Tuesday, November 5, 2013

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE


"Woke up this morning, can't believe what I saw...a hundred billion bottles, washed up on the shore..."

- The Police, Message in a Bottle


This was the way my Halloween began this year; with the words penned by Sting playing out as I wiped the cobwebs from my mind.  I'm no psychic, but I knew something was amiss.  What that was, I had no idea.  Would it be trick or treat?

I found out soon enough as I logged onto Facebook for my daily dose of cat memes and status line therapy posts.  John had posted that Haunted Collector would not be coming back and that elicited hundreds of responses lamenting the news.  Texts and tweets began pouring in about it and I was overwhelmed at first...I needed some confirmation of my own.  It came in the form of an email from our production company.  It was true.  What a way to kick off the biggest day of the year for a paranormal investigator.  So, I wrote a post of my own wishing everyone a Happy Halloween and that I would gather my thoughts about it soon.  These are those thoughts, on what may be my last blog entry for a while.

Where do I begin?  How can I sum up the experience of a lifetime within just a few paragraphs?  We had three seasons of incredible adventures, both on and off camera.  I visited places I never thought I'd ever see.  I experienced things that forced me to expand my mind concerning the paranormal as well as the way we examine it.  The friendships made, the laughs we had, the hard times and the trying times...the way the public responded to us, the people we were able to help, the fans and friends at the events and conventions...all of this and more is woven into the fabric that is Haunted Collector.  For me, it was and is much more than a television show.  Our adventures, our lives, continue even now that the cameras aren't rolling.  We're paranormal investigators, we're a group of friends and above all we're a family unit.  No network can dissolve that bond, ratings be damned.

Season One cast, minus John

In this bittersweet moment of farewell, I exist in the unusual dichotomy of duality...and perhaps I am experiencing the phases of loss simultaneously.  I will miss the show, I'll miss the Wednesday nights live-Tweeting with viewers and the interaction with everyone whose lives we touched through it.  I'm saddened that we got cut-off mid stride because I felt we weren't done yet...there was still more to do.  I'm angry that the politics of those in the power positions in the production companies and networks caused this.  I've tried to bargain in my mind the ways we could avoid this, save it, keep it going and as I see these feelings echoed online, I know it is all for naught.  As a logical being, these feelings are natural, but counter-productive.  So I choose to focus on the positive.  You won't see me pointing fingers nor threatening a tell-all of the shenanigans that often seem to come to light after premature cancellations.  I was given the opportunity of a lifetime and I am grateful for the gift.  Daily, I am contacted by scores of people wanting to be on TV and asking me how they can do it.  I wasn't looking to be on TV and somehow I ended up on it.  I'm aware of the list of people who despise me for it, but even that I am thankful for.  Your ire strengthens me and drives me forward.

Season Two cast

The honor was mine to follow John Zaffis, my friend, my mentor, my brother on adventures that changed my perspective on many things.  In addition to the paranormal aspect of the show, I got to work with some of the hardest working crews in the business.  I can't adequately describe how hard these people worked, from the camera and sound guys, to the producers and the editors and even the production assistants.  Always smiling, always upbeat, always dedicated.  Their work ethic was an inspiration and to all of you cats, I thank you - you made us look like rock stars weekly on TV.



Recently, I was asked how long I'll keep Haunted Collector on my profile.  It struck me as an obnoxious question at first.  I've seen actors in one episode of Star Trek's original run in the 60's show up at conventions signing pictures from back in the day.  I've always been an avid sic fi fan and con goer and I would enjoy seeing them, but I too would ask myself, "How long are they going to milk that appearance for?"  Am I now one of them?  I don't feel that way, no.  The difference here is that those actors were playing a role.  No one on Star Trek has ever been in space.  The extended Zaffis Clan really experienced the things you saw bits of on TV.  We lived it.  We have lessons to pass on.  Everything I live through gets added to my arsenal of wisdom, so the answer to the question must be, "forever".  I coined the internet hashtag #Collectors to identify those fans of our show and I too will always be a #Collector.

Season Three cast

Given this, I am forced to acknowledge another truth about our society - television and entertainment are dominant forces in many of our lives.  Much of our information we get from the internet and TV.  Go ahead and dispute it, resist it, but the fact that you're reading this now lends credibility to the statement.  The paranormal community is getting bigger all the time and it is an unfortunate truth that many of the newcomers get their education of such primarily through the para shows.  I've always said, let the shows be the inspiration for you, but be sure to read, research, get mentored and then do more reading.  Never let the TV be your sole educator.  Being on one of the shows, this message was taken to heart and the things we tried to show about process and concepts was digested by the masses.  At conventions, I would try to further this by giving as much information as I could about the topics, to the point of overwhelming the audience.  The sad reality though, is that without the show, the message will be harder to get out now.  Will the new blood care what I have to say without a TV show at my back?  This remains to be seen and I hope to be proven wrong.



I'm not good at goodbyes and I'm not a fan of change...so it's difficult to know how to wrap this up.  What I do know is that we'll all continue to do what we've been doing - you'll just have to look a little harder to find us.  Just know that out there somewhere, the Zaffis Clan, be it together or separately, is doing well.  John Zaffis, Aimee Zaffis, Chris Zaffis, Beth Ezzo, Jason Gates, Jesslyn Brown and myself - veterans still in the service.  All week people have been telling me that, "When one door closes, another one opens".  I don't subscribe to that adage.  When a door closes, you have a closed door, that's all.  It's what you do about it that defines your situation.  But you can bet that we'll all be knocking on, kicking down and creating new doors for the future.  Count on it.

"Seems I'm not alone in being alone - a hundred billion castaways looking for a home..."

Never goodbye, more like, "See you later..."

Friday, April 19, 2013

EPISODE 307: Ghosts of Geneva/ Fort Fear


Once again we found ourselves in my home state, this time in the town of Geneva.  The more I explore New York, the more I appreciate it.  It may be known as the Empire State (the Star Wars geek in me revels in that fact), but so much of it is "Small Town, USA" that people forget there is more to New York than Manhattan and the stereotypical Italian/NY accent.  But while I'm in this New York state of mind, let's delve into this case.


Charged with battery
• One of the reports that came to us regarding this case centered around a battery that allegedly exploded for no reason.  When we arrived at the house, I got a chance to examine it as I listened to the tale of how it happened.  It appeared to be melted in some places, burned in others, but all in all not too worse for wear.  I noticed that it was a "no frills" brand and in my years in the field, I've learned the hard way that you must spend an extra dollar or two for one of the Big Two Brands, or else you'll have dead equipment soon enough.  But in this case, was it something attempting to communicate that caused the battery to discharge more than its voltage?  Unless we got an EVP from a spirit claiming responsibility for the act, it would be impossible to say.  Given the other things that have happened in the house, it's an interesting anecdote, if nothing else.

No shirt, no shoes, no evidence
• In the office on the first floor, where Margaret has all her family research, Chris and I were doing a full spectrum sweep.  While nothing jumped out at us in UV or IR, one of the toys on a nearby table took a dive.  It was a little, monster action figure and it seemed to just jump off of it's own accord.  At first I thought it may have been the vibrations from us walking into the room that caused it, but that was not so.  Nothing else had moved and it wasn't like it leaned back and forth and then tipped over.  It jumped!  I trained the full spectrum camera on it and we even called John in (as we do often) but we were unable to determine what caused it.  Oh, and here's a little fourth wall demolition - the cameraman had no shoes on.  People often ask about the cameramen when it comes to things moving or falling and that's a valid inquiry but in this case, as it was muddy outside, the whole crew just had socks on.

