With so many paranormal shows now on air, it’s a given that some are going to tread the same ground. Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, Stanley Hotel, and the Lizzie Borden House are just a few examples of haunted locations featured on several paranormal TV shows.
Wouldn’t it be useful if someone were to make an anthology series that featured all these haunted locations? Well, Travel Channel attempted to do just that with their series Most Terrifying Places in America. With the help of historians and eyewitnesses, the show documented towns, playgrounds, roads, and graveyards where paranormal activity is at its highest.
Though the concept isn’t terribly unique, and little to no investigation is involved, a showcase such as Most Terrifying Places in America could be a godsend to the paranormal community. But why did the show receive such little buzz from audiences and critics alike if that’s the case?
You know the drill, so let’s dive in…
Most Terrifying Places in America Air Date
Most Terrifying Places in America has a slightly disjointed history. The first and second episodes that comprise the first ‘season,’ creatively named “Most Terrifying Places in America 1” and “Most Terrifying Places in America 2,” aired on October 9th, 2009, as 60-minute specials. They covered locations such as Stanley House, Bobby Mackey’s Music World, and the Whaley House.
The show originally went off-air after its second season in October 2010, but new episodes appeared in 2018 with the same concept. On June 30th, 2018, Most Terrifying Places in America returned with its first episode in 8 years, “Haunted Roadtrips,” detailing supernatural occurrences at roadside locations such as Stuckey Bridge and Crescent Hotel.
The Creation and Production
With the show being split into two separate volumes, the cast and crew of Most Terrifying Places in America changed dramatically. Though information on the original run is quite hard to find, it doesn’t appear that any of the crew returned in 2018 for the third season. Additionally, as the episodes originally aired as ‘specials,’ it wouldn’t be surprising if the crew changed from episode to episode.
With all that being said, unless specified, we’ll focus on the crew from 2018. The series was produced by:
- Alan Madison – Executive Producer
- Matt Sharp – Executive Producer
- Laura Marini – Supervising Producer
- Josh Abraham – Story Producer
- Isla Goglick – Field Producer
- Jameson Posey – Field Producer
Nicole Zaremba directed the original series, and no single director is listed for the later episodes. The directors of photography were David Cavallo and Jim O’Donnell, assisted by ACs Addison Miller, Bunee Tomlinson, John Considine, and others.
Post-production was overseen by Mike Granowsky, with colorist Derek Haager. Editors included Laura Corwin Walsh, Jared Dubrino, Benedict Kasulis, Tony Pellegrino, and Dan Mangini. Pomann Sound Inc. handled audio post-production.
Most Terrifying Places in America Cast Members
The nature of Most Terrifying Places in America means the show is carried mostly by narration from Mason Pettit in 2009/2010 and Sam Fontana in 2018. There are no hosts that appear in every episode, and the haunted locations are described and commented on by eyewitnesses and locals.
The cast did feature a few actors who portrayed ghosts and fictional residents, but none who starred in more than one segment. However, well-known paranormal investigators did appear from time to time to share their own stories of times they investigated the locations. But, as they don’t host the show, we’ll cover these later under Famous Guest Appearances.
Primary Focus of the Show
Each episode of Most Terrifying Places in America is something of a special. While the original episodes cycled through seemingly unrelated haunted locations, the newer installments center around a different topic each time, such as haunted attractions or towns.
The episodes feature anywhere from six to eight locations, giving audiences a sound grasp of a huge number of locations in a relatively few number of episodes. Individuals with long-time or significant connections to the locations are tasked with introducing them to viewers.
Descriptions of the locations include their history, the ghosts and spirits that are tied to them, and how the ongoing paranormal occurrences there affect those who live nearby. Many of the modern stories related to these locations have a very emotive undercurrent, and the experiences shared are not always life-alteringly terrifying.
The descriptions of the locations are punctuated by related imagery and sparing reenactments of stories told. Most Terrifying Places in America often uses the storytellers in these reenactment segments, which is rare but gives the show a nice cohesion.
No in-depth investigations occur, but, as mentioned, paranormal investigators do appear on the show to share their stories of previous investigations conducted at the locations. Sound effects, flashy editing, and haunting imagery mostly provide the spooks in Most Terrifying Places in America.
Most Terrifying Places in America’s Impact on the Paranormal Community
Despite its ambitious concept, Most Terrifying Places in America remains underrated in the paranormal community. Audience reactions and critical reception are almost non-existent, which isn’t too surprising considering the show’s sporadic release schedule.
At best, audience reviews call the show ‘Cheesy but entertaining,’ explaining that “the dramatic effects do come off as cheesy, but I find them to be rather entertaining. The stories are interesting, and the locations are beautifully shot.” Others agree, stating “Whether the topics of each episode were genuinely expressed or dramatized they were still fun to watch.”
The positive reception to the 2018 episodes was filled with nostalgia for the original series. For example, one viewer commented, “I remember watching this show when I was probably around 5 years old. Definitely too young to be watching LOL. I can remember being too scared to sleep, and some of the images from this show have stuck with me even ’til this day.”
Other viewers seem to love the original run more than the newer offerings, stating, “My son and I can watch this all day with pickles and popcorn,” and “God I’ve missed watching these over and over every year.” However, given these reactions to the original series, it’s still a little confusing that the third season didn’t receive as much love from the community as a whole.
