During the most recent presidential election season, a popular cable news outlet challenged viewers with its slogan: “We Report. You Decide.” It was a provocative statement, one that seemingly abdicated responsibility and instead put it on the shoulders of those watching the television to determine what was right or wrong, fact or fiction.
Grant Wilson said he’s not interested in proving anything. He’s got the equipment, he’s got the footage, and he’s got his own opinions. Ultimately, it’s up to the viewer to decide if what they see is real or simply an aberration.
Along with this partner Jason Hawes, Wilson is the star of the popular SyFy channel program Ghost Hunters, a reality television show that sees the two plumbers turned paranormal investigators search – mostly with the lights turned out, of course – for spectral anomalies everywhere from century-old penitentiaries to the neighbor’s house next door. Opinions, Wilson’s got them, but when it comes to answering the question: “Are ghosts real,” well, that’s up to you.
Wilson and Hawes, founders of The Atlantic Paranormal Society, or TAPS, are coming to the Oct. 20 for a lecture about all things ghost hunting-related, including encounter tales, tips on how to conduct your own paranormal investigations, and a question and answer session.
“The lectures we’ve been doing well before we started the show,” Wilson said during a phone interview Tuesday. “Before the (television) show you’d have 30 people show up but now it’s 3,000. There’s been a definite rise in interest. Most people have an interest but aren’t quite sure how to follow it. How do you investigate the paranormal without being laughed at? Our goal is to raise awareness and to get people out there to participate. The more people investigating the more chance we have at finding out what’s really going on.”
The typical Ghost Hunters lecture crowd consists of plenty of fans, amateur ghost hunters, paranormal enthusiasts, and even a few skeptics, Wilson said. With skeptics Wilson said you get plenty of good questions and honest discussion, even if they leave the show with their doubts intact. Still, their attendance shows that they’re interested in the idea of paranormal activity.
The interest has led to success, as Ghost Hunters is about to begin airing its eighth season of episodes.
No matter the case, most people are at least intrigued by the concept of ghosts and paranormal activity. As far as what happens on the show, Wilson maintains that it’s all legitimate. The clients who contract TAPS usually reach out after witnessing signs of paranormal activity for months.
Sometimes it’s real, Wilson said, plenty of times it’s just an overactive imagination. Around this time of year, especially, the false positives come in droves. As the weather starts to cool in the fall older homes have a tendency to creak and groan more than usual. That, and people start to watch Halloween movies.
“Typically our goal is to find out the truth,” he said, noting that TAPS has done work for all branches of the military. “On the show you see our preliminary investigation; you see us going in and getting a sense of the area, trying to understand what’s going on. Off of the show we go for months sometimes to find out what the problem is.
“We’re not always looking for ghosts, we’re looking for what’s going on.”
The footage captured by television crews during ghost hunts isn’t theatrics but reality, Wilson maintains. He doesn’t get scared, but does admit to being surprised on occasion. While doing most of their work in the dark may seem manipulative, Wilson said that’s how it works when you’re hunting ghosts. Some of the equipment, like infrared cameras, can only be used with the lights off.
It’s not all about expensive equipment, Wilson said. Amateur ghost hunters have several tools at their disposal for their own sleuthing. A compass out of whack can signal a ghostly presence. It’s also a good idea to keep a thermometer handy too as specters can often be found in gold spots.
If you’ve got ghosts, Wilson said it’s not your fault.
“It’s not like people choose the hauntings,” Wilson said. “Hauntings choose them.”