Author of over 120 books on the spiritual and supernatural, parapsychologist Hans Holzer is widely considered to be America’s first ghost hunter. In 2019, the Travel Channel reopened his vast and secretive case files that detail historic haunts up and down the country’s coasts.
Ghost hunters of the 21st century, Dave Schrader, Cindy Kaza, and Shane Pittman, are tasked with re-examining Holzer’s findings in a paranormal show aptly named The Holzer Files. Since 2019, the crew has been delving into investigations with the help of Holzer’s original case notes, hoping to bolster his conclusions and finally find the truth of a world beyond our own.
Praised for their dedication to historical evidence and respect for pioneers of the paranormal community, The Holzer Files team members have become fresh favorites in the genre. However, with the renowned nature of Holzer’s evidence and many of the locations on offer scrutinized by hundreds of shows before it, does The Holzer Files offer anything beyond a new concept? Let’s find out.
The Holzer Files Air Date
After its announcement on September 12th, 2019, The Holzer Files first appeared on screens on Thursday, October 3rd, 2019. Like many paranormal shows before it, The Holzer Files is hosted on the Travel Channel and is also available for streaming on Discovery+.
Season 1, Episode 1, Phantoms of the Fire, follows the team as they retrace Holzer’s investigation of Peck House in Rye, New York. The series’ original concept hooked viewers who tuned in, generating a significant deal of buzz for subsequent episodes.
Creation and Production
The Holzer Files appears to have had quite a high turnover of crew between season 1 and season 2. The show had 18 production assistants and 18 producers in total, all having worked on various numbers of episodes from 2019 onwards. Two individuals who remained throughout all episodes were Danny Lutman, the development producer, and Rob Saffi, the executive producer and show-runner, both of whom have gone on to work as producers of Fright Club.
Some other producers of The Holzer Files include:
- Jim Casey – Executive Producer
- Justin Tucker – Executive Producer
- Ross Kaiman – Executive Producer
- Hayley Pogue – Associate Producer
- Keith Plant – Line Producer
- Patrick Luce – Story Producer
- Michael Goodman – Segment Producer
Robert Toth handled cinematography, while Patrick Reilly took on editing duties alongside assistant editor Robert Shaffer. Garrard Whatley also stayed with the show throughout its run, acting as a supervising sound editor. The Holzer Files also takes advantage of re-enactment segments, with Leya Oakley as the main make-up artist and a cast of 19 actors to play parts, such as John Wilkes Booth and Hans Holzer himself.
The Holzer Files Cast Members
The investigative team at the helm of The Holzer Files have been members of the paranormal community for some time, but if you’re not familiar with their careers thus far, here’s a little background on the hosts:
Co-creator and co-host of Darkness Radio since 2006, Dave Schrader has become a standout individual in the paranormal sphere and talk radio in general.
After being visited by the ghost of his grandfather when he was young, Dave “studied all things paranormal growing up” His opting for radio, a slightly unusual medium to share supernatural stories, came as a result of his pretending to be a radio host throughout his childhood.
After writing for Ghost Adventures, acting as the lead judge on Paranormal Challenge, narrating for Haunted Hospitals, and setting up his podcast, The Paranormal 60 with Dave Schrader, he landed his first television hosting gig with The Holzer Files.
Though she was very intuitive in her childhood, Cindy Kaza did not realize the extent of her psychic abilities until she was visited by her recently deceased friend at the age of 10. However, it wasn’t until a decade later that she began honing and using her talents to contact and commune with those who had moved on.
She is an evidential medium, meaning Cindy attempts to provide as much proof of her findings as possible during her readings. This has led to her gaining a reliable reputation, with her talents being used on multiple paranormal TV shows. The Holzer Files was her first appearance on television as part of an investigative team.
Similarly to his co-hosts, Shane Pittman has been followed by paranormal experiences since early childhood. He began learning as much about paranormal entities as possible but was most interested in the best tools and techniques to contact the beyond. Shane believes using investigative equipment and modern technology is the most effective way to validate spiritual experiences.
His role in The Holzer Files crew is equipment technician, and he often takes advantage of unconventional techniques that Hans Holzer wouldn’t have had access to. Since starring in The Holzer Files, he has gone on to appear on Shock Docs with the rest of the team and hosts the new paranormal TV show 28 Days Haunted.
Primary Focus of the Show
Hans Holzer’s investigative career spanned over 60 years and involved thousands of hauntings and possessions. With access to his secret files, the team attempted to corroborate his findings with new investigative techniques.
The episodes begin with a review of Holzer’s files on the location with the help of researcher Gabe Roth, who assists in deciphering the case notes and determining the most active areas, and Alexandra Holzer, Hans Holzer’s daughter, who shares personal recollections of her father’s investigations and her own opinion on the hauntings.
A significant focus is placed on the original recordings and photographs captured by Holzer, with primary sources played for the audience as Dave attempts to explain potential reasons for the hauntings. Usually, the team find that, since Holzer’s investigations have finished, the spirits have seemingly moved on or grown more negative, providing the basis for further investigations.
At the location, Dave remains in the monitor station while Cindy and Shane attempt to connect with any present spirits. After talking to those with first-hand experiences of the hauntings, the team progresses to a full-fledged investigation. As well as Cindy’s intuition, the team uses hidden cameras, Xcam SLS cameras and thermal cameras, mel meter EMF readings with a rem function, and various spirit boxes.
Once they’ve gathered their evidence, the trio reconvened to examine their findings. As is often the case, the investigations leave them and the owners of the locations with more questions than answers. However, most of the time, Shane, Cindy, and Dave have gathered enough information to determine the nature of the hauntings and advise on how the presences can be removed.
