Ghost Nation Reunion in Hell cast
Zac Bagans in front of the Exotic Animal Park
Kelly and Jack Osbourne
The Holzer Files cast
Travel Channel airs paranormal programs throughout the year, but things get extra spooky in October, thanks to its month-long Ghostober promotion.
"It's our Christmas, Super Bowl, everything wrapped into one," says Abbi McCollum, vice president of convergence and social, Travel Channel.
A few highlights coming this Ghostober include premieres of Ghost Nation, Destination Fear, and The Holzer Files, a reunion of the casts of Ghost Nation and Kindred Spirits, a new Shock Doc, and The Osbournes: Night of Terror.
Just how and when did Travel Channel shift away from travelogues and toward paranormal programming?
"We started this pivot a couple years ago, and built it around Ghost Adventures and The Dead Files, which were strong franchises in this space," says Matthew Butler, GM, Travel Channel.
"For us, it's an opportunity to own a genre that hasn't been fully owned. Other networks have dabbled in it, but we want to own it. It fits Travel, because these are stories about locations all around the world, and paranormal stories are probably the best stories you can tell about any location. I think that reaches a really passionate audience."
For Travel Channel, anything inexplicable falls under "paranormal," from Bigfoot and UFOs to shadow people and demons. Formats range from investigations and clip shows to personal accounts and documentaries.
The first installment of the Shock Docs documentary franchise—Devil's Road: The True Story of Ed and Lorraine Warren—premiered September 7 and became the most-watched debut in Travel Channel history. The network hopes for similar success This is Halloween, which airs in October.
Like any genre, the popularity of paranormal programming ebbs and flows, but it's experiencing a surge right now, according to Katrina Weidman, whose new season of Portals to Hell gets a sneak peek during Ghostober.
"Historically—especially during times of war— hauntings, psychics, and the whole spiritual movement have been popular. During the 1920s, and right after the Civil War in particular, they became really popular. And with everything going on in the world this year, we're seeing the same kind of trend."
Social media has boosted the genre's popularity, too.
"Social media has brought people out of the shadows to say, 'I believe in this. I've seen this. Here's some evidence I've found,'" McCollum says. "Instead of feeling rebuked or having someone say you're crazy, there's a community of people there to support you. They're able to look at our shows and say, 'This isn't crazy. It's more mainstream now. And other people feel the same way I do.' I feel that's really helped grow the fan base—just recognizing you're not alone."
McCollum plans to keep those fans happy with special Ghostober content across Travel's social platforms.
"Right before COVID hit, we got a lot of our talent together in Las Vegas. We sat them all down and had panels with them, Q&As, roundtables, and created a digital series called Up Close and Paranormal. We have some exclusive videos from that which we've been saving for Ghostober."
Behind-the-scenes and making-of videos, digital countdowns, and giveaways will all help promote the linear slate.
COVID disrupted shooting schedules for all networks, but it also sparked creativity.
"We were in the middle of shooting a 20-episode order when we shut down in March," says Weidman's co-star, Jack Osbourne.
"I've always thought there would be room for a talk show format with paranormal programming," Osbourne says. "It's one of those genres that's full of so many questions, so I think it lends itself naturally to a talk show format. It's something I've been batting around for a while, and the watch party formula just came up very organically."
That led to this summer's The Osbournes Want to Believe, in which Osbourne asked his somewhat skeptical parents, Ozzy and Sharon, to rate how scary various paranormal clips were. "We shot, what, eight episodes in four days? It was a fun project to do with the family, for sure," Osbourne says.
Butler cites that show as a great example of working within pandemic limitations. "Obviously, it was done in Ozzy and Sharon's house, but it made sense for us, and was very successful."
It also spawned a family paranormal investigation, The Osbournes: Night of Terror, plus another post-Ghostober watch party series, Fright Club, in which Osbourne along with the Ghost Brothers—Dalen Spratt, Juwan Mass, and Marcus Harvey—and expert guests, will view and review footage of purported paranormal evidence.
Video conferencing services kept Paranormal Caught on Tape in production during the shutdown, while another COVID-friendly show, Ghost Adventures: Screaming Room, features the Ghost Adventures cast in a screening room, commenting on past episodes of the long-running series.
"Fans get to see a classic episode as the guys break it down," McCollum says. "They share all these behind-the-scenes things. I love the concept of the show and that the guys are willing to sit down and talk about it. It's so cool for the fans."
The fun doesn't stop after Halloween.
Butler is excited for the emotional upcoming season of Mountain Monsters, as it honors cast member John "Trapper" Tice, who passed away last year.
"We're also looking forward to more of Kindred Spirits and The Dead Files. We're building up enough franchises to keep us in premieres year-round," Butler says.
"Doomsday Caught on Camera is coming up, too," McCollum adds, noting that her department collaborates with production teams to ensure all shows—premiering in Ghostober or beyond—are consistently supported with fun, original content across all social platforms.
"We're just having so much fun working in this genre," Butler says. "But the most exciting thing is the passion of the fan base."
For personal stories of the paranormal from the Travel Channel crew, click HERE.