If something unexplainable and terrifying happened to you, who would you call? Unfortunately, we are not lucky enough to have the Ghost Busters on speed dial. But we do have the next best thing: the emergency services.
The police, ambulance service, and firefighters receive thousands of calls yearly from terrified individuals being stalked by something supernatural. While most of these occurrences can be passed off as paranoia, some stay with those in the line of duty and the victims for the rest of their lives.
Paranormal 911 is another of Travel Channel’s story-based paranormal TV shows, centering around the experiences of those at work in the emergency services who’ve had to double-up as paranormal investigators. Hearing spooky stories straight from the individuals involved will always give an eery atmosphere to shows, but can Paranormal 911 add anything new to the concept?
Paranormal 911 Air Date
Paranormal 911 first aired on the Travel Channel on March 4th, 2019. The first episode, “Fear the Reaper,” features three stories from an EMT, a security guard, and a paramedic. The stories, told in talking-head segments, are complemented by reenactments.
The show received incredibly high ratings in its first season, with most viewers just happening to catch the show while it was on and being pleasantly surprised by what they found. The first episode has an IMDb rating of 8.9.
The Creation and Production
Paranormal 911 was made by production company Bristow Global Media, which is also responsible for Haunted Hospitals. The executive producer, Julie Bristow, was the president and CEO of BGM at the time. Other producers include:
- Sally Karam – Executive Producer
- Marlo Miazga – Executive Producer
- Tobin Long – Senior Associate Producer
- Andrea Lacey – Senior Associate Producer
- Ashley Comeau – Associate Producer
- Ryan Dias – Line Producer
- Tara Elwood – Supervising Producer
The individual episodes of Paranormal 911 generally had a different director or writer alongside a huge cast of reenactment actors. The most prominent were director Tim Wolochatiuk and writer Peter I. Horton. The cinematography was mostly handled by Josh Pelham and Ben Lichty, while Michael Maddeaux took over during the interview segments.
Costume design was headed up by Dawn Thompson, while Katie Minnis took on the role of key makeup artist. As for post-production, Tom Hillman led visual effects. Jay Baker handled editing alongside Joel Shecter, Neil Sitka, and Krysia Szyszlo, with a team of three assistant editors and colorist Michael Dobroski.
Paranormal 911 Cast Members
Paranormal 911’s concept doesn’t leave room for episode hosts, unlike other paranormal TV shows. Instead, the most prominent cast members of the show are the individuals who tell their stories, most of whom have little to no other media experience.
However, paranormal investigators and experts do appear on the show to share their opinions of the supernatural stories, the most prominent of which are:
Christopher Allen Brewer
Christopher’s Native American ancestry and upbringing meant he was familiar with a world beyond our own from early childhood. He has made a career as a paranormal investigator, writing the book Selfies From The Underworld: A Native American’s Record of the Supernatural and founding Future Ghost. He appears in shows such as Haunted Hospitals, My Ghost Story, Paranormal Nightshift, and Most Terrifying Places in America. He joined the cast of Paranormal 911 for 16 episodes.
Morgan has been involved in investigating the paranormal for much of her life, and now she spends most of her time teaching others how to do the same. She co-founded Paranormal Research & Teachings in 2003 and still serves as the leading Entityseeker. Using her knowledge, she wrote the pseudo-memoir Teaching the Living, which details information and tips for those dealing with spirits in their homes. Morgan appeared in 15 episodes of Paranormal 911 and is also featured in Haunted Hospitals.
Primary Focus of the Show
Each episode of Paranormal 911 contains three stories, all with reenactment scenes to illustrate the narrative. The evidence provided by those telling the stories is rarely questioned, as the show presents the ‘facts’ at face value for audiences to decide how much truth is contained within.
The episodes waste no time in getting into the stories. After a brief introduction to the show and the individual in question, they get straight into their terrifying tale. The emotional connection to these individuals is strengthened by their storytelling and the questions from interviewers behind the camera. In addition to reenactments, the stories are also complimented by narration from Martin Yap.
The supernatural entities discussed include apparitions, ghosts, spirits, demons, and possessed objects. It’s refreshing to see that some of these entities aren’t portrayed as entirely malevolent, such as in “season 1, episode 4” when an elderly man is protected by the spirit of his deceased wife.
As previously mentioned, no paranormal investigations are conducted of the locations or people mentioned in the stories. But, paranormal experts do appear to share their knowledge and often leave viewers with some kind of conclusion on what the storytellers have experienced.
Paranormal 911’s Impact on the Paranormal Community
Paranormal 911 appears to have garnered quite a bit of attention from fans of paranormal TV, but whether this is because of positive word of mouth or due to its primetime slot on Travel Channel and their frequent marathons of this and its sister show, Haunted Hospitals, is hard to determine.
