COVID-19: 2020 The Year A Virus Stopped Ghosts Dead In Their Tracks
You don't need to be told what a massive impact COVID-19 has had on all of us. It's not only affected the way we shop and travel, but has changed our daily lives, the way we work and how we socialise. Coronavirus has impacted on every part of our lives, but if you're interested in all things weird, then one of the things you might be missing the most is getting your fix of the paranormal.
Of course the first sacrifice we were asked to make to help limit the spread of the virus was to stop public gatherings and non-essential travel.
Worldwide, gatherings and events have been cancelled on an unprecedented scale, including such huge events as the Eurovision song contest and Glastonbury festival - even the Olympics have been postponed. Of course this has also had an immediate effect on ghost hunting event companies, many of which are small businesses, who were forced to cancel their public events.
Then the virus started affecting more of the things we love. In mid-March the streaming giant Netflix has shut down all of the scripted shows and films currently in production. Sadly, this affected the hit supernatural series, 'Stranger Things', which is currently in the pre-production stage.
Although there was no exact date for the upcoming fourth season of the Duffer brothers' series, we were expecting its release this year. It's not yet known how long the delay will last, or how much it will affect the show's launch date.
It's not just Netflix that's feeling the pressure of the pandemic, Hollywood have had to change their plans when it comes to up coming movie releases too. The scheduled release of the paranormal movie 'A Quiet Place Part 2' was the first to be delayed. This was followed by an announcement from Sony Pictures that the latest movie in the Ghostbusters franchise will be postponed too.
'Ghostbusters: Afterlife', which was originally billed as 'Ghostbusters 2020', has had its cinema release pushed back from July 10th 2020 to March 5th 2021. A sad blow for fans of the movie series who are excited to see director Jason Reitman's extension to the Ghostbusters universe.
The new movie will star Bokeem Woodbine and Paul Rudd, who revealed his involvement in the project in a viral video last year. The US comedian and actor announced the news in a selfie-style video shot outside the iconic New York fire station which was used as the exterior of the gang's headquarters in the original 80s supernatural comedy movies.
As the COVID-19 restrictions tightened, the paranormal community was once again squeezed. Now it wasn't just mass gatherings and large companies being affected, but the paranormal investigators behind smaller and independent teams were now being asked to stay at home. This forced those who stream live investigations on Facebook or who create paranormal content for YouTube to cease their adventures and stay at home.
We've been told not to meet up with people outside of our own households, so this means most paranormal teams shouldn't be meeting up, unless they live together. Even if teams live together, unnecessary travel has been banned, so there is no way anyone should be travelling to a haunted location. Even those with second homes have been asked not to visit them until this all blows over.
The Paranormal Files is one of the biggest paranormal channels on YouTube with almost half a million subscribers. In the last five years lead investigators Colin Browen and his significant other Payton McWhorter have produced almost 300 videos and notched up a massive 32 million views, but now it's all on hold as we're asked to stay indoors and avoid contact with others.
Colin said, "our travel schedule has been put on hold due to the fact that the virus has spread to almost every single state in the US and being a type one diabetic, I'm at a higher risk of developing a severe infection."
Luckily for subscribers of Colin and Payton's channel, the content will keep coming. Colin said, "we have months of videos already shot and produced." He adds, "in February, I was in Cleveland, Ohio, wrapping up a series that we shot in the state, and only days after we left coronavirus cases started to grow quickly in the city. We got out just in time before the virus took hold in Ohio. Now, Ohio is one of the states in the US with one of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases, and it’s kind of freaky to look back and think that we left right before all of these cases started to appear."
Working during the outbreak is made tougher for Colin as a type one diabetic, this puts him in an at risk group. It's a similar situation for husband-and-wife investigation team Phil and Sara Whyman. Like Colin, Phil is also diabetic - type two - so he also needs to lie low during the pandemic. This of course puts a stop to them filming new episodes of their back-to-basics ghost hunting web series, 'Are You Haunted?'.
The show's second season began earlier in the year, but Phil says "the good news is we have approximately five more season two episodes to edit that have already been shot, so we are fairly ahead of the game with that." He added, "we will try to edit them so there is a constant stream for viewers, perhaps once every two weeks."
But upping production or relying on a bank of already produced content isn't an option for everyone. Until we were all advised to stay at home, Charlene Lowe Kemp and her team were broadcasting multiple live ghost hunts a week to the 175k members of her Facebook group, 'Paranormal Hauntings'.
Charlene, a healthcare worker for the NHS herself, said "I am setting an example and staying in, the same with Chrissie who is one of the team. As a team we have decided for the moment we won't be doing any investigations."
