Grant Wilson (left) and Jason Hawes (right) on the job as TV's Ghost Hunters. Photo by Les Stone and copyright The Sci Fi Channel
Nowadays, it is not unusual for someone to have two jobs, but how many people do you know who are employed as plumbers and ghost hunters? Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson are family men, longtime friends and Roto-Rooter plumbers as well as the hosts of the Sci Fi Channel reality TV series Ghost Hunters. Founders of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), they, along with fellow TAPS members, spend one hour on TV each week investigating places that are reported to be haunted. Armed with, among other things, EMF (electromagnetic field) scanners, infrared as well as night vision cameras, and video/audio recorders, our Ghost Hunters do their best to locate, catalogue and subsequently analyze possible paranormal activity. Their small screen enthusiasm is infectious, but that was not always the case for Hawes or Wilson.
“We started out as non-believers,” admits Hawes, during a recent conference call with journalists. “To be honest, it was just our own personal experiences, which we’ve always kept private, that fueled our passion to investigate the unknown. When we first got into this field, we realized that there’s a ton of garbage out there. There are people who are selling pictures of a [blurry] dot on-line for others to view in return for $3.00 a month in membership fees and stuff of that nature. When we came along, being non-believers, we looked at the field differently and were willing to call things out. Our initial investigations led to a number of people hating us because of the way we saw things and how vocal we were about it. However, over the years, they’ve come to realize that we’re going to call it as we see it.
“I think the most difficult part of an investigation is trying to get into the client’s head and trying to get them to understand that you’re there to help them. Most of these people are like you and me, but we’ve also dealt with people who, for example, have been in the early stages of schizophrenia or had other mental health issues. One lady actually came at us with a gun; you never know whose house you’re walking into, and you need to always remember that. When it comes down to it, I feel the best outcome of an investigation is truly being able to figure out what happened. If someone had an experience and you’re able to prove that it wasn’t paranormal, but there that it was something explainable. I think that’s the most important part of what we do.”
Adds Wilson, “Another challenge is making sure a person is sincere and that they’re sticking as true to the facts of the story as possible. You’ll send in several different people to interview an individual to get the truth out of them, but the best thing is finding out one way or the other that this is definitely paranormal or, yeah, we definitely debunked your claim. That’s the meat of an investigation and what keeps us going is when we find definitive answers, whether it be one way or the other.”
In March, Ghost Hunters returned to the Sci Fi Channel for its fifth season, which began with a visit to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to check out an historic, and reportedly haunted, property that the legendary seamstress Betsy Ross once called home. For Hawes and Wilson, this was the start of a truly enjoyable as well as fulfilling journey into the unknown.
“This is a great season,” enthuses Hawes. “We’ve investigated a lot of places and, in particular, gone back to getting a number of residential cases as well, which I think is always important. We got some terrific evidence in the form of great visuals and audio along with some other neat little things. Grant and I also kind of shook things up a little bit by buying an inn [The Spaulding Inn in Whitefield, NH) that had supposedly been haunted for the past 70 to 80 years. We had the GHI [Ghost Hunters International] guys come in and investigate it just so that there was no bias there.
“I’ve been doing this show since my twin boys were just one – they’re going to be five this year – so we’re going on five years and this has been the most enjoyable season I’ve ever done.”
Says Wilson, “One of the coolest cases we did this season was at the Georgia Aquarium, which is the largest aquarium in the world. They have a traveling Titanic exhibit with actual artifacts from the ship, and everywhere that the exhibit goes, [paranormal] activity supposedly follows. So we caught up with it in Georgia and had an interesting time there dealing with the artifacts. We even got to climb into a six million gallon tank and swim with some whale sharks, which was incredible.
“So this year has been a blast. We’ve got a good team and we brought in a lot of new equipment that we’re using, which I think everyone is going to appreciate. And like Jason said, we’re getting into more of the homes again, but still doing the big locations, too.”
Continues Hawes, “An especially challenging case this year was one we did just recently and that involved a child. The family believed that there was a negative entity in the home, so they were terrified for their safety and that of their child. No one was sleeping at night and at one point they ended up leaving home and moving into a hotel. It was really sad, and being a father of five, that’s one of those things that really pulls at your heartstrings. Anytime a child is involved, even though you might not know what you can do, you have to do something.”
Adds Wilson, “Certainly the toughest and most rewarding investigations are when you get to go in and help a family, even though in their eyes you don’t necessarily have good news to tell them. However, you still feel a relationship with them and want to help them through it the best you can.”
Most people at one time or another have heard a strange noise or other bump in the night that, for the most part, has been air in the pipes or something other than a supernatural act. What, however, in Hawes’ and Wilson’s opinions, causes one place to be haunted and another not?
“It could be anything,” notes Hawes. “We’ve dealt with places that have been 300 years old with quite a bit of activity, and other places that have been just as old but with no activity. It’s the same with brand new buildings. You find that a lot of it has to do with what happened on the property prior to the building of it, or after the structure was built and what people living or working there have since been doing there. All these factors come into play.