"It touched you, where?!"
 • Now I have to watch the episode again, since I was busy live tweeting during it, but I don't recall them showing John and I in the living room on Night Two.  After his posterior probing experience on the couch, John brought me in to examine it to see if I could explain how it happened - power recliner, nearby wires, etc  Needless to say, I found nothing out of the ordinary and we decided to conduct an EVP session there to get a confession (again, I'm looking for ghosts to take responsibility for their actions...lol).  I tend to lose command of the English language when I'm in a session with John.  His many years of experience and his expertise continue to humble me, so I tend to stay quiet and let him lead the session.  Even when he asks me to throw a question out there, I find myself stammering and asking something repetitively basic.  This time, however, we had no problems going back and forth with our line of questioning.  I had the REM pod extension on my Mel activated during this and it seemed to be responding to my questions. That is, until Jason called from the prison.  That momentary break was all that was needed to sever the tie to whomever I was communing with, if indeed it was a "whom" and not just coincidence.  I'm going to have to go over that audio again because if I'm remembering correctly, there were some funny puns flying during that session...another reason it got cut, I'll wager.




It had been a cold winter thus far and Detroit was no exception.  The sun shone brightly each day, but offered no warmth to our traveling cadre of Collectors.  Having just come from the beaches and the heat of Puerto Rico, we were not in the best of spirits to deal with the temperatures of the North.  John had been to Fort Wayne before and he told us tales of the activity there - the fact that things had taken a darker turn made us put aside our desire for comfort and got our heads in the game.

Sun that offers no warmth
 • Did I mention the cold?  Well, that's too simple a term; frigid or arctic would serve better.  No matter how much we layered up, the wind coming off the water cut through our sweaters and jackets and made it seem like we were wearing shorts and tank tops.  This was definitely a factor during the investigation, since it's hard to listen for EVPs when your body is shivering and your teeth are chattering.  The areas in the fort we were in had little or no heat, so even when we came in from outside  it was only to escape the ever-present wind.  While it's impossible to investigate in "ideal conditions" all the time, it is important to note all the things that can affect your body and thus, your perception.  If it's fifteen degrees outside, you're not going to feel any "cold spots".  Your body is concerned with survival - you will shiver involuntarily to generate warmth - those personal experiences such as being touched, tugged or anything of the sort are now off the table.

Sneaking Sally through the alley
 • The one sense I was sure would not be affected by the cold was my sight.  Maybe my hearing as well, but it was sight that served me the best at Fort Wayne.  The first spot I found myself investigating was one of the sally ports.  The term "sally port" hails back to medieval times.  It refers to a door, or access point to the side or back of a fortress, smaller than the main gate.  If the fortress was being attacked, the defenders could deploy troops from that port and try and flank the enemy force.  The action of marching out to battle this way was called, "sallying forth" and thus the door was a "sally port".  Chris and I spent a lot of time in the sally ports.  We kept hearing banging sounds as if something were hitting into the doors and walls.  At one point, we felt like someone was in there with us and we ran throughout the tunnels to try and corner whomever it was but we came up empty.  Then we conducted an EVP session at the intersection of two of the tunnels.  Upon listening back to it, we heard an inexplicable sound - just then, Chris and I saw something pass in front of the tunnel entrance.  Was it a producer?  John or Aimee?  Or even a homeless person cutting across the grounds?  It was too dark to tell, so we decided to go look.  Moving quickly and silently, we emerged from the tunnel only to find that the figure had already crossed the grounds and was over by the main building.  It seemed unlikely for a human to cover that distance so fast, so we gave chase!  The shadowy figure then bolted around the corner and towards the gate.  We ran until we found ourselves over by the prison house.  I guess this didn't make it in the cut due to time constraints, or the fact that Chris and I were red-faced and out of breath by the time we lost track of it.  I thank the editors for maintaining the illusion that we're in-shape!

Here is a bonus scene depicting one of those chases:



Fort Chon John
 • I'm a movie buff.  I quote movies a lot as part of my everyday speech.  I'd do well as a Family Guy character, but it irks my producers as so much of my dialogue gets cut because of it.  Honestly, I don't know why...said movies and shows do not own the words I'm speaking out of context.  I've gotten a few through over the years, I'll have to make a list of what made it someday.  But off camera, Chris and I amused ourselves with a Jackie Chan quote from Shanghai Noon: in the movie his name was Chon Wang, pronounced like "John Wayne".  Because we were in Fort Wayne, that's all we found ourselves able to say the whole time.  "Chon Wang"  "That's a horrible cowboy name, that'd never work!" As I've admitted to in previous entries, we're silly.  Guilty as charged.

• More scenes you didn't see: inside the jail house, it seems like we came in, then immediately ran back out after the shadow again.  We spent a considerable amount of time in there doing EVP sessions, a ghost box session as well as deploying a few REM pods and a REM pad.  In addition to the pencils in the office falling to the floor, a pile of wood near the furnace fell as well.  Was it a sign from beyond or merely gravity?  I concluded it was the latter, but the timing of all the things falling was intriguing.  We also kept hearing banging noises on the walls.  We thought that perhaps it was a tree branch hitting the side of the building or a (very heavy) squirrel on the roof.  I even went outside to see if I could reproduce those noises by banging on the walls and windows, but it did not match up.  The first night Chris and I investigated in there and the second night we returned with Jason.  Remember, just because you didn't see it, doesn't mean it didn't happen! :)

Speaking of things unseen, there was a tank parked nearby that I very much wanted to get into.  I saw it but never got close to it, much less in it.  Equip that bad boy with some EMF meters and a particle thrower and I'd be ready to take on any urban terrain investigation!

Living in a box
 • Because I was assigned the outer reaches of the fort to investigate, I spent little time in the main building.  I got to explore it a little bit as the production crew was setting up interviews and other shots I wasn't needed for.  I forgot my flashlight at the hotel, so I wandered around in the dark for most of it.  it was kind of cool to do it that way - only my senses to guide me and the hope that I didn't fall into an open shaft or something else equally as dangerous.  It reminded me very much of the "Nightmares Fear Factory" in Niagra Falls that Jesslyn and I went to...wandering around in the dark, arms outstretched, moving from corridor to corridor by feel.  Some sections had light filtering in from the outside and some of the lights in the old displays were on, but for the most part it was dark.  There were a lot of historical boards and educational kiosks throughout the barracks.  I'm hoping they get to fix it up and open it again to the public as a museum of some sort.  History is an important thing to remember and as far as Fort Wayne goes, it is rich in that even without the haunted element being involved.  It can be said that we are all haunted by the past and by learning from it, we can grow and continue to develop.


I think that's all I have to say about these two cases for the time being.  It's been too long since I've assembled a blog entry so it's still coming out a bit rusty.  You'd think my stint in Writer's Jail would have oiled those literary gears in my brain to turn a bit faster, but I think I'm still warming up.  I'll be going back to write entries for the first half of this season as well as going back to finish the entries from last season.  Hey, what do you expect?  We're not even out on DVD, this might be the only extra content you ever see from Haunted Collector.  Hmm, we're going to have to do something about that...

