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 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 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 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) 360º 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.

 • 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 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 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 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 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!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

EPISODE 204: Priest Gun/Haunted Asylum

I've been lazy, I know.  I have no good excuse.  But, you wanted it, so I'm back with the behind-the-scenes reflections from 'Collector.  Let's get right to it.

Sawyer, Michigan, right on the shores of Lake Michigan itself.  That's where you want to be during the winter...north and on a Great Lake.  Ugh!  The days were sunny, but cold.  Our spirits were stable, but we all began missing home and those who were missing us.  It resulted in a lot of solo time off-camera and I was frankly okay with that.  We all need time to ourselves to decompress and relax.  It makes the times together that much better, I think.  One of the days I wasn't needed on set right away I went to the movies.  I went alone, which I never do, but I found myself walking through the hotel parking lot towards the highway, towards the theater on the other side of it.  Why did Brian cross the road?  Because Safe House with Denzel Washington was playing and I had nothing else to do.   So, like Frogger, I made my way across a major highway, hopping two fences and a divider in the process.  At that moment I was glad I was alone, I don't think I got over the fences as gracefully as I once might have.  It had been a long winter thus far and I was only Batman in voice, not in motion.

You get any EVPs, punk?
 • Safety was a huge concern on the set this time around, as there was a gun in the mix.  An unloaded gun, mind you, but a gun all the same.  The producers did not want us fooling around or joking at all with it so we were not allowed to even pick it up or take it out of the case.  Given the dark things that we deal with sometimes, it was probably for the best.  The last thing we would want associated with Haunted Collector was a tragic accident on-set.  I'll stick with the sledgehammers and shovels, thanks.  Despite that, you KNOW that every scene Chris and I had in the bedroom with the gun we were quoting Dirty Harry movies.  Oh, the footage they have to cut because of me and my pop culture references.

• There was another story that we were interested in following up on when we first got to Joanie's house.  The piano room had a large portrait of a man in it.  He was the owner of the piano and a former owner of the house.  He was a well known figure in the community...I'll come back to this, I want to get the facts right.

Omen or coincidence?
• Strange things happened to us in almost every town we rolled into and Sawyer, Michigan was no different.  This time, it seems as if we had almost outrun it since it took until the last day of shooting for it to manifest itself.  In front of the house is a roughly circular driveway.  It's not paved, but it's well-worn enough to see where you're driving.  In the center of it is a tree and you can see it in the episode as we drive up to the house for the first time.  Well, after the last segment was filmed a storm hit the area.  I was back at the hotel, but when the crew returned, they reported that the storm knocked that tree over!  This was shortly after our Jordan Springs shoot with the fallen tree.  What was more surprising than the tree falling over was the fact that it did not hit a single person, car or piece of equipment.  Given how much stuff a production crew brings along with them, that in itself is an amazing statistic.  Of course, the first question out of everyones mouth upon hearing about the tree was, "Was there anything buried underneath it?"

They know kung fu?
 • What can I say about my life on the road?  I tend to talk about our hotels a lot.  And why not, the hotel is a major part of your existence when you live in transit.  Essentially, it is home.  Be it ever so humble...or so small, or depressing or overrun by undesirables...there's no place like home.  This time, there was a perpetual pool party going on at the pool on the first floor.  At all times of the day and night there were tweens in bathing suits running to and fro as if they were on an Easter Egg hunt.  But, despite the occupants, we made the best of it.  That Sunday night we had ourselves an Oscar party!  Mark Gouldy, our sound guy grilled up all sorts of good eats and others bought snacks and drinks.  We cheered for our favorites, we booed at the people who were overlooked and generally had a good time. I especially liked the part of the evening where Chris Zaffis went on a tirade about the injustice of Kung Fu Panda 2 not winning anything.  It was a barrage worthy of a stand-up comedian on stage...I think I saw a young Lewis Black in the making that night.

