We sit down for a chat with the horror-loving power couple behind the wildly popular YouTube travel show, “The Grimm-Life Collective”.
When The Grimm-Life Collective logo appears, swaying back and forth into the intro, Batmobile’s Calamity Man song proclaims, “Whenever I come, bad luck is coming my way; wherever I go, hard luck is there to stay.” I know I am always in for a treat! I am taking a trip to the unknown, the beloved or vastly feared — but not alone. I’m along for the ride with two travelers.
Meet Michael and Jessica Kolence, the co-hosts of The Grimm-Life Collective, where every moment is a journey and every day is Halloween!
Morbidly Beautiful: Welcome, The Grimm-Life Collective!
Michael: Hello! That was smooth!
Jessica: Happy Halloween! I feel like a passenger!
MB: Thank you. We ARE the passengers on your road trip! My first journey with The Grimm-Life Collective YouTube channel was during the pandemic, which was the famous episode: Tom Savini – Private Tour of His House & School at 904k viewers* today; I bet you are going to be at a million views by Halloween.
(*over 947k as of August 9, 2021)
Michael: We’re hoping we get there.
MB: The million-dollar question is, what was that day like for you?
Jessica: Surprising, epic, unbelievable.
Michael: It was…we had no idea that day was going to happen until we got there. We were living in Orlando and we reached out to Tom Savini’s school and said, “Hey, I don’t know what you have there, but it’s Tom Savini’s school, there’s got to be something, special effects, maybe a little museum?”
Jessica: Something in the corner.
Michael: “We’re going to be in town, can we come to visit?” Almost immediately I was messaged back from Tom’s contact. “Actually we don’t have that, we have something better. The whole school is a museum dedicated not only to Tom but to his student’s work.” “How cool would it be,” he says to me right from the get-go, “if I got Tom Savini to do this tour with you. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll ask him.”
I had to take a moment to collect myself. If that could happen, it would be phenomenal! We never received confirmation that it was going to happen at all until we pulled up to the school and right beside us, Tom Savini pulled up. We got out of the car and walked into the school, and I said, “Baby Ghoul, Baby Ghoul! Tom Savini is behind us!” Turning to Jessica, “Did we hold the door open for him or did he hold the door open for us?”
Jessica: We were trying to not be star-struck when he pulled up next to us, but it was obvious, because he waived back to us, and we waved back. We held back by the car a little bit, so we could let him go in and do his thing, so we wouldn’t be walking in at the same time. We were collecting our composure just being in his presence. I remember we talked a lit bit before going in. “How cool, he’s probably going to give us a little baby tour.” Just being in his presence for 5 minutes.
Michael: In and out.
Jessica: It was about to be the most epic experience we ever had, and what pursued was unfathomable.
Michael: By the end of it, it is almost an hour long. We must have spent four to five hours with the man altogether and by the end of it felt like we were hanging out with our grandfather on a Sunday afternoon.
Jessica: Grandfather of Horror, the maestro himself!
Michael: It was just amazing.
Jessica: It’s a long journey, but during the whole thing, he would turn to me sometimes and I would have that horror-struck face. I didn’t know how to feel, or how to act or what to say. “OMG!” Screaming internally, but you’re trying to smile and nod. He was so soft-spoken and so gentle, just so friendly! You never know what it’s going to be like to meet somebody; we just didn’t know where he was going to take us. We were trying to take it all in, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The Grimm-Life Collective received YouTube’s 100k Subscribers Silver Creator Award in June 2021. As of August 2021, they are over 160k subscribers and counting.
MB: How did you two meet?
Michael: I was living in Savannah, GA, and Jessica was living in Orlando, FL. I was hosting ghost tours then. We had been friends for years online, then one day right around Halloween we connected on the phone. When we finally did talk, it was like, “Why haven’t we been together, why aren’t we married?”
Jessica: It happened like a domino effect. We were waiting for someone to flick that first tile and it all just fell into place. It happened so organically, so fast that it’s probably the most natural thing I’ve ever done is marrying this man. We met online with me commenting on his Elvira Pinball machine post and we geeked out! Our friendship grew from that. Best friends, then a couple of years later, married!
