Humans have always been fascinated with (and terrified by) the paranormal. This doesn’t prevent some of them from going out of their way to try and force an encounter with the unseen. However, sometimes spooks are the furthest thing from their mind when they are suddenly confronted with something they can’t explain.
It is no wonder that there are a variety of paranormal reality TV shows all dealing with real-life ‘encounters’ with ghosts, demons and other apparitions. Obviously, most of these shows have eye-roll inducing episodes because of the bad acting or weird re-enactments, but occasionally they produce a gem, regardless, that causes real goosebumps.
Potential spoilers ahead!
10 Terror in the Woods
Woods can be scary places. You can’t always see the dangerous creatures hiding between the trees or thick undergrowth, and that is just the real-life ones. Many people have had unsettling experiences hiking or camping in the woods, while others have purchased homes in remote woods only to find that there is something sinister lurking inside.
Bill and Charisse Stark experienced their own horror story that was eventually aired on Destination America’s Terror in the Woods. They couldn’t believe their luck when a cabin owner sold them his property at the edge of a geological reserve in Red River Gorge, Kentucky. The cabin was to be their dream ‘retirement retreat.’ The dream soon turned nightmarish when unexplained incidents started happening in and around the cabin.
At one point, Bill installed a security camera outside which captured a green mist that seemed to fade in and out. The camera also caught what looked like a bright light coming up from the ground and floating off. Bill found a weird footprint in the snow outside the cabin, and the couple’s TV and PlayStation would on occasion turn on by itself. When they inspected the game console, they found a slimy substance covering it.
Later, in their Terror in the Woods episode, it was revealed that a woman suffering from a terminal illness had died in the cabin. It was also reported that strange things kept happening in the cabin after the episode aired.
9 Ghost Hunters
Ghost Hunters ran from 2004 to 2016 and was revived in 2019. During its original 11-season run, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson investigated haunted locations in the US as well as the UK. They are the founders of TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) and work alongside a team of ‘ghost hunters.’
During the multitude of episodes, many strange things happened including faces materializing in darkness, multiple EMF meters triggered at the same time, disembodied figures wandering around and voices calling out from basements. During “The Armory” episode the team was investigating the New Bedford Armory in Massachusetts when their sound man, Frank DeAngelis, inexplicably fell backwards. He couldn’t get back on his feet and had to receive medical attention.
Afterwards, DeAngelis claimed that he felt something pass through him. He also quit the crew the next day because he was too traumatized to carry on with the investigations.
8 True Terror with Robert Englund
Who better to host a scary show than Freddy Krueger himself? True Terror with Robert Englund premiered in March 2020 (as a continuation of True Terror with George Takei) and has received great reviews. The show takes historical news stories of the paranormal kind and brings them to life using Englund’s celebrity and general creepiness.
One of the stories of the pilot episode included a man from North Carolina who dreamt of his own death and the countdown to it. There is also the tale of a New Orleans teenager unable to escape a waking nightmare and his eventual grisly fate. (Sounds like something Freddy Krueger could be involved in, right?)
One of the creepiest episodes, however, is the one that relates the true story of the Axeman of New Orleans, who was one of America’s most infamous serial killers. The Axeman initiated a dark chain of events in which he challenged the public and the police with an open letter. The media printed several responses from citizens in which they challenged the killer right back. Italian American immigrant, George Columbo intended to meet up with the Axeman and what followed is the stuff of nightmares.
7 Paranormal Lockdown
Imagine spending 100 hours in an infamously haunted house, with an unpredictable demonic entity. This is exactly what paranormal researchers, Nick Groff, and Katrina Weidman, did for Paranormal Lockdown in 2016. The Black Monk House episode was slated as a two-hour special that filled the ‘gap’ between the show’s first and second seasons.
Black Monk House in Pontefract, England, has been visited by several paranormal investigators, some of whom have experienced objects levitating and people being attacked by an unseen entity. A girl was dragged upstairs in what could only be described as a scene from a modern horror movie, while some ghost hunters who have encountered the ‘poltergeist’ that resides in the house, refused to stay at the property. The caretakers of the house also refuse to stay inside by themselves.
Nick and Katrina spent four days trying to capture the poltergeist, The Black Monk, on camera. The result makes for one of the best (if not most terrifying) episodes of the series.
6 Unsolved Mysteries
Before Unsolved Mysteries 2020, there was Unsolved Mysteries 1987 presented by Robert Stack, among others. As the name states, each episode revolved around mysterious incidents including murders, hauntings, disappearances, and accidents. Robert Stack’s inimitably deep voice and the iconic intro music gave many a viewer a goosebump or two. Alongside this, some of the episodes were truly creepy and are still being discussed on internet forums such as Reddit years after airing.
