Captioning Spirits, Spooks, and Specters on ‘Haunted Live’ a Scary-Good Time

by: David Titmus

“Haunted Live,” which premiered last month on Travel Channel, is not your typical ghost hunting show. Sure, it’s got all the spooky creaks, unexplained shadows, and mysteriously closing doors that you’ve come to expect from supernatural sleuthing shows, but “Haunted Live” uniquely enlists the aid of viewers to help drive the ghostly investigation in real time by asking them to keep tabs on what’s lurking around every corner via on-location live video feeds.

The show follows the Tennessee Wraith Chasers as they investigate a different secret location each week. The team performs experiments in hopes of capturing definitive proof of ghosts while fans of the paranormal use webcams streaming on social media to both interact with other viewers and direct the team to areas needing further investigation. (Certainly not that dark, cob-webby basement, right? I mean, nothing good ever happens in a dark, cob-webby basement.) Viewers routinely post via social that they hear muted voices in one room or see floating “orbs,” which just might signify a ghostly presence, in another.

And while it’s lots of spooky fun for folks watching live at home, it’s just as much fun for our VITAC captioners captioning the live show in realtime!

Our captioners research the show in advance, familiarizing themselves with the team members, the location of the investigation, and any of those things that go bump in the night.

Ghost Hunters investigating a parlor on Haunted LiveVITAC captioner Arianne Kyser provided live captions for the episode of “Haunted Live” that saw the team investigate the historic Palace Theater in Gallatin, TN, which is infamous for mysterious apparitions and objects being thrown by unseen hands.

“We didn’t know the names of the ‘ghosts’ haunting the small town theater that would be communicating with the ghost hunters live, so I just used general spellings for the ‘ghosts,’ such as ‘Mr. Roth’ and ‘Mr. Payne,’” says Arianne of the spirits, which is believed to include former theater owner Bill Roth.

VITAC captioner Jenni Graham, who captioned the team’s first live investigation at Octagon Hall in Franklin, KY, says one of the unique challenges of captioning this type of program is getting familiar with the different tools and devices — like a K2 meter or EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recorder — that the team uses to detect supernatural activity.

And a ghost hunting show wouldn’t be a ghost hunting show if it didn’t have all the spooky noises quite literally coming out of the woodwork.

“The sounds are a pretty important part of ghost hunting, so I try to indicate when there is a sound that the ghost hunters don’t explain,” says Arianne. “For example, the ghost hunters were using equipment such as the K2 meter to detect spikes in energy. When there was a pause in the narrating while they were using the equipment, I would try to indicate the audible sound of the machine beeping with a [ MACHINE BEEPING ] parenthetical. I kept it very simple because there’s only a second to add something like that to the captions before they’re moving on to the next group in the next room.

“On other occasions, the ghost hunters would actually explain the sound effects. ‘Did you hear that? It’s like something’s tapping over here,’ so it isn’t really necessary to put a [ GHOST TAPPING ] caption up but I will if the circumstances call for it.”

Jenni agrees.

“I try to include sounds when it is absolutely necessary in the context of what is happening. In this show, they would ask a few questions [of the ghostly presences] with pauses in between, record it, and then play it back to listen for answers. It was difficult to know if I was hearing anything, and if what I was hearing was different from them. Most of the time I try to keep my opinion out of it, and just translate it as they are hearing it.”

So whether you’re an amateur ghostbuster, a couch potato staring at the television screen like Carol Anne from “Poltergeist,” or just love a good Halloween scare, “Haunted Live” has something for you.

“I loved captioning this show — it was such a welcome break from the norm,” says Jenni. “During the show they said you could go to their Facebook page where they were live streaming four different cameras so the public could help watch for activity. I pulled it up on my personal computer at my first commercial break and continued to check in when I had time on commercials. It was pretty fun! It seemed like one room had lots of ‘orbs’ floating around.”

“Generally the live programs I caption are news and sports, so this is very different and fun to caption,” says Arianne. “I love any creepy show like this. I’ve done a few of the haunted places or ghost stories for Travel Channel over the years and it always ends up being on late Friday nights, which makes me very jumpy!”

Catch new episodes of “Haunted Live” Friday nights at 10 PM ET on Travel Channel, if you dare! Mwahahaha!