In general, audience reviews are positive, praising the connection to storytellers. “What I like is that the story is told by the person experiencing it,” one viewer commented.
Susan Leighton at 1428 Elm seconded this in her review: “What makes this an exciting series is the fact that viewers get to experience exactly what the first responders and the victims do.”
Others have left positive reviews of the show based on its apparent lack of fakery. “I appreciate that this show provides people’s last names and locations and appears to be credible…I like true memories of what happened by honest people,” one wrote, while another stated, “Some of the stories can be researched for validity. I happen to live near one of the show’s cases involving a real local police officer involved.”
The Show’s Seasons and Episodes
Currently, two seasons of Paranormal 911 are available to watch as reruns or on Discovery+. Both seasons have 13 episodes each.
The Most Popular and Well-rated Episodes
According to IMDb user ratings, the top 10 episodes of Paranormal 911 are:
- Season 1, Episode 4 – Paranormal Prisoner
- Season 1, Episode 7 – Through the Looking Glass
- Season 1, Episode 9 – He Made Me Do It
- Season 2, Episode 6 – Scarred, War House Haunting and Winged Demon
- Season 1, Episode 2 – Phantom Footsteps
- Season 1, Episode 8 – Dark Christmas
- Season 1, Episode 10 – Passenger
- Season 1, Episode 5 – Fearful Fed
- Season 1, Episode 1 – Fear the Reaper
Famous Guest Appearances
Again, every appearance of a paranormal investigator on Paranormal 911 could technically be counted as a famous guest appearance. However, the most notable are:
Mark appeared in 9 episodes of Paranormal 911 and was able to provide a unique viewpoint, given that he served as a criminal investigator for many years. He turned his detective skills toward the paranormal, releasing two books that recount his investigations and delve into the paranormal experiences he had as a child.
Richard is another investigator who works primarily through the literary medium. His passion for the paranormal was ignited during his childhood when he lived at his grandparents’ haunted house in the UK. He founded the Boulder County Paranormal Research Society and has authored over 20 books on the paranormal. He appeared in 9 episodes of Paranormal 911.
Controversies and Criticisms
Despite most viewers wholeheartedly believing the stories told by the individuals featured in Paranormal 911, they don’t appreciate the way the crew embellishes these tales for the screen. “Maybe it would be tolerable except for the unrelated sounds (crashing, banging, hissing, screeching, squealing) and gruesome visual effects incessantly flashing on screen,” one audience member complained. “These effects are not related to the ‘story.”
Critics have also picked up on this trend but have further called out Paranormal 911 for being exploitative. Tvovermind writer Tom Foster explained, “They don’t want to exploit the families of the dead or those that perished in various ways, but unfortunately…the fact that they’re willing to talk about it at all kind of denies the credibility they’re trying to build up through this method. When your show is seeking to make ratings, exploiting any aspect of it seems to be par for the course.”
On a slightly less serious note, viewers have also criticized Paranormal 911 for being too repetitive. “Sorta repetitive stories that are all very similar to each other. Not sure I believe all these are real,” an audience member stated. Others see this as standard, with paranormal shows based around personal stories. A viewer commented, “Sometimes the dramatizations don’t match what the witness says, the usual in shows like this.”
Paranormal 911 ceased airing in 2020, and though there is no announcement on whether a third season will begin production, it hasn’t been canceled yet. But, if this kind of paranormal TV show appeals to you, many other examples place stories from everyday individuals at the front and center.
Though Paranormal 911 does make use of generic sound effects and spooky editing tricks, its reenactments are well-produced and make for entertaining viewing. It’s interesting to see a narrative come to life in this way, and audience engagement is high as a result. Rather than diving into historical accounts and random stories from eyewitnesses, Paranormal 911 makes these stories into the entire show, perhaps creating an entirely more terrifying effect.
In the last few years, as many TV channels have buffed up their programming schedules with countless paranormal shows, segmented story-telling structures like that of Paranormal 911 have become much more popular. They’re arguably cheaper and quicker to produce than investigative shows, and audiences enjoy hearing true tales of terror. However, as for now, they remain a niche within the paranormal genre, and investigative shows still take precedence among the paranormal community.
Paranormal 911 provides easy viewing without much of the fuss that comes with full-on paranormal investigations. The variety-show nature of the episodes also means you can jump in on the series at any time and get a good feel for what’s going on almost immediately.
Personally, I think shows like this are an interesting addition to the genre, and they’re delightfully bingeable. The changing content of the stories featured negates any repetition in setting and editing, and sometimes, it’s nice to take a break from hosts speaking into spirit boxes and empty rooms.
If ghost stories tend to scare you more when they come straight from the horse’s mouth, Paranormal 911 is a great option. However, if you prefer a more in-depth look at hauntings that feature an investigative team attempting to debunk the phenomena they witness, Paranormal 911 probably won’t be for you.