This 28 Days Haunted article contains spoilers.
Editor’s Note: Aaron Sagers is the host of Netflix’s 28 Days Haunted and Den of Geek’s paranormal pop culture podcast Talking Strange. The following article is not a review or endorsement of 28 Days Haunted, but rather a distinct point of view from someone involved in the production.
Would you spend 28 days in a haunted house? The question sounds like the set up for a horror movie, but it is effectively the question viewers must ask themselves after watching 28 Days Haunted, Netflix’s first unscripted paranormal investigation show.
The series, which dropped last week and charted on the streamer’s Top 10 list globally, embeds three teams of investigators in three separate allegedly haunted locations for a month. The premise is said to derive from a theory by famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens died in 2006 and 2019, respectively, but the duo was involved in cases adapted into movies The Amityville Horror, The Conjuring, and Annabelle.
The first episode of 28 Days Haunted presents the Warren theory via voiceover and through the presence of Tony Spera, the Warren’s son-in-law — who, along with wife Judy, Ed and Lorraine’s daughter, runs the New England Society for Psychic Research — that it takes about this time frame to fully “pierce the veil” between this realm and the afterlife. To test this, Spera oversees teams at the Lumber Baron Inn in Denver, Colorado; Captain Grant’s inn in Preston, Connecticut; Madison Dry Goods in Madison, North Carolina.
And whether you want to call me a host, or “the guy in the chair” watching it happen in the field, I’m in the control room with Spera throughout the series, serving as an observer of this experiment, and presenting context to the audience about what’s unfolding. In some ways, it felt a little like I was Uatu The Watcher from Marvel Comics, who sees all but adopts a noninterference policy. But it’s a job that fits within my career as a journalist, and so-called “paranormal journalist,” where I’ve paid special attention to some of the history, folklore, and theories associated with the paranormal.
During the course of production, more than 2,000 hours of footage was filmed between three teams across the 28 days. And though the first season runs about three and a half hours, with only six episodes of the show, running around 30 minutes in length, there is much viewers didn’t see from each location.
Here are a few things you didn’t catch on screen during 28 Days Haunted…
As I mentioned above, the series presents the Warren theory of a 28-day cycle. But the core concept — the longer you stay in a haunted location, the more activity you may experience — makes theoretical sense, regardless of whether one is a fan or critic of the duo. By definition, the paranormal means beyond current scientific definition, so there aren’t rules, per se (to my knowledge, no one has “The Handbook for the Recently Deceased” lying about), but extending the length of time at a place is something paranormalists have been trying to do for quite some time.
Within the paranormal reality-TV genre, most series film for several days at their haunted destination, but they don’t stay there. Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman did stay overnight for 72 hours onsite in Paranormal Lockdown. And in 2019, the A&E network hosted The World’s Largest Ghost Hunt, which embedded a team of ghost hunters at Pennhurst Asylum outside Philadelphia for two weeks. From 1937 to ’38, well-known psychic researcher Harry Price spent a year at the Borley Rectory, which he called “the most haunted house in England,” although there has since been concerns raised about his tenure.
But the 28 days is a uniquely specific number for activity to fully present itself.
Why 28 Days?
This is the number that it is said the Warrens theorized it would take to reach full spiritual immersion and peak paranormal activity. Perhaps they settled on that number because it was the amount of time the Lutz family lived in the Amityville house. But, in addition to being connected to zombie movies 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later — and that Sandra Bullock movie 28 Days — the number “28” has significance amongst some beliefs. It pops up in angel numerology, is connected to the “Saturn return” in astrology, and the sun has a 28-year cycle in Jewish tradition celebrated in the Birkat Hachama blessing. Twenty-eight days is also the average length of the human menstrual cycle, and has been connected to the rotation of the sun.
“Twenty Eight” is also the name of The Weeknd song with an accompanying music video featuring a lot of nudity and a ghostly lady.
These teams knew where they were flying to, of course, but as soon as they hopped in cars, they were blindfolded, and had no clue what awaited them. They were not provided information about the locations, aside from a conversation with a historian further into the investigation to confirm their findings. Finally, as is stated on the show, they did not know they were testing a theory connected to the Warrens.
The experiment resembled house arrest for these teams. They were cut off from the world without access to their mobile phones. A production trailer was stationed outside, but the investigators had to act as their own sound and camera people, even having to learn how to effectively mic themselves (which they had to do as soon as they began their day). Cameras were situated in the locations, except for bathrooms, and there weren’t any camera operators inside the house.
The teams could order anything they wanted to eat, and grocery drops occurred about once a week. Some teams cooked more than others. For instance, Ray Causey at Lumber Baron Inn was the go-to chef, whipping up some delicious pork chops at one point.
Harsh Conditions (Sort of)
Not every location was equal in terms of comfort. The Lumber Baron Inn is a Victorian Mansion, and though it had fallen on hard times in the past, it is a restored luxurious bed-and-breakfast with gorgeous amenities. The production acquired the site for the entire filming, so there weren’t any guests. That means Shane Pittman, Ray Causey, and Amy Parks had the run of the joint. They also had a comfortable outdoor area to hang out in — as long as they didn’t exit the gate — as well as Jacuzzis in their bathrooms.
