Everyone loves to watch their favorite horror movies, their favorite Halloween TV specials and even read their favorite scary stories when October rolls around. But doing enough of this can sometimes start to feel stale. As horror fans, the last thing we want to do is get burnt out, especially during our favorite time of year.
Given that, I would definitely recommend adding some documentaries to your Halloween watch lists. After all, many of them originally aired on TV during October as Halloween specials.
Others are just creepy, whether because they depict something that really happened, depict something supernatural that could have happened, or—as the best ones often do—give us a story while allowing us to try and make up our own minds as to what happened.
All of these kinds of documentaries are, I think, equally valid. And each of them can be fun to watch around Halloween, when we’re most hyper-aware of things that go bump in the night.
The Unexplained: Witches, Werewolves & Vampires
I’ll admit this one is not the easiest to find, but it often manages to make its way onto YouTube. This TV documentary was a special released in the ‘90s that deals with three of my favorite things. I think it was the first film I ever watched as a kid that even explored the vaguest notion of these beings existing in real life and I was absolutely entranced. As cheesy as it is in retrospect, it was the first history lesson I ever got on these archetypal monsters and I’ve got to give it credit for that.
This now famous documentary from a few years ago mixes true crime with pure dread and atmosphere. It sort of explores the origins of the Cropsey legend, but that’s really only a small part of the complex spider web of disturbing material that’s explored by this film.
There has to be a documentary about haunted houses on a list of Halloween documentaries. I went with two, one of which is good natured and kind of sweet. This is the other one. This is what’s wrong with… well, actually, so much is wrong with it that I don’t know what to begin. Hell House covers the haunted attraction of the same name, an intense production put on by the church designed for the sole purpose of scaring the living hell out of you so that you’ll change your evil ways.
The American Scream
This much more well-balanced documentary is a truly great exploration of three different small-town families putting together their own local haunts. It’s amazing to see just how much goes into these attractions over the course of a whole year, how much energy, time, and money they put into getting these things right. It’s a huge success story of working class people who don’t get the budget awarded to Halloween Horror Nights, but also hits a pretty realistic look at obsession and the difference between expectation and reality.
It’s not outright horror and it doesn’t cover any Halloween related material, per se, but The Imposter is included on this list because everything about it is creepy. A man shows up on a family’s doorstep claiming to be their son who went missing in 1994 and they believe him, allowing him to live in their home for six whole months before they realize what is actually going on and that he is not who he says he is. This is a truly unnerving documentary.
In Search of Dracula
Dig deep into the actual history of Vlad III Dracula, AKA Vlad the Impaler, the man who inspired Stoker’s infamous vampire. It’s a study of both history and folklore that gives some fascinating details about the man and his life—something that was scarier than any Dracula movie could conceive of. Bonus points, you get to see the return of Christopher Lee to the role in the re-enactments, this time playing the man behind the myth.
A fan of the Ghost Adventures TV show? Why not try out the original documentary that launched the series. Whether you like, hate, or even believe them, these guys take an interesting head-first approach to paranormal investigation that was very different from what people were used to seeing when the documentary was released and even when the show premiered.