See you next week, for "Shadow Boxer/ Ghost Storm".

EPISODE 302: Cigar Bar Spirits/ Child's Play



The adventures of the extended Zaffis Clan have taken me to many points across our nation and even as far west as Hawaii, but ironically it took us three seasons to get as far east as Boston.  We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in Ohio and Connecticut, so it was a real treat to visit Beantown and experience a major city I had never been to.  "Never been to Boston before??", you might say.  How is it possible that a movie nut like myself has never been to the setting of Cheers, Good Will Hunting and The Departed?  I've never been to the moon or Middle Earth either, so sue me.  When I got into my hotel room, as is my custom, the first thing I do is set my luggage down and turn on HBO.  What movie was on?  Knight and Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.  Ironically, it was a scene where they were racing through Boston, over a bridge...I look out my window and I see that very bridge, sans Cruise and Diaz, of course.  But that's not what you came here to read...allow me to get to the case.

The journey continues
 • There is so much famous history in Boston and especially the North End, where our case was located.  Honestly, I was surprised about the layout of this part of town.  Having been in countless cities and towns over the past three years I just assumed Boston would be more of the same - hell, even Maui had a Taco Bell and a WalMart within its borders.  But I found it to be very European, with thin, winding side streets barely wide enough for a single car, bistros, bakeries and bike riders everywhere.  The chain stores and restaurants I was used to seeing were nowhere to be found and that was strangely comforting.  I was forced to go outside my norm and try different things...like Boston Clam Chowder, for starters.  Because of the parking situation around the case, we had to walk to and from the hotel each day, which was just fine with all of us.  My path took me through the Paul Revere Mall (not a shopping center), past the Old North Church, by an old graveyard and over the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge (not the easiest name to remember).  Corny as it sounds, I really could feel the echoes of the past reverberating off of every brick in the road, every tree that swayed in the wind.  Be it factual or the result of my thinking about it, it made my time there so much richer.

That's damn right
 • Our first day there, we were slated to film the opening introduction, where John says, "Welcome to..." wherever we were.  Here, it was to be shot at the Paul Revere Mall, the walkway you see in the above main cast picture.  But seemingly minutes before we were to start shooting, a protest group came along and covered much of the area with tomatoes.  The funny thing was that no one saw it happen, they just all showed up - one minute the mall was empty and then it wasn't.  To my knowledge we hadn't angered the Tomato God so I didn't know why his minions were marching on us.  The producers grumbled and retreated into an emergency meeting to decide how this would be handled.  In the mean time, Jason and I noticed a guy lurking across the street - he was connected to this somehow.  Perhaps he was a familiar of one of the Tomato Lords and was staying behind to make sure the troops remained undisturbed.  We decided to corner and question him.  It was then that is was revealed that this was a protest against some agricultural company involved with the city.  Our production schedule was an unfortunate victim of collateral damage by this particular protest.  We were assured that this would all be cleared away by the end of the day, pushing our intro back to the last day of shooting.  We got the scene in the can, but it was ultimately cut.

Collector's Paradise
 • While I'm on the subject of cut scenes, one thing you will notice about Season Three is the absence of the baseline sweep.  I bitched about that from the moment I found out they were not being used to this day.  Chris and I spend so much time canvasing each location and finding logical explanations for much of the reports that I feel it's important to show even some of it.  That and the fact that for many viewers, if they don't see it, they assume it has not been done.  Let me assure you, I have done plenty this season that will never see a final cut.  At the cafe, we checked out the reports of cups and dishes flying off the shelves, the spinning wheel of the coffee grinder as well as the tommy gun encased above the back steps.  There was so much to see and so much to check off the list there, I can understand why much of it got cut, but I would love it if even a montage of the baseline was put back in, just to show the scope of what was done.

To the producer's credit, we bitched enough about wanting extra content and cut scenes shown that they began posting them on SyFy.com last season.  Here is one from the Cigar Bar:



Extended family
 • I feel it's something I've answered many times, but it warrants repeating here.  I get asked all the time how much John sells the items he removes for, or why don't they get compensated for the removal, or a million other finance-related inquiries.  I instantly get heated when I hear these questions...not because I don't encourage questioning, but it's the fact that money is the first thing that pops into everyone's heads.  None of what we do is for the money.  Yes, we're on a TV show and we get paid to be on it, but the only people making out like fat cats here are the production companies and the network.  It's all about advertising dollars for them.  For us, it's about the investigation, the evidence and helping those who asked us for it.  When John removes an item, it's not for personal, or financial gain - it's to help the victims.  People who have been tormented by negative activity are like addicts in many ways...the chance for relapse is very high in those early days after we remove the item.  The item itself is not an expensive trinket with a dollar value, it's a representation of pain or discomfort and many of the people we help are very eager to see those items go.  There are those who complain down the road, but it's usually by those who were looking for something other than help...and I'll leave it at that.




The cases in this episode were flopped in production.  That is to say, the Wappingers Falls case was filmed before the Boston case.  It was our third case back and it already felt like an old glove.  The team fell into their roles comfortably and all the old jokes became funny again.  After this one we were headed to Boston and then home for Thanksgiving, so already there was a feeling of, "We're going home soon..." in the air.  Three of our first four cases were in New York so for me, I was never far from home.

Local Support
 • The week this episode aired, The Poughkeepsie Journal did an article about our time there.  Unfortunately, the paper is a smaller one and they no longer have the full article online.  It's nice when local news outlets are interested in us and our show.  Being from NYC and not being on one of the two "Big Shows", I'd have to kidnap a politician's pet or leak a sex tape to get any press around here.  To make the waters even muddier, there was a sort of de facto block on the media with us.  Any time a news crew or reporter would show up, we'd get herded into holding, as if it were a quarantine zone.  Personally, I feel the more they write about us, the better - let's get the word out there, even if it's one small, local paper at a time.  When it comes to press and our producers, I'd rather ask for forgiveness than permission.

The Everman Ethan
 • The audience is very inquisitive when it comes to procedure and how long we spent in a place; did we try X or Y, or why didn't we show A or B?  Maybe one day we'll air a 26-hour long episode of Haunted Collector and then they'll be sorry!  Seriously though, I have to give a huge amount of respect to the unsung (yet well paid) cameramen who make us look like rock stars every week.  For every EVP session that does not get shown, there is a cameraman, a sound tech and a producer in the area, sitting in silence, letting us do our thing.  Usually only the cameraman is with us, so that means if we're getting responses or craziness coming through, they are there with us for all of it.  At the Drahos house, Chris and I spent a lot of time in the basement - with Ethan, the third man to our A-Team with us the whole time.  So why are certain things cut when they seem so important to the case?  To let the editors off the hook for a moment, I will say that in the basement a lot happened - but not a lot of it was captured on camera.  What do we say all the time?  Paranormal activity does not occur on command - there is no "action" call for the supernatural, it happens when it happens.  Down here, it happened almost exclusively when Ethan was running out of tape or battery life.  If I recall correctly, he went through three tapes and two batteries while Chris and I were in the basement.  Psst...just to let you know, the tapes record for 45 minutes.  Much of the, "holy crap" moments occurred as he waited for someone to bring him fresh assets.  Some things we can redo, such as reactions, other things we cannot.  C'est la vie, Collector.

