Cemeteries, history, death, the paranormal and plenty of delicious wine are just some of the elements that make Macabre Mondays so alluring. Meet Malia Miglino, the woman behind this creative endeavor that highlights the dark side of centuries past. She hosts, researches, writes and produces the material for her episodes, and, let me tell you, her charisma immediately draws you in.
Miglino launched her first historical docu-series on YouTube in 2015 titled “Macabre Mondays.” The show spans across three seasons, filled with fascinating episodes that take viewers on virtual journeys to landmark destinations. These have included California sites such as Mission Dolores Cemetery in San Francisco, The Cosmopolitan Hotel in San Diego, The Queen Mary in Long Beach, “Suicide Bridge” in Pasadena and The Los Feliz Murder Mansion in Los Angeles. For her third season, she went international, filming extensively at various haunted sites in Sydney, Australia.
She didn’t stop with one show. Driven by the need to preserve the vanishing history of iconic cemeteries, Miglino went on to create “Grave Hunter,” where she digs up memories and stories of the deceased to share with her audience. She also recently introduced “History Rants,” a weekly series broadcast on YouTube and IGTV. Every week, the hostess puts up a poll in her Instagram stories where followers can vote on the proceeding week’s topic. It’s a fun, interactive way for people to take part in the creative content she’s producing.
Miglino’s projects have garnered plenty of attention and accolades over the years. She was part of the “Heroes at the Mic” panel at San Diego Comic Con 2018 and her production “A Very Pagan Christmas Special” was an official selection at the Dances with Films festival. Her following has continued to expand, growing into a community of individuals whom she endearingly refers to as “creeps” because of their mutual appreciation for the macabre.
I had the opportunity to ask Malia Miglino a few questions for a closer look inside the world of “Macabre Mondays.”
Q: Malia, you’ve been entertaining and educating audiences on macabre history for several years now. When did you first become interested in this type of historical research?
A: I honestly don’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in macabre history. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with hauntings, serial killers and dark history. I grew up in a haunted Victorian apartment, in a family surrounded by paranormal believers. My childhood wasn’t conventional since my dad was a musician and I grew up around that scene in early 90s Seattle, which was awesome because I wasn’t sheltered from much and one of the things my mom always liked to do was visit old cemeteries when we were on the road. She had grown up in a very active haunted house and she was always talking about “what was the story behind the haunting?” This really instilled in me at a young age that paranormal activity, if real, was caused by someone with a story, just like every person buried at the cemeteries we visited had a story.
The older I got, the more finding out the truth of creepy places became important to me. This, compounded with a love of horror films, an early love of medieval history with emphasis on Henry VIII and medieval torture along with a borderline obsession of Sarah Winchester, sort of set a foundation of macabre for my life. I guess it all boiled down to a fascination with people and the things they were capable of doing.
However, I never anticipated or planned on doing anything history related in my life. I had always planned on being an actor; I’d been doing it since I was young and I loved it, so I moved to LA as soon as I turned 18 and started pursuing my dream. It’s a hard path and to deal with the rejections I would drive around on my off days and visit cemeteries or find historic locations, and then I’d research them as a form of therapy for myself. I think my friends got tired of me talking their ears off about murders and why a house was significant because of the architect etc., so one of my best friends, Jenn Page, insisted I start a vlog. That’s how Macabre Mondays began…like 6 years ago? Jeez! And I realized that sharing the truth about people or places made me happier than anything I’d done before. I guess you could say the rest is history.
Q: There’s a wealth of information in every episode you put out. As a writer, I know how crucial and tedious research can be. What’s the process like for you pulling such an abundance of knowledge together for your projects?
A: My research, if possible, always starts in person. Every episode I did of “Macabre Mondays” for the three seasons I did it, either started with me driving around or traveling, discovering a place, getting intrigued so I would pull out my phone and start taking photos or video, jotting down the address and then later on continuing the research online, OR I’d hear of a place and then go visit it in person before deciding to do an episode on it. To me, for that show, it was important that I be able to relay the energy and vibe I got from the place since the whole point was to try and tackle “what makes this place innately creepy?” From there, I would start the very long process of online research. I’ve paid for every service you can imagine for archives, genealogy, historical registries etc., but usually I would hit a dead end at a certain point, and at THAT point I’ll head to the library and spend some time with my good friend the microfiche machine.
As a moral code, I never feature stories less than 50 years old out of respect for any living descendants, which means a lot of the information I need tends to not be online. I’ve also written letters to people politely asking for interviews, I’ve lied my way into locations to get footage and done other things I should probably not legally say, haha! I guess my very long answer is that I basically track down information any way I can whether it be at the location, online, at libraries or archives and, if I’m lucky, in-person interviews.
With “Grave Hunter” and “History Rants,” I’ve had to rely a lot more online because I cannot always physically be in the cities or locations of the people or places I’m discussing, which always stresses me out mainly because the truth is the most important thing to me, and when I can’t cross-check or reference with newspapers or documents possibly only existing in person, I know I’m running the risk of not getting everything 100% accurate, which is my goal. But, ya know, I do the best I can, haha!
Q: You’ve covered a lot of territory, literally and figuratively, on your shows. What’s been your favorite experience so far?
A: Hmmm, I think it may be a tie between two different things. Two years ago I was flown out to Sydney, Australia, to speak about California’s most haunted locations at that year’s Paracon, a paranormal conference held at Manly Quarantine Station, which is considered one of the most haunted locations in the world. It was my first international trip and I was all by myself; to say I was nervous is an understatement.
