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.


  1. So, Sir Egon, after all these investigations, where do you presently stand re the paranormal? For you, is it science or fiction? Truth or consequence of sketchy wiring, vivid imagination, seasonal insect infestation and poor housecleaning?

  2. I started out the Skeptic, but right now I am a "skeptical believer". It's like this - I believe in New Zealand. Have I ever been there? No. But I KNