Paranormal television is a genre of popular reality television programming. Its scope comprises purportedly factual investigations of paranormal phenomena, rather than fictional representations found in such shows as The Ghosts of Motley Hall and Ghostbusters, or cartoon/children's series such as Scooby Doo and Rentaghost.


Accounts of supernatural occurrences have always been common in the print media. The 1705 pamphlet "A True Relation of the Apparition of One Mrs Veal" by Daniel Defoe is a well known example. Local TV news programs in the UK and USA have featured ghost stories since the 1960s. Paranormal television arose from this tradition.

One of the earliest paranormal TV shows was In Search Of..., hosted by Leonard Nimoy which ran for six years from 1976. Rod Serling was originally slated to host the series until his death in 1975. In Search Of... explored many paranormal topics, including UFOs, cryptozoological creatures (cryptids), lost civilizations, and other mysteries. Though the subject matter gradually lost popularity, the show gave way to future TV series following the same genre.

Ghostwatch, a fictional news broadcast about a haunted house in the UK that aired in 1992, created controversy when a majority of viewers believed the televised show was real.

Discovery Channel started to explore the genre with some success from 1996. The Fox Broadcasting Company had a news-style oriented show, Sightings, that was hosted by Tim White (newscaster/reporter) and this show lasted for six years. MTV's Fear premiered in 2000, establishing the visual look and editing style followed by most paranormal reality television show. In 2002, the British satellite channel LivingTV launched the ghost hunting series Most Haunted. Its success helped spawn other shows on the channel, including Dead Famous and Jane Goldman Investigates, and the channel developed a distinctive identity based on paranormal programming. The production company responsible for these programs, Antix, also produced two series of Spook School which followed the investigators of Para-Projects as they teach members of the public how to become paranormal investigators themselves.

Other notable shows include Creepy Canada, Proof Positive, America's Haunted Hotels, Ghost Hunters (not to be confused with the earlier European Ghosthunters), Ghost Adventures, and A Haunting. YTV, a Canadian youth-oriented station, has a more toned-down version of similar programming called Mystery Hunters.

Noting the recent trend in reality shows that take the paranormal at face value, New York Times Culture editor Mike Hale characterized Ghost Hunting shows as "pure theater" and compared the genre to professional wrestling or soft core pornography for its formulaic, teasing approach.

LA Times staff writer Ed Stockly wrote that "the paranormal/supernatural-investigation subgenre that has cropped up on cable television over the last few years, which includes Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters International and a few others" promises to "take a skeptical approach in its investigations and to rely on science to confirm or disprove paranormal claims. So far not one has been able to consistently keep that promise."

Examples of notable programsEdit

Program Original Run Years (Premiere–Finale) Original Channel/Network
6ixth Sense with Colin Fry 2002 Living TV (UK)
Ancient Mysteries 1994 - 1998 A&E
The Antiques Ghost Show 2003 Living TV (UK)
Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World 1980 ITV
Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe 1995 ITV
Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers 1985 ITV
America's Haunted Castles 2005 Travel Channel
Beyond 2005 n/a (Canada)
Creepy Canada 2002–2006 n/a (Canada)
Celebrity Ghost Stories 2009–present Biography Channel
Crossing Over with John Edward 1999–2004 SyFy
Dead Famous 2004–2006 n/a
Derek Acorah's Ghost Towns 2005 Living TV (UK), Travel Channel
Destination Truth 2007–present Syfy
Encounters: The Hidden Truth 1991 Fox Network
Extreme Paranormal 2009 A&E Network
Extreme Ghost Stories 2006–2007 ITV1 (UK) WE (US)
Exploring the Unknown 1999 Saban Entertainment, Fox Kids
Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files 2009–present Syfy
Fenómeno 2000 RTP2, Mínima Ideia (Portugal)
Fortean TV 1997–1998 Channel 4
Ghost Adventures 2008–present Travel Channel
Ghost Hunters 2004–present Syfy
Ghost Hunters Academy 2009–2010 Syfy
Ghost Hunters International 2007–present Syfy
Ghost Lab 2009–2011 Discovery Channel
Ghost Stories 1997–1998 FOX Family
Ghost Stories 2009–present Travel Channel
Ghost Story 2006 (UK)
Ghost Trackers 2006 YTV
Ghost Whisperer 2005–2010 CBS
Ghosthunters 1996 Discovery Channel Europe
Ghostly Encounters 2009–present Viva/W Network (Canada), A&E Network, Biography Channel
The Girly Ghosthunters 2005 n/a (Canada)
The Haunted 2009-present Animal Planet
Haunted Houses: Tortured Souls & Restless Spirits 2005 Biography Channel
Haunted History 1998–2008 History Channel, Biography Channel
Haunted Homes 2006 ITV
Haunted Hotels 2002-2006 Travel Channel
Haunted Lighthouses of America 2006 Travel Channel
A Haunting 2005–2007 Discovery Channel
Haunting Evidence 2006 TruTV
I'm Famous and Frightened! 2004 n/a
In Search Of... 1976–1982 n/a
Investigations of the Unexplained 2007 Travel Channel
James Randi: Psychic Investigator 1991 n/a
Jane Goldman Investigates 2003 Living TV
Most Haunted 2002–2010 Living TV (UK), Paranormal Channel (UK), Travel Channel
Most Haunted Live! 2002 Living TV (UK), Paranormal Channel (UK), Travel Channel
Most Terrifying Places in America 2008–present Travel Channel
MTV's Fear 2000–2002 MTV
My Ghost Story 2010–present Biography Channel
Mystery Hunters 2002–2006 Discovery Networks, YTV
Nachtwakers 2011–present RTV Oost (Netherlands)
One Step Beyond 1959–1961 n/a
The Othersiders 2009 Cartoon Network
Paranormal? 2005 National Geographic Channel
Paranormal Challenge 2011 Travel Channel
Paranormal Cops 2010 A&E Network
Paranormal State 2006–present A&E Network
Paranormal State: The New Class 2010-present A&E Network
Paranormal Witness 2011-present Syfy
Proof Positive 2004 Syfy
Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal 1996–2000 n/a (Canada)
Psychic Detectives with Tony Stockwell  ? n/a
Psychic Kids 2009–present Biography Channel
Psychic Witness 2005 Discovery Channel
Scared! 2002 n/a
Scariest Places on Earth 2001–2006 ABC Family
Scary...But True 2001 Syfy, YTV, Chiller
Scream Team 2002 Living TV
Sightings 1992–1997 Fox Network, Syfy, syndicated television
The Sleep of Reason with Steve Bell 2007 Studio Universal
Spook School 2007–2008 Unexplained Channel, Antix Productions
Strange But True? 1993 n/a
Strange Universe 1996 UPN, syndicated television
Truth or Scare 2001–2003 Discovery Kids, The Hub
The Unexplained 2009 Biography Channel
The UneXplained 2011 Biography Channel
UFO Abductions 1991 n/a
Unexplained Canada 2006 Space
Unexplained Mysteries 2003 syndicated television
Unsolved Mysteries 1987
Weird Travels 2003–2006 Travel Channel
World's Scariest Ghosts Caught on Tape 1990s ABC