Ahead of the premiere of Destination America’s new series Haunted Towns, realscreen presents an exclusive clip.
Haunted Towns sees the return of Ghost Asylum‘s Tennessee Wraith Chasers, a group of paranormal investigators and researchers. The team hits the road to visit some of the most notoriously haunted towns across the U.S.
From the battlefields of Gettysburg to the colonial cobblestones of Salem, the team investigate towns whose identities have been shaped by their haunted histories. Examining decades of local lore, the group attempt to figure out how much is truth and how much is legend.
Haunted Towns is produced for Destination America by Tremendous! Entertainment with Colleen Needles Steward, Shannon Keenan Demers and Devon Platte as executive producers. For Destination America, Fay Yu is executive producer, Jane Latman is general manager, and Henry S. Schleiff is group president of Investigation Discovery, Destination America and American Heroes Channel.
Haunted Towns premieres Aug. 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Destination America.
Destination America’s Fay Yu answered some questions about the project ahead of its premiere:
What was the genesis for this series?
This was an idea that rose very organically out of our three seasons of traveling the country for Ghost Asylum. We were always struck by how profoundly the presence of these imposing haunted institutions would loom over the residents who lived around them. Talking to locals was always fascinating. It was really fun to hear about the stories they grew up with and how much those stories stuck with them. We realized that beyond those single locations, entire towns became wonderful characters and made us want to tell those stories.
Why do you think there is an appetite for a program like Haunted Towns?
The idea of approaching infamous paranormal stories from the perspective of those who live in their midst is immensely relatable. Everyone grew up hearing scary stories and urban legends that were specific to their home towns, whether they were rooted in real history or their origins were total mysteries. I think it’s universally fascinating to learn about places that have so many of these stories that the whole character of the town is informed by them.
What challenges did you face with production?
Unlike every other ghost investigation show we’ve done, Haunted Towns is trying to tell the story of an entire town, not just a single building or contained location.
In every town we visited, there was so much story to tell, there was no way we could fit it all into a single episode. We had to be pretty selective about which stories to pursue and which locations we thought would prove to be the most active. Sometimes the evidence would send us in a completely different direction than we anticipated, so we always had to be thinking on our feet and hoping we could follow the clues. We were often quite literally running from one side of town to the other.
Can you name two or three elements that you think will make this series appeal to audiences?
Well, of course, a major one is the Tennessee Wraith Chasers. They proved over three seasons of Ghost Asylum that audiences love to watch them investigate. Their camaraderie, curiosity, and giddy excitement about the investigations is really infectious. And they have a lot of fun doing it, even when it’s terrifying.
Another big draw will be the locations. Each town we visited had fascinating stories from every period of American history, and incredible paranormal activity that had been going on for generations. The sheer number of people who had experienced something paranormal in each town was amazing.
What did you learn during the production of this project that you think would be valuable to other professionals in the industry?
It was certainly not a new concept to me, but this production really drove home the fact that working closely and openly with the locals at each location was so invaluable to making the best show possible. The townspeople everywhere we went were so welcoming and excited to share their stories and were really appreciative of how much respect and affection we had for their home towns. In many cases, we got more access and more cooperation than we would have even thought to ask for because the locals loved being so included in the process.
Did you use any new or revolutionary technology?
The Wraith Chasers really love trying out new technology, so Haunted Towns is full of a lot fun stuff, but they also prefer to use equipment that they’ve really tested out and found very dependable for big investigations. A lot of classic tools have gotten better and better over the years, so the quality of thermal imaging, night vision, digital recording, environmental meters, etc is really fantastic these days and we like to stay as current as possible on those.
Small, mountable cameras are incredibly useful in larger locations to keep eyes in every room, and we even have a tech guy whose primary role is to monitor the many cameras we set up to see if they catch anything the guys miss. There are several instances where he caught activity happening in a room that the guys were not in — something that would have been totally missed a few years ago when it was not so practical to have a camera in every single room.
They also had some gadgets that are quite new to the field, like the SLS or Structured Light Sensor camera, which uses ultrasonic distance detection, thermal temperature sensing, and light frequency sensing to detect anomalies that are invisible to the naked eye. It can actually map out the figure of a spirit and show us where it is and how it is moving.
What’s your favorite moment from the series?
One of my favorites happened down in Savannah, Georgia when we were investigating Wright Square, also known as “The Hanging Square”. We have a gadget called an Ovilus which is essentially loaded with hundreds of words from the dictionary and converts environmental fluctuations in electro-magnetic fields, temperature, et cetera, into one of those words.
The theory is that spirits can manipulate the energy around the Ovilus to choose the word they want to say, which would take a lot less energy for the spirit to accomplish than actually voicing the word audibly. Sometimes we get words and just can’t figure out their relevance, but occasionally we’ll get one that is so spot on it is chilling. This is especially the case when we get proper nouns, like specific names. We had been zeroing in on the first woman who had been hanged in Wright Square, way back in 1735. Suddenly, the Ovilus spit out her name (proper names are pretty unusual to get from this gadget) and we all pretty much jumped out of our skin.
Anything you’d like to add?
A side note to the Ovilus story, while in Savannah the gadget also said my name. Which was unsettling, to say the least, especially because it was not the first time I heard my name come out of the Ovilus.
About four months earlier on a shoot for an entirely different show, different crew, different location, everything, my name came out of the Ovilus and having it happen that first time seemed unlikely enough. I have a pretty uncommon name, with an even less common spelling, and both times the Ovilus spelled it correctly.
I’ve always been a skeptic and look for logical explanations for everything, but even I couldn’t come up with an explanation for this. One of the producers on the shoot with me knew about that happening and we had actually joked the night before that if it happened again I was just going to leave. Perhaps I’ve been on too many ghost investigations…the spirits are getting to know me.