Use the Force, Luke
 • Speaking of Gouldy and parties, we were losing him as he was going back home for the rest of the season.  We'd already lost his brother Mike to an injury that kept him from returning to the set.  It was a sad time, but we were going to have an epic party to celebrate it!  As with the Oscar party, we all went out and got food and other items for the festivities.  One by one we arrived in one of the hotel's meeting rooms to begin the last hurrah for our friend Mark.  Such nights are best experienced and left in the moment, so I won't go into too many details.  But I will say this: piñata, blow-up doll, fireworks.  'Nuff said.

Radford, VA was our next stop - it was a college town and school was in session.  The hotel had a Mexican restaurant attached to it called Alejandro's...and for some reason, we delighted in mispronouncing the name (ale-jan-drows) and adding him to our pantheon of mundane demigods (of which the first one I will mention in the next episode's blog).  We did a lot of driving to and from the location and we got to know the town pretty well.  I got pulled over for speeding, but unlike NY cops, this officer was an actual human being and I was able to reason with him and he let me go without a ticket.  Thank you, Radford Officer.  Speaking of my home state, we watched an important football game which got the NY Giants into the Super Bowl.  I'm not an avid follower of football, or sports in general, but it was nice to see my home team destroy the teams of these west coasters.  Heh I had anything to do with it.  There was also a game and comic store in town that I had wanted to go to, but every time I stopped by, they were closed, or doing inventory or SOMETHING.  I'd knock on the glass door and a chunky, bespectacled man would peer out at me and say nothing.  Never once did he say to come back later, or the next day or offer to let me buy a damn comic or anything.  That store is now on my list of arch enemies.  Sounds crazy, huh?  I guess it was only fitting since we were about to investigate an insane asylum.

Many rooms, many mysteries
 • St. Albans was a maze inside...the episode could not accurately convey how disjointed it felt being inside there.  I say that a lot too, huh?  How the episode falls short of reality?  Well, as is true for many topics, nothing beats the real thing.  When we first got there, Chris, Jason and I decided to slip away from the production crew and explore.  We're all avid gamers, so we tackled the place as if it were a new level in a video game...the mapping system in our heads was recording every turn and every room.  But as we got deeper into the place, it kept changing.  It felt as if were a patchwork of times and places, where some rooms seemed to not fit the hallway we just came from.  This made getting back to the entryway hard.  We ended up in dead ends, rooftops, tunnels...the works.  But still, I cannot say I am familiar with the place enough to not get lost in it.  Perhaps that is how it feels to be a patient at a mental facility...lost, with no recollection of how to get out.

There Won't Be Blood
 • Here's something from the deleted bin: Jesslyn and I were tasked with going to the substance abuse ward and checking on an urban legend we'd heard about.  I'm forgetting the fine details, but it was rumored that a massacre occurred in that ward, either by a patient or a disgruntled employee.  It was said that the assaults were so savage, blood covered the walls.  So, we mixed up some luminol and went down to see if we could find any evidence of this.  Now, the way things are filmed, we didn't take any breaks during our sweep of the facility.  Jesslyn and I were down in that basement for a long time.  The scene you saw where something fell from the ceiling - that was in a bowling alley down there.  Yeah, a bowling alley!  Those of you who know me know what's coming next...oh yeah, the There Will Be Blood references.  "DRAINAGE!  I drink your milkshake!  I drink it right up!"  Again, more footage of me they can't use.  I need to get a counter going on this statistic!  But anyway, circling back to the luminol, watch that scene again, you'll see either in my hand or hanging off my belt a spray bottle.  Come to think of it, it might even be on the floor.  Why?  Because we had one of the producers prepare the mixture for us and they placed it into a metal spray bottle.  METAL.  Luminol is best used in a plastic bottle. Why?  Because the metal will react with the compound!  The bottle had been hooked onto my utility belt as we searched and by the time we got to the bowling alley I realized that the side of my pants was wet.  I was confused at first, I thought maybe I had leaned on a wet wall, or didn't notice a drip from the ceiling, but upon further investigation I found that the spray bottle was spurting liquid out of the nozzle periodically, as if the mixture inside were expanding and the gases it was putting off was forcing it out.  I pointed it out to Jesslyn and she found the same thing was happening to her bottle. The bottles then both remained on the floor until it was time to head to the substance abuse ward.  We sprayed every wall, pipe and door of that area until both of our bottles were empty.  Not a single spark or glow from the luminol.  That was a dead-end and why you did not see it in the final cut.

