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Monday, February 27, 2023

Paranormal Journalist and TV Host Aaron Sagers Discusses the Intersection of Pop Culture and the Unexplained [Interview]

Entertainment, news, and the paranormal are connected more than you might think. I find it interesting that every person in the paranormal community I’ve talked with is also a horror nerd like me—the horror genre and belief in the unexplained are undeniably intertwined.

That’s why for this month’s DEAD Time, I wanted to talk with paranormal journalist, TV host, podcaster, and fellow spooky nerd Aaron Sagers.

During his extensive career as a journalist, Sagers has appeared on numerous TV shows and online videos. You’ve probably seen him analyzing bizarre videos on Paranormal Caught on Camera on Travel Channel and Discovery Plus or hosting shows like Discovery’s Paranormal Lockdown: Evidence Revealed or the web series Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Ripley’s Road Trip. Sagers has a new show on Netflix called 28 Days Haunted, which is an intriguing experiment using three paranormal teams staying in haunted locations for 28 days, to test what’s known as the 28-day cycle, which was allegedly initially theorized by well-known paranormal experts Ed and Lorraine Warren. He even hosts a podcast called Talking Strange, which merges horror, pop culture, and the paranormal as he interviews guests like Elvira and Greg Nicotero.

Bloody Disgusting was excited to chat with Aaron Sagers about being a TV host, journalist, and podcaster, being an expert on geek culture, and his experience with the paranormal. You can keep up with Sagers’ paranormal adventures by checking out his website and then read on to find out what we talked about.

Bloody Disgusting: How did you first become interested in the paranormal?

Aaron Sagers: I’ve always been interested in that stuff. I’m just a big old nerd. As a kid, I was watching horror movies, reading comic books, and at the same time, reading books by Hans Holzer and learning about the paranormal, and watching Unsolved Mysteries, and reruns of In Search Of. I was checking out books on the paranormal and reading the Time Life collection of Mysteries of the Unknown. Then I pursued the path of being a journalist and I covered regular news and a lot of travel news and then primarily entertainment coverage. While I would be writing about superhero movies and covering things like ComicCon, right around 2005 there was this increase of all these paranormal TV shows. We had Ghosthunters, Paranormal State, and Ghost Adventures and I knew that those shows were going to become popular, but also people would take to social media and connect across city limits and be able to share their interest in the paranormal without fear of judgement.

So, I wanted to write about that stuff. I was part of the tribe as well. From there, I started focusing on what I called paranormal pop culture and how entertainment influences belief and how belief influences entertainment. Strangely enough, that led to me doing TV shows and producing and becoming kind of well-known for being a spooky nerd.

BD: 28 Days Haunted presents some fascinating evidence. It’s an experiment based on the theories of Ed and Lorraine Warren that hauntings go through a cycle of 28 days. How did you choose the haunted locations and how did you select the 3 paranormal teams?

AS: Let me say, the notion of staying an extended period of time in a haunted location is something people have been trying to do for at least a century. Harry Price, who was a well-known investigator, tried to do that at the Borley Rectory, I believe, and that was in the early 1900s. So, people keep trying to extend the amount of time they’re going to spend in a haunted location for good reason—the theory is that the longer you’re there, the more exposure you’ll get to the potential paranormal activity, as well as the more the activity itself kind of gets used to the investigators. And I love that. Other TV shows have attempted these things as well. I’m friends with Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman from Paranormal Lockdown and they would spend 72 hours onsite, and various other people have tried to extend this time, so it’s something that a lot of people have tried to do. I did not select the locations or the members of the teams for 28 Days Haunted. I was brought in for the show because of my knowledge of paranormal history and paranormal theory, so they asked me to come in and sort of take the audience on a journey of what we were seeing.

So, I was watching it fresh myself as the information was coming in from each location. So, I was not involved in selection of the teams or the locations on this one. As someone who has made their way around a lot of locations, I’m familiar with a couple of the locations, but it actually provided for a fresh perspective for me. If I had known and selected individual people, I probably would have been thinking who is best for each spot, right? And maybe I would have been unintentionally influencing the experiment. Instead, I get to come along and see these people and the locations; yes, I know about the history of the locations, but it’s totally an unknown quantity for me about what is going to happen.

BD: Do you personally think the 28-day cycle could keep repeating or do you think that once a location has been cleansed, the cycle would end?

AS: First off, my personal opinions about the paranormal is that I do think there is more going on out there and I don’t know exactly what it is. I think it is a big, wide universe with a lot of strangeness and weirdness and it intrigues me to research and explore it. I operate from theory, not treating things as dogma or rules. So, who knows what could really happen next. I don’t think that a location is necessarily burnt out just because the 28-day cycle took place there. You could go back in, and a separate group could have different dynamics, and in the same location, get very different results. Or the same group of investigators could enter into a different location and just because they had success in the one, does not guarantee success in the next location. So, you never can tell. That’s why it’s kind of an experiment, but it’s never entirely complete.

This is again the limitations of having eight episodes and a lot of footage to deal with; there was so much that did not make it on air; there was so much that took place and crazy evidence that didn’t make it because tough editing calls were made. And sometimes, TV likes to create the dramatic effect amongst people, which I get it, drama is part of TV. So, there was a lot that wasn’t seen.

BD: You also have a podcast called Talking Strange and you’ve had some interesting horror and pop culture guests. Can you tell me about that?

