Destination America’s offerings are in no way limited to supernatural programming, but a good portion of its weekends are dedicated to shows about people trying to prove, or perhaps even disprove, the existence of ghosts, UFOs, and monsters.
“We’ve always had this genre of programming that I’ve called ‘stories around the campfire’ that I think is ingrained in Americans in general. It could be a UFO, it could be a Bigfoot sighting, it could be a ghost. ‘Paranormal’ is more ghost-specific, so we like to broaden it to ‘supernatural’ to hit on aliens, monsters, and ghosts—we’re all inclusive here,” says Laura Giacalone, VP of marketing, Destination America.
It’s a genre that seems to have engrossed Destination America’s audience. “They really want to have a conversation, and we wanted to continue to have that conversation and engage them because they’re so passionate.”
Giacalone says a Gallup poll revealing that 75 percent of Americans believe in the supernatural supported what the network’s research had already shown: There’s a huge interest in the supernatural and paranormal. In uncertain times, people tend to be more open-minded about the unknown, and grow more curious about things like what happens after death, or if there’s sentient life on other planets.
The network realized how strong the genre’s popularity was following last October’s “Exorcism: Live,” which lit up across all of Destination America’s social media feeds, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
“As we built up to [the premieres of] our shows ‘A Haunting’ and ‘Paranormal Lockdown’ the conversation just continued,” she says. “So knowing we’re always going to need this kind of material—and that people want to share it—we thought why not try to gather it and use it?”
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The idea for Post Your Proof was sparked in a brainstorming session, and a month later the promotion was in full swing, benefiting from traction generated by the increased traffic—and conversations— on the network’s social and digital platforms.
The promotion, which accepted entries from April 11 to May 29, invited viewers to post a story, photo, or video of any supernatural activity they’ve experienced but couldn’t explain. They received about 1,000 submissions.
“We’re weeding through it all now, but there are photos, and some videos. I don’t think we’ve got, technically, any EVPs [Electronic Voice Phenomena] yet, but who knows?” she says.
Since audio, video, and still photos can easily be faked, each entry will be reviewed very carefully before the decision is made to put it on their website or not. They’re looking for interesting leads. “Maybe it’s a story from a town that we’ll want to dive deeper into and might want to use for one of the shows—maybe not the footage itself, but the story might help inform another show we’re working on,” she says.
The promotion went from idea to reality so quickly for a couple of reasons.
“Honestly, it was building off the momentum that started with ‘Exorcism: Live,’ and kept building with ‘A Haunting’ and some of our other shows,” Giacalone says. “Then with ‘Paranormal Lockdown’ with Nick [Groff, formerly of Travel Channel’s ‘Ghost Adventures’] and Katrina [Weidman, formerly of A&E’s ‘Paranormal State], we just saw it continuing. We wanted to keep pushing that, knowing we would be premiering ‘Ghost Brothers’ and then going into new episodes of ‘Ghost Asylum,’ We thought it was a great way to continue the conversation.”
Adding to the excitement, “Mountain Monster” wrapped its season and “UFOs: The Untold Stories” premiered during the promotion window. Perhaps best of all, Post Your Proof was an ideal way to tout Destination America’s newest supernatural offering, “Ghosts of Shepherdstown,” which premieres Sunday, June 12.
“’Ghosts of Shepherdstown’ is one of our first serialized [reality] shows. It’s fantastic, and it’s frightening what is happening in that town,” Giacalone says, noting the West Virginia town—the site of more than one bloody Civil War battle—is supposed to be among the most haunted towns in the nation, where 9-1-1 operators took more than 1,000 ghost-related calls in one year.
“We’re just super excited that our fans are responding so well to this genre, and we love continuing the conversation with them.”