Who watches the watchers?
 • Aimee is quite the character.  She gets a lot of screen time, but mostly she is seen, not heard.  She's a funny girl, in a subtle way.  We all laugh a lot when we're all together.  I call her the "Napolean Dynamite of the Paranormal", because she has that sort of odd humor.  You either get her or you don't. Another thing that makes me laugh is how genuinely afraid of ghosts she is.  The daughter of a demonologist, she would be happy to do her research from afar and let us know what she finds, never stepping foot into a location.  I've seen many comments online about how miserable she looks and mostly that's because she is busy keeping her shit together while in these places.  You have to give her credit - she's uncomfortable, but she sticks it out and stays at her post.  That is, until St. Albans...down in the boiler room, I wanted Chris down there to help find the source of the sound he was hearing.  This left Aimee alone at the command center.  Scroll back up to the picture of the front of the building for a moment, the command center was maybe fifty feet inside the main entrance, no more.  You could see the entrance from where it was set up and outside was our entire production crew.  Aimee was by no means alone, but once Chris left, it was too much for her to handle and she headed outside.  When I heard this, I was annoyed at first, but then I heard about an incident with one of her research interviewees.  Turns out, one of the men she interviewed to get background on the activity at the asylum had been in there several times and claims to know some of the spirits that are in residence.  He told her that there are two spirits down in the basement that know we're coming and are quite evil and are planning to harm us.  Furthermore, he told Aimee that these two planned to erase whatever tapes we  used there...that they would get back to the edit room only to find them blank.  Make no mistake, this guy was the creepy old dude that warns teenagers in the first act of every horror movie.  And it resonated with Aimee, causing her to leave the monitors and moving forward, she stopped participating in the nighttime investigations.

The Dark Night Crouches
 • Now I don't remember if it was during the baseline sweep or the nighttime investigation, but we were in the boiler room and the meters spiked suddenly.  I looked around, trying to find the source and just then my flashlight turned off, plunging us into darkness.  Hmm, now that I say that it must have been at night, since the cameras film the investigations with the astroscopes attached, which means there are no lights on.  My flashlight is one of those big Mag Lites...they don't just shut off when the battery is low, they gradually get dimmer and dimmer so I knew it wasn't a battery issue.  Then, a muttered curse in the corner - the cameraman reports that the camera just died.  He radios up to the producers that he needs a new, "brick and tape" (brick being a new battery).  A moment of silence and he then tells us that he doesn't know if he got through or not because no one was responding.  I turned to where Chris had placed a stationary camera and started waving my arms around signaling to him that there was a problem.  Just then the dull red lights of the infrared went dead.  Everything requiring power shut off and would not come back on.  A few moments later I heard shouts from down the hall.  I could hear the executive producer and the director coming.  Johnny the director entered first, leading the way with a small headlamp on his head, a look of astonishment on his face.  Rick the executive producer came in next, looking to me, then to the cameraman and finally to Jesslyn.  "What the hell is going on?  My phone just died and all the monitors went down (referring to the handheld monitors the director used)!" My heart started to beat a little faster...partly from the memory of the two supposedly evil spirits down here and partly from the thrill of these mundanes finally coming to realize that such things do exist.  I reminded Rick about Aimee's witness and that just served to make him more nervous.  We all stood in uncomfortable silence for some time until the director called a break to assess the situation.  As I walked out of the room, I had no idea that the object of our search was mere feet from where I had been standing...