With three-year-old comments on season 1 episodes that have been re-uploaded to YouTube that read “miss this show,” perhaps Most Terrifying Places in America’s third season didn’t receive enough marketing. Or, perhaps viewers miss the old structure from when documentaries such as this were still relatively fresh in the genre.
The Show’s Seasons and Episodes
Most Terrifying Places in America has three seasons. The first has two episodes, and the second and third have five. A Halloween special, “Most Terrifying Places in America: Top 13, ” also aired on October 29th, 2010.
The Most Popular and Well-rated Episodes
According to IMDb user ratings, the most popular episodes of Most Terrifying Places in America are:
- Season 3, Episode 1 – “Haunted Roadtrips”
- Season 3, Episode 2 – “Cursed Towns”
- Season 3, Episode 5 – “Unnatural World”
Famous Guest Appearances
As every appearance of a famous investigator is a guest appearance, we’ll cover the most prominent here. Some famous guests who appeared on Most Terrifying Places in America are:
Brian J. Cano
Brian has been investigating the paranormal for over two decades and has the on-screen credits to show for it. Most Terrifying Places in America is one of his first credits, as he appeared in the 2010 episode “Most Terrifying Places in America 3”. Since then, he has featured in Haunted Collector, The UnXplained with William Shatner, and Paranormal Caught on Camera. When he’s not appearing on paranormal TV shows, he’s lecturing at events and universities, educating the next generation of paranormal researchers.
Though he worked for a time as a journalist, Jeff has always been interested in the earth’s mysteries. He has authored 16 books on haunted locations, hosted the Emmy-nominated New England Legends series, and still writes for publications like USA Today. He served as a writer on Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Challenge. Jeff also appears in “Most Terrifying Places in America 3” and In Search Of…, My Ghost Story and Shock Docs.
Raised in a haunted house, Daniel is no stranger to terrifying places. He co-founded the Greater Western New York Paranormal Society and is the proud owner of the haunted Hinsdale House. He first appeared on Paranormal Lockdown in 2016 and has since been a part of My Paranormal Nightmare, Paranormal Nightshift, and Death Walker. He appears in the Most Terrifying Places in America episode “Unnatural World”.
As a 9th-generation psychic medium, Chelsea uses her clairvoyance in conjunction with her criminal justice degree to work on cold cases and missing person cases. As well as hosting private sessions for individuals, she also shares her skills in the Most Terrifying Places in America episode “Unnatural World”. She has appeared in Local Hauntings as an investigator and, interestingly, played the part of Mary Jean Carlo in Paranormal Lockdown.
Controversies and Criticisms
Fortunately, Most Terrifying Places in America doesn’t seem to have gained enough popularity to be involved in any controversies. However, many viewers still have criticisms of the show.
As always, the spooky sound effects and editing have come under fire. One viewer wrote, “The special effects (screaming, people in creepy costumes, scary music) are just really silly so I skip past them to the next interesting place. If they would just leave all the silliness out it would still be interesting.” While others summed up the show as “Pretty boring, over-hyped and over-dramatized nonsense.”
Other criticism is directed at the fact that only the third season of Most Terrifying Places in America is readily available on Discovery+ and Amazon Prime (without subtitles because, apparently, accessibility isn’t a priority here.) “I’m really tired of being ripped off,” one viewer commented. “This is like the 3rd show with a season that’s unwatchable.”
Most Terrifying Places in America’s last episode aired on October 28th, 2018, and the show has yet to be renewed. In any other case, this would be a clear indicator that the show, although not outrightly canceled, probably won’t be receiving any further installments. However, with Most Terrifying Places in America making a surprise return after eight years, anything is possible, and we may see new episodes yet. We’ll just have to wait a while before we do.
Most Terrifying Places in America, with a little more marketing, could have been a go-to series for both die-hard fans and anyone interested in the paranormal. It seems the show ran for just long enough to build up a catalog of significant locations. However, as the latest season wears on, the show seems to cover increasingly more obscure places.
While it’s interesting for audiences to see little-known haunted locations, perhaps featuring well-known places, such as they did during the original run, would have been more effective. On the other hand, they covered many infamous locations, and retreading the same ground over and over again would become draining for long-time paranormal fans. Rock and a hard place, you know?
To add to this, the show probably needed to go slightly more in-depth on the individual locations to be helpful and informative for the paranormal community. The show blitzes through locations so fast that contextual and historical information goes by in a blur.
Despite this, it’s undeniably fun for audiences familiar with the featured locations to see places they recognize, even if only from spooky YouTube videos, and learn a little more about them. With the episode numbers they had to work with, the crew did a fabulous job of providing introductions to America’s most terrifying places.
Even if you enjoy paranormal TV shows that focus on investigations, Most Terrifying Places in America is worth a watch. Yes, there are various ways the show could’ve been improved in the years it was off-air, but the crew seems to have opted to preserve the stagnant aspects and switch out the bits that viewers loved.
However, the value of a show like this cannot be understated, and such a large collection of information about paranormal locations is great to watch if you’re a fanatic and entertaining to watch if you just like to dip your toes in, dull sound effects and dramatic narration included. Give it a go.