Ghosts Executive Producer Reveals The Secrets Behind The CBS Series' Scariest Spirits

ghosts samantha surrounded by basement cholera ghosts
(Image credit: CBS)

Spoilers ahead for the one-hour series premiere of Ghosts on CBS

Ghosts has officially debuted as the newest addition to CBS’ comedy lineup, and there’s no more ideal show to hit the airwaves in the spookiest season of the year. The October premiere of the new show is packed full of characters who have been dead for decades and even centuries in some cases, while an accident leaves Rose McIver’s Samantha able to see them and her dubious husband Jay (played by Utkarsh Ambudkar) going along for the ride as they try to turn a derelict mansion into a hotel. Not all the spirits are fun to look at, however, and executive producer Joe Port has revealed the secrets behind the basement ghosts.

The series premiere revealed that the creepy basement ghosts were once people who died from cholera, and even the other ghosts of the household are scared of them and don't like to venture down into the basement. When the property’s dead Viking warrior describes some ghosts as “terrifying,” you have to know they’re scary! Of course, Ghosts is a comedy, so the creepy-looking cholera spirits actually just want to have the light on and help Samantha stop Jay from blowing up the house. Still, they definitely didn’t get to die in snazzy clothes or battle gear or even a Boy Scout uniform, and seem to be stuck down in that basement. 

So what’s their story? Why are a bunch of cholera ghosts in the basement of a mansion that was clearly a beautiful and ornate home in its day? After all, Rebecca Wisocky’s Hetty, who owned the mansion with her husband back when she was living, doesn’t seem the type to welcome people dying from a horrible and contagious disease into her home, even the basement. Ghosts executive producer Joe Port opened up about the cholera ghosts during CBS’ TCA Summer Press Tour, saying:

The ghosts in the basement, they all died of cholera. And become in like – there were different times that they had different outbreaks. But in the 1800s, in New York State, they had several cholera outbreaks, and they would put them in a pesthouse, people that had cholera. And, so, our theory is that the house – this house is built above, you know, on the same grounds that the pesthouse was.

So the story goes not that Hetty welcomed a bunch of people dying from cholera into her fancy home, but rather the pesthouse for cholera patients was on the grounds where the house that Samantha has since inherited was built. And the cholera ghosts evidently don’t go back as far as some of the other ghosts, like Thor. Executive producer Joe Port did go on to confirm that the scariest (and grossest) ghosts of Ghosts aren’t actually stuck down in the dark basement: 

They're not forced to stay down there. I think they choose to stay down there. They like each other and they kind of prefer it.

Well, it’s certainly true that nobody would be able to relate to their experiences of dying from cholera in a 19th century pesthouse as much as their fellow basement ghosts! It does seem that even though they prefer the basement, they would be happy if Samantha would leave the light on for them from time to time. Rebecca Wisocky, who didn’t know the whole backstory of the cholera ghosts until Joe Port revealed the secrets at TCA, humorously commented on her character’s decision (along with Hetty’s philandering husband) to build the house on those grounds:

Which was just really poor planning by my character. Because the husband and myself built the house. I'm just now learning for the first time. How cruel and horrible to just be sharing this with me now. I have to change my entire characterization. I'm an evil horrible person, and rather stupid.

Unfortunately for the cholera ghosts, they weren’t on hand when Samantha was taking the requests of all the other ghosts, so they may not have their desires fulfilled any time soon. Still, if all they want is for the lightbulb to stay on, maybe Jay can just not turn it off whenever he leaves the basement from messing around with the gas in the future! Whatever happens, there’s some fun backstory to the show’s scariest ghosts, and undoubtedly much more about the spirits of the mansion will be revealed in the coming weeks of the fall season.

Catch new episodes of Ghosts (opens in new tab) on CBS on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET in the fall TV lineup, with Rose McIver proving that she knows what she’s doing when it comes to dead characters, even if these ghosts aren’t exactly the undead that she dealt with on iZombie. It’s just the latest of the new shows to hit the Eye Network this fall, but certainly delivering more laughs than shows like FBI: International (which expanded the hit FBI lineup) and CSI: Vegas, which brought the CSI franchise back to television with a shocking premiere

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.