Originally, we were going to have our first Haunted Collector event at St. Albans, but due to low ticket sales, we've decided to cancel it.  Plus, we might not be available in September...all good news on that front.  However, I do hope it gets rescheduled and people sign on to attend - it really is a cool place and it's one I do want to get back to, since we've barely scratched the surface of this one.  While removing an object may help lessen activity, it doesn't always eradicate it completely, especially in a place like this.  St. Albans, I'll be back some day.  Count on it...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

EPISODE 203: Haunted Villa/Spirit Springs

For the past two weeks I've been saying how my adventures seem so much more grand on the screen than they do in my memory.  For tonight's episode, I reverse that thought.  These two cases were deluxe ones for us.  The editors did their usual great job with the edit, but I remember so much more than what I saw in the final product.  I have a feeling the audience is going to feel the schism as well and it may generate some negativity.  Is there a villain to blame for this?  No, but do remember it is a television show and there are many, many levels involved from inception to airing.  That is a buck I can safely pass off my desk.  Having said that, let's see if I can remember half of what they didn't include in the the edit...

Another sign o' the times I can direct your attention to is our mode of transportation.  Our vehicle changed a few times during the season.  We started out with this ugly 15-passenger van, then went back to our old, reliable silver Chrysler Town & Country (I get no kickback for mentioning them, I just really like their van).  Then, after much complaining we switched to a bad-ass, black Chevy Suburban. At one point we even end up in a Jurassic Park-like caravan in Jeeps.  You'll see that in later episodes though.

The first segment this week found the Collector Crew in Warwick, NY.  We got this case from one of our sister groups in New Jersey (hence why I'm the one bringing it to John at the head of the episode...see? There often is a method to the madness...), so we had a head start on the research into the past of the property.  Regardless, Aimee still had a lot to look into.  Coming into an investigation with advance knowledge can sometimes be a double-edged sword as you try to remain neutral and yet still use what you know to further the information-gathering process.

"A bottle of white, a bottle of red..."
• Speaking of gathering, in the hunter/gathering sense, now that we were back in New York, we were able to hit a proper diner for the first time in weeks.  Ziggity is a big fan of diners and he was thrilled to finally sit down in one again.  Personally, I'm not a fan of a place that has steak and lobster on the menu but is only really suited to serve burgers and breakfast, but if it makes the Old Man happy, I shut my mouth and eat.  Ironically, we were investigating a fine Italian restaurant and yet we ate elsewhere - for no other reason than we were so used to it.  Frank would spy us coming in from lunch and he'd give us that look, the look that said, you do know this is a restaurant, right?  The second two days of the shoot were catered by Frank and his kitchens and we all ate quite well.  So much so that we all wanted to nap after dinner...but there was no time to waste, there were mysteries to be solved!  This time on a very full stomach.

• Just a word about investigations on television; I feel like I repeat myself a lot, but it seems I have to for it to sink in for some.  What you see on the show is but a fraction of what happened on the investigation.  For reasons of time, content and storyline, things hit the cutting room floor.  People wonder why we didn't look into this, or why we didn't explain that and the answer to all of it is that there's a good chance we did, but you're not seeing it in the final cut.  In the Villa alone, there were mysteries and debunks that were dead-ends.  When John joins us downstairs in the dining room, notice how worked up we all are - that's because we just had a painting fall off the wall, a painting that usually was by Roy Vail's table.  We chalked it up to a bent nail, but it was still an exciting few moments.  What else?  We even got to do cool things like overnight solo missions - Jason got this one and SyFy even put some more of it on their website as a bonus scene showing what else he did during his time alone at the Villa.  The man did a good job, but of course we busted his chops for the rest of the shoots about his reaction to the noise in the hall.  "OH MY GOD!  Oh my God!!"  That's what brothers in arms do, we tease each other mercilessly.

Here kitty, kitty, kitty...

