Is there something in the water? Should we all be grabbing our tinfoil hats and heading for a fallout shelter or a bunker somewhere in the woods? What is it, exactly, that’s suddenly got all of our celebrities so obsessed with ghosts and aliens?
Well, OK, maybe not all our celebrities. But one by one, a growing handful of A-listers have professed their interest in the occult. None of us batted an eye when William Shatner announced The UnXplained back in 2019, but flash-forward a few years and throw in a Netflix licensing deal, and suddenly a History Channel original is sitting at third on Netflix’s trending titles list for the week.
The erstwhile Captain Kirk isn’t the only celeb commanding this space, either. Vanessa Hudgens recently told Kelly Clarkson about coming to terms with her ability to see and hear ghosts. (Has she enlisted a few of them to keep her booked and busy with Netflix deals and MTV hosting gigs? Seems that way!) Kesha, who already explores the supernatural on her podcast Kesha and the Creepies, is about to launch a ghost-hunting show, as is Kristen Stewart. And over on Peacock, Demi Lovato is singing to aliens.
Does this trend reflect a growing unrest among mortals here on Earth, who feel increasingly mistrustful of “official” narratives? Is this an outgrowth of the bizarre “Storm Area 51” meme movement in 2019 that ended with a whimper and no alien sightings? Or are celebrity-backed paranormal podcasts simply the new gold rush? You decide.
One thing, however, is clear: The celebs want to believe. Or at the very least, they want us to believe that they want to believe.
Paranormal shows featuring celebrity hosts and subjects are not exactly new. Tubi, a streamer that’s increasingly replaced Netflix as the premier hub for licensed content, is replete with shows like Celebrity Exorcism—a Tubi original where stars including Jodie Sweetin train to cleanse haunted spaces—and Celebrity Ghost Stories, a licensed series that debuted on The Biography Channel in 2009.
As the current content economy bounces content from streamer to streamer, however, the rules are changing—and paranormal stuff, apparently, is no longer schlock to be dismissed. Instead, it appears a lot of celebrities now consider these shows a golden opportunity.
One might say this trend began in earnest with Demi Lovato’s committed but less-than-scientific Peacock docuseries Unidentified, in which the “Confident” singer searches for (and at one point serenades) extraterrestrial entities that she takes to calling “E.T.’s.”
Lovato goes further in later episodes, like one that explores USOs (that would stand for “unidentified submersible objects”) and the possibility that an alien base has long existed in an unexplored part of the ocean. Is any of it convincing? Not really, but Lovato’s joy is palpable and, in the context of their occasionally harrowing career in the public eye, gratifying.
What’s on the horizon, however, promises to up the ante.
Like a ghostly shiver down the spines of our collective subconscious, Our Lady of Perpetual Chaos, Vanessa Hudgens, previewed the A-list antics to come from the glitterati when she appeared on The Kelly Clarkson Show in April and began detailing her life-long relationship with the paranormal.
As the Princess Switch star put it, “I’ve accepted the fact that I see things and I hear things.” An example: As an 8-year-old, one of those ducks-on-strings toys began walking alongside her.
Hudgens went on to say she’s recently completed her first “real” paranormal investigation. Her favorite toy is one also favored by shows like BuzzFeed Unsolved—the Spirit Box, a gadget that scans radio frequencies at a rapid rate, allowing entities present to send messages.
Perhaps the most anticipated upcoming event in paranormal programming is Kesha’s upcoming Discovery+ series, Conjuring Kesha—which will find the “Tik Tok” singer touring such haunted locales as a closed Tennessee penitentiary and a haunted opera house. The veil between the dead and the living is coming down, my friends, and Kesha’s yelling “Timber.”
In a statement about the project, the singer said her interest in the supernatural comes from her natural curiosity—“my eternal searching for something bigger than myself.” Her podcast, Kesha and the Creepies, “was the jumping-off point into the unknown—and now this show is the ultimate quest to go deeper into my existential questions.”
Also incoming? Kristen Stewart’s ghost-hunting show, which promises to eclipse the competition (sorry) with its super-gayness. The announcement, wisely, arrived just in time for Pride month.
In an Instagram video posted this summer, the Spencer actress said casting was underway for “the most gayest, most funnest, most titillating queer ghost-hunting show ever,” which she would executive produce.
In case there’s any doubt Stewart knows how to give the gays what we want, she described the project to The New Yorker last year as “a paranormal romp in a queer space” with elevated aesthetics. Why? “Gay people love pretty things. So we are aiming for a richness.” You heard it here first: the category is... occult opulence.
The call in Stewart’s June announcement was clear: “We need to find the most incredible LGBTQ+ ghost hunters, paranormal specialists, mediums, psychics, investigators who will lead the pack on this super gay ghost-hunting adventure.”
What is a gay on this Earth to say, except: Kristen, I’m packing up a crystal ball and flying to Los Angeles as we speak—wait for me!