Twelve hours into my 16-hour flight I got a notification on Facebook messenger that the conference had been cancelled. What transpired in the next 20 hours was one of the most stressful days of my life that included being taken out to the bush and dropped off at a person’s house where I was offered a futon to sleep on (all strangers); getting money transferred because everything for the week that was supposed to be covered, now wasn’t; and arranging transport back into the city; securing a hotel and accepting I was across the world where I knew no one and everything was on my own dime. It was a very stressful day, haha, but after some wine and settling into what was the first of two beautiful hotel rooms I stayed in, I realized I now had a week free in a city I never thought I’d get to go. I filmed five days straight and documented everything I did. I saw so much history, met incredible people, got lost at the Quarantine Station (hilarious story), but ultimately had one of the greatest experiences of my life and I got to visit so many places I never thought I would. Waverley Cemetery was always a bucket list location, so seeing that in person was phenomenal.
The second greatest experience was probably being invited out to Victor, Colorado, to feature the Black Monarch Hotel. It was my first episode of “Grave Hunter” and despite SO many technical difficulties, was one of the coolest shoots yet. The townspeople of Victor were so excited to talk about their city’s history and give me access into locations; it was the first time I really felt like all the hard years of shooting were starting to pay off.
I would be remiss to exclude filming my “A Very Pagan Christmas Special” though because it’s still my highest production value and first time I had a full crew and actors and it felt so amazing to see my crazy idea come to life. Lastly, the episode I did on the St. Francis Dam Disaster will always hold a very special place in my heart. I guess I lied and should have said four, sorry, haha!
Q: In a past interview, you mentioned that you feel there’s a lack of women being represented as historical experts and being featured on networks like the Travel Channel. Over the years, have you encountered difficulties creating your content because you’re a woman? And, what changes would you like to see regarding the female presence in your industry?
A: I have definitely experienced hardships with being a woman in this industry. I have been told by VERY large networks that they, “don’t have single female hosts” and “graveyards are for women and our audience is mainly men.” It’s been so disheartening. I remember years ago I went to a reading at USC with Caitlin Doughty and Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris, both whom have NY Times best-selling books AND very popular YouTube channels and they were discussing how so many networks had turned them down because they were female. Thankfully, Lindsey now has her show on the Smithsonian channel, which I find SO encouraging, but I am presently still having to fight with networks to give me a chance because they don’t think male audiences, which make up the majority of their total audience, won’t watch a female host. The irony is men make up 75% of my Instagram followers, my YouTube subscribers, and all my Patron’s on Patreon are male. The reality is men do like watching women and that can be used to our advantage. Why can’t I turn their heads with sex appeal, but once I have their attention, give them a history lesson?
I also think women in this field are required to have more accolades to be taken seriously as an expert, which I find silly. Half the male hosts that are hosting travel shows or history shows are actors cast like any other TV show but when it comes to the women, they want you to be published with multiple degrees. I have neither. I call myself a “history enthusiast” because I’m not a college historian. I remember in one pitch meeting I was asked, “What makes you think you can do this job better than a man?” My response was simple, “I know I can do this job better than anyone because you are not going to find anyone more passionate. Man or woman.”
My hope is that female historians, experts and enthusiasts are regarded with the same respect as men and given the same opportunities as men on television. Our perspective on the human experience is a valid point of view that history likes to silence. It’s time our voices were heard.
Q: So, I love that you integrate wine and cocktails into your episodes. What inspired you to do that and what’s your favorite aperitif? And, just throwing this out there, but maybe there should be a Macabre Mondays cocktail!
A: I love the idea of a Macabre Mondays cocktail!!! I’ll definitely have to try out some recipes!!!! I’ll be totally honest here—I first started drinking wine when filming MM [“Macabre Mondays”] because I was terrified. I was so nervous about filming myself that I drank to loosen up and it just became a thing. There was definitely some intention to the tone since I wanted it to be like you were drinking with a friend hearing about history but yea, definitely helped me loosen up…and get some things wrong, which is why there are a LOT of corrections in the videos, haha! It took me a while (two seasons) to realize a loose script was probably smart.
Favorite drink? Wine, always wine, preferably a Pinot Noir or a good Rosé if it’s hot. I also have been known to dabble in the Whiskey arts and Aperol Spritzes.
Q: Let’s dabble in a little necromancy, shall we? If you could choose one historical figure to raise from the dead for one night of conversation, who would it be and why?
A: Oh man, I’ll steer clear of some of the obvious ones—Henry VIII, Nikola Tesla, H. H. Holmes, Jane Toppan—and throw down one that may seem very odd, Madame Lou Graham, a famous Seattle Madame in the 1800s. I’ve always had a deep admiration for madames of the Victorian age, and she was truly a visionary. Her death is shrouded in mystery and I would really love to hear the true story.
Q: Any teasers you can leave readers with about what Macabre Mondays has in store for the future?
A: This October, I will be delving into the true stories that inspired some of our classic horror films and if things go right…I’ll be working on something very special in relation to Los Angeles…that’s all I can say for now.
Join the Macabre Mondays community and become a #Creep! Keep up with Malia Miglino’s latest adventures on her official website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Plus, you can further support her work by becoming a member on Patreon.