While most have been following the governments guidelines, some have tried to bend the rules by taking their daily session of exercise at night and using this time to conduct a ghost hunt close to home, but of course there's a limit to how interesting these investigations can be. Even if you live within walking distance of a haunted location, you still shouldn't be visiting another building or home.
However, those bending the rules are a minority. Most paranormal teams and YouTubers have sensibly come to the conclusion that they shouldn't be risking lives to make paranormal content.
Back in the real world, we've heard heartwarming tales of communities coming together, and clapped aloud from our windows with our neighbours in support of our nation's health service. In the paranormal community, people have also come together to help each other in our own little ways. The paranormal may just be seen as a silly hobby or interest, but it's at times like these that it's important to cling on to the things the ground us.
All of us as members of the paranormal community should be looking out for each other and doing our bit to make life easier for others at the moment. For this reason many prominent paranormal investigators and teams have been trying to find new ways to connect with their fans and followers and keep them entertained - while adhering to social distancing rules.
Photo: © Trvl Channel
Zak Banags' approach was to try to lift fans' spirit with a video message recorded from his home. The frontman of the long-running US ghost hunting show, 'Ghost Adventures', posted a message online reassuring fans of the paranormal that we can all get through the COVID-19 lockdown together, and encouraged people to make others laugh in these difficult times.
The television ghost hunter spoke about how he's doing his bit to beat the "evil entity" that is the coronavirus and thanked frontline medical workers for their efforts.
Zak also shared a few tips on how to deal with being stuck at home, "be creative, do some writing, do some artwork," but his top tip to ease the current situation was to spread some cheer. He said, "it's important to make your friends laugh. Make your families laugh. Send them stupid videos and memes." Zak admitted that he and his Travel Channel co-stars, Aaron Goodwin, Jay Wasley and Billy Tolley, had been sending uplifting clips to one another during lockdown.
While Zak is seemingly taking it easy in lockdown, other teams have been coming up with ingenious new ways to bring their followers content. Everything from live streams from home, including quizzes and Q&As, plus reviews of ghost hunting gadgets and online paranormal debates.
Some teams have been delving into their back catalogue of content to create compilation videos of their greatest moments, best evidence, or even outtakes. Danny Moss and the Haunted Hunts team put together a paranormal watch party. Danny, the team and their partners re-watched some of the highlights from their Amazon Prime ghost hunting series from home in a Gogglebox-style.
Photo: © Antix Productions
Meanwhile, Yvette Fielding and her husband Karl Beattie, co-creators of 'Most Haunted', announced that they'd be doing their best to keep fans entertained while they stay at home. The pair have committed to help fans stuck at home with additional content on their YouTube channel. Karl tweeted, "as the Most Haunted Experience events have been suspended due to the #coronavirus Yvette Fielding and I will be doing as much as we can to fill the void, so pop over to the Official Most Haunted YouTube Channel, there will be some impromptu lives and more Most Haunted Extras."
Ever since Yvette and Karl have been popping up on YouTube and Facebook with occasional live streams. Everything from live coverage of gardening, through to a multi-screen game of hide and seek. They've also been posting weekly paranormal investigations filmed prior to lockdown at various locations across the UK, including the SS Great Britain, Drakelow Tunnels, HMP Gloucester and York Castle Museum.
Another paranormal investigator who's looking to spread positivity and help fans of the paranormal from going stir crazy while in isolation is Jayne Harris. The British ghost hunter starred alongside Barri Ghai and Chris Fleming in the recent series of 'Help! My House Is Haunted', she's now using her events company, HD Paranormal, to help those stuck at home.
As well as giving followers the chance to learn more about the paranormal by tutoring them through her online paranormal research courses, Jayne is also hosting a fortnightly Paranormal Sanctuary, which she hopes will offer those in the paranormal community a way to stay connected as we cant go ghost hunting for a while. Jayne says, "I've created a little place for para-peeps to meet to discuss all things paranormal, in an attempt to save our sanity while we ride out this storm."
It's not just paranormal teams working to bring followers something extra, the owners of haunted venues are also giving those interested in their properties the chance to learn more from the safety of their own homes.
The trend was started by Dorian Deathly, who is usually the host of a walking ghost tour in York, one of the most haunted cities in the country. After finding himself temporarily out of work due to the restriction on public gatherings, Dorian decided to put his knowledge of York's ghosts to use and hosted an online tour.
This started a wave of virtual tours, with famous haunted locations such as the Paris Catacombs, the Winchester Mystery House and Dover Castle wading in with links to 360 degree virtual tours of their creepy properties.
Quite how long we'll need to ride out the storm is obviously still an unknown, and when it comes to ghosts and spooky things Colin from The Paranormal Files leaves us on a positive note, "humanity will come out on top and balance will eventually be restored."
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