• We also looked for the felis spiritus at the Villa, which was reported to have been seen and felt in the dining rooms.  Incidentally, the ashes of the family cat are in an urn located in the very room that Roy Vail was said to have shot himself.  Coincidence?  Could there be a rip in the Vail (pun intended) in that room that allows for spirits to come through?  We didn't have any ghostly catnip to coax it out, but we searched for him anyway.  I felt confident we would find him given how much we all love animals, and personally, cats.  Nothing though.  I do believe it is possible though.  Animals have personalities and can love and if human spirits can stick around, why can't they as well?

The second segment was shot at a place called Jordan Springs, in Virginia.  Our hotel was in Winchester, VA which was pretty cool, since we're all big Supernatural fans.  For those of you familiar with that show, take a moment and compare Bobby to John.  The similarities are not a coincidence, from what I understand.  So, John has had a hand in training the likes of Jason & Grant, Zak and Ryan as well as Sam & Dean!  Pretty cool if you ask me.

Big Brother is watching...
• As you may have gleaned from the establishing shots, the place was huge! Jason and Jesslyn got to check out the attic, Chris and I covered the basement bar area as well as the third floor.  We used gear and gadgets like the Shadow Detector, the REM Pod and our jazzy surveillance system.  The place was huge, so it was well suited to an expansive investigation.  In parts, the place was a maze of hallways and back staircases.  We examined an old gravestone that had been brought in from outside.  We conducted EVP sessions in the attic around some old children's toys.  Shadow figures had been seen in the stairwell.  What did you see in the episode?  Not much.  I can say that it was heavily edited at the behest of the suits upstairs, but I can't begin to fathom the logic behind it.  I can also say that we're planning on having some Haunted Collector events there, so you'll get your chance to see it first hand!

• Another word about the editing process, if I may.  When it comes to television, the producers are trying to take all these pieces and assemble a storyline that is as entertaining as possible.  We're not a scripted show, so their work is done very much on the fly.  They pray we do our jobs and get the evidence, which as we all know, is difficult to impossible to produce on command.  In addition, we're talking about the lives of real people; ours, the client's and those associated with the locations we visit.  Someone ignorantly commented online that they had seen Tonie on My Ghost Story recently (don't even get me started on THAT tangent) and that her story differed slightly between the two shows, therefore, this astute viewer, "caught Haunted Collector in a lie!"  Sigh.  I shouldn't have to explain this, but for the sake of your enjoyment of future episodes, let me remind you that My Ghost Story is also a television show trying to tell a story and facts are picked and chosen to weave a narrative.  It 's all semantics.  When it comes to semantics, if you want to nitpick, you should put your arguing skills to good use and become a litigator.  I'll mistrust you all the same, but at least you'll be well-dressed.

"Hit me!"
• The blackjack bug bit us at the Belterra, during our KY Mansion case and we were still suffering from the symptoms.  So we found time to throw down the cards in between filming, food and nap time (such varying schedules had us all sleeping whenever we could squeeze in an hour or two).  Gambling is more fun when there are no consequences, right?  Well, that point is debatable, but none of us had money to burn on a friendly game and besides, I was the house and that would mean I'd eventually have all their money.  So, we played with sugar packets.  Regular sugar was one dollar, Splenda and Sweet N Low carried the values of five and ten, respectively.  At one point, Jason was doing so well that we had to start using English Breakfast Tea as hundreds.  During one sitting, after having taken all their "money", we ended up playing War.  Yes, a three person, six-deck game of War.  It was not pretty.  I do believe Amnesty International wants to talk to us about the atrocities committed against mankind during that game.