Michael: We talked on Halloween. “Hey I like you, I like you, let’s meet!” Christmas Eve, I asked her to marry me.
Jessica: It was the day before Christmas Eve we officially met, Christmas Eve he proposed. May 1st married. And that was five years ago.
MB: How was the journey from Florida to California during a pandemic, and how are you loving Los Angeles?
Michael: We did a two-week-long road trip and it was pretty surreal. I’ve always wanted to drive from one coast to the next, so that was like a childhood dream come true in the middle of moving, uprooting a family during a pandemic. With everything that was going on, it was impossible to keep up with what we were driving into. There was a stretch of road through Arizona I remember, a sign that said “This Town is Closed Keep Driving.“
Jessica: Literally, “This Town is Closed.”
Michael: LA, where we chose to live, we spent a month living with a friend, very meticulously, trying to pick out where we wanted to be. I feel like we planned it as best as we could, but chance and fate put us right where we’re at. That’s the best decision we ever made in our life was moving there.
Jessica: The most interesting part of the travel was leaving Orlando, FL, during the pandemic; we basically left a city that never shut down. We started driving through places that were very strict and wore masks at all times. Getting to visit some of the places that were still open I think was a bit of sheer luck. Just the experience of living through a pandemic, nonetheless driving thru one, opened up your eyes to what might change in the future when traveling.
MB: People go through a lot of changes during that period, and there was an importance of your channel during the pandemic. Getting people to really think about, “I don’t see enough, I don’t do enough, I haven’t kept up with my bucket list in life.” Your channel is helping people reevaluate coming out of this.
Michael: I love giving people homework. I think a lot of times when we’re traveling we’ll meet people and someone will say, “Hey, you should come over here and check out this haunted place or famous grave.” And I’ll say, “Sadly, we can’t, but YOU go and take a picture and send it to me…because I want to see it!” Then they get out there and do it. I really love when families watch our channel and they choose to venture together. It is the most wonderful, gratifying thing.
Jessica: My favorite…someone said in the chat last night while we did the live, “You came through my town that I lived in for twenty-six years and I never knew that was here!” Everyone goes, “How do you know about these things?” Google! We start looking things up and putting in odd keywords. Then ten clicks into a different page, look what I’ve found! Sometimes you really have to dig deep for it, almost like scavenger hunting.
MB: I wasn’t going to ask about your process of how you find out about all the details about your locations. Because I was thinking, that’s your secret sauce.
Michael: No, it’s not.
Jessica: It’s really not.
Michael: We are all about, and we’ll even say it in our videos:
“You never know what’s in your own backyard. And always look up, because you are always missing things unless you open your eyes to look!” History is constantly being made. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, there’s something else for you to see.”
Jessica: Or taken down, too. That building that’s there today literally might not be there tomorrow. There were so many things that we wanted to go see that others took pictures of. You don’t know how old that photograph is, and by the time we get there, it’s gone.
Michael: Years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Gates from Expedition Unknown and Destination Truth; love that show! It was right when Grimm-Life Collective started doing videos. It’s actually on the channel. I asked him, “Of all the places you have ever visited, what’s your most favorite, the place you couldn’t believe you went to?” He said, “Chernobyl. I can’t believe I went to Chernobyl!” I said, “You know that’s on my list too, I would love to visit Chernobyl someday because of the historical value of it.”
And he said, in one sentence, one thing, and I’ll never forget it: “It’s there waiting for you!”
MB: That’s profound!
Michael: I get goosebumps now. I can hear him say it, “It’s-there-waiting-for-you!”
Jessica: Yeah! Honey, you do have goosebumps!
Michael: You can watch other people go and visit places, but it’s waiting for you!
Jessica: We hear people say, “Oh, no I can’t, that’s not possible.” It is, you just have to say this is what I’m going to do, plan for it, and make it a goal.