Condensation confusion
 • Let's discuss the casket plate for a moment.  Of all the cases we've been on and all the items we've discovered, I was the most confused by this one.  We've gotten errant readings on the thermal before that have alerted us to items being charged with energy of that unknown type, but this time is came complete with condensation!  In the past, it's just been a reading and it typically seems to be an inverse one...if it reads very hot, it tends to actually be cool and vice versa (although a warm object being paranormal seems to be rare given the energy it would require to heat it up).  Never before has there been a secondary indicator - now with the casket plate, the condensation was the cause of the reading, but what was the cause of the condensation?  Nothing else on that wall was affected.  John brought the item to an expert and a possible solution was arrived at, but in my mind, I'm still at the top of those stairs, wondering what the hell caused the condensation!  I remember last season while we were on the road we had four cases in a row that each had something to do with the four basic elements of the earth: air, fire, earth and water.  I also remember asking John if an elemental could be responsible for any of them, or possibly a djinn.  He didn't actually answer me, he just raised an eyebrow, gave me that patented John Zaffis Mystery stare and ran his fingertips through his beard.  I've come to learn that when he does not answer me, he's deep in thought and whatever I've said has put him into archive mode, as he searches for the answer in a past case.  Now I'm not saying that there is a water elemental at the Drahos House, I'm just considering all of the possibilities since I have so little to go on.  officially, on the record, I still consider that portion of the case very much open.

Miss Fanny's Party House
 • One of the common questions I'm asked is, "Of the cases you do, how many are residential and how many are business?"  For the show, it's about 50/50.  The top of this episode was the Cigar Bar, a business and even though Julia runs events at her house, it is still a residence.  Because of that, I can safely say that the place will never be totally free from activity.  I just hope that us being there helped reduce the negative activity there.  Given that it's not too far from me, I may have to stop in again in the future and see how things are there for myself, when the cameras are off.



So that was episode two of Season Three.  It's weird to refer to it that way...those were times of my life where I learned, I laughed, I lived.  To boil it down to a unit of reference, to be packaged on the shelf and indexed feels...sterile.  If I could only hook my brain to a USB port and share with you all that colored those days you'd see so much more.  But, that's why I started this blog, to give you guys even a sliver of that extra stuff, be it from the case or from my perspective during it.  Now if the other five would do the same, we'd really have a compendium of craziness at our fingertips!  See you next episode, "Ghost Behind Bars/ Haunted Brothel".

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Initializing...

I've been lazy.  I've been devoid of inspiration.  I just got out of "Writer's Jail" (that's another story) so it's in my best interest to not let my literary outlet lag.  They may drag me bag.  That being said, give me another day or two and I will get back on the recaps with a vengeance!  Seriously!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

EPISODE 207: Casino Phantom/California Nightmare



Finally, the Haunted Collector Crew hit Vegas, where we all got little sleep, had an incredible time and somehow managed to leave with our wallets and our sanity in tact.  Most of my memories there have nothing to do with the paranormal.  I can recall EVPs being captured that were not used in the final edit, moments of terror in the dark as well as the usual antics between the Ziggity and the rest of us, but it's all being overshadowed by the table games, the zip lining and the glitz and glamour of Sin City.  What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but here are some of the fun memories that will undoubtedly bring me back there some day.


Vegas: Night One
 • We had only been in Vegas a couple of hours.  I had only had my new iPhone for a few days.  We'd been sitting in a casino pub for some time waiting for our food to arrive...the service was lousy and to kill time I was trying to comprehend the cultural black hole known as Twitter.  The network had wanted us to use it and now that I owned a smart phone (I was amongst the last hold-outs to the cell phone revolution) I could play with apps and all this cool, new toy had to offer me.  Friends of mine would tell me how famous people would "follow" them on Twitter and it seemed like an interesting concept.

From the moment I found out we would be filming in Vegas, I had asked everyone on the production staff if they had connections to get tickets to see The Beatles: Love or David Copperfield.  I'm a huge David Copperfield fan.  I was when I was young and I remain one to this day.  Why?  Well, what grabbed me about his specials were the amazing tricks, the great soundtrack, the pretty girls - what's not to like?  Magicians today seem to do silly things like starve themselves or other stunts that have nothing to do with "magic" and when they do, I find myself going, "Yeah, I've seen David Copperfield do it - and with more style!"  I was in Vegas and I wanted to see his show.  But it seemed like the Hollywood clan was able to talk endlessly about connections and people they knew until it came time to producing them...talk is certainly cheap and in Vegas none of them could ante up.  So there I sat in the pub, waiting for our food and I found myself on Twitter.  It's been my opinion that Twitter would not be for me since I didn't really have anything to say that anyone would care to hear, and certainly not in 140 characters!  But the words of my friend echoed in my head about connecting with celebrities and I decided to cast the line out there with the tweet, "I'm in Vegas and all I want to do is see David Copperfield - anyone have a connection?"  To my amazement, not ten minutes had passed when I got the response, "I do. Can you be at the MGM in twenty minutes?"  Now remember, Twitter was still very new to me, as was this whole smart phone business.  It took me a second to realize who it was from...@D_Copperfield...it was from the man himself!  I was dumbfounded and I gaped at the screen for long minutes before I held it out to Chris and Jesslyn, muttering feverishly.  Finally I was able to blurt it out, "DAVID COPPERFIELD JUST TWEETED ME!!!"

Why I now love Twitter
 What followed was a whirlwind of awesomeness.  We went back and forth with a few direct messages and within minutes we were on our feet ready to run!  Just then our food arrived!  Isn't that the way?  We quickly settled the bill and took off running through the maze of the casino and out to the street where we hailed the first cab we saw and piled in.  Racing across town to the MGM Grand Hotel, the driver performed like a pro, handling the car skillfully like a race car driver, or perhaps even a New York cabbie.  He got us to the hotel in record time and we once again found ourselves running, zig-zagging through the crowds of people and navigating another casino maze.  One of his assistants was waiting for us at the theater entrance.  After identifying myself he promptly ushered us inside and to a table at the front and center of the audience!  The lights dimmed and the show began - many of the tricks I'd seen him do on TV many times before but here in person, mere feet from me, I was amazed all over again.  It was an incredible performance.  He is still very much at the top of his game and the music was still cool and the girls were pretty as ever.  Awesome.  When the show ended, we were invited backstage to meet him and get autographs.  We chatted briefly and then we thanked him and left.  We had only been in Vegas a few hours.  Already it had been a magical experience...literally.  All thanks to Twitter.  Maybe this smart phone thing wouldn't be as bad as I had thought...

