Hudson woman tracks ghosts around the world (Kris Williamson)
Hudson woman tracks ghosts around the world
December 12, 2010
By JAKE BERRY
Kris Williams isnâ€™t ready to say she believes in ghosts.
As a lead investigator for â€œGhost Hunters International,â€ the Syfy Channelâ€™s new reality television show tracking paranormal activity, Williams, a Hudson native, has seen the shadows, heard the bellows and felt the presence across the globe.
But even after years on the hunt, she isnâ€™t ready to call herself a believer.
Williams, 29, worked for three seasons as an investigator on the networkâ€™s original â€œGhost Huntersâ€ program, which tracks paranormal activity reported across the country. She was tabbed in August to lead the channelâ€™s international team.
â€œIâ€™m definitely a skeptic first,â€ Williams said last month, seated comfortably in Nashuaâ€™s Country Tavern restaurant, long reputed to be haunted by the ghost of an 18th-century murder victim.
â€œEvery time something happens, I just end up with more questions,â€ she said with a smile. â€œIs it definitely somebody whoâ€™s passed? Or is it just science that we havenâ€™t figured out yet? â€¦ I have no idea, but I do know Iâ€™ve seen several things I have no way of explaining.â€
In Louisville, Ky., Williams heard footsteps following her through the hallways of a retired tuberculosis hospital. In Norwalk, Conn., she heard slamming doors echoing through the halls of an old state hospital. And in Buffalo, N.Y., she saw a figure emerge from the shadows of an old railroad station.
â€œI saw this 6-foot-tall male shadow walk out of one shadow â€¦ and it just kept on going and disappeared into this dark corner,â€ she said. â€œIt was definitely one of the strangest places I have ever been.â€
But now, after three years of investigating American houses, hospitals and churches, among other locations, Williams is taking her travels overseas to the castles and bunkers of Europe and beyond.
Since joining the international team in August, Williams has investigated cases in Ukraine, Denmark, Poland, Scotland and Puerto Rico, among other locations.
The new season, to air weekly on the Syfy Channel, will premiere Jan. 5 at 9 p.m.
â€œNothing in the States can touch the historyâ€ overseas, said Williams, who attended Hudson Memorial Middle School and Alvirne High School. â€œHere, weâ€™ll call some places castles and really, theyâ€™re just big houses. There, when they talk about a dungeon, theyâ€™re not kidding. Just stone and dirt floors. â€¦ Itâ€™s just a completely different world.â€
â€˜Quiet art kidâ€™
Williams, with dark hair and piercing eyes, is the first to admit that chasing ghosts across the globe before a television audience was never a career goal for the self-described â€œquiet art kid,â€ who was nearly crippled by shyness while growing up.
Born in Lowell, Mass., Williamsâ€™ parents moved their family back and forth several times among Lowell, Nashua and Chelmsford, Mass., before eventually landing in Hudson when she was 9.
Growing up in Hudson, Williams held a number of male-dominated jobs â€“ installing flooring, carpentry, working in her fatherâ€™s gun shop.
â€œShe was always doing guysâ€™ jobs, a lot of heavy lifting,â€ said her father, Bob Williams. â€œSheâ€™s always been very proud of that.â€
But in school, she found herself shy and timid, expressing herself more through art than words. Williamsâ€™ senior project, a large sports-themed mural backing a school shed, still overlooks the athletic fields at Alvirne High.
After graduating from Alvirne in 1999, Williams looked to shed her shyness by enrolling in communications classes at Rivier College in Nashua.
The classes took root, but after two years, she left school and moved to Boston to pursue modeling work. The work resulted in some runway appearances and some nonspeaking scenes in movies, including â€œMystic Riverâ€ and â€œFever Pitch.â€
â€œIn â€˜21,â€™ thereâ€™s a real short shot of me sitting with Kate Bosworth,â€ Williams said.
But the work didnâ€™t last, and it left her looking for direction in 2006 when several acquaintances, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, invited her to join their team, the Atlantic Paranormal Society, which had become the focus of Syfyâ€™s â€œGhost Huntersâ€ program.
Years earlier, Hawes and Wilson had founded the group out of Rhode Island to investigates reported paranormal activities. And in 2004, Syfy launched â€œGhost Hunters,â€ which follows their investigations across the country. But after three seasons, several members had left the group, leaving them looking for new investigators.
Williams, then 26, happily joined the team midway through the third season, accepting the position both for the steady work and because it appealed to her interests in history and genealogy, which have developed since she was a young child, she said.
â€œEverybody has questions about where they came from. For me, genealogy was that,â€ said Williams, who started working on her family tree for a project in elementary school and has continued since. â€œYou could look at old photos and see where you got your nose or your eye color or whatever it might be. â€¦
â€œFor me, itâ€™s just amazing to see how much past generations have affected who I am.â€
â€˜A natural fitâ€™
For three seasons and nearly 80 episodes, Williams served with the group as the unflappable female. She earned the nickname â€œBaitâ€ for her willingness to enter even the most haunting scenes by herself, Williams said. And in August, network producers shifted her to the international program, appointing her as co-lead investigator.
â€œKris is a natural fit for â€˜Ghost Hunters International,â€™â€‰â€ Rob Katz, the showâ€™s executive producer, said in a written statement. â€œIn her three years with TAPS, (she) proved again and again how adventurous she is, and how creative an investigator sheâ€™s become.â€
â€œGhost Hunters International,â€ Katz said, â€œwill benefit from her extensive experience, her willingness to work in any environment and her expertise.â€
But, even as viewers await the showâ€™s premiere, Williams wonders how long she can make it last.
The showâ€™s grueling travel schedule â€“ five weeks on the road; one or two at home â€“ doesnâ€™t leave much time for friends or family.
Between trips, Williams typically comes home to Hudson to see friends and stay with her parents. But even her little downtime is growing more crowded now with increasing media appearances and other events.
The international team is scheduled to host a public event in January at the Rolling Hills Asylum in East Bethany, N.Y.
â€œNo Thanksgiving this year. (I was) in Scotland,â€ said Williams, who will celebrate her 30th birthday in February. â€œ(It was) the first holiday I really missed.
â€œThatâ€™s the thing people donâ€™t understand,â€ she said with a hesitant smile. â€œOur job is fun and we get to see all these crazy places. But if youâ€™re a family person at all, itâ€™s tough. Itâ€™s really tough. â€¦ This is the kind of life for a single person.â€
Looking forward, Williams would like to stay in television, she said, but likely in a different role, directing or producing.
â€œI could see myself working behind a camera,â€ she said. â€œBut it would have to be something a little more predictable as far as the schedule.â€
Before that day comes, however, there are more trips to make, more ghosts to greet and more questions to answer.
â€œThere are so many places I canâ€™t wait to go. Iâ€™d love to go to Paris to investigate (Jim Morrisonâ€™s) grave,â€ said Williams, who counts the deceased Doors singer among her heroes. â€œA few years ago, somebody took a photograph there, and they said he appeared in the photo. â€¦ H