Seth Jarrett and Julie Insogna, creators of the series Celebrity Ghost Stories, took part in a conference call to discuss their new Syfy series School Spirits, airing Wednesdays at 10/9c.
Jarrett and Isogna have created original entertaining series for Disney, TNT and now Syfy. Seth began his career as a film and television producer and director at MTV, VH1 and the Oxygen channel. His skills in directing and storytelling led to a full-fledged career with television.
Julie started at a senior talent and music executive at MTV, Lifetime and Oxygen. She had success partnering talent with original television concepts and developing ideas with celebrities and musicians to create memorable scripted and non-scripted programming.
With this series, Seth explained, “The stories are all based on firsthand accounts. They’re all students, faculty or alumni. The story is built around first person storytelling.” They look for “compelling stories that viewers can relate to.” Julie chimed in to explain that they took a “very cinematic approach to the recreations on the show; we wanted them to feel like movies.”
School Spirits is different from other paranormal shows because Seth found people who could corroborate these stories and people who by nature are very skeptical. “It wasn’t good enough to just have someone sit down and tell us a story. They want to believe.” There are historians, professors, news reporters and even police reports to back the stories, making it important to bring as much of this information and multiple voices to tell their stories accurately.
The show also does a lot of interviews; everyone involved does an interview, giving them as much useful information and details as possible to recreate their stories. It takes a fairly good amount of time to put together an episode, Seth factors in “the casting process, finding multiple and reliable voices and good solid stories.” They are not looking for everyday bumps in the night, but true paranormal stories that will send shivers up and down viewers’ spines.
Seth and Julie also look for individuals who are willing to not only share such personal stories, but embrace their experiences and have people who are willing to look further into the unknown. “Not every campus is willing to embrace their experiences, and in some cases the hauntings are really deep-rooted in their own history.” In some cases they needed to bring people in and let them be in their own environment.
There have been so many paranormal shows and so many investigators who claim to have all the answers, of at least some of them. One thing that makes this show interesting is you are looking at things from a student’s perspective or a professor’s prospective, making it still everyday people. These are also people who are learning and skeptical in general as to what they see and how they ask questions.
Seth and Julie’s staff members have some pretty detailed accounts of their own regarding a few paranormal events they have experienced, and Seth and Julie have included some of them on the show. As for himself, Seth doesn’t remember any specific hauntings that happened to him when he went to school in Binghamton, but a few things have happened since then.
There is a list of colleges that Julie and Seth visited and several more that they would like to go to/ Julie suggests NYU in New York, and Seth agrees it would be a good choice. Some of the colleges they have been to already include Ohio University, Michigan State, Drew University in New Jersey and many more.
Seth felt that some of the smaller schools gave off more paranormal energy, including Lebanon Valley College or Sweet Briar, with the latter’s school energy coming from the daughter of the founder of the school of the school. According to Seth, “You can’t get more entrenched in the school history than that.”
The paranormal hauntings are also not all related to tragedies. They may be people who passed from natural causes, or it may just be from a violent death or a suicide. “What is amazing for us is the way people describe their experiences. The feeling of coldness in the air or the feeling of fingers touching their shoulders and being touched by a spirit.” Seth still believes, unfortunately, that many hauntings are related to tragedy.
There is always an eerie feeling Seth and Julie get when they do the interviews. The first episode is set at the University of Michigan, and Seth felt there was a “balance of creepiness and nervousness.” The story is rooted in steep school history. It is a “journey back in time with an interesting resolution.”
Seth and Julie found it to be a great test to find the right age group. Seth discovered that in some cases people were haunted by terrible evil, violent spirits, even though “School is supposed to be the best time of your life.” That is until you find yourself haunted, and not just by mid-term finals.
The oldest story Seth has come across is Genesco which takes place in 1884. He tries to find some of the older witnesses who may have been around when the spirits were human beings just living life, but it is not an easy task. Julie agrees, wanting to find the witnesses who knew the spirits for future episodes.
Seth and Julie found an interesting story at Slippery Rock University and the University of Michigan runs with a fraternity story. They believe they are being haunted there by “a violent spirit, a man who hung himself over 150 years ago, not too far from their fraternity house.”
Seth and Julie are not only looking for reaction from the people telling the stories, want the viewers to feel what these people have gone through. They want to tell good stories with legitimate purpose and well researched information helps.
Julie and Seth agree on the one person who had an impact on them while filming. It was a young man named Chris. His experience lasted for a long period of time. He had an emotional journey and we all felt for him.” Julie felt Chris impacted her on a personal level, yet admits that the stories are all scary and compelling.
Ultimately they are searching for even more honest and compelling, truthful stories. Follow them all on School Spirits, Wednesdays at 10/9c on the Syfy channel.