Ghost Hunters: Three minutes with the paranormal researchers

Ghost Hunters: Three minutes with the paranormal researchers
October 23, 2009
Christina Couch
Time Out Chicago

Before going to the “Ghost Hunters Live” presentation at Harper College last night, I knew the Syfy show was popular. I even knew that America’s favorite plumbers-turned-ghoul-getters were leading the ratings among paranormal-themed shows. But I had no clue just how large and zealous their fan base is. The day after Ghost Hunters aired its investigation of the Congress Theater, more than 1,500 people flooded the Harper College gymnasium.

Though I’d only planned on attending the show, the Harper PR rep gave me three on-the-fly minutes with Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson before the show began. Thankfully, they were pretty cool about answering a few questions from a totally unprepared reporter.

TOC: You guys seem to have a huge fan base and an equally huge group out to debunk you. Does that bother you?

Grant Wilson: Ha ha ha, no. That’s what we want. We want everyone to be a skeptic. We’re skeptics. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be trying to debunk this stuff. We encourage people to ask questions. Actually, at the last place we spoke, a girl who couldn’t have been older than nine stood up at the end of our presentation and asked, “Yeah, but have you seen any real paranormal stuff?” I thought that was great. That’s the best question we’ve gotten so far.

TOC: It seems a ton of shows out now are trying to do the same things you guys do. Do you feel there’s stiffer competition in the televised ghost-hunting field?

Jason Hawes: Not really. They’re not on at the same time, and they’re not doing things in the same way. TAPS [the Atlantic Paranormal Society] has been around since 1990, so we were doing this long before the show. We’re out looking for the truth and if someone else is doing that too, that’s cool.

TOC: What can we expect from the next season?

GW: We just started filming 27 episodes for 2010.

TOC: Where?

GW: We can’t say. We can tell you we’re getting a ton of new equipment. This season we’re going to have 360-degree cameras, full-spectrum video cameras, a hand-held X-ray gun so we can shoot at one point on a wall and see through. We’re pretty excited.

TOC: Favorite place you guys have been?

JH: The Stanley Hotel [in Estes Park, Colorado]. We’ve been there, what, 14 times now and it never disappoints.

TOC: What’s the creepiest thing you’ve ever seen?

JH: Homeowners. Everyone asks us this question and it’s the people who own the homes that are the scariest.

GW: A ghost might move around furniture, but it won’t ever pull a gun on you. People are the ones you should be afraid of.

TOC: Someone actually pulled a gun on you guys?

GW: Yeah, we were checking out this woman’s house and she pulled a shot gun on us. Unfortunately, she also committed suicide six months later. We didn’t put that on the show, but it happened.

And then it was show time. Hawes and Wilson entered the gym to find a sea of fans sporting Ghost Hunters T-shirts and applauding thunderously. The presentation opened with an explanation of who the Ghost Hunters are (two Rhode Island–based plumbers who offer free paranormal investigations to homeowners worried they’re sharing their house with ghosts) and who they’re not (doctors, scientists, psychic-haters). The duo then presented a few cases they’d debunked for reasons ranging from clients seeing apparitions due to sleeping close to an alarm clock with a surprisingly strong electromagnetic field, to ghosts appearing as a result of a client’s drug use. Said Wilson, “In that case, we found the ghost of Mary Jane.”

Wilson and Hawes presented some evidence they’ve collected through the years, including video clips and sound recordings of supposedly real paranormal activity. While the evidence was undoubtedly creepy—the worst of which was a clip filmed at the Stanley Hotel that shows a glass in Hawes’s bedroom shattering apropos of nothing—the clips are also difficult to make out, both visually and audibly, leaving some degree of doubt. For those (like me) who weren’t blown away by the evidence itself, it was still interesting to hear Wilson and Hawes’s stories about their travels, their fans and their clients, particularly the one who lured Hawes into her haunted basement to get a…ahem, private investigation…while Wilson sat with her husband upstairs.

Questions and stories from the audience were just as fascinating: One guy believed a ghost was making his car alarm go off in direct sunlight; a young woman claimed to have had a ghost walk through her.

Believe the hype or not, Wilson and Hawes certainly proved that there’s a strong market for people looking for answers about the afterlife and that Ghost Hunters is at the helm. When the program began, Wilson responded to the near-deafening applause by simply asking, “Who are we? Guns N Roses?” To this crowd, absolutely.

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