Who You Gonna Call? Ghost Hunters!

ghost-hunters.jpgThey were asked the question, what is scarier: plumber work or ghost hunting work?Jason Hawes: Well the problem is, half the plumbing jobs can actually be listed under paranormal. So yeah, plumbing is more frightening. You never know, what if you make a mistake and somebody’s house blows up? Yeah, so…

Grant Wilson: . . . there are a lot of similarities. I mean, in both situations you got people who…

Jason Hawes: . . . call you in because they need your help.

Grant Wilson: . . . they don’t understand the situation. And then you go in with the knowledge, you help them out and you leave them feeling better. And, you know, you never know what house you’re walking into. Some people are crazy.

And on they go, finishing each other’s sentences time and time again.  I guess it’s what comes from spending hours and hours skulking around in dark rooms and ancient tunnels in search of that one definitive paranormal experience.  They’re the leaders of TAPS — The Atlantic Paranormal Society, and they’re also the stars of one of SCI FI Channels highest rated TV shows, “Ghost Hunters.”

Grant and Jason and the whole gang are about to embark on Season Four so they sat down with reporters to inform, enlighten and tease a little about what’s coming up.

“Some of my favorites [investigations] have been the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado and St. Augustine Lighthouse. Now that being said, that was within the first three seasons. The fourth season,” says Grant.  “We went to some incredible locations, caught some of the best evidence we’ve ever caught on any of our shows.”

He laughs, realizing that it sounds like more media hype, but he assures us all that it’s totally true.  The new season starts out with a trip to Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia to do something no one has done before.  You see, even though the fort has been standing since the days of the Revolutionary War, no one in modern times knew about the underground solitary confinement cells until now.  The fort’s caretaker discovered the entrance to the chamber when he investigated a sink hole on the grounds.  It’s a cramped and dismal place and when you think of human beings kept down there for any length of time. . . well, how can there NOT be ghosts.

Jason and his team are given the honor of being the first paranormal investigators to explore this newly discovered area of a fort that was already thought to be extremely haunted.  What they find down there. . . . well, you’ll have to watch and see.

The Fort Mifflin investigation also turns up some very interesting thermal imaging.

“We got the thermal energy camera in hopes to see these cold spots that we’ve been experiencing,” says Jason.  “And  it doesn’t work like that. Instead, we are catching these other things that don’t really stick with that theory, so to speak.”

“A lot of times we’re catching things that are giving off a signature,” says Grant. “You’re able to see it through the thermal but not with the naked eye.”

Whatever the cause, these ghost hunters capture a rather startling thermal image without evening realizing it until late in the game.

“It’s all learning ground for us,” says Jason. “You got to remember that. It’s not like there’s a scientific field for this so we’re pretty much learning each case by case as we’ve been doing for the last 17 years.”

Seventeen years is a long time to be hunting for ghosts without finding a single piece of irrefutable evidence.  Or more accurately evidence they’re willing to share.

“Well yeah, it’s tough because some of the most haunted locations we’ve ever been in have been far before the show has been on,” says Grant. “We’ve done cases for state senators, lawyers, doctors. We did a Police Chief’s house right around Rhode Island, that we caught some of the best activity we’ve ever caught. But those fall under a confidentiality agreement.”

Since the team is based in New England, a large portion of their cases are located on the East Coast which might given the impression that there’s a higher concentration of ghosts in one place more than another.

“Do you know how many flippin’ towns tell us that they’re the most haunted town in the country?” says Grant. “It’s equal everywhere.  There are ancient houses that look straight off Scooby-Doo that aren’t haunted and there are brand new houses that are more haunted than old houses. So it’s just – there’s no rhyme or reason to it, you know.”

Jason takes a more practical approach to why New England seems more haunted than most.

“There seems to be a lot more active around Halloween into the winter months, and  there’s a reason behind that. First off, that’s when all the spooky movies are coming in. Secondly, it’s when everybody is spending more and more time in their homes. Your heating system is turning on, which is removing the moisture from the wood, so your house is popping and cracking. You’re getting sounds of footsteps and it’s not really going on. But the imagination is, of course, kicking in more. Is it actual paranormal activity? No.”

It’s called Occam’s Razor and it’s a theory co-opted by scientists that basically states that when faced with a mystery, the simplest answer is most likely the correct one. Jason and Grant whole heartedly agree.  Their most valuable ghost hunting tool?

“Honestly, I would say it’s not any of our electronics. It’s common sense,” says Jason.

“The investigators,” says Grant.

It’s their team that gets the job done.  And it’s a mighty big job, too.  Each investigation starts with a load-in process that includes miles of electrical cables, computers, monitors, lights, motion detectors and dozens of hand-held devices that need to be powered up and checked.  After set-up, the ghost hunters work through the night often crawling through tight spaces and creeping through buildings that have seen better days.  It’s physically demanding work at times and always emotionally demanding as fears are set aside in favor of keeping an open mind.  Not an easy thing to do when you’re sitting at a murder scene in total darkness at two o’clock in the morning.

“Some of these places you’re in you get an uneasy feeling like you got to look over your shoulder,” says Grant. “You’ll be startled by things. But, you know what? You were called in by people to investigate this. They called you in as professionals, looking for your help and guidance. You just can’t tell them I can’t do this, I got to leave, then those people are stranded. And not just stranded, but now they’re even more fearful when the professional that they called in is terrified to be in their house. We’re there for them. I don’t care how scared you can get at certain times. You’ve got to keep yourself in a professional manner and try to help out those who need you the most.”

So what keeps them going, through the emotionally draining nights, the long drives, time away from their family and with still no proof.

“I think there’s a couple different things that keep us going,” says Jason.  “First off, being able to help those people who need us the most and give them the power to have their home back and their children be able to sleep at night. That right there is important enough to us. But also the endless possibility that we might be able to catch that one piece of evidence which is the holy grail that we could put out there for the world that people are just, wow, there is something out there.”

“I’m motivated mostly by the fact that everybody seems to have, at one point in their life, had no concept of what was going on around them and they had questions that they needed answered,” says Grant.  “We don’t want people to live like that. There’s a place they can turn to. We’re here for them and each case can present huge answers that can be used on the next case. And slowly you build this tower of knowledge and you get closer to your goal.”

But what is the goal?  Is it likely that man will ever find the answers to our paranormal questions?

Says Jason Hawes, “Some people have their own experience and they want to understand it. But what I’m seeing more and more of is people who just want to know that there’s something after this life, that when they pass on they’re going somewhere.”

And Grant Wilson chimes in.  “We’ve been to the depths of the ocean. We’ve been to the dang moon. You know, what’s left?  And so I think the last frontier is really the paranormal.”

Originally published at SFUniverse February 26th, 2008

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