Ghost Hunters in Milwaukee
For seven seasons, SciFi Channel (a.k.a. SyFy) has been home to Ghost Hunters – one of the first and, arguably, best of the paranormal reality shows. The program is hosted by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson who are working plumbers when they aren’t shooting the show. As unreal as that sounds, it’s true and it’s integral to what makes the show so appealing.
Jason and Grant are regular guys who each had a paranormal experience that changed their lives. They met and discovered their shared interest in the paranormal, leading them to form TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society). TAPS’ mission is to help people discover whether their home or business is really haunted or if their experiences can be explained by something natural – like leaky pipes or a bad HVAC system. Interestingly, Jason and Grant are “skeptical believers.” They do believe in ghosts (they do!) but they go into any investigation with a very critical eye. At least 70% of “hauntings” can be explained by something totally mundane, much to the chagrin of the haunted home owners. It’s also important to note that TAPS doesn’t charge any money to investigate – ever. This point, in particular, lends them a huge amount of credibility.
The show is a success due in large part to Jason and Grant’s authenticity. These guys are exactly who they seem to be – they play practical jokes on each other, they love their families, and they’re in awe that someone is paying them to do what they love.
I’ve had the pleasure of hearing them speak, along with members of their team, on a number of occasions. They are completely accessible and truly appreciative of their fans, making their talks much more intimate than most celebrities. They’re also known to say, over and over, that they know that fame is fleeting and that someday they’ll be plumbers again full time.
On Saturday, October 16, 2010, Jason and Grant played to a nearly sold out Pabst Theater in Milwaukee for two shows. Having seen them previously, I expected a similar setup – a moderated panel in which we’d hear some stories and then a lengthy Q&A. What we got was an hour of banter, stories, and – I’m not kidding – a PowerPoint presentation. Now, before you groan, I’m telling you that, if one must use PowerPoint, this is the way to do it. The guys used the slides to support their shtick – pulling up bullet points at exactly the right time to accentuate a point – often to gales of laughter from the audience.
They began with a short history of themselves and TAPS which, given the audience, was probably unnecessary. I’m pretty sure that everyone in the room was a fan. Then they covered the various types of hauntings such as “residual,” “intelligent,” “poltergeist,” etc. After we learned about the types of phenomena, we were treated to a number of case studies, wherein the guys told us what the homeowner claimed to experience, what TAPS experienced, and the investigative conclusions. These were, undoubtedly, the best slides of the night. The conclusions were often funny but sometimes very sad and disturbing – especially when the haunting involved children. One interesting point they made was in the case study where the homeowner had recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was being heavily medicated because she heard voices. TAPS discovered that the voices the woman was hearing were saying the same things as the voices they were capturing on EVP (disembodied voices imprinted on audio recording devices.) Their conclusion was that the woman wasn’t schizophrenic at all; she was simply becoming sensitive to the spirits around her.
After the case studies, the presentation turned to outtakes and footage from the show. The focus was video evidence – ghostly images, furniture moving by itself, etc. – most of which never made it to air. Problems with the projection system made this the least satisfying portion of the program but they were very apologetic and even asked if anyone in the audience had a solution for fixing the problem. Amazingly, in a room full of geeks, none of us had enough AV experience to help out.
Finally, the program ended with 40 minutes of Q&A. In order to move things along, Jay and Grant answered FAQ beforehand, getting most of the most obvious questions out of the way immediately. After that, they sat down and patiently answered questions about everything from how they handle working two jobs (the show and plumbing) to some uber-fan’s dissection of the minutest detail of some show from season two. You could tell they were running long – it was probably supposed to be 30 minutes – but they stuck with it in order to take questions from a number of children who had been waiting in line. So sweet!
All in all, it was a really great night. Lots of laughing. Lots of banter with the audience. And an actual PowerPoint slide that didn’t put us to sleep. Even I, a seasoned Ghost Hunters fan, learned new stuff and saw my plucky heroes in a new light.
This tour is called the Lecture Series and runs from October 15 through the 22. TAPS has other appearances around the country throughout the year and their schedule can be found at http://the-atlantic-paranormal-society.com.
A Note from Allison Jornlin of Milwaukee Ghosts: This great recap was generously provided by guest blogger @alexinmadison from www.mightydistractible.blogspot.com. Thank you Alex for your thoughtful and thorough review of the event!