What about the Twinkie?
 • The expression, "Winner winner, chicken dinner" allegedly originated here at Binion's.  Where did I learn that from?  The beginning of the movie 21 with Jim Sturgess and Kevin Spacey.  We were in Vegas and blackjack was obviously on my mind.  I had planned on staying away from the tables, but it was difficult...our brief stint at the Belterra in Indiana woke the sleeping monster.  But we were a long way from the friendly and loose casinos of the Midwest.  Vegas smiles at you, but waits patiently for you to hand over your wallets, your jewels and anything else of value you might possess.  It's like a voluntary mugging and the general populace is thrilled to oblige.  It would be easier to resist if it weren't so damn fun!  And what did I see the minute I walked into the hotel?  A Ghostbusters slot machine!  I despise slot machines...there is no skill, there is no strategy, you just have to hope you get lucky.  But this machine...it had the music, the sounds, the pictures - everything - from Ghostbusters...I was powerless to resist.  I sat down, put in one dollar and it spit out seventy-five.  I smiled and immediately cashed out.  Take that, Vegas!  Brian - 1, casino - 0.  Let's see how long I could keep that score going. ;)

 • So much of this blog will be about personal memories, not case-relevant memories, I figured I would attach a deleted scene.  It features another Brian, who is telling me about something he experienced.  It's also one of the few interviews I got to conduct on the show...many of the ones I did got cut.  Must be a Brian thing, huh?



10pm, time for Queen
 • I haven't mentioned my hotel room in some time...I thought I'd give everyone a break from that constant consideration of mine.  But we were in old Vegas, in an old casino/hotel so while the accommodations may have once been luxurious, they were just about standard these days.  Outside my window was the video ceiling of the Freemont Experience.  It was a fun and exciting street to be next to.  At night time, there would be hourly presentations and music videos - my favorite of which was the tribute to Queen.  Nothing quite like "We Will Rock You" blasting at full volume with a three-block long video screen displaying images to get you pumped.  Whenever they would flash the names of the band members I'd try to get the larger-than-life "BRIAN" (for Queen guitarist Brian May) captured in a photo...alas, with no success.  Ironic, isn't it?  I can snag snippets of the supernatural but when it comes to a video screen that repeats every night at the same time, I just can't get it together.  Speaking of the spiritual, even though the hotel wasn't on par with the likes of The Bellagio, even I felt the echoes of the past in every hallway.  It truly was an interesting stay.

• "You guys - what have you got against Terry Benedict?" Despite my blackjack addition, my obsession with movies is greater and the entire time we were in Vegas I found myself quoting the Ocean's Eleven movies.  I even begged - PLEADED - with the director to close out the episode with a scene of us watching the fountain show in front of The Bellagio and one by one us all walking away.  The request was met with the usual response: a smile, a chuckle and Johnny Haug going, "Heh.  Yeah." and then moving on to another topic.

Post-fetus position
 • I started the visit off with the thrill of meeting one of my childhood idols.  I wanted to end it with a thrill of a different sort.  The whole time we were at the Freemont Experience, we'd all seen tourists flying above us on the ziplines and I knew that before we left, I would do it.  That last day, I must have ridden the line four or five times.  Much like a roller coaster or log flume, they take your picture as you're hurtling towards the end - and just like those other pictures there is no way you can look dignified in them.  I forget now how we came up with this, but given that fact, Jay and I decided that we might as well pose in the silliest position we could for the camera.  That position was the fetal position and as we launched ourselves off the platform, we cried out to the crowd below, "WE'RE GOING FULL FETAL!"  I'm laughing even now as I write this, but it was even funnier then.  Ironically, the cameras never caught us in the position...just me in various scowls...I guess I just always look that way.






From Vegas, we continued west to California.  We drove through the desert until we reached the mountains and the valley beyond...our destination: San Dimas.  Whoa.  I was determined to get a Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure reference into the episode somehow, but I don't think I succeeded.  Thus far I had not gotten my Seven quote, "What's in the box?!" on air, so I'd have to try some different tactics.  But I didn't see how Chris or I would be able to work, "Be excellent to each other" naturally into the conversation of the scenes.  Maybe during season three I'll find a way to sneak them by the editors.

Solid Gould
 • After saying goodbye to him in Michigan, we were reunited with one of our audio guys, Mark Gouldy.  Given the size of the estate and the multiple buildings we'd need to get the IR cameras into, I was happy to have him with us again.  In the episode you saw the main house and the smaller house on the side.  But we also had checked out another building on the road leading up the driveway. As I've explained in the past, if an avenue of our investigation doesn't lead anywhere, it typically hits the cutting room floor.  Chris and I did a lot of exploring the nearby grounds following up on claims of activity but we came up empty.  Since we were outside I took my super flashlight with me.  The thing is as powerful as a spotlight and it's been nicknamed the "Bat Signal" because of its strength.  Well, while I was outside I made the mistake of doing just that - shining it up into the night sky.  Immediately, the production crew ran over to tell me to turn it off - because in California, a beacon like that meant that there was trouble or someone needed help.  I was skeptical, but their words were shortly verified when a police helicopter came flying over the estate.  They shone no light towards the ground nor did they attempt to call down.  But they did fly around in a wide circle for about fifteen minutes before leaving.  I was asked firmly by the director to not do that again...

Shake it up.
 • I don't always use my laptop on cases, but it came out this time to make use of a nifty app.  At this location, there were reports of the house shaking - now this is California, so I felt that this would be very easy to explain.  A tremor in the Golden State?  Unheard of!  It must be paranormal!  Heh heh...I figured that if we picked up any activity that was seismic in nature, we'd be able to cross-reference it with any of the local agencies.  The program I had measured seismic activity using the Sudden Motion Sensor to display real-time, three-axis acceleration graphs.  Translation: it measures when the computer shakes.  Basically, you saw us use it in the episode and what you saw is what happened...nothing much to add to it other than this link, where you can get it yourself!

We hit the self destruct button!
 • That reminds me, when it comes to tech, you see Chris and I roll up to these locations with these big cases of equipment and then it seems like we use the same two gadgets every time.  I had a conversation with Gary Galka recently, inventor of the MEL Meter, and he expressed his displeasure with that.  I have a lot of equipment that he has made in my arsenal and I use a lot of things on each case, but only what adds to the story is used in the final edit.  I've used the Shadow Detectors on almost every case, but you only saw them for the first time on this one.  What makes it particularly annoying for me is that I have to explain their use each time as if it were the first time, just in case this segment gets moved up to the head of the season.  Imagine that, every time I use a meter or attempt to capture an EVP I have to explain what I am doing as if this were Sesame Street.  Well, in that case, this blog is brought to you by the letter B and the number 22!



This case was an interesting one, but to be honest, my thoughts were elsewhere during this one.  They were about 2400 miles west of there...where I would be shortly after this case wrapped, and where you will be with me in this blog at the end of the season!  Join me here next time for my take on Episode 208: Bare Bones/Octagon Haunting.

Monday, September 24, 2012

EPISODE 206: Stirring the Dead/Ghost Writer



Coming to you from Oberlin, OH, this case was the fourth one we filmed this season and right after it we all took a break for the holidays.  It was cold, it was cloudy, but we were all happy to be back and filming season two.  This case also coincided with John's birthday.  Jesslyn and I made several trips to WalMart to get gifts and cards and generally prepare for his surprise party.  One of those trips he actually came with us and since we had no good reason to deny him, we had to cloak and dagger it the whole time, sneaking around to try and keep him in the dark as to what we were planning.  The quick-thinking and comedy of the situation was worthy of an episode of Three's Company.  Classic.