The historic Captain Grant’s inn was likewise a nice spot to stay for a month. There were fireplaces in some bedrooms, a modern kitchen, a game room with a pool table, and plenty of outdoor areas for these teams. It is a downright cozy locale, and would be perfect for an autumn getaway, with or without ghosts.
Yet, I constantly felt bad for psychic-medium Brandy Miller and “Cajun Demonologist” Jereme Leonard at Madison Dry Goods and Country Store. Located in downtown Madison, North Carolina, the store had previously served as a hotel before it became a funeral home in 1929. This was the least comfortable location for the investigators to stay for the month. They slept on basic mattresses, compared to the cushy beds at the other sites, and they didn’t have any notable outdoor space to stretch their legs.
The teams were largely able to set their own schedules, with the requirement they investigate daily. They could also select the investigative tactics they wanted to try.
For instance, the Lumber Baron Inn team chose to utilize the Estes Method of spirit communication — developed in recent years by researchers Karl Pfeiffer, Connor Randall and Michelle Tate, only about 64 miles away from Denver in Estes Park, Colorado, the home of The Stanley Hotel. The colorful “God Helmet” supplied by Jereme Leonard originated about 40 years ago from the neuroscientist Michael Persinger and inventor Stanley Koren (it was also called the Koren Helmet) which generates magnetic fields to stimulate temporal lobes, and resulted in some users reporting mystical experiences.
It is worth noting that these were gadgets and methods not available to the Warrens in their era. Their investigative toolkit was primarily Lorraine’s perceptions and Ed’s reel-to-reel recorder, and later, tape recorder.
Fatigue and Health Issues
The investigations became physically and mentally laborious for the teams. There was a lot of sleeping during the day, and sometimes all day, it seemed. As fatigue set in, and investigators increasingly missed their families, it seemed as if some would sleep longer, become lethargic, and chain smoke.
In episode 5, Jereme had to be rushed to the hospital after suffering a heart attack. Jereme had already been experiencing fatigue and was worn down. His health scare and hospital visit was shocking. Although the show’s producers were required to maintain a distance from the shoots, this was a moment they had to step in. As we observed this footage, Tony and I debated about whether Jereme would even return, or if he should. I know the producers also questioned this. But Jereme ultimately decided he needed to re-join the investigation with teammate Brandy.
There’s the old Benjamin Franklin expression that “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” And indeed, interpersonal conflicts began to emerge amongst each of the teams early on in this cycle. For instance, even though Shane and Ray had worked together before teaming with Amy, the two were becoming frustrated with one another by the end of the first two days. At Captain Grant’s, the notable conflict involved Nick Simons clashing with psychic Sean Austin over the validity of letters written in steam on a bathroom mirror. But even Nick and friend, and fellow teammate, Aaron Thompson, butted heads. Aaron became emotionally shaken by what he perceived to be sandbagging by his buddy. By the end of the 28 days, the two effectively “broke up” as a team for a time.
Skepticism and Debunking
Not enough credit has been given to the investigators for the level of debunking they demonstrated over the course of the 28 days. The show most certainly operates from a belief mindset — it is called 28 Days Haunted after all, not “28 Days Maybe Haunted?”— but care was taken to explain noises related to the building settling, wind, leaky plumbing, and the usual suspects mistaken for paranormal activity. However, with only six episodes to the season, the focus was more on what did happen as these teams sought to document phenomena.
Also, out of the many creepy instances I observed during the course of the show, the one big thing that struck me took place in episode 2 at Lumber Baron Inn. In the moments preceding the cabinet doors seemingly opening on their own (and trust me, I reviewed that footage extensively, and I don’t know what happened) the team is in a terrace room as a single light begins to sway. Then there is a persistent, eerie whistle through the area. It was incredibly bizarre, and I questioned if something was wrong with our audio feed. That remains unexplained for me and quite strange
Ultimately, I operate with theories and ideas, coupled with historical knowledge when it comes to the paranormal. I am not a psychic. I have never been possessed (that I’m aware) and I don’t know what that experience feels like. My take on the concept of “demons” is that there are darker energies out there, but they don’t necessarily fall in line with the Judeo-Christian notion. In fact, their origins are more complicated, and much older than Judaism. But I have to accept the accounts reported by these investigators. And I did see compelling incidents from the control room.
Coffee and Notepads
The control room where Tony and I observed the teams wasn’t much to look at, but it sure did get messy. Something that was never quite shown in the series is the amount of coffee cups, water bottles, and even a breakfast burrito wrapper or two that accumulated at the console.
Additionally, because we were observing all three teams at once — and not even the teams knew what was going on with the others — I was learning details from multiple locations simultaneously. As a result, I filled a handful of notepads with details, theories, and questions about the investigators, locations, and potential phenomena. For me, this was an organic experience of monitoring this footage, and my expressions, even the goofy ones (especially the goofy ones) are all authentic.