Bring on the Paparazzi

More entertaining than mothmen: Our hometown paranormal expert has hit the bigtime with a new show.

what: Paranormal Paparazzi
where: The Travel Channel
when: Fridays at 7 p.m.

Asheville native Joshua P. Warren tells all on his quirky new Travel Channel series

Move over Andie MacDowell and Lauren Tamayo. Asheville’s got a new TV star in town: paranormal investigator Joshua P. Warren.

The local author/radio host/museum curator is part of the cast of the Travel Channel’s new Paranormal Paparazzi, one of the most buzzed-about shows at this year’s Comic-Con. And for good reason. Even in a TV landscape saturated with paranormal-themed reality series (Paranormal State, Ghost Hunters, Fact or Faked, to name a few), PP stands out like Bigfoot at a NAIR party.

Styled after TMZ (the cheeky celebrity gossip and entertainment news show), Paranormal Paparazzi centers on a crew of six reporters (including Warren) who are each tasked with tracking down the strangest, spookiest, most eyebrow-raising stories from around the country. A lizard man in South Carolina? Alien abductions in Knoxville? Teenage sister exorcists? How about Will Ferrell’s haunted trailer, or Andy Kaufman ghost sightings at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothel in Nevada? Like on TMZ, the crew report back their findings in a casual newsroom setting, to be analyzed and debated amid much goofing around. It’s lighthearted, fast-paced, and a hell of a lot more entertaining than you’d expect from a show with lake monsters and mothmen.

“The thing I like about Paranormal Paparazzi is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously,” says Warren, who was one of the first cast members picked for the series. “It’s more of a cultural approach to the paranormal, as opposed to a scientific one, so it does more than simply try to show people some type of new phenomenon, or try to prove or disprove something. And it reminds us that, you know, we really don’t know everything. And when you accept that, and you’re open to that, then your imagination kicks in. And that’s when it gets fun.”

It also helps that the motley crew has such great chemistry. The group includes people like Rachel Fine (from Howard Stern’s Howard TV) and entertainment writer and pop-culture journalist Aaron Sagers, the host of the show.

“Before we started shooting this program, the producers got us all together for a week in New York,” Warren says. “We spent all day talking about the way we wanted the show to feel, the topics that we thought would make it a little bit different. And then at night, we chose to hang out with each other. And that word ‘chose’ is very important. Because that’s actually not so common in TV. But we liked each other. We’d go out drinking, we’d go out partying.”

Warren, not surprisingly, is the crew’s paranormal expert. Anyone who’s followed the Haunted Asheville author’s career knows it’s a role for which he’s well-suited. For more than 15 years, Warren has been a leading researcher of the strange and bizarre, so much so that he’s a regular guest on the Coast to Coast AM radio show, as well as a frequent talking head on The History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic, Animal Planet and Syfy. If you ever need a detailed explanation on the popular theories of ghosts, or want to know the historical basis behind the Illuminati, Warren’s your guy.

“Though I always find it a little paradoxical when people talk about being ‘experts’ in the paranormal,” he jokes. “Because the paranormal, by definition, is what we don’t know, right? And I’m the first one to point out when I think there is a cause and effect here in the physical, empirical world. I feel like that if I don’t use Occam's Razor, that if I don’t come up with the simplest explanation first, then very quickly somebody else will — and I’m going to look like an idiot.”

In fact, one of his favorite PP investigations this season had nothing to do with the paranormal. It was a story he did on a Texas survivalist, who for six years lived with his wife entirely off the grid: no electricity, no telephones, no watches. In fact, no human contact of any kind. They were so completely self-reliant, they even brewed their own alcohol.

“When he emerged after six years, the first thing that shocked him was that we have a black president,” Warren says, laughing. “The second thing was that he said that the world seemed to be moving in fast motion. He couldn't cross the street in time before the light changed. He couldn’t get on the elevator before the door closed. His system had just slowed down so much. And the third and most fascinating thing is that he never once got sick in that six year period. But when he came out, he got sick immediately, because his body had not been evolving with the various germs in our society. He actually got so sick he had to take HIV medication in order to prevent him dying. To me, it’s almost like time travel. This guy went away and he came back, and the world was totally different. And that is something so fascinating that is beyond what we think of as paranormal or supernatural.”

It’s stories like that that make PP such a welcome and fresh addition to the TV screen. And if all goes well, expect to see Warren’s face a lot more in the future.

“It’s a little weird, because [TV] is partially about appearances, and I’m not a guy who works out every day,” he says with a laugh. “But it’s a lot of fun. I love it.”

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