It’s been a few days since the Season Finale of Ghost Stalkers, the Destination America paranormal show I was fortunate enough to be part of, aired on November 20th, 2014. Now that I’ve had a bit of time to reflect upon the experience, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the events that led up to my being asked to participate, the filming itself, and the experience of watching the show.
First of all, why me? I have been a paranormal investigator for several years, and with my ENLiGHT Paranormal team, traveled to Farrar, Iowa, to investigate a purportedly haunted schoolhouse now owned by a couple who lived in a converted apartment within the schoolhouse. I did some background research on the location beyond what was available on the Haunting at Farrar website, and really found myself scratching my head, as there didn’t seem to be any deaths or public documentation of traumatic events associated with the property. It was a huge building with no power beyond the second floor, and we’d never taken on a location with those types of challenges, so if nothing else, we looked at it as a great training opportunity.
After we set up our base, the early parts of the nights were pretty quiet. The discussion of spirit boards came up. My background is in the sciences, so religious and philosophical thought processes aside, I don’t believe in the use of a spirit board as a means of investigation. I want objective data. Stuff I can show you, that we can dissect, look for alternative explanations, rule in/rule out… You know, Science. However, if you died from the early 1900’s through the heyday in the late 1920’s – 30’s, you would expect the living to attempt communication with a spirit board or séance, not a series of electronic devices. Having one present might encourage interaction, and if so, we might be able to document this on our instruments. That was the setup for our experiment. Not what was happening with the board, so much as any changes using the board might create that we could document.
There were only the four of us in the building. Beth and Lacey were seated on the floor and had their hands on the spirit board planchette, while Sandy, also on the floor, recorded the responses as they called them out. I had the EMF, K2, and other recording devices, including a very pricey high-end digital camera, and I was the only team member standing. What happened I can best describe as the sensation of two hands shoving me between my shoulder blades hard enough to send me and my equipment a good six feet across the room. Then it seemed like something cold and heavy pressing down on my back, as if to keep me on the ground. If something wanted to get my attention, it had most definitely succeeded by knocking the wind out of me. We took a few minutes to regroup, as my teammates attempted to photograph the two red marks on my upper back, but then it was right back to investigating. I’ve stayed in contact with my now friends, Jim and Nancy Oliver, the owners of the Farrar School, and have been back a couple of times to participate in special events at the school, including a fundraising event for Stop the Abuse Next Door.
Fast forward to July, 24, 2014. I was contacted first by Nancy, and later in the day by the producer of an as of yet unnamed new paranormal television show for Destination America channel, and asked if I would be interested in coming to Farrar to film for an episode on Tuesday, the 29th. I had surgery scheduled for that day, so they made arrangements to do my interview on the 28th instead. Mind you, I live in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Farrar is a good three plus hours away, near Des Moines, Iowa. Seemed like a great way to keep my mind off the impending operation. Due to the chemotherapy I was also taking at the time, an amazing friend offered to go along and actually do the driving. Nanette Day, thank you again from the bottom of my heart, and the Thai food was sooo good! The plan was to film my portion around 2:30 pm, and I’d be home and in bed before sunset. But the weather had other plans. Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms created flight delays, and we actually started filming at 10:30 pm. My portion involved standing on a mark and answering questions for about an hour and a half. It was hot, and I was weak from chemo, but all in all, the interview went great. The producers and everyone involved with the show were wonderful, and so apologetic for the delays. I was also thrilled to discover that John Tenney and David Rountree, two of the stars of the show, were people within the paranormal community that I knew and respected. The production team kept offering to arrange for us to stay in Des Moines, but I had to be at the hospital for surgery at 6 am. I made it home at about 3 am. Good thing I already planned on sleeping most of the day.
I couldn’t talk about the show until things got close to the actual airing. And that’s a hard thing when you’re excited about a project, and a writer to boot, but when I was notified that the Farrar episode would be the season finale for Ghost Stalkers, I set out to make it a gala event in Lincoln. There wasn’t any advanced screening, so I watched it for the first time live at Down The Hatch, a nearby bar and grill, surrounded by my friends from the writing world and my current paranormal team, the amazing Paracon Investigations. We participated in live Twitter discussions, and had a signature drink, “The Cherry Portal Scream” created for us by Cheri Loughlin, aka, The Intoxicologist.
As for the show itself, I was on massive steroids when we filmed, so worried about how horrible and puffy I would appear on television. I ended up not looking nearly as terrible as I’d envisioned. Television and film are highly collaborative processes with multiple visions coming into play. Did I agree with everything presented by the show? No. I don’t think I summoned a dark force by using the spirit board. The reports of this male spirit pre-dated our investigation. But, that’s the difference between “Reality,” and “Reel-ity” as we say in the film industry. I’ve even gotten a couple of stalker-ish hate messages over the whole deal. As a writer who delves into the darker sides of gritty fiction and horror at times, having a new title of “The Entity Summoner,” could actually work out fairly well, or at least be a fascinating character in a book of some sort. That being said, the experience was overwhelmingly positive. I got to be part of a nationally broadcast television show with great friends, both those I knew from before like John, David, and Johnny Houser, those I met directly as a result of filming, like Chad Lindberg and the production team. I can’t say enough good things about the people involved.
In an ironic twist of fate, I ended up needing admitted into the hospital the day after the show aired. Since then, I’ve also made countless additional connections within the paranormal community. Most have been positive, although I do have to weed through a few that are rather scathing in blaming me for the haunting at the Farrar school. Those aside, here is where the strength of the field lies. In our ability to share what we’ve learned about the afterlife. The scientist in me loves this quote from David Rountree. “What if someday, the paranormal is just an area we didn’t have the science and technology to define at the time?”