As the old saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. And as scary as horror movie monsters may be, nothing is scarier than the possibility of real monsters lurking in our world, stalking us through the forest, visiting us from alien worlds, or even haunting us in our own homes. So this next selection of movies deals with documentaries, and people’s real-life experiences with the paranormal, supernatural, and the unexplained. Horror movies are great for any Halloween watchlist, but nothing beats a nice, authentic spooky story. Enjoy!
Starting off with a documentary that isn’t so much scary as it is just completely enjoyable, Finding Jay follows Bigfoot researcher and paranormal investigator Jay Bachochin as he searches Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine for the elusive Bigfoot, while he personally documents all of his adventures. As the title suggests, this film is less about finding Bigfoot than it is about introducing the viewer to Jay, his family, his friends, and his research methodology. Over the course of the movie, Jay heads out into the woods on a variety of investigations, with numerous different people, including his wife, his son and daughter, his nephew, some friends, and even other paranormal investigators, such as Eric Altman, Linda Godfrey, and Mary Marshall.
There are some interesting experiences on Jay’s investigations, probably not Sasquatch-related, but intriguing nonetheless. Dark shapes in the woods, possible rocks being thrown, nothing concrete, but definitely some unusual stuff. Jay’s approach is great – open-minded, enthusiastic, excited, but also grounded in reality. He never tries to lead the viewer to his personal views; rather he presents what happened, expresses his opinion, and lets the viewer ultimately decide what the encounter actually was.
This one caught me by surprise, and I didn’t go into this one expecting to like it, but by the end, I was a fan. Like I said, not too scary, but Jay is a big, lovable personality that I doubt anyone could not like, and it’s just a lot of fun to watch him go out and explore with people he truly loves, having weird encounters and a lot of fun along the way. We don’t find Bigfoot, but I challenge you to watch this and come out not liking Jay. It’s pretty much impossible.
The Back 80
Continuing with the Bigfoot theme, we have The Back 80: A Modern Day Bigfoot Encounter. Much like Finding Jay, this film is a more personal journey, rather than a documentary about the Bigfoot phenomenon as a whole. The Back 80 focuses on the 2013 encounter with an alleged Bigfoot by Suzanne Ferencack, of Loudonville, Ohio. As Suzanne was driving home one late afternoon, she spotted some horses in a meadow and decided to stop to get out of her car in order to take some pictures of them. She claims that’s when she saw a large Sasquatch leap across the road. And it was just the beginning of her unusual encounters with something in the woods…
The filmmakers travel with Suzanne to the location of her original sighting, and she also discusses subsequent experiences she had on her property after her initial encounter. Local townspeople also chime in with some of their weird stories, which helps to flesh out Suzanne’s tale, and illustrates a broader history of Bigfoot sightings in the area. A lot of the stories included here are very simple in nature – a quick glimpse of something in the woods, a bizarre howl in the night, something creeping around the house when someone is trying to go to bed, etc. To me, that adds a bit to the possible authenticity. Nothing too sensational here. Ultimately, most of the encounters detailed here (including Suzanne’s) are easily attributable to more rational explanations, but it’s nice to hear spooky first-hand accounts, especially around Halloween.
On the Trail of UFOs
More contemplative and thought-provoking than scary, “On the Trail of UFOs” is a refreshingly serious, objective take on the topic of UFOs, UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomena), and who or what might be behind them. This 8-part series examines many different aspects of the flying saucer mythos – the modern beginnings of the UFO era starting with Kenneth Arnold; the many different kinds of flying craft people have seen over the years (saucers, triangles, cigar-shaped objects, etc.); why certain locations seem to be magnets for UFO flaps; alien abductions; and much more. The Small Town Monsters team always delivers, and while they usually specialize in stand-alone documentaries (such as the brand-spanking new The Mothman Legacy), they have branched out into episodic series like this and “On the Trail of Bigfoot” (which I also recommend). Narrated by Shannon LeGro (of the “iNTO THE FRAY” podcast), director Seth Breedlove and the rest of the STM team do a bang up job covering the UFO phenomenon in a way that is respectful, open-minded, and completely avoids the usual sensationalistic approach most UFO docs tend to employ. As with all Small Town Monsters offerings, this is a breath of fresh air when compared to most of the paranormal drivel cluttering the airwaves these days.
Each episode runs at just under a half-hour, so in total, you’re looking at almost 4 hours of UFO goodness here. You can’t really go wrong with any Small Town Monsters documentary, but if UFOs are your thing, be sure to check this series out.
The Hat Man
This last entry is perhaps the creepiest and most disturbing film on this list. The Hat Man: Documented Cases of Pure Evil is a documentary that I had no clue about, until it showed up in my recommendations on Amazon Prime. Covering the more esoteric paranormal phenomenon of shadow people, and the eponymous “Hat Man” in particular, this was a very personal movie for me to experience. I had known about shadow people in general, but didn’t know about the Hat Man as a worldwide phenomenon. But watching the movie, and seeing people’s drawing of him, I was shocked. Because when I was in college (many years ago), I saw and subsequently drew the same figure. As you may have surmised, the Hat Man is a shadowy, ghost-like figure, often seen as tall, with frightening eyes (often glowing), and wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Some people describe him with a big mouth full of sharp teeth, cat-like eyes, and long, straggly hair. And that’s basically what I saw. Always great when a documentary can scare you because it’s showing you what you’ve actually encountered.
The film, overall, is pretty good, with most of the stories being really terrifying and intriguing, but it contains a bit too much of the eye-rolling silliness that plagues the paranormal world these days, with pics of photographic anomalies or pareidolia making people think they’ve had a Hat Man encounter. Still, the film does it’s job of educating about the Hat Man with enough first-hand accounts to make you wonder what the Hat Man truly is.