“We’ve dealt with what appears to be a spirit just passing through and for whatever reason decided to stay. Perhaps there’s a child there that can see it, so it stays in the hopes that the child will grow older and still be able to communicate with him or her, because to a child anything is possible. After all, Santa comes down the chimney every year, and the Easter Bunny drops off a basket every Easter, so nothing is impossible.”
Says Wilson, “There are two main types of hauntings; one is like a leftover memory in a place that pops up at certain times, and the other is the ghost of a dead person. So anything that might make a ghost stay or be attracted to a living person, an area or an object in a house is reason enough. It’s pretty broad, and that’s why we call ourselves paranormal investigators, because you’ve really got to put your clues together and figure out what would cause a ghost to stay in that location.”
The success of Ghost Hunters has spawned a spin-off series, Ghost Hunters International, whose team investigates paranormal activity across the pond. While not yet quite as seasoned as their American counterparts, their work has certainly earned kudos from Hawes and Wilson. “I think they’re doing great,” says Hawes. “[Investigators] Dustin Pari and Joe Chin are very close friends, as is Barry Fitzgerald, and Robb Demarest is a friend of mine, too. A lot of their protocol is the same as ours, but they do things differently than us. They’re their own people. I have the utmost respect for them, and I also appreciate that when our series is on hiatus filming new episodes, they’re holding down the fort for us on TV.”
Adds Wilson, “As we mentioned, we bought this inn called the Spaulding Inn. We’ve been busy restoring the place, and our families, including our wives and kids, have had [paranormal] experiences there. We thought, ‘Hey, let’s get this on TV and do an investigation.’ However, we wanted to maintain an unbiased approach, so we contacted the Ghost Hunters International guys and had them come in and investigate it for us. So it’s good to have that kind of relationship and I think they’ve come a long way. I don’t know that we could have asked them to do that in the beginning, but now they’re certainly more qualified. We’re proud of them and they’re doing a terrific job.”
Are you a passionate Ghost Hunters watcher? Do you long to follow in your heroes’ footsteps and do a little paranormal sleuthing? Before you head out to do so, our experts have some advice to pass on.
“For one thing, stay away from the occult. Don’t go the way of the Ouija board and that sort of stuff,” warns Wilson.
Hawes agrees, “Yeah, that’s definitely a red flag.”
Continues Wilson, “If you want to ghost hunt and stuff like that, it’s always best to find a friend’s or relative’s house that you think is haunted. Don’t go into cemeteries or break into abandoned houses because the police won’t believe you when you say you’re just ghost hunting. A video camera, which a lot of kids have nowadays, is all you really need, and just talk to what you believe is there. Keep in mind that what you’re talking to is a person, albeit one without a body, but someone who at one time had a family and a job. And always make sure you do things in a safe way and in a safe environment. We’re not breaking any laws, you know?”
Adds Hawes, “Don’t go into a place automatically assuming it’s haunted because of what people have told you. You want to go in there and look for the real explanation. My children do this right now. I have five kids and they’ll do a little mock investigation and everything else to figure out what’s truly going on. At one point, my eight-year-old daughter thought her room was haunted, and she ended up finding out that it was nothing but her Furby with a low battery that was making weird noises. Do you know how empowering that was for her, to take away that fear, and it also went to show her that most of the time it has nothing to do with a ghost.”
While some people might be reluctant to admit it, most of us are interested in the paranormal, and a show like Ghost Hunters feeds into our curiosity. While it is billed as entertainment and Hawes and Wilson enjoy what they do, they also find it rewarding for very down-to-earth reasons.
“We’re always looking for that answer,” says Hawes, “and, of course, if you go for two, three, four months and don’t catch anything, it kind of becomes a downer. However, when, all of a sudden, you catch a great piece of evidence, it boosts your inspiration back up and keeps you going.
“Again, we’re looking for a the truth and we’re also trying to help out as many people as we can. I did a reveal today for a lady who was actually in tears because of the activity going on in her house. When we were getting ready to leave, she came up and gave me this big hug and said to me and Grant, ‘Thank you so much. There’s no one who can help people like us when we have a problem like this. There’s nowhere to turn to, and you guys are there for us.’ That makes everything we do worth it. The fact that this lady can now honestly feel OK and sleep in her house at night is so important.”
Says Wilson, “That’s your main paycheck right there, you know? You go into a house where people are terrified, and by the time you leave, you’ve narrowed it down to a pill that they can swallow. They’re comfortable and hugging you and are thankful that they can take their home back. That’s what it’s all about.”
For more information about TAPS check out their official website – www.the-atlantic-paranormal-society.com
As noted above, any and all photos are copyright the Sci Fi Channel, so please no unauthorized copying or duplicating of any form. Thanks!