnO0cY8x". @grantswilson. Retrieved November 5, 2019.Wilson, Grant (October 30, 2019). "The season finale of @GhostHunters is tonight at 10pm ET/PT! What does that mean for the future of the show???? Watch the video and find out! @aetv #GhostHunterspic.twitter.com/8mlnO0cY8x". @grantswilson. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  5. "Mike Hale, Editor, The New York Times". New York Times Knowledge Network. Archived from the original on 2 December 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  6. Hale, Mike (December 10, 2009). "Consigning Reality to Ghosts". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
  7. "TV Skeptic: 'Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files' looks at the real 'Battle of L.A.' - latimes.com". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-07-14. The show is a part of the paranormal/supernatural-investigation subgenre that has cropped up on cable television over the last few years, which includes “Ghost Hunters,” “Destination Truth,” “Ghost Adventures,” “Ghost Hunters International” and a few others. Each promises to take a skeptical approach in its investigations and to rely on science to confirm or disprove paranormal claims. So far not one has been able to consistently keep that promise.
  8. Olu Jenzen; Sally R. Munt (23 March 2016). The Ashgate Research Companion to Paranormal Cultures. Routledge. pp. 76–. ISBN 978-1-317-04218-1.
  9. Sharon A. Hill (8 December 2017). Scientifical Americans: The Culture of Amateur Paranormal Researchers. McFarland. pp. 53–. ISBN 978-1-4766-7247-2.


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