There is always going to be something in life that makes you feel like it’s not the right time. And the sad fact of life is, there’s never a right time. Life is never going to get easier to accomplish the goal that you want to accomplish; you have to set your eye on it.
I could say, “Well, I want to wait until my heart condition is not as bad.” It’s a heart condition, I just have to know my limits, what I can and can’t do, and take care of myself. Many times, I do have to sit things out because of my health. He’ll come back and tell me, and I feel like I’ve been there.
Michael: And we’ve got it all on videotape. One more thing:
The first step to accomplishing your goals is completely eliminating the words ONE DAY or SOMEDAY from your vocabulary. Just get rid of it!
Jessica: We don’t want to gatekeep, we want to inspire, we want to be inclusive, and that’s why we call it the Grimm-Life Family. Because if you are watching, you are part of our family. That means that we’re all in this together, and sharing our life experiences. Because we know that there are either people bound by their health, or bound by their wealth, or by the distance that they can’t get to the places that we are going.
Every time we film something, we ask, “You think they’d want to see this part? Let’s do it!” If we’re here, let’s capture it, it’s all meaningful.
MB: What are some of the episodes that you are most proud of?
Michael: For me, every episode we do is.
Jessica: Your new favorite!
Michael: So if we do this episode here, that’s my favorite, I love how we edited it, I love how it looks, I love the flow of it, I can’t believe we’ve been there.
Jessica: Because you are a born intuitive editor.
Michael: Then I shoot the next day and, oh man, that one is my favorite. I feel very strongly because in the videos I say quite often, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” And I started realizing, yes, it does… and it’s going to happen tomorrow. Jessica and I are very fortunate to be doing this full-time. It wasn’t always like this. We worked really hard to get here, and we’re still working hard every single day.
Jessica: We slept in our car a lot to get this done.
Michael: Before we did this full time, my stress levels were through the roof. I hated my job and was getting four hours of sleep at night because I would get up to edit at 5 o’clock in the morning. It was never-ending. The moment I said, “I’m done, we’re doing this full time,” all the stress went out the doo. And not many people get to do that. Each and every day, just like the videos, “It’s better than the last.”
Jessica: I found too, that the support we get from people enjoying what we do, it really does help your stress factor. It’s that family feeling, that acceptance, that connection to others. It really does feel like we’re doing this together and that it’s going to be ok. There is not one day where we don’t wake up and go, “I love you, I can’t believe we’re doing this!”
MB: It shows in your videos!
Jessica: We get as much hate mail as we do love mail. There’s always going to be somebody who’s unhappy in their own life and they like to spread it to others. Still, so much beauty coming from viewers, that more than makes up for it.
Michael: Total transparency, by all means, if you’re reading this, and you love us, and you want to leave a comment, by all means. If you hate us and you want to leave a comment, by all means, do it! Here’s the fun thing about YouTube, whether you love us or hate us, that comment still gets us paid! What I really should say is, express yourself!
Jessica: It’s like someone flicking a penny across the table at you.
Michael: Years ago, I visited the Amityville Horror (house). I’m standing outside and filming because my sister lives right down from the street from it. People drove by and, I kid you not, they yelled something like, “Get a Life!” The people in that neighborhood don’t want you to visit that house, and they threw nickels at me. We were talking about this earlier today; I was hit by nickels filming this house! So, it’s like your hate still pays us.
Jessica: And it is a full-time job; the hours are long. Anything passionate takes a long time. I say this all the time. Yes, we do these adventures as a couple. But Michael handles all the editing, and he handles most of the posting.
Michael: I take every opportunity I can to let her rest. And I’d been up since five am at the hotel desk, just the light at the computer, editing with my headphones in working on a video.
Jessica: There are filming locations that have taken three days to film, and we get, what, a 30-minute video out of it? I think many people think that we just leisurely travel. We make it look that way, but it’s still very much a job with job hours.
Note: the Paul Walker episode had over 500k views in June 2021. As of July 11th, this episode reached over one million viewers.
