6 Things I Learned Owning A 'Haunted House' On Reality TV
Ghost-hunting reality shows are super hot right now. You know what else they are? So full of shit that their eyes have turned brown. But those shows do feature real people who really might believe in the supernatural. We spoke with one of them -- a man whose family home was the focus of an episode of the A&E series American Haunting. Here's what he told us:
The Director's Job Is To Manufacture Drama
Most people don't believe in ghosts, but we've had things happen in our home that we can't explain. We've watched objects move across the table on their own, and seen family members walk through the house even though they live in other states. Add in the mysterious clanging and thumping noises we hear all the time, and well ... we figured something was up, even if that something was a light carbon monoxide leak.
Now, there are a number of rational explanations for what we saw -- the most likely being a 19-hertz standing airwave. It's possible that some old pipes (or whatever) in my house occasionally vibrate at a very specific frequency that's been shown to induce mild hallucinations. You can test for that sort of thing, but it costs money. And since we couldn't sell a "haunted" house, we opted to reach out to a paranormal reality show. Then we'd get some answers and make some money ... or get to take a reality TV crew down with us when the ghosts closed in.
"Care to try your luck next, people behind Kid Nation?"
Once we were selected, the producers came in and explained the show to us. This episode of American Haunting was to revolve around the paranormal phenomena that took place in my home. That was the premise we were sold, but in reality, the director made every attempt to pit members of my family against each other for the sake of cheap drama. At one point, he tried to get some of the "experts" to use "psychology" to find what exactly would push our buttons, just so that he could get us to explode on camera. Much to their chagrin, that didn't happen. As a last resort, they simply told us to get mad at each other, but we didn't. Desperately asking a family to turn on itself for the sake of some reality shenanigans doesn't work too well. They could have at least offered to trade us a juice box or be our best friends.
"Maybe toss around some rocks or a live grenade instead, guys? Guys? Shit ..."
The Producers Are Only Interested In Funny Stereotypes
We were told our family was chosen because we seemed to have a "likable dynamic," which really meant that they thought they could shape us into their ideal TV family. For the record, their ideal family looked like a cross between the Brady Bunch and the Mansons: normal on the outside, but with a crazy, gooey center. However, my family was a smidgen too close to normal, so they gave us some help in the form of a "family friend." And by "family friend," I mean a guy we'd only met once. And by "a guy we'd only meant once," I mean this guy:
"I know the family like the back of my cousin's brother's uncle's sister's mother's Kindergarten teacher's hand."
For whatever reason, redneck shows are huge. And since we live in Eastern Kentucky, the producers were expecting the full Deliverance experience. But none of us had wacky hillbilly accents, the kids are practically Ralph Lauren models, and the house was fairly well-kept -- not even a pet possum to play up for comedic value. So when they found out most "country folk" are just "normal folk," they started importing inbreds to chuckle up the sideshow.
Unfortunately for them, Ma Kettle's corner store was out of bib overalls, washboards, and XXX jugs of moonshine.
Our "Reality" TV Show Had Special Effects
Events and "happenings" were edited around recordings of stuff I actually said, but cut to fit the needs of the editors. So while I never lied about anything that happened, the world wouldn't know the difference, because literally every moment was cut apart and pieced together in an order that resembled an old Lon Chaney movie.
With cinematography by Predator.
The final product was a special effects extravaganza that made Sharknado 2 look like a subdued French film. For example, some shots showed trees casting ominous shadows ... indoors. This was done for atmosphere, to make our otherwise ordinary house look like prime property in Amityville. And while the special effects guy was nice enough, it was a little worrying that they had "a special effects guy" on our reality show in the first place.
The "Experts" They Brought In Were Laughable
The paranormal experts put a bunch of disco lasers on the wall, did a little dance, and cashed their paycheck.
If we were being haunted by an anxious house cat, this would've been a fine plan.
The spiritual medium was even worse. He told us, "All these terrible things are happening because the spirits are angry you are Christian." Are ... are there atheist ghosts?
He also called me "psychologically damaged" and claimed that I could be a serial killer. That was because I had a cross of swords in my bedroom -- which, it should be noted, came from the set design team. Everything he used to evaluate my psyche was based on things the crew had hung in my room to make me look more interesting.
There's so much bullshit on that wall that you'd need the swords to cut through it.
The only person who truly wanted to help was a Catholic bishop who came by and exorcised the house. He even forced the camera crew out for a bit because it was a religious gesture and not for entertainment. Whether or not you believe in ghosts and demons and such, that was a pretty stand-up thing to do. Or maybe he didn't want the demon to get his SAG card.
"Soulless demons be GONE, and annoying camera static effects guy be FIRED."
They Ignored Real Problems To Film Fake Ones
While they were filming fake stuff, all of the real inexplicable things -- which, remember, is what we had called them about in the first place -- were still going on. But the film crew never shot any of it, and if you asked them who they were gonna call, they didn't even bother to yell "Ghostbusters!"
Which is probably evidence that they were pod people. Instead of filming the spooky things happening, we ignored them to film reenactments of the spooky things happening. That door closing all by itself, that Hot Pocket sliding across the counter of its own accord? CGI. Meanwhile, any real ghosts were probably standing just out of shot, looking quite confused.
"Mom's right; I should have haunted a doctor."
They would sensationalize anything. We told them about how my brother had cut his arm once, and that we briefly associated it with the house. They turned that into us screaming about a demon that had cut my brother at night, presumably because he owed it money.
Your Reputation Is Ruined
Before the show aired, people knew we had a "haunted" house, and it wasn't a big deal. Half the houses south of the Mason-Dixon Line are "haunted." That's kinda what you get for the whole slavery deal. But after the American Haunting episode came out, we were suddenly pariahs. The show had taken our experiences with small, unexplained things and made it look like Paranormal Activity, so now we were liars in everyone's eyes.
"I'll bet you don't even own a self-opening cabinet."
Even the little falsehoods that the production crew told came back to bite us. People wanted to talk about the swords on my wall, or how they were certain I dyed my hair for the filming, or the way my family spoke being too clear and coherent. Once you've got a reputation as a liar, everything is a lie. That's how they took a normal family with a slightly odd house and made it a campy horror reality drama. Which, come to think of it, sounds a bit like the setup of a horror film by itself. But half the fun of a horror movie is rooting for the good guys to get out alive. Who do you root for when the protagonists are a reality TV crew?
Evan V. Symon is the Interview Finder guy for Cracked. If you have an awesome experience or job you would like to share with us and see as an article, email us here.
For more insider perspectives, check out 4 Horrifying Realities of Working at a Haunted House and 4 Lies Reality Shows Rely On (That Are Worse Than You Think).
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