Between the Lines: Series haunts YouTube, gathers spooky huge numbers

That’s co-author Paige McKenzie modeling for the cover of her book.
That’s co-author Paige McKenzie modeling for the cover of her book.

What’s that old saying about anything being possible? Try this digital-age case study of a YouTube paranormal Web series that turned into two best-selling books, was optioned and is in development for a TV series.

When Paige McKenzie was 16 in 2010, she and her actress mother, Mercedes Rose, brainstormed with producer-director Nick Hagen to form a company called Coat Tale Productions and launch a paranormal Youtube series titled “The Haunting of Sunshine Girl.” Officially, it’s Hagen who is credited with creating the series.

The premise: The adopted Sunshine Griffith (played by McKenzie) and her mother (played by Rose) have moved from Texas to Washington state to start a new life. Unfortunately, their house is possessed by spirits and demons intent on doing a whole lot of harm, especially to Mom. To “document” the eerie happenings and help solve the scary mysteries of what and why, Sunshine videotapes the strange phenomena and posts them on YouTube in short episodes (about two minutes).

In its first year, the show racked up more than 4 million hits, mostly from a core audience of ’tweens and young teens, and hasn’t slowed down. Now the series has 190 million views on the Haunting of Sunshine Girl Network ( It has been described as “a 21st-century Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Veronica Mars.”

“(Coat Tale) was soon approached by an agent, asking Paige to write a book based on the series,” said publicist Rhalee Hughes, speaking for the publisher, Weinstein Books. Veteran YA novelist Alyssa Sheinmel was brought aboard to work with Hagen on the book’s story line and with McKenzie on the writing, as she did for the sequel, “The Awakening of Sunshine Girl.”

The resulting hardback edition of the first book, “The Haunting of Sunshine Girl,” appeared in March 2015 and has sold 100,000 copies, while the newly released paperback version of that title recently reached The New York Times best-seller lists (Weinstein Books, $10, 311 pages). The magazine Kirkus Reviews wrote: “Sunshine’s adventure is filled with bumps in the night and shadowy figures, alluding to a larger mystery and larger world that has plenty to offer imaginative readers who grew up on ‘Goosebumps.’ Sunshine discovers some things about her past that set her on a path she could never have imagined.”

The new hardback sequel, “Awakening,” had an initial press run of 100,000 and was released March 1 (Weinstein Books, $16, 304 pages). “Alyssa and Paige wrote the first two books together,” Hughes said, “but now that Paige understands the ropes more, she will do the third book by herself.”

How does Hughes explain such viral success? “(The episodes) can draw in audiences quickly and they can binge on them,” she said. “They’re quick satisfaction. Paranormal is huge, and (Coat Tale) has tapped into a younger YouTube audience than most of the other (ghost story) authors. Paige (who lives near Portland) is adorable and her fans love her. Plus, we’ve had tremendous support from booksellers in keeping the books in great placement (in their stores). I understand the script for the TV series has already been written.”

Visit McKenzie at

Two tales of the Titanic

Let’s dovetail a new historical novel with some dining history:

The date was April 15, 1912. While the British passenger liner RMS Titanic slowly sank into the icy waters of the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg, the desperate crew fired eight distress rockets into the inky sky, hoping for help from another ship a few miles away, the SS Californian. But the rockets were ignored and more than 1,500 people perished. An international scandal followed.

After years of research, former Australian merchant navy officer David Dyer speculates on what may have happened aboard the Californian that fateful night in “The Midnight Watch” (St. Martin’s, $27, 336 pages; on sale Tuesday, April 5).

As for the dining part, the all-things-food-and-drink website The Daily Meal looked at some of the Titanic’s menus that were salvaged from the wreckage and ended up as displays in various museums ( The luxury liner didn’t skimp on quality and choice: First-class passengers dined on the likes of salmon with mousseline sauce, filet mignon, chicken Lyonnaise, lamb with mint sauce and roast duck. The fare in second and third classes was more pedestrian: rice soup, roast beef with brown gravy, fish, steak and kidney pie, capon, corned beef and the like.

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe