Over the years, I haven’t been very kind to Destination America and their parade of paranormal drivel. At best, shows like A Haunting have been guilty pleasures of mine, something to put on in the background when I take a nap on a sick day; at worst, they have given us abominations like Mountain Monsters and Ghost Brothers. So imagine my surprise when I tuned into their new offering for their “Ghostober” campaign and actually found the show not only watchable, but enjoyable!
The main reason I had tuned in to Terror in the Woods in the first place is because of the format. You won’t find paranormal investigators here using questionable equipment to find ghosts, or squatchers setting off fireworks to lure Bigfoot, and certainly no Hillbillies running around half-naked trying to find some horrific creature that I’m sure is in some way related to them. No, Terror in the Woods has a format more akin to A Haunting, wherein regular folks just sit in front of a camera and tell their spooky stories (which all happened in the woods, obviously), enhanced with reenactments. But for me, it improves on this trope by cutting out the overly-creepy narration that plagues A Haunting. It also (usually) presents two distinct stories every hour, as opposed to one. So what kinds of stories can you expect to find on Terror in the Woods? The show is only 3 episodes in, with a special 2-hour episode airing tonight, but so far, you can be assured a healthy mix of Bigfoot encounters and ghostly run-ins. Minor spoilers ahead…
Episode one, aptly titled “Cabin in the Woods & Bigfoot Encounter,” first takes us along with James and Weste (Weste Erickson, who the episode is in memory of, as I assume he passed away after filming, sadly) as they attend a friend’s wedding in Washington State. En route, they suffer a flat tire, and realize they now have to spend the night. I guess AAA doesn’t operate in Washington. Anyway, none of the guests can accommodate them, and they have no money for a hotel room (which is why you should always use checks when giving wedding gifts), and so the bride offers them her dead grandmother’s cabin, which is, you guessed it, in the woods. Well, the bride’s uncle, who is also a hunter, hasn’t really gotten over his mother’s death, and stays at the cabin, usually sleeping in a nest of her old clothes. Why this hasn’t been optioned for a horror movie yet, I have no idea. Anyways, the two buddies spend the night in the cabin as all sorts of supernatural insanity unfurls. The second story is about a Bigfoot encounter (I did say aptly titled, didn’t I?) as Eric goes on a solo overnight hike in the woods, and after being attacked by ants, is then also stalked by the big hairy fella. All joking aside, this was a really good episode, with two very creepy stories.
Episode two is also a strong one. In “Bigfoot,” David recalls a fishing trip his ex-military grandfather took him on in 1983. The two went for on overnight trip to their favorite spot on the river to get in some fishing, but they weren’t alone. After tossing a large rock into the water right where they were standing, Bigfoot makes his presence known, forcing grandpa to start shooting at it to scare it off. David hides in the car, Bigfoot charges, and the two barely escape. “Ghost Cave” sees Zac and Lesla investigating a cave deep in the (you guessed it) woods, a cave that was part of an old, abandoned psychiatric hospital. There, they encounter an angry ghost. Zac flees, leaving Lesla to fend for herself, and the whole story here just makes me wonder why they are still friends. Strong first segment, but “Ghost Cave” was a bit silly and made me wonder if these were just two people looking to get scared, and ended up simply scaring each other.
Episode three, “Hunted by Bigfoot,” is the first in the series to break the two-story format, as this episode has Mike and Mike, along with Mike’s teenage son Jordan (not sure which Mike he was the son of) heading into the woods in search of Bigfoot. It seems that the boys are all into Bigfoot, stumble on the BFRO website, and realized that Ohio has lots of Bigfoot sightings. They purchased some equipment and would take regular expeditions into the woods in search of Sasquatch. On this particular occasion, however, they actually find the creature. Or at least they think they do. Another way this episode breaks from previous entries is that Mike and Mike share their actual evidence, in the form of recorded Bigfoot howls. Ok, so I’m 99% convinced that what they caught was coyotes howling. There are some sounds played later in the episode that are a little more interesting, but I really feel like most of what they caught was just coyotes. Anyway, the guys bumble through the woods for the duration of the episode as more and more Bigfoot creatures join in on the fun, while poor Jordan is traumatized and continually begs to go home, only for his father Mike and his non-father Mike to keep stopping and looking for more Bigfoot. Weakest episode so far, mainly because of the unnecessary length of time given to this story, and the highly questionable veracity of the “evidence” they presented. My son and I had a lot of fun goofing on it though, so there’s that.
Overall, I am really digging this show, as is my 10-year old son. The people telling their stories seem genuine and sincere, and the reenactments are really good, even if they do seem to take minor liberties and exaggerate some of the tension. But I like that the stories aren’t really embellished too much. There’s nothing “Hollywood” or sensational about them. These tales are simple: a creature was walking around outside my tent, or growling in the distance; a ghost was making noise downstairs or in a cave; a quick, faint glimpse of a hairy man-like creature. Believable stories you’d hear around any campfire with your friends. Or at a Halloween party. Maybe even tonight.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
(PLEASE NOTE: Terror in the Woods has been picked up by the Travel Channel, and is now airing there under the new title These Woods Are Haunted. The shows are the old Terror in the Woods episodes, and we are not certain yet whether new episodes will be filmed and aired. But for now, enjoy this great paranormal show, every Sunday night at 10pm Eastern time on the Travel Channel)