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Discovery Plus Puts Scare into 'Ghostober' with 'Haunted Museum' Scripted Series

Discovery Plus’ Oct. 2 premiere of horror series The Haunted Museum ushers in the streaming service’s month-long “Ghostober” lineup of scary and fun Halloween-themed programming from several Discovery-owned networks. 

In The Haunted Museum, Discovery Plus brought together renowned horror filmmaker Eli Roth (Hostel) and paranormal investigator Zak Bagans (Travel’s Ghost Adventures) to create a new series that looks to bring to life stories surrounding legendary haunted and cursed artifacts, according to the streaming service.

Travel Channel and Discovery Plus Paranormal & Unexplained General Manager Matt Butler recently spoke to me about the new series as well as the streaming service's “Ghostober” programming strategy in an interview, an edited version of which appears below.

Picture This: How did The Haunted Museum series come about and what should viewers expect to see from the series?

Matt Butler: I toured Zak Bagans’ [The Haunted Museum exhibit] in Las Vegas and it was really remarkable -- he has some of the most iconic artifacts that I never knew existed and that have known stories within the paranormal community. It was an obvious idea to create a horror anthology series that would tell these stories in a way that’s never been told before, and we needed a great producing partner and someone that could really take it to the next level. We were fortunate enough to talk to Eli Roth, and putting the two of them together was exciting.

PT: So is The Haunted Museum a scripted series or documentary series?

MB: We say semi-scripted, because I think when you say scripted, it has the perception of not being true. But these episodes are inspired by true stories, so we like the term semi-scripted for that reason. It’s a bit of a departure for us -- we’ve done a lot of paranormal investigations and we’ve done shock docs, but this is our first real execution in the semi-scripted space.

PT: You mentioned Eli Roth, who is known for directing successful horror-themed movies. What does his name and expertise in the horror genre bring to the table?

MB: He provided a lot of production details that really help set the series up to make it feel like something special. As part of his vision, he was able to get a number of great young directors together. Also, he and Zak hit it off from the very start. You could see that they both really respected and admired what each has done, so there is a great natural collaboration where you see Zak sharing these stories and you see Eli's excitement because he loves the space.

PT: What is behind the continuing appeal of the horror genre to TV viewers?

MB: I think that people want to believe that there’s more out there, whether it’s an afterlife or aliens -- I feel like a lot of people are looking for that answer to what happens when you die or if we are alone in the universe. I also think that shows like Haunted Museum and another Eli Roth-produced show, A Ghost Ruined My Life, provide a fun thrill ride if you’re into watching horror. Your heart races and you become emotionally invested into the show. There’s a reaction that can be very fun for people instead of just watching content and letting it do its thing -- you’re not as engaged, but the content that we’re doing is very engaging.

PT: How does Haunted Museum fit into Discovery Plus’ overall strategy for its month-long 'Ghostober' programming offering?

This is [Travel Channel’s] fourth annual 'Ghostober' stunt, but the first time we’re partnering with other networks like Food Network and HGTV. It’s now all on Discovery Plus under one banner of 'Ghostober,' and as a streaming service it’s much easier and cleaner to put together all of this content versus a linear channel. 'Ghostober' now means more than just a Ghost Adventures special and some of our paranormal content. It's Food Network’s Halloween Wars -- which Zak is a part of -- as well as Outrageous Pumpkins and Halloween Baking Championship. It’s now more than just the scary stories; it’s also the celebration of October and everything leading up to Halloween. It’s become a much broader stunt that we’re hoping has more appeal across families and other viewers alike.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.