Though the word “paranormal” generally refers to phenomena not currently explainable by science, when it comes to paranormal television as a genre, it is strictly defined. There are formulas, patterns, even rules, necessitated by network needs for consistency to keep the audience coming back. But within the scope of their YouTube series Travel the Dead, veteran paranormal investigators and television personalities Katrina Weidman and Heather Taddy are asking if there’s a different way.
Weidman and Taddy both emerged on the television scene in 2007 with A&E’s Paranormal State, one of the early successes in the investigative style format, which lasted five seasons. The two became fast friends on the show, and since then, have gone on to appear on numerous series between them. Weidman continued as host of Real Fear: The Truth Behind the Movies, Paranormal Lockdown, and Portals to Hell, where she’s also an executive producer. Taddy appeared on Alien Highway, and Mysteries Decoded, as well as guest-starring on Portals.
In a recent interview for the Den of Geek paranormal pop culture show Talking Strange, (available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube), Weidman and Taddy discuss teaming up once more as both hosts and executive producers on Travel the Dead. In the series, also executive produced by Kat Croft, who serves as director of photography, the paranormal investigations might be segmented into multiple episodes, and the format can easily shift. And for the ghost boss duo, not only does the flexibility keep it fun, but it allows them to test out new ideas, and break free of network TV restrictions.
“We noticed very early on with Paranormal State there was a frustration, from our viewpoint, that once the television show got popular, we were kind of stuck in a formula,” says Weidman.
She says she understands that is the nature of TV, but it runs contrary to their pursuit.
“It’s really difficult to kind of set parameters around the unknown because obviously we don’t know what’s ever going to happen,” says Taddy. “But it is cool that we have the ability to kind of make each episode a little bit different to mix things up so it’s not just the norm.”
So, rather than being “boxed in,” and presenting the same path each time, Travel the Dead allows them to, for instance, go to the infamous Pennhurst hospital in Spring City, Pa., simply with the goal to test out new equipment. While their investigation of White Hill Mansion in New Jersey lasted five parts, the Pennhurst shoot was only two. They’ve likewise posted outtakes, bonus clips, and a 46-minute remote psychic viewing session with prolific occult researcher and author (and also Paranormal State alum) Michelle Belanger.
Weidman also references an episode where Taddy doesn’t know anything about the location going into the investigation.
“If we did that on episode one, every single episode would have to be like that [on network TV],” says Weidman. “I like the freedom we have where we can switch things up that feel right for the location, feel right for the investigation, feel right for the people that we’re bringing onto our team at that time.”
Additionally, Weidman and Taddy approach the show as a team, without either one being a sidekick. She calls it “freeing” to be able to call the shots, and also have two women out front in lead roles, and with a woman director of photography. Weidman says they were unique to be two lead women on a paranormal show when Paranormal State premiered, but that there’s still not enough representation of all kinds of people in the genre, and who can be a leader.
“And with women specifically, I think it very much comes down to antiquated views: Men are leaders, women are followers, men protect, women need to be protected,” she says. “We see that in the paranormal genre because ‘There’s scary things happening!’”
While there is this TV stereotype that “girls are always supposed to be scared, and screaming, and crying about it,” says Weidman, that doesn’t reflect the reality of how she and Taddy behave. Plus, Travel the Dead is their opportunity to reach out directly to a paranormal audience that already skews female.
“I know there’s a lot of women who watch these shows,” she adds. “They want to see other women do this, and they want to see the women in the front. So it’s nice to be able to bring that.”
Another opportunity Travel the Dead affords Weidman and Taddy is the ability to go beyond ghosts, and explore other paranormal phenomena, including cryptids and UFOs.
“We’ve definitely discussed that, especially a UFO investigation,” says Taddy. “I think it’d be cool to kind of expand, and pick out similarities, and see how all of it interconnects.”
“We’re taking the requests,” says Weidman, about the types of cases they’ll explore.
“Since it aired, we’ve been flooded with requests from, like Tasmania. I was so surprised about that, and all these locations have been wanting us to come out. So it’s very much, what locations would like us to be their guests, then we’ll come in.”
The format-busting approach of Travel the Dead appears to be working with regards to the experiences they are having. While discussing “Oh, shit” moments on the show, Taddy references something that will be seen in the early March episode filmed at the Hoover House outside Gettysburg, Pa.
“Something very specific happens to me,” teases Taddy. “It’s just funny the series of events that happened before; I can’t really say much, but something happens to me, and luckily we had a game camera set up, and we caught it on film. So I’m excited for people to see that.”
Weidman adds a big moment she’s excited to share involves Belanger’s remote readings which, she says, “will melt your mind.”
“There’s one location we go to, and she literally sketches out the buildings on the property,” she says. “She’s in Ohio, we’re in PA, she has no idea where we are, and she sketches out like the schematics for the buildings.”
Check out Katrina Weidman and Heather Taddy on their YouTube series Travel the Dead.
For more from this conversation, and to check out other paranormal personalities, celebrities, and authors talking about the the unexplained and high strangeness, subscribe to Talking Strange on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube, hosted by Aaron Sagers of Netflix’s 28 Days Haunted and discovery+/Travel Channel’s Paranormal Caught on Camera.