MB: One of the emotional sides of Grimm-Life, is the impactful editing of episodes, like Adam Walsh and Paul Walker Crash Site & Grave. Taking the history of those situations, getting into that area, and giving us this emotional connection in understanding the events that happened to them. For Paul Walker’s site, you have a ritual you do when you go to visit someone’s grave which I think is beautiful.
Michael: Thank you.
Jessica: We’re going there to pay our respects. I use to always take something with me to a grave before we started coming out to California. I would have a little stuffed animal or fake flowers. But out here in California, only fresh purchased flowers are allowed.
Michael: Which we do get; we brought some for Naia Rivera on Mother’s day.
Jessica: Oftentimes, they are items I find. I found a little tiny owl cove I put near the tree for Paul. It was obviously meant to go there. Before we started filming, there were others paying their respects. We let them do their thing uninterrupted because we’re not there to impede on anyone else’s experience at all.
Michael: We’ll stand back.
Jessica: We’ll sometimes wait hours for a place to clear out just so we can give you the most in-depth experience that we can do. It was really cute because at the Paul Walker site, there were a couple of girls who came and they personally put a lei necklace of flowers down right before we started filming. It made it so much more beautiful.
MB: Setting up the scene as you did — Paul Walker, here today, then gone tomorrow; life is short.
Michael: It’s very important to me how we do our videos, that ritual that you mentioned. I have this ritual that I go through myself. Anybody can go online and find the death report, the death certificate, the coroner’s report, and when they were born. You can find out ALL the information that you could possibly find on this. One thing you can’t find by doing that is going and visiting these places yourself.
If you go back and watch any true crime videos, I purposely leave out a lot of information. I don’t want to bog you down with talking and documenting. We have a camera. A lot of times, I’ve pointed at her, she’s pointed it at me; it’s our perspective. It’s us taking you there as if you’re visiting this place yourself.
Jessica: It’s visiting a loved one, people that we respect. I may have not been the biggest Fast and Furious fan, but Paul Walker did a lot outside of his films. What we didn’t know until we started researching was that he left a fundraiser to have a quick drive around the block. He was doing what he was passionate about, and it’s so impactful. Like you said, here today, gone tomorrow. It could happen to anybody.
MB: Storytelling — that is a big part of your magic!
Jessica: Michael is such a good storyteller, I don’t think he REALLY realizes it sometimes.
MB: Where would you like to visit outside of the USA?
Michael: We have a road trip planned that I have been working on for the past year.
Jessica: Literally pins on the board!
Michael: If everything goes according to plan — meaning the channel grows the way that it has been growing, in the way that we want it to grow, and the world opens back up — next summer, we should be in the UK for a month; different city each day.
Jessica: I hope, eventually over time, we can visit every country and meet everybody. We want to go to Tokyo, Japan, so bad! We are getting big in Australia.
MB: Australia will be amazing…. a lot of shooting locations.
Michael: We’re like the David Hasselhoff of Australia.
Jessica: Every time we do a live video on Saturdays, one of my favorite things is to ask, “Where is everybody from tonight?” Last night, we had fans from Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil, UK, and Australia. It just makes me happy. Horror films and Halloween things are so much easier to obtain in America. I love knowing that we can take a little bit of ourselves and the viewers with us. You get to see a place that maybe you didn’t know you wanted to see.
MB: Who would you like to meet and interview?
Michael: Mine changes day-to-day. I’m being honest, right now, David Lynch. I’m a David Lynch guy. I would love to pick his brain.
Jessica: Tim Curry. He’ll cut you, he’s always had that wit, but that’s one of his charms. For me, my first-ever Tim Curry love was Legend, and to the day I die, that man is darkness and the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen. (Turning to Michael, smiles exchanged.) Sorry, you’re not red with horns, but I still love you!
MB: Is there anything you would like to let the fans know in closing?
Michael: Marshmallows are horrible!
Jessica: Never forget that we love you; I say this all the time! Someone will say, “We love you!” And I respond,“WE LOVE YOU!”
MB: This has been an honor for me. You two have enhanced my view of the world. And with you, every day is Halloween!
Grimm: Every video, Happy Halloween!
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YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/grimmlifecollective