Paranormal Horror on Reality TV Show

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By Alex Aronson | HuffPost

We’ve all been there: You’re channel surfing on a lazy Saturday afternoon when suddenly you land upon a green night-vision scene showcasing a group of ghost hunters. But what ― if anything ― is real, and what’s just TV hocus pocus?

Well, after booking a gig on one of those paranormal reality-TV shows, I got my answer.

You know the shows I’m talking about. Television is currently flooded with series that feature ordinary folks sharing their supposedly supernatural encounters or investigators camping out at a haunted location in the hopes of finally capturing something irrefutably real on camera.

Several months ago, while scrolling through a casting website, I found a call for actors to reenact a paranormal encounter. I’ve done a few acting jobs before, but nothing like this. Still, I figured, why not give it a go? So I sent over my photos and acting reel. All in all, it was a relatively painless process. I emailed back and forth and chatted on the phone a few times with the casting directors, and because they would be shooting the reenactments with no lines, there was no need for me to audition ― my reel was enough. Within a month I was confirmed for a gig on a well-known network for one of television’s longest-running paranormal reality shows.

I was stoked, as I have long been a fan of these types of shows. Growing up, my grandma raised me on a healthy dose of “Unsolved Mysteries” and midnight radio. Pair that with the fact that my childhood home stood on the grounds of a former asylum for the mentally ill and you have the perfect ingredients to create a paranormal fanatic.

While the validity of what happens on some of these shows is somewhat questionable (to say the least), they are undeniably entertaining. And, sure, they can even be a bit hokey at times, but I still love them. They’re also a ratings goldmine for the networks and, in turn, drive an entire industry of paranormal fanfare and conventions.

Though I was excited to book my role, when it comes to ghosts, I consider myself a “skeptical believer.” As open as I am to the realm of the supernatural and what may lie on the other side, I am very grounded in my beliefs. I’m never going to hear a creaking floorboard and immediately jump to the conclusion that it was caused by Casper and his buddies.

I want to see convincing evidence.

But I am also open to the idea that some things are beyond our comprehension.

On the day of the shoot, I drove to the where the show was filming in upstate New York. I thought I was headed to a stand-in “haunted house” or television set, but my GPS directed me down a long gravel driveway flanked by overgrown cattails. As I pulled down the narrow drive, a decrepit farmhouse with patches of aged siding and chipped trim came into view.

When I laid eyes on the eerie two-story structure, I thought to myself, Wow, what brilliant production design. But little did I know, this was no set. Production was filming the reenactment segments at the actual house being featured on the show.

The “real” haunted house.

Going into the shoot, the producers disclosed the title of the series pretty early on. I had heard of the show, but it had been a long time since I watched it. Still, I didn’t realize this particular program filmed the reenactments at the locations where the events actually took place.

And while I was ready as I could be for my scenes, I wasn’t ready for what I’d encounter at that house that day.

Several children supposedly passed away on the property after experiencing various accidents. As if that’s not dark enough, an expectant mother reportedly hung herself from a tree in the front yard, and an alleged serial killer is said to have once resided in the home.

When I arrived, one of the show’s producers quickly greeted me and walked me to a tent in the front yard where the cast and crew could camp between takes. There, I met the homeowners, and they shared a bit of the property’s rich and deeply disturbing history, as well as a few of their own personal paranormal experiences.

Several children supposedly passed away on the property after experiencing various accidents. As if that’s not dark enough, an expectant mother reportedly hung herself from a tree in the front yard, and an alleged serial killer is said to have once resided in the home.

Nearly a dozen bodies have been unearthed in the backyard alone. However, it’s unknown exactly how many souls claim the surrounding swampland as their final resting place.

The inhabitants of the house say they’ve seen unexplained shadows and heard disembodied voices and even growls. They claim an angry spirit who lives on the second floor of the house has also made his presence abundantly clear.

The family’s priest, who was present during filming that day, recalled the time an unseen force assaulted him on the staircase inside the house and left a scratch on his arm.

Because we were filming at the very location where the entity allegedly harmed him, he voiced his concern for the cast and crew who were shooting inside the home. But it was this piece of advice he gave us that sent shivers down my spine: Make sure nothing follows you home.

He explained that it’s common for a spirit to trail someone from a haunted site. Basically, you visited them at their house, so now it’s their turn to visit yours.

I didn’t want to experience that and neither did any of the other cast or crew. The priest claimed that in order to avoid a spirit following you off the premise, you simply had to speak aloud something along the lines of, “If there is anything following me, you’re not welcome here. Go away.” The tactic apparently worked for him ― or at least he said it did ― so I figured I’d give it a try when I left. I mean, better safe than sorry, right?

My scenes weren’t until after lunch, so as everyone else was filming, I wandered outside and decided to explore the barn that was adjacent to the house.

As I entered the empty structure, I heard what sounded like someone walking on the tin roof of the barn. 

I rushed outside to see if there was someone on the roof, but I didn’t see anyone. It would have been impossible to climb to the top of the barn without a ladder ― and there wasn’t one ― and besides, everyone else was inside the house shooting a scene.

I was spooked ― especially considering why I was on the property in the first place, but I also wasn’t convinced that what I had heard were really footsteps.

I returned to the production tent, and the homeowners joined me not long afterward. They showed me their spirit box, a piece of ghost hunting equipment that looks similar to a radio. The spirit box supposedly picks up frequencies that cannot be heard by the human ear and makes them audible, and some paranormal researchers claim it allows them to communicate with the dead. The homeowners proceeded to ask the box if there were any spirits present. Almost immediately, a robotic voice replied, “Yes.”

When they asked the entity to reveal its location, the box said, “In the barn.” 

My heart immediately skipped a beat.

One of the homeowners then told me they believed a “friendly spirit” lived in the barn. They called him “tin man,” as he was frequently heard walking on the barn’s tin roof.

My jaw dropped. Did the footsteps that I had just heard belong to tin man? I had no way of being sure, so I decided to just keep it to myself. But before I could even completely process my thoughts, the director told me it was time to get into costume.


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