• We spent several weeks shooting in Ohio and during that time it seemed as if something dark were following us.  There appeared to be omens preceding us and odd occurrences happening even when the cameras weren't rolling.  Most of the time, it was a function of weather.  The joke was, "Haunted Collector is in town, time for the rainclouds to gather".  But this time, the omen was different...and in my mind, spookier.  Quick tangent for a moment to set the scene - the first night in our temporary home, I had gotten myself locked OUT of my bathroom.  It had a faulty lock and after a six hour drive, I arrived in my room to find that I still could not relieve myself.  I called the manager up and we eventually managed to get in.  This oddity caused us to be fast friends.  That being said, she would chat me up at every opportunity, usually asking me how it went at the location we were at.  So, one afternoon I come back to the hotel for my mid-day break and she calls me over with a peculiar look on her face.  She took me aside and asked, in a hushed tone, "Does anyone on your crew have any weird fetishes?"  I found the question an odd one, were it one I had to answer, but she asked me about the crew, which made it even odder - I had no earthly idea who was into what!  I began to wonder if she had a plush costume hidden in the back room.  After shrugging off the question, she went on to tell me that three separate people in our crew had called separately to report that their rooms were overrun by crickets.  Was this a biblical sign...a plague of locusts, or something?  I immediately texted the executive producer the situation and it nearly gave him a panic attack.  Remember, these TV types shoot the show, but they don't always believe and when something happens, they are ill-equipped to deal with it.  Later that night, said executive producer found his bathroom occupied by several dozen crickets.  He ran down to the lobby where he found John and myself talking - when John heard the fear in his voice, he proceeded immediately upstairs to handle it.  The rest of this story is one that I unfortunately have to keep to myself and what follows becomes very personal for several people.  Bottom line though, everything worked itself out and we stayed mostly cricket-free for the rest of the season.  Mostly.

Giving thanks to the Spirits
All is One, One is All
• To wrap up the case, because the item had it's origins in Native American spiritualism, John called in a local shaman to handle it.  Allow my derision for public opinion to shine through for a moment: yes, the guy was white, with blonde hair AND he was a shaman.  Were you expecting beads and a feathered head dress, like the guy in the Village People?  Furthermore, for the naysayers, YES John happened to know a guy in the area who could help...he's been doing this for 38 years, he HAS met a person or two in his travels.  Moving get rid of the object, John let the shaman do what he needed to - I wasn't present for it, but I do believe he burned it.  "But I thought you weren't supposed to burn haunted objects?" you'll say and my response to that is, "Yes, YOU aren't supposed to..."  But someone qualified to handle such rituals can and this guy was the man for the task.  Do take note of the secondary indication of what this shows that John knows what to do and he knows when it's best handled by others.  I think there are those out there that need to learn from this example.  Getting back to the case, afterwards, we did something cool.  The shaman suggested that we close out the investigation with a smoking ritual.  Instead of a pipe, we had special cigars to smoke.  He explained that such a ritual after a connection to the spirit world was a way of closing the session and it would calm down the energy present.  This was not something filmed, it was purely for us.  The cast and crew, along with the shaman and his friends gathered together out in the parking lot and under the pinks and purples of the setting sun, we closed the book on the Jordan Springs case.

The answers are out there
I'm not usually one to recommend such practices, being a man of science and logic, but I will say that the ritual made me feel very calm.  The stresses of the case and the frustrations of the road melted away and out there in the cool, Virginia air, I was at peace.  Next to me, Chris felt the same.  Without a word spoken, we both started walking towards the woods.  For the next hour or so, as the sun continued to set, we explored the nearby woods, feeling peaceful and one with nature.  Every so often we took pause to stop and listen and it was amazing...the sounds of civilization were nowhere to be was just the whisper of the wind and the trees.  Yes, I'm sure what we smoked was only a cigar, but man, this is something I'm going to have to start doing after every investigation.

Okay, it's wrap time for the Episode 203 blog, once again leaving out things such as my Sheetz addiction and the way I pushed their Mac & Cheese bites on the crew 24/7.  Maybe for season three I'll have a webcam on me at all times so you can all come with me on my adventures.  What you see on TV is but the beginning...step with me into a larger world.