For the four-person cast of the ghost hunting show Destination Fear – the latest season is set to begin this Saturday on Travel Channel – the show is just an extension of what the group of lifelong friends have been doing since their high school days.
Tanner Wiseman, Dakota Laden, Dakota’s sister Chelsea Laden, and Alex Schroeder, all from Minnesota, started exploring old buildings back when they were in high school.
“We weren’t the normal kids in high school and middle school,” jokes Wiseman. “The second we all got our drivers’ licenses, we would go to abandoned locations all over Minnesota – that would be our weekend trip. We would go find something that was super abandoned, and super creepy, has a weird ghost story and we would go explore it. Once we ran out of places in Minnesota, we started venturing off to different states. That has been and is still our passion, exploring these old buildings that used to be full of people walking around.”
The group – Wiseman, Dakota Laden, Chelsea Laden, and Schroeder – film their experiences hitting the road in a RV – stopping to investigate hauntings in what are typically large, old abandoned buildings like prisons, sanitariums and hospitals.
Each holding his or her own camera (which also serves as a microphone as the cast does not have a crew that comes in with them), the cast spends the night in the location to investigate the paranormal, and tries to get some sleep.
“We’d always have stuff happen,” Dakota Laden said. “We have heard noises. We thought we had seen things. Chasing the paranormal is one thing, just trying to experience it, that was part of the thrill. The main thrill for us was getting scared, getting scared and craving that adrenaline rush. That’s kind of why we designed it the way we did – to be on a road trip, to be sleeping alone. You do all these challenges to draw out the fear.”
Both Dakota and Chelsea Laden agree that this upcoming season features three places that rank in their top five of scariest places they have been to. The season includes Destination Fear’s first trip abroad to Ireland where they investigate Spike Island, which is home to several buildings that used to be a prison.
“We got dropped off by boat,” Chelsea Laden recalled. “This is just like next level isolation. I would say it was just a different feeling – more isolated than I ever felt before.”
Schroeder, who chose the Indiana State Sanatorium as a location the group visits, said Destination Fear was the first paranormal team allowed to go in and fully explore the place.
“We had no idea what to expect. I couldn’t even warn them what to expect,” Schroeder said. “We were going in there completely blind. We didn’t even know if it was haunted or not, but let me tell you, we got something on thermal camera. We never caught anything like this before. That was horrifying.”
Dakota Laden said this season will feature four locations that have never been explored by any paranormal team.
“For us as urban explorers and people who really enjoy abandoned, creepy buildings, it really is an honor to experience four of these places brand new,” he said.
The size of the locations the group visits can be challenging, but they do their best to investigate as fully as possible – breaking up into duos and sometimes splitting up as individuals.
“One thing people don’t see when they watch the show, they are really just getting a highlight reel, the best stuff that happens, the creepiest stuff, but sometimes there’s hours where nothing happens,” Dakota Laden said. “We do try to make it a goal to try and see everything.”
Taping a season of Detination Fear can take more than a month, with the group traveling in a small space in an RV. But it helps that they have known each other for so long, they say.
“Chelsea came over to the hospital when I was born. Our parents were family friends,” Wiseman said. “One of my earliest memories is actually going to the hospital the day Dakota was born. Chelsea and Dakota were neighbors with Alex and my mom used to work for Alex’s dad. We have literally been friends since single digit age.”
After they reached high school and explored their fair share of abandoned buildings in and out of Minnesota, the team shot a documentary using the same format that grew into Destination Fear.
Their tight bond is something about the show that fans like the most, the group says.
Chelsea Laden said being around people she has grown up with helps with the pressure of filming a television show.
“It makes for a very natural environment and you can be yourself and it feels very authentic to us too, and we’re glad that it comes across that way as well,” she said. “We’re just doing what we do, doing what we did growing up, going to haunted buildings with each other.”
Destination Fear will return on Saturday, November 6 on Travel Channel and discovery+. Showtime is 9 p.m. EST on the Travel Channel, which also begins streaming the same day on discovery+.
If you’d like to know more about the team, please check out our previous interviews with the Destination Fear crew right here.