The Holzer Files’ Impact on the Paranormal Community
General manager of the Travel Channel, Matthew Butler, explained that The Holzer Files’ aim is to continue the work of a paranormal pioneer. “We are excited to share Hans’ original findings with our viewers,” Butler commented when the show was announced. “His groundbreaking studies inspired generations and continue to influence pop culture to this day. With our stellar team on the ground to pursue further answers and carry the torch forward, this is history in the making.”
By basing investigations around those already conducted by a renowned member of the paranormal community, The Holzer Files satisfies die-hard believers and fans of the genre while also taking on an educational tone for those just dipping their toes into the realm of the supernatural. Since many haunted locations feature on several paranormal investigation shows, The Holzer Files is perhaps one of the only examples that utilize both the history of locations and the history of investigations conducted in those locations.
Reviews echo this sentiment, calling the show ‘something different’ and ‘a fresh take’. One review states that The Holzer Files “provided much more of the history of a location which always seems to be spookier to me than any kind of ‘evidence’.” Dark Alice Reviews also complimented the show’s dedication to preserving history without embellishing it, commenting that the team spends ample time with “spirits that just want their true story to be heard without all the gossipy fabrication that tends to take hold after a tale is retold.” The show maintains a rating of 7.3 on IMDb, which is particularly high for offerings in the paranormal genre.
The Holzer Files’ Seasons and Episodes
In total, there are 2 seasons of The Holzer Files with 21 episodes overall; 10 in season 1, and 11 in season 2. Each episode has a runtime of between 40 and 45 minutes.
The Most Popular and Well-Rated Episodes
The top ten highest-rated episodes of The Holzer Files, according to IMDb user ratings, are:
- Season 1, Episode 9 – The Haunting of Lambert Castle
- Season 1, Episode 5 – A Grave Revenge
- Season 1, Episode 4 – Possessor’s Curse
- Season 1, Episode 6 – They Buried Me Alive
- Season 1, Episode 2 – Legends and Lies
- Season 2, Episode 13 – Dead Calm
- Season 1, Episode 10 – Bloodline
- Season 1, Episode 3 – Grave Secrets
- Season 1, Episode 1 – Phantoms of the Fire
- Season 1, Episode 7 – The Devil in Texas
Famous Guest Appearances
Aside from the appearance of Alexandra Holzer to provide some context on her father’s findings, the team doesn’t tend to enlist other ghost-hunters in the actual investigations. However, investigators and mediums do appear from time to time to share their experiences of the haunted locations. These include:
- Mark Moran – Co-creator of Weird NJ magazine, which contains local legends and recommendations for weird and wonderful places around New Jersey. Mark Moran shares his experience with the Ayers-Allen House in The Holzer Files.
- April Busset – The Psychic Housewife of New Jersey, April Busset, has lent her clairvoyance to everyone from law enforcement to celebrities. She shares her experience with The Holzer Files team in the highest-rated episode, The Haunting of Lambert Castle.
Controversies and Criticisms
The biggest criticism of The Holzer Files seems to be that there is little need for the team to rehash investigations that Holzer has already completed. “If this had been an examination of Hans Holzer’s investigations, it would be an interesting show,” one reviewer shared. “The ghost hunting is just bad.” A few other viewers agreed, throwing accusations of fakery at the show.
“I watched the first season and loved it,” another viewer commented. “Then the acting became apparent. Shane is a horrible actor. His “ghostly” attacks are horribly faked. Cindy is fed information by Shane when she is supposed to not know about the haunting.
Dave is almost believable but his constant attacks by ghosts are unbelievable. I can sell being shoved better than he can.” It seems a fair few viewers also believe that the sections with Alexandra and Gabe and the conversations with the owners of haunted locations are overly scripted, doing the whole show an injustice.
For season 2, the team tried to place yet more of an emphasis on Holzer’s findings and delved into investigations he never got to complete. “He had written about these hauntings, but never got the official green light to go in and investigate,” Dave revealed in an interview when season 2 was announced. “Now they’re letting us in because of our association with Holzer.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to have convinced those who abandoned the show to give it a second chance, with ratings for season 2’s episodes quite a bit lower on average.
Unfortunately, despite high ratings overall, the Travel Channel canceled The Holzer Files after just two seasons. Many viewers were dismayed by this decision, especially as the connection to paranormal legacies drew in a large portion of the ghost-hunting community. However, Dave took to his Twitter to reassure fans that all team members are busy filming their own projects.
Some viewers offered the potential explanation that a switch to Discovery+ in season 2 and the subsequent drop in viewer numbers was the reason for the cancellation. However, streaming-only shows don’t have so much pressure placed on them to maintain a high viewership, especially since most paranormal TV shows have been moved to or even originated on streaming platforms. This may lead to another potential reason for the show’s cancellation.
Holzer’s original notes and tape recordings of cold-conduit readings are creepy enough that the show didn’t need stylistic genre conventions such as sound effects and spooky music. The format of the investigations is the same as any other ghost-hunting show, making the unique concept nothing more than a hook to get viewers in before feeding them the same generic paranormal investigations the Travel Channel is known for. Although it was touted as different, The Holzer Files didn’t accomplish anything past retreading old ground.
Despite its premature cancellation, the show remains one of the most beloved the Travel Channel has ever released in the genre. Having had a run as short as it did, it’s no small feat that The Holzer Files made such a big splash.
The Holzer Files team are each well-respected members of the paranormal community, and their dedication to investigations was a hit with true believers and fans of ghost-hunting TV shows. However, their failure to offer anything groundbreaking can make the episodes hard to get through, often rendering the show less than the sum of its parts.
If you’re into paranormal investigation shows, you’re likely to enjoy The Holzer Files as a refined and grounded look into one of the greatest investigators there has been, with thorough and frightening additions from the modern hosts. However, if you’re starting out with the genre, you should consider a few more entertaining shows before this one.