Ground Control to Major Tom
 • As some of you may have noticed, this season we had a souped-up, mega-surveillance system to use. Last season, the modest one we used was mine, as you could probably tell from the SCARED! sticker on the top of the DVR unit.  Dubbed the "DIGE 5000" after it's purchaser, it served us well on Haunted Collector and still does during SCARED! investigations.  but for season two, the producers wanted to go bigger.  I was behind this 100% - if we were going to be on a channel called "SyFy" I wanted some cutting-edge gear!  So we had a new system built...ten military grade IR cameras, plus two PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) 360ยบ cameras with separate IR illuminator modules all tied into a touch screen command module which was cleverly built into a Pelican case for transport.  It was like something out of a James Bond movie...and it was about time, if you asked me.  Chris and I hovered over that little monitor of mine for long enough, now we had something a bit more sexy.  However, since it was all built last-minute, it did have it's share of malfunctions...and during this case it bombed out the first night we were there.  The hard drive for the DVR had crashed and threatened to take the footage from our last three cases with it.  As the Fates would have it, the clients husband, Joel, was an IT guy as well as a handy technician.  He saved our footage and did a field repair on the DVR module.  Big thanks go out to him for saving that portion of our show!  He knew what he was doing in that area, since he was into ham radios and electronics and all sorts of communication equipment.  The footage was mostly cut, but he had an antenna array up in the attic that looked like it could contact Mars!  It was probably an ordinary one but the fact that it was in the attic and not up on the roof made it interesting.  When we first did our walk through, devoid of camera crew, I began to wonder what kind of signals this was pulling in beyond just radio or TV.  Spirits being comprised of energy and having a vibration, could it be possible that they piggy-back on the waves we use and interact with every day?

Speaking of cut footage, here is a bonus scene from the episode regarding some activity coming from the attic.  Perhaps it lends credence to my theory?  Hmm...




Fresh fish!
 • One of the things I loved about this season were our field trips.  On days off or when we had a half day of filming, I'd hop in the van and take off to the nearest paranormal spot, with mixed cast in tow.  St. Augustine's Lighthouse, Bobby Mackey's...there always seemed to be a famous haunt nearby where we filmed.  But by far, my favorite was Ohio Reformatory, a.k.a. Mansfield - better known by it's big screen moniker, Shawshank Prison!  When we first got there, the gates were shut - there were no tours and they were closed for the season!  This simply would not do...The Shawshank Redemption is perhaps my favorite movie and I'd never been there before, so to be so close and denied access to it was killing me.  We called the number on the gate, got no answer.  We circled the perimeter of the place, which got the attention of a prison guard in a patrol car - next to the historic prison is a more modern, operating prison and it looked like we were the getaway car for a potential escapee!  I parlayed our way out of that one and we returned to the main gate where we saw some people in front of the building.

Our Gracious Hosts
 We made some noise, beeped the horn, got their attention and suddenly the gate opened.  We drove down the driveway, much like the prison bus did in the movie.  As the building grew larger and loomed before us, the fan boy in me grew more excited.  But we really had no leverage to be there so I imagined that we'd have to take in as much of the outside as we could before we were sent on our way.  I turned to Chris and Jason and told them to follow my lead, I was going in...long story short, the guys we met were beyond cool.  They had heard of the show before and knew the Zaffis reputation so that got us a private, guided tour to every part of the prison!  It was ironic, as we toured the cell blocks and hallways, they would stop to point out parts that were allegedly haunted and all I wanted to hear about were the behind-the-scenes bits about The Shawshank Redemption, which they were happy to provide me with.  It was a great day and the special treatment made us feel even better.  We were all floating on the ride back to the hotel, having successfully gotten in - and out - of prison!


Do they sell used YT-1000's?
 • The picture here speaks for itself.  There is little more I can say to convey the coolness of this.  Every time we passed this place on the way to or from the case, I had to point it out.  And now I'm pointing it out to all of you...the circle is now complete.







NIGHT TRAIN!
 • Being our fourth case with the new cast members, we were still getting to know them.  The following incident made it clear to me that Jason was definitely one of us.  One night, on the way back to the case, Chris, Jay and I were stopped at a train crossing waiting for the train to pass by.  I was driving and Chris was in the back seat.  Jason heard the train approaching and he seemed to get antsy...we looked at him and asked what was up.  His response was short and simple, "Sorry guys, I gotta do this...NIGHT TRAIN!" And with that, he hopped out of the car and ran up towards the tracks.  Chris snapped out of his usual trance and stuck his head through the seats.  "What - is he doing?" he asked.  "Night train?" I responded, clearly baffled.  Just beyond the barricade stood Jason, arms extended above his head in a victory stance, the wind from the passing train buffeting him as it sped by.  Chris made a grunt and then before I knew it, he was getting out of the car to join Jason beyond the barricade.  There I sat, bewildered as my two teammates hooted and hollered victory cries at the metal monstrosity.  Had they gone insane?  Had the bleakness of winter and the sparseness of Ohio driven them mad?  Regardless, I envied them at that moment.  They were experiencing a freedom I could not share in.  For the rest of the season, everywhere we went, we would hear trains nearby and look at each other knowingly.  I kept saying that I wanted to pull a Night Train Maneuver myself but it was not to be...perhaps during Season Three.


On the Threshold
 • During the case, we poked around the house a lot more than you saw on TV.  I climbed up into the access shaft that led to a weird middle-attic.  I don't think it was officially a room, but more of a space that was created by other walls that just happened to form a cubby hole of it's own.  Supposedly that's where the boot came from that triggered the start of all the activity.  Also, during our baseline sweep, Chris and I were startled by a light bulb that broke behind us.  I don't know if it just rolled off a table or was thrown at us, but the noise it made as it shattered was loud and we both jumped - a rare instance of that - I'm surprised it didn't make it to the air!




In filming order, we had just seen the implosion in Huron.  Next stop, Tipp City to Browse Awhile Books.  Our tour of Ohio continued.  The implosion was such a big deal they decided to make it the season opener - not a bad choice on the parts of the producers.  So it was with that fresh in our minds that we arrived at our next case - and despite the lack of explosives, it turned out to be an interesting one!


Read...or else!
 • I knew this place would be active for us from the moment I walked in.  I've always loved books and books are special to people, so in a store that has a lot of used books, the energies from those people will have collected.  My suspicions were confirmed almost immediately.  Chris and I were on our way to check out the science fiction section in the back and as we made our way through the stacks, a book flew out in front of me.  About six feet in front of me, from a shelf to the right a book came flying out with a clear and defined horizontal vector.  It landed in front of me and I stopped to look at Chris with the typical question, "Did you see that??"  I wasn't threatened, I was excited!  Such things rarely happen so quickly to me, so this "greeting" of sorts was a sign that we'd have a great investigation and that the energy in here was sufficient to literally get things moving.  And to be honest, I'm glad it happened this way...with no cameras rolling or no production team around.  I told the producers about it after and they were surprised that it was starting so soon.  When I told John, he just smiled.  For the record, the book was a book about World War II planes...which I have always said I wanted to fly.  Coincidence?


