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Poltergeist: Real Life Hauntings
There's almost nothing people like more than a ghost story, and if it's a true story that's all the better. In an effort to bring a whole mess of "true" haunting and supernatural stories together, the History Channel has put out Poltergeists: Real-Life Hauntings, which has six documentaries totally about five hours that deal with poltergeists, Voodoo, ghosts, and more.
All of these documentaries are History Channel productions, some longer format TV docs, and some just episodes of History Channel shows that happen to touch on the supernatural. Not all of them relate to poltergeists, despite the title, and the quality is mixed, but there is some actually interesting material here.
Poltergeists and Hauntings are both episodes of The Unexplained, and are probably the weakest of the segments included. They cover their subjects pretty well, talking about ghosts/poltergeists generally, and then in a few specific cases. They do consult both paranormal investigator types and legitimate scientists as well, though the shows tend to be a bit credulous when it comes to the goofier theories. Of course, taking these phenomena at face value makes for more interesting TV.
Exorcism: Driving Out the Devil is a ninety minute documentary, and is fairly interesting. It tracks the history of exorcisms from antiquity in Greece and Rome, to Biblical stories, to the Middle Ages in Europe, and finally to modern times. They touch on some of the fairly well known cases of possession, like the Devils of Loudon and the Salem Witch Trials. But they also have some strange logical elisions, such as considering executing a witch an exorcism. Still, this is a pretty thorough and even handed look at exorcism, even if it does lend a platform to some fairly fringe characters.
Voodoo Secrets is also a quite thorough rundown of the religion, and though it tends to a tiny bit of salaciousness, it's quite interesting. It talks about the origins of Voodoo in Benin, talks about the rituals and variations, and spends a while focusing on the unique strain that's prevalent in New Orleans. The portion dedicated to Marie Leveau is very good.
Ghosts is an episode of Monster Quest and is okay, mostly looking at purported video of ghosts and having video experts and others examine the footage in an effort to debunk it. They look at incidents at a Civil War battlefield, the Lizzie Borden house, and the Vatican. This is interesting, but slight.
Salem Witch Trials is an episode of In Search of History, and is quite interesting. They do strangely conflate paganism and witchcraft, even though they are distinct and considered so by even devout Christians. Other than that, though, it's a thorough look at the trials, the players, and what might have given rise to the trials and executions.
This collection is a bit of a hodgepodge, and not mostly focused on poltergeists, but there is still a decent amount of interesting material. The quality varies, but there's enough good stuff that it's worth checking out. Recommended.
The video is 1.33:1 standard, and looks pretty good. The episodes from the mid-nineties are of lower video quality, but the more recent ones are pretty good quality, about what you'd expect from a cable TV show.
Audio is Dolby digital 2 channel, and sounds fine. No hiss or pop is evident, and we can always hear what is being said. English subtitles are included.
No extras are included.
Poltergeists: Real-Life Hauntings is not a great collection of supernatural TV documentaries, but it's a decent one. The title is a bit misleading, as most of the material doesn't specifically deal with poltergeists, but at the same time there is a good amount of interesting material here. It's worth a look if this kind of thing interests you.