AS: When I was first kind of branching out into the paranormal world, I started a website called Paranormal Pop Culture. I like seeing connections between stories and popular media, as well as the beliefs and the theories of the paranormal that are out there, and they cross over a lot. So, I’ve brought on guests like David Dastmalchian from The Suicide Squad, who created this horror comic called Count Crowley and he’s a big-time paranormal nerd. Rhys Darby from Our Flag Means Death, who is a big cryptid and UFO guy. And then talking to people from paranormal TV shows who have an interest in pop culture. Last year, when Ghostbusters: Afterlife came out, I did a livestream with Greg and Dana Newkirk from Hellier, John E.L. Tenney, and Amy Bruni and Adam Berry of Kindred Spirits where we all reacted to the movie and what we thought about it as people who work in the paranormal.

The Talking Strange podcast is really my chance to talk to people about the paranormal, talk to people about entertainment, but also cover topics that I think are worth mentioning such as the Satanic Panic from the eighties and how it never really went away, and now it’s even more politicized. Or the evolution of witchcraft in culture and in entertainment, things like that. When you break it down, even if you don’t necessarily believe in the paranormal, there is still a lot to be learned about a people by talking about their entertainment and talking about their folklore and myths and belief in the unexplained.

BD: That sounds awesome! I love that you’re doing this podcast because it reminds me of why I wanted to create this column. Horror and the paranormal cross over a lot more than people may realize and I think we should be talking about that.

AS: Even though I don’t try to convince people to believe or not believe in the paranormal, I do love the fact that I can walk into any bar or coffee shop and if you give it enough time, even if I don’t bring it up, someone is going to talk about a ghost story or the strange lights they saw in the sky or the local urban legend. So, the horror and spooky crossover is to be seen everywhere.

BD: Do you have a personal paranormal or unexplained experience you can share?

AS: What’s so surreal for me is that I did grow up with weird stuff in my childhood home, but it’s never really been part of my origin story. I’ve never really talked about it publicly too much because as an interviewer and a journalist, I was telling other people’s stories and not really thinking about my own personal experiences. But, throughout the years of being in this job, on investigations, and being in locations, I’ve had a lot of strange experiences. Every experience is sort of a little special and different.

The one that I share a lot is the one that launched me into this as a job and it was at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. I was there as a journalist before I was involved in the paranormal professionally. I saw this shadow figure, as I called it, and it was at the back of a cell in this prison. It was not a trick of light, there was nothing else going on, but it was pacing back and forth. My eyes were adjusted to the light, and I was just peering at this thing. There was a slight safety barrier between the entrance of the cell and myself and this thing was on the far back wall. I thought I was talking to myself, and I said, “Hey, if you’re there, come closer,” and this thing that was pacing back and forth suddenly stopped and then it rushed me, and my entire field of vision went entirely black. I jumped back and I let out a few choice expletives, and then I looked, and this thing was pacing back and forth again. I kept this to myself and after some time passed and I found myself in this area with other people, not having shared this experience, someone else who was a paranormal investigator said, “Wow, it looks like there’s a shadow figure pacing back and forth over there.” So, I was like, ‘Okay, that’s pretty interesting.’

There have been a lot of experiences throughout the years, and I absolutely love it. I mean, it can be scary at the time, but it’s incredible. I’ve been doing this a long time and I still tell people, “It’s okay to get freaked out. It’s okay to feel scared. That’s actually a very normal reaction.” [laughs] I don’t trust the people who act like they never get freaked out. I think that when you’re dealing with the unexplained, it is a strange experience. Not necessarily malevolent, I don’t think it’s necessarily dark, but it can be strange and intimidating to us. I would say my ultimate mission in all of this is just to find commonalities amongst people through this exploration of the unexplained. And that commonality can be a cultural connection; by shows like Paranormal Caught on Camera, whereby talking about the phenomena in the Phillipines and connecting it back to occurrences in North America, we can see that there are a lot of similarities in our stories, a lot of similarities in our folklore. Even if we come from two different parts of the country, or political philosophies, or religious backgrounds, if approach something with an open mind, and you tell a story, you can share a lot and learn about people quite a bit and maybe find some common ground.

BD: Do you know if there will be a season 2 of 28 Days Haunted?

AS: I do not know yet about a second season of 28 Days Haunted. I think it looks pretty good, but I don’t know for certain. I will say that we are currently filming our sixth season of Paranormal Caught on Camera on Travel Channel and Discovery Plus, so that is definitely continuing on. And there will be more of the Talking Strange podcast, that hasn’t stopped. There are some other projects that I can’t announce yet but are in the works. I’ve worked hard but it’s been an embarrassment of riches as far as my experiences with the paranormal, because I didn’t travel a lot as a kid and this job has allowed me to see so much of the world, as well as the job of an entertainment journalist. Doing multiple shows has allowed me to meet a lot of great people and meet people I consider family. This job is ridiculous and I’m incredibly grateful that I can right now say, “Hey, I’m on two network shows. Watch these shows!”

It’s a really great and crazy thing for a spooky nerd such as myself.

You can watch 28 Days Haunted on Netflix, Paranormal Caught on Camera on Travel Channel and Discovery Plus, and make sure you check out Sagers’ recently announced collaboration with Fireworks Media here. Until the next DEAD Time, leave a light on for me…

The post Paranormal Journalist and TV Host Aaron Sagers Discusses the Intersection of Pop Culture and the Unexplained [Interview] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!

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