DeRidder resident making most of opportunities
DERIDDER, La. (AP) — When most people see an actual haunted house, they prefer to stay away, but a DeRidder native is making it his career.
James McDaniel is the digital host for “Haunted Live” on Travel Channel and is the go-to guy when the company needs someone to break down the action at a haunted location or to give updates at Area 51.
McDaniel describes his path as a “ridiculous story”, which started when he was attending Louisiana Tech where he was working as a sports reporter and as an extra in films.
His girlfriend at the time was working on a little show called “Fixer Upper” on HGTV during the first season. He went on Twitter to talk about the now colossal success, and it took off from there.
“I was the first person ever to send out any tweets that had anything to do with Fixer Upper,” he said. “Due to that, me and the hosts of the show, Chip and Joanna Gaines, actually became really good friends. A couple of years later, HGTV decided they wanted to debut a recap show that would come on Facebook right after the show.
“I did that from my personal bedroom, and from then, they started reaching out to me when they wanted a live video from different locations.”
HGTV was later bought by the Discovery, Inc., but it kept McDaniel in mind when starting Haunted Live.
Haunted Live features a team of paranormal investigators going into a potentially haunted location, and viewers get to see it all in real-time.
“They brought me on to commentate live on Facebook,” McDaniel said. “A couple of times, I’ve actually went on television to report what the fans have been saying. That’s just led to more and more work with Travel Channel.
“I grew up in a haunted house, so I said that I’m all in on this. They sent me to Area 51... I really just lucked into by making some funny comments on Twitter.”
McDaniel threw himself into the paranormal because of his childhood home at 208 Shirley Street.
He had multiple stories about growing up in the home, but the one that stuck out was a fight that never happened.
After coming home from church with his family, he arrived to see his sister outside crying and saying that two men were in the house fighting. He got closer to the house and heard the ruckus from outside a window.
“I heard two men throwing each other into the walls and cussing,” he said. “This was something the entire family experienced together. My dad and brother entered the house and kicked open the door. The second he kicked open the door, it went completely silent. There is nothing. No sound or anything, but the objects in the bathroom were knocked over like there had been a major fight.”
At home was not the only place he has experienced the paranormal. As the cameras were rolling on “Haunted Live” at Octagon Hall in Franklin, Kentucky, McDaniel and Jesse Snyder — son of legendary Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snyder — met for the first time and took a walk around the area.
As they entered an upstairs room, they were hit an uneasy feeling.
“It felt like all my breath was sucked out my body,” he said. “I was kind of doubled over, and I look over to see Jesse doubled over as well. He looked at me and said ‘do you feel that?’ We both hustled out of that room, and as soon as we crossed that threshold, we got our breath back.
“I think everyone publicly wants to laugh at ghost stuff, but privately, everyone has a story. Most people seem to experience something.”
When the social media phenomenon of a group of two million Americans storming Area 51 at the same time started to take off, McDaniel contacted people at Travel Channel, and they agreed that they needed people there.
“If something happens in pop culture, they want to have someone out there immediately and have a TV show up within a couple of weeks,” McDaniel said. “They filmed the show called “Storming Area 51″, and then they flew me out there do to do live digital media all day”
When he is not on digital platforms, McDaniel is in DeRidder looking after his mother.
“I’m really lucky that it allows me to be near here,” he said. ”... I have family that can look in on her. A lot of things I do for Travel Channel and HGTV lets me broadcast from my office in the house. It makes it very easy for me to look in on her.”
McDaniel says his love for the supernatural and exploration of the unknown comes from a book store owned by his father, Johnny, that used to be in DeRidder
“He used to own a shop called Uptown News Service,” McDaniel said. “It was the second biggest magazine and bookstore in the state. It was there for 30 years. So my childhood was me hanging out in there all summer. We had every comic book and every magazine, and I read everything. I read Newsweek, every comic book, every UFO magazine and Fangoria. That really formed who I am as an adult. I’m interested in so many things and getting to the bottom of so many things. I think that’s why I got into sports journalism and that’s why I embrace this.”
Information from: Beauregard Daily News, http://www.deridderdailynews.com/