Investigation Discovery’s ‘True Nightmares’ Puts a ‘Twilight Zone’ Twist on True Crimes

Investigation Discovery debuts a new series this Wednesday with a new twist on the true crime genre. True Nightmares features Todd Robbins narrating three tales of criminal mischief in the style of Rod Serling’s supernatural fictional series, The Twilight Zone. Like Serling, Robbins’ narration is interwoven with the stories in True Nightmares, as he appears throughout each vignette to offer his dramatic narration on camera, popping in and out of scenes, teasing viewers on what is yet to come.

Robbins is best known for his fascination with sideshow amusements and oddities, including bizarre magic and the darker side of Coney Island. His background prior to hosting True Nightmares includes traveling circuses, working with mediums, playing ragtime piano, and the seedy underworld of con artist scams. He’s been a consultant on many TV shows and movies for his expertise in oddities and carny culture, and he was featured in the carnival world documentary, American Carny: True Tales from the Circus Sideshow. Todd also collaborated with the magician, Teller, on the off-Broadway show, “Play Dead,” telling true ghost stories to live audiences before landing his current gig on True Nightmares.

todd robbins of true nightmares
True Nightmares host Todd Robbins in the carnival documentary American Carny: True Tales from the Circus Sideshow. Photo still courtesy of American Carny site.

In other words, Robbins has been involved in the darker side of the sideshow long before American Horror Story: Freak Show made it cool. It might not be a resume that would earn him a corner office in corporate America, but for Kevin Bennett, general manager of Investigation Discovery, Robbins is the perfect host for True Nightmares, according to an Investigation Discovery press release for True Nightmares.

“As no stranger to oddities himself, Todd Robbins leads True Nightmares’ viewers on a thrill ride of chilling tales filled with unpredictable twists and surprising turns. Employing a new storytelling style for ID where Todd is interwoven in the scenes, Todd drives the narrative along with a mischievous wit, akin to the Rod Sterling of our time.”

True Nightmares runs six episodes in its debut season, and in the premiere episode, host and narrator Todd Robbins introduces three true crime stories so sinister Edgar Allan Poe could have penned them, including a case of someone being buried alive. But, these true nightmares are real, which is what makes them so scary, according to Robbins.

“I could creep you out with ghost stories and unsettling urban legends, but in True Nightmares, you can’t deny that these terrifying things really happened. The scary part is that there’s a possibility that these could happen again, and what’s even scarier is that there’s a possibility that this could happen to you.”

In the True Nightmares premiere, men keep disappearing from Belle Gunness’s farm. Are they leaving on their own, or does farmhand Ray Lamphere want to eliminate any competition for Belle’s heart? There’s also the mysterious case of Angelo Hays, whose body disappeared after a suspicious motorbike accident which occurred just after a large life insurance policy was purchased in his name. In the last story for the first episode of True Nightmares, Army Sergeant Stephen Shap is a devoted soldier and husband, but what happens when those dear to him aren’t as loyal to him as he is to his country and wife?

True Nightmares seeks to remind you that sometimes truth is scarier than fiction.

Besides living on the fringes of amusement parks and carnival sideshows, Robbins’ credits prior to True Nightmares also include his partnership in Magical Nights Inc., the producers of New York’s longest running magic show Monday Night Magic. The True Nightmares host is also an accomplished author, penning, The Modern Con Man: How to Get Something for Nothing and creating a companion DVD series, the Modern Con Man DVD Collection.

True Nightmares is produced for ID by Discovery Studios. Executive producers include Mike Masland, Eddie Barbini, Jeff Kuntz and Investigation Discovery‘s Tim Baney. True Nightmares premieres October 14 at 10 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery.

[Photo courtesy of Discovery Studios]