One of the most memorable, and truly terrifying, episodes aired during Season 7 and related the story of Pam and Eric Ellender. In 1991, Pam and Eric were found dead in their bed in Sulphur, Louisiana. Their infant daughter was unharmed and crying from her bedroom when police made the discovery. It was revealed afterwards that the killers threw a party in the couple’s home soon after killing them and while their bodies were in the bedroom. While the murders were technically solved, there were many chilling details included in the episode that kept viewers at the edge of their seats. It is truly an episode that must be watched.
5 The Dead Files
Cheerfully named The Dead Files sees medium Amy Allan and former homicide detective Steve DiSchiavi investigate haunted locations at people’s request. The core of each episode revolves around Steve and Amy doing independent investigations at a specific location and then revealing their findings to one another at the end of the show.
Even though the show has attracted a lot of criticism over the years, it remains a firm fan favorite and has aired its 12th season earlier in 2020. One of the spookiest episodes, according to fans, details the story of Annie who has lived in her home for more than ten years and believes that the hooded figures she keeps seeing on her property has made her existing health problems worse. Annie also claimed to have seen the ghosts of long-dead Native Americans surrounding her house in Cedar Park, Texas. Annie’s friend, Joel, claimed to have seen what looked like paper cut-outs in the shape of people hanging in the trees around the house, jumping between the branches.
4 Celebrity Ghost Stories
Celebrities are not exempt from brushes with the paranormal. There have been so many stories of celebrities experiencing something unexplained that there is even a TV show or two dedicated to those celebs who want to share their scary stories.
Celebrity Ghost Stories (American version) debuted in 2009 featuring Belinda Carlisle and Gina Gershon, among others. Other stars throughout the series included Joan Collins, Alice Cooper, Kelly Osbourne, Nene Leakes, who heard the voices of ghost children, and Paula Abdul.
One of the episodes feature shock rocker, Marilyn Manson, who related the story of his encounter as a teen with a copy of the Necronomicon. His friend implored him to read the incantations in the book, and Manson believed that doing so caused a disturbance in the energy around them. Manson also claimed that a scary disembodied voiced asked them ‘do you believe in satan?”
Manson stated during his segment that he had read enough of the Bible to know that what was happening was ‘not good’ and that people’s energy stays with the things they were attached to in life after they die.
3 Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction
Much like Unsolved Mysteries, Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction also gained a cult following its premiere in 1997. Presenting 5 stories in each episode, of which some are fact and some fiction, was the premise of the show.
The show’s opening episode, The Apparition, was one of the most unsettling in the series. It tells the tale of a woman who suffered a nervous breakdown and after her recovery starts seeing the ghost of a dead woman in a mirror on the second floor of her home. The ghost tries to say something, but never succeeds.
One night a man breaks into the woman’s home and follows her when she runs upstairs trying to escape him. The man then sees the ghost in the mirror and freaks out.
Even though the episode aired years ago, it still packs a chilling punch and is worth a watch. It was revealed at the end that the story was based on true events.
2 Paranormal Witness
Paranormal Witness is one of the most popular spooky TV shows and ran for five seasons between 2011 and 2016. The stories covered during the show included the weird abilities of Don Decker, the Capitol Theatre Haunting, werewolves, creepy dolls and, of course, demons.
One of the most horrifying episodes details the incident in which 23-year-old Christene Skubish died after she fell asleep at the wheel while driving along Highway 50 in California and crashed down a steep incline in 1994. In the car with Christene was her 3-year-old son, Nick. When she didn’t arrive at her intended destination, her stepfather reported her missing. Five days later, a woman named Deborah Hoyt and her husband were travelling along Route 50 when Deborah spotted a woman lying on the side of the road. The woman was naked, and her arms covered her head. The couple immediately notified the police, but when the authorities arrived, the woman was gone.
This incident led police to the discovery of Christene’s body inside her wrecked car and Nick laying in a fetal position in the passenger seat, weak and dehydrated but alive. Doctors agreed that if Nick had been inside the car for another hour or two, he would have died.
The details of this story are both chilling and heartbreaking and one of the best episodes of Paranormal Witness.
Haunted premiered in 2018 on Netflix and recounts terrifying true stories of people who have found themselves face-to-face with evil. One of the episodes in Season 2 of the series details a nurse’s encounter with a possessed patient at a nursing home which caused many viewers to freak out.
However, Season 1’s Slaughterhouse episode, in which two sisters reveal that their father was a serial killer, is about as terrifying as they come.
Their childhood was spent listening to the terrible sounds of people being murdered in their house, after their father picked up ‘strays’ from the streets and bars. They lived on a couple of acres of forest land and their father disposed of his victims’ bodies in the woods. The sisters believed that the murders led to their house becoming haunted, and their father also engaged in dark rituals in the woods which led them to believe that he was possessed.
The episode unleashed controversy with many viewers taking to Twitter to voice their scepticism about the validity of the claims made by the sisters.