Ball Two
 • Given that experience, I was not surprised at all that several things moved during our time there.  Now allow me to clear up something that got muddled in the episode.  In the mystery room we captured footage of the ball moving - there is a discrepancy in the edit however, and in one shot the ball is at rest further to the right than it was in the original shot.  For the episode, it was a big moment, but in reality, it happened more than once.  The editors didn't use the same shots twice, which was unfortunate, but given the usual frequency of kinetic activity, I'm not surprised they thought it just happened once.  I just wish something other than the ball had moved, or even something in addition to it.  If a book can be moved, why not the cow?  I bought those animal figures with the express purpose of having them be trigger objects.  One of them I kept and still have - the cat (which never made it to the floor).  He became my Inception-esque token.  I had it on me for most of the season afterwards.  Whenever John tried to hassle me, I'd pull out the cat and hold it in front of me to ward him away.


Missing Crystals
 • This season, the audience gets to see a little bit more of how John works and what he does to help people who need it.  It's not simply investigate, remove object, repeat.  Even so, some things do hit the wall of network sensibility and bureaucracy.  Why?  Your guess is as good as mine, but at least some of it got through.  At the end of this case, John is seen telling Amanda to put mirrors in the windows to help reflect some of the energy away.  What you didn't see was him helping her put crystals in the corners to help as well.  If it's not the usual formula of things, the network sometimes gets skittish.  Perhaps the mirrors were all they could handle...maybe the crystals seemed too far from the tech explanation they like so much.  But, when working in the paranormal, there are often many different solutions and some of them are quite old school.  For us, it's whatever gets the job done.


I'm so far behind in this blog, by the time I get through all the episodes and my commentary, the new season will be upon us.  But maybe that's not such a bad thing, is it? ;)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

EPISODE 205: Haunted Rectory/Grand Midway Ghosts



After spending several weeks in the northern part of Ohio, we finally made our way down to Cincinnati and our next case.  A tiny neighborhood on the outskirts called Sedamsville was our destination.  For the greater part of our stay there, we were unsure of how to pronounce it.  Was it 'seed-ams-ville' or 'seh-dahms-ville'?  To this day, I'm honestly not sure, we heard it pronounced both ways.  None of it really mattered to me as there was a Skyway Chili across from our hotel and I was introduced to a local dish, called the "Five Way".  It was COLD in the home town of WKRP's Johnny Fever and we all needed a bit of comfort food.  I found myself feasting on this Queen City delight several times during our stay.  With memories of a full stomach, I begin this blog...


Shadow Dancing
 • Given the current landscape of the paranormal field it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a place that no one has investigated before.  For some purposes, it's desirable to have an untouched location, but for us, it's actually helpful to have prior investigations take place.  Despite the attitudes of a few, we really are all on the same side, looking for answers.  Our methods may differ, but every photo, every scan, every personal experience gets added to the collective pot, increasing the knowledge pool for all of us.  That being said, this case had some evidence for us to go over when we arrived.  One report had involved a shadow form on the second floor in a room that contained a suitcase and a rocking chair.  These are the kind of reports we look for, the ones that help us determine whether or not it could be an item based case.  We were shown a picture taken from a full spectrum camera that showed a weird form captured along the wall, a double shadow that seemed like it would be difficult to duplicate.  I don't have that photo, but during the case I was able to look at it and try to reproduce the effect, which, I am satisfied we did.  Am I saying that I refute the evidence presented by the prior investigator?  Not exactly, I'm just offering up another explanation.  I wasn't there when the original photo was taken so I can't be sure.  But we looked into it...we even did an EVP session next to the suitcase and had two stationary cameras set up in the room, just in case.  On the episodes it sometimes appears that we set up cameras at random or we don't explain why we put them where we do, but there is always a reason.


Chopper, sic ghosts!
 • This case was different for us in that we brought a dog along with us on the nighttime investigation.  The canine was on loan to us from another group who used the dog as a fellow ghost hunter.  The dog pictured at left is not that dog, nor even the same breed, but I wanted to take a moment to give my opinion about the subject: are dogs/animals useful on an investigation?  I suppose they could be, but personally, I would not bring one along.  I love animals, but when it comes down to it, that has nothing to do with the question.  Let's look at the pros and cons briefly.  Pro: dogs have an excellent sense of smell and can hear frequencies we cannot.  They are good at being trained to follow commands and can be very disciplined when it comes to their given tasks.  For example, there are dogs who sniff out bombs, dogs who sniff out drugs, even dogs who can detect the onset of a seizure or even cancer.  They are also very loyal and would act to protect their loved ones.  Cons: the flip side to each of those points is as follows - given that they can smell and hear what we cannot, who's to say we know what spirits smell and sound like to say that the dog is getting it right?  Seizures are observable and cancer is physical, the animal can be shown these things and trained to respond as needed.  Ghosts don't act on cue, much less show up to train your pet!  Furthermore, dogs bark at cars passing by, random noises and seemingly sometimes for no reason.  It would be foolhardy to assume that the latter must be supernatural.  The animal can't communicate exactly what it is experiencing, so how can we look at it logically and try to figure out the rational explanations?  As a science, the paranormal has not been grounded in hard facts yet, only conjecture, so I don't feel we have enough to go on yet and certainly not enough to train a dog with.  HOWEVER, I lack the patience to try and for those who are giving it a shot, I applaud their efforts.  I'll stick with my meters and save a frisbee for the dogs.


Brian in Their Belfry
 • The rectory is undergoing renovations, but the church next to it is sitting abandoned and continues to be a ruin.  Urban exploration is one of my things, so the crew knew that when I had down time, I'd be found poking around the old church.  It was just too tempting and too beautiful a structure to not explore.  There is a certain beauty to decay, the crumbling of civilization...I appreciate the architecture as it once was, even as it falls apart.  This church wasn't large, but it was tall.  I found my way up into the spire and navigated from one ladder to another, each one getting smaller and leading into a darker area.  The wood was rotting in many areas and the footing was precarious at best but the thrill of the discovery kept me going on.  This is one of the main reasons I get sent underneath houses and into attics to retrieve the haunted objects...because this is what I really do, cameras or no.  I am the man for this job.


The Beauty of Decay
 • On another, completely different note, I have always wondered something about abandoned churches.  I'm no longer practicing, but I was raised Catholic, so the traditions and the masses still reside within me.  I no longer report to a building, but I have all of that with me all the time.  But what about the building itself?  What happens to a house of God when it is abandoned?  Does God abandon it too?  In the absence of that holiness, does its opposite rush in to fill the void?  These are the thoughts that run through my head whenever I find myself in an abandoned church.  For the purposes of this blog, they are rhetorical questions, but given the reported activity next door in the rectory, they came to the surface again as I wandered the old place of worship.  Could it be a contributing factor to all the activity?  A battery, if you will, that may help feed whatever is going on in the rectory itself?


May the Bert be with you...
 • Let's switch gears for a moment...I was getting pretty deep, now I'm going to get completely silly.  One night, after we finished filming for the night, Jason and I decided to try out the Waffle House across from the hotel (yes, this was across the street as well - we also had a White Castle and a pizza joint).  Now, I've never particularly liked this chain and the handful of times I've been there have done nothing to reverse that evaluation.  This time was no different but oh my, did we have a good time.  It was around one or two in the morning, so the place was pretty much empty, so I decided to dump five dollars into the jukebox to play some of my favorite tunes.  We observed how the dirty counters were made even more so by the splashing of the woman hastily washing the dishes in front of us.  I raised an eyebrow at the cook who made some sort of sandwich on the grill, then mashed it together with his bare hands.  I looked down at the menu, then at Jason and remarked, "Just remember, anything you order will be made by THAT guy...choose wisely".  Despite the squalor of the place, all we could do was laugh.  It was that time of night and we were absolutely loopy.  Plus, the cast of Waffle House employees made for quite the sitcom.  There was the hairy cook, the waif-thin waitress who complained about her pay as well as the sassy black woman who happily played into every stereotype you might conceive of for a diner at 2 in the morning.  My choice for consumption was "Bert's Handmade Chili" which was featured quite proudly on the menu.  Last time I had been in a Waffle House I passed on the chance but I thought that now would be the perfect time to sample what Bert had to offer...it was Cincy and so far the chili was enjoyable everywhere I went (yes, I had it a lot that stay).  It was then that I noticed the sign on the wall, which depicted Bert himself giving the "okay" gesture to us.  What stood out to me was the size of his hands...they were so small!  I quipped to Jason, "Does he stir the chili with those exquisitely small hands?  Is that the secret?" We laughed hard at that and at that moment, The Legend of Bert began.  He was more than just a man, he was a demigod, who gave not fire, but chili to mankind.  He dwells in a realm close to ours and he stirred his chili with his hands, deciding our fate as he did.  To know Bert is to love Bert.  Bert be praised!  Yeah, we're ridiculous, but boy did we have fun that night.




The Grand Midway Hotel.  I had been looking forward to and dreading this case simultaneously for the two months we had been on the road up until that point.  Back in 2009 myself and the rest of the SCARED! Crew filmed a documentary of our investigation there.  It was a serendipitous weekend that teamed us up with Rosemary Ellen Guiley and Adam Blai, as well as John.  When I had called him and told him where we were going, things just started falling into place and it ended up with us having an experience that changed us all forever.  Our team is built around the triumvirate of The Psychic, The Scientist and The Skeptic.  It's a system of checks and balances that allows us to approach cases with as little bias as possible.  We call it the Three Pillar System.  That night, all three of us had left in agreement about what we found in the hotel...an event that has never happened before, or since.  That was then, this was now...a different team, a different time...and the Thing in the Dark waited still.  Patient, observant, yet filled with rage and hatred.  I thought of all these things and I worried.  Watch the opening scene in the restaurant again.  Notice how quiet I am and the expression on my face...it speaks volumes.


• As the documentary points out, our previous investigation of the place had resulted in some overlapping evidence, the creepiest of which being an EVP that sent chills up our spines.  This video goes into it briefly:




I'm all for follow-up investigations, but as far as evidence went, I was sure of what was up on the third floor.  I didn't need another investigation to tell me that.  Is there more than one thing haunting the Grand Midway?  Absolutely, but given that we had rookies on the team, I didn't want their enthusiasm to put them in danger when it came to that room on the third floor.  Were it up to me, I would have made that area off-limits.  "Why so serious?" you ask...I just don't believe in kicking a hornet's nest.  You will get stung.  Repeatedly.  But, as you saw throughout the segment, I was strangely mute.  Any footage of John or myself talking about our friendship with Blair or the events of our last investigation hit the cutting room floor.  Thankfully, the producers paid us enough respect to at least cut together the above scene to acknowledge what had come before and for that I thank them.


Rematch with the malevolent?
 • Hold on to your seats, here's something that got cut that had me re-evaluating everything for a time, until I got a grasp of what it really meant.  John had gotten an EVP on the second floor and when I listened to it, I froze.  The voice was the same as the one in the EVP we had gotten back in 2009!  He got this one on the second floor - had the entity gotten loose of it's third floor cage?  Was it able to project to other spots in the hotel?  What did this mean?  John and I discussed it for some time and I was worried, both for the team as well as what this would mean for the Grand Midway moving forward.  The Demon on the Third Floor was not something that could be taken care of by removing an object, no matter how large.  I panicked for some time and I even told the producers of my worries, since we still had to go back and do more investigating.  It took a re-evaluation of the original file to get me to calm down.  I looked at the words again..."Can you break out of the circle, the circle of fire?  Die."  That, "die" at the end always seemed odd to me, as if it did not fit.  It also seemed to be in a different voice.  So, perhaps it was.  Perhaps there was something else asking the question...a guardian, or at the very least another spirit standing by, observing.  When the question was posed, the entity within the room lashed out in anger with the simple response.  Therefore, when that same questioning voice was heard again elsewhere in the hotel, it could have just been wandering, or on patrol, or very much at home.  Either way, I felt that it was NOT the demonic voice from the room and that it was still unable to leave it.  Whew!


Inside the Mind of an Artist
 • We often film many witness interview segments, but due to time constraints they get cut.  The above clip with Chris is one of them.  They've begun posting more as "bonus scenes" which I'm happy about. But one interview that got cut would have been very interesting to see, as I was not present for it.  It was John talking to Dylan, the painter of the pieces in the "demon room".  (A note to all those astute viewers and to those who have been to the hotel before: in the episode, the editor's mislabeled pretty much anything that was on the third floor to be the second floor.  My explanation of where the cameras were set up was even clipped to reflect this.  Why?  Honest mistake, I believe.)  But as far as the interview went, the whole "demon" storyline and anything associated with it was deemed too much for the network.  Ironic, isn't it?  I would have loved to hear more about this fascinating painter and the things he did and more of the story from his perspective.  But I digress.  All in all, there is so much going on in that hotel and going on still, that I can't say we did much to lessen the activity.  As I explained to someone recently, "Take the batteries out of a toy and it stops moving.  Take the batteries out of one toy in a toy store and all you have is one less working toy."  Discuss.


Let's get down to business
 • While Chris and I were in the basement, we came across a window that was boarded up and blocked, but it was being pushed in on the sides by dirt, as if something on the other side had collapsed and was caving in on it.  Even though I knew it must lead to the side of the house, I had never been to that part yet, as far as I knew, it was flush with the building next to it.  We pried the boards loose and let the dirt come in, revealing the night beyond.  Air streamed in, but no light...where was this coming from?  I wanted to get a visual on it - we were looking for the entrance to the tunnels after all, and it's possible that this forgotten alleyway outside might provide clues.  So I raced outside to see - I told the cameraman Zach not to follow me, that I would be right back, but he wanted to capture every moment of this.  Upon reaching the alley, I found that the space between the buildings was blocked off by a shed-like structure.  It effectively sealed off the space, perhaps to keep people from walking between the two houses.  It was a good eight feet tall, but I was determined to see what was beyond it. So, flashlight in hand, I grabbed onto a nearby pipe and hauled myself up onto the top of the shed.  There was a tiny alley on the other side!  I was about to jump down to check it out when Zach informed me that he was coming up too.  If I was Batman, he was my Robin, there was no obstacle that would prevent us from getting to the bottom of this mystery.  He handed me the 40-50 pound camera and climbed up onto the roof as well.  From there, he filmed me jumping down into the space and looking around.  I found the window, where Chris was able to finally stick his hand out of, and we sadly put that lead to bed.  It was not an entry way to a tunnel system, it was indeed, just a window.  But put a soundtrack under that footage and you have a great Batman-esque deleted scene!



These memories are my own and they fade and resurface as time goes on...as usual, I'm sure that more stories will arise and I will return to fill in those details.  But for now, take these and reflect upon them.  Next blog: "Stirring the Dead/Ghost Writer"  See you then!