I am an intrepid — I mean vicarious — ghost hunter. I boldly watch the ghost hunting shows from the safety of my paranormally inactive home, imagining myself sleuthing about the dank, moldering armpits of the world where bad things have happened and the disembodied may or may not linger.
As a result, I have a fascination with, and admiration for, those who do the do in real life, facing their own internal fears, longings, and metaphysics in an effort to sort the real from the imagined, the numinous from the fallacious.
The granddaddy of all ghost hunting shows is, appropriately enough, Syfy's Ghost Hunters, which was unleashed upon an unsuspecting world in October of 2004. Led by no-nonsense Rhode Islanders Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson — "plumbers by day, ghost hunters by night" — founders of TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), the Ghost Hunters franchise has evolved a solemn ethos of rigorous data and evidence gathering, with the avowed goal of debunking paranormal claims unless the evidence is incontrovertible.
Now entering its sixth season, the series celebrated its 100th episode last Wednesday night with an uncharacteristic flourish: a studio presentation live from NBC's (owner of Syfy) legendary Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, hosted by Josh Gates (of Destination Truth) and featuring the entire active Ghost Hunters crew, as well as stars from spin-offs Ghost Hunters International and Ghost Hunters Academy.
Between the live discussion among Gates, the Hunters, and the studio audience, the team aired their latest investigation, a rip-snorting frolic through the dreaded former federal prison on Alcatraz Island.
Eric: You guys put the genre on the map in terms of being taken seriously, and that’s an amazing thing really.
Kris and Amy: Thank you. The big thing for us is being skeptics and going into it to find out what’s going on . What we find is what we find – either people believe it or they don’t. We don’t put on an act – what you see is what you get. We’re very serious – unless it’s Steve and Tango! We have a good time, but we’re very passionate about finding the truth.
Let’s move on to the really important stuff: if you snoop around on the Internet and check out the fan sites, you are the ghost hunting babes! How did this come to be? How do you feel about that? Reveling in your supernatural hotness and all.
Kris: We don’t feel “hot” most of the time. Usually we don’t have nice hair and clothes on – we’re climbing through all kinds of crazy little tunnels and basements, and running from bats.
Amy: Yes, everyone pretty much sees us at our worst so I don’t know how this happened. We’re both very curious about how this happened, but it’s interesting – that’s for sure!
[Laugh] We watch very closely to see what things change and it seems like you both have become a bit more fashionable, perhaps, over time. I would imagine that’s just something you’re doing on your own.
Kris: When I came into it I had been a flooring installer and carpenter for three years. I was a bit of a tomboy until this one [Amy] started, and she ruined me with the shopping and the clothes!
Amy: That’s what happened – we just started shopping more and that’s why we started wearing cuter clothes. It’s going to make me go broke!
Now that’s banner news – there’s my headline! Imagine how many people will be excited to hear that! How did each of you actually get on the show and how long have you each been on?
Kris: I came in halfway through third season – so it’s coming up on three years. I had been friends with Jay and Grant for three or four years before Ghost Hunters started, and they had had their TAPS team together for quite a while. I was very interested in what they did; a few members left and they needed more people – they wanted a female, they didn’t have a female on their team at that point. I had been a genealogist since I was 11 and they thought my background would help with researching locations that we were investigating.
Amy: I met Jay and Grant because I was part of a TAPS family group in California and over time I met Kris through them and we were all friends. I worked with them on a few side projects, and eventually the time came when they wanted a sixth member and they wanted a girl because Kris was lonely and outnumbered, and they asked me if I would be interested in joining the team. I did and it’s been about a year and a half and it’s been working out really well. We have a great team!
You sure do! And you two do a great job. There is a different feel when you two work together and you do approach things somewhat differently, a feminine approach to ghost hunting. Any thoughts on that? Do you feel you approach it any differently?
Kris: I think so, maybe because we try to be more understanding, more maternal.
Amy: Except for when Kris provokes, which I don’t like [laughs]. Other than that, maybe be tend to be more approachable than some of the guys. If some of these entities are scared or nervous or not know what’s going on, it might be easier for them to talk to a woman. That might be why Kris and I are very successful with our EVP work.
Kris: And I know when I came into it, I said, “I’m not going to be one of those girls who screams and runs and cries,” and Amy is the same way. So you don’t really get that with us. Every now and then you’ll get some cussing like a sailor when something will throw us off, but for the most part I think we do as well as the guys do in terms of not being frightened.
Absolutely! You guys are tough! I think that’s part of the appeal: you’re attractive, and have a quiet charisma – both of you – and yet you’re tough, you’re ballsy!
Kris and Amy: [Laughs] Well, thank you! Nothing scares us. Not only are all the guys on the show, um, guys, but the crew also. We were on the road with 17 guys nonstop – you’ve got to be able to hang.
I bet you were lonely, Kris, before Amy came along!
Kris: I was the only girl for months, then we had a girl on the crew for a while. Then Amy came, and Allie on the crew, so now there are three of us.
You’ve crashed through the glass ceiling of ghost hunting! How do you reconcile the various implications of what you do in your mind? Religious, philosophical, etc. In other words, if these things are true, how do you deal with your interactions with these entities on a personal level? For a lot of people, they would be existentially terrified.
Kris: We try to focus on gathering the evidence rather than the religious or philosophical implications. We talk directly to the entities, letting them know we have encountered other people like them and that they’re not alone. We focus on almost what you could call “counseling,” talking person to person with them, letting them know we go all over the country looking for people just like them, and if they are confused or scared they’re not alone. That’s really all we can do. We can’t prove their existence definitively, but if they’re there, we want to help them in some way.
Amy: There’s really no right way or wrong way of doing it. At each location we are skeptics first, we do our best to debunk the claims that have been given. Either there’s nothing going on and there’s nothing to explain, or something crazy happens that you didn’t expect and it keeps you going for the rest of the night and it makes you look forward to the next investigation.
It’s been a lot of fun: I’ve had quite a few experiences I can’t explain, and I’m really interested in what might happen next!
Have you ever had the sense that you have helped someone/something “move on”?
Kris: We’ll never say we can help someone “move on” because we don’t even know if that's something they need to do. Sometimes families will have their homes blessed because that makes them feel better, and sometimes that seems to eliminate the paranormal activity. We have no proof that that works, and the only thing we can do is help the family understand what’s going on in their home, help them find other explanations if there are any, and then whatever is there, try to counsel them a bit. There are so many unanswered questions, there’s just no way we can guarantee that we can help something or someone “move on.”
What are our thoughts on the theory that there are three kinds of entities or energies: residual, intelligent, demonic?
Kris: there are negative entities out there but I’m not sure I’m ready to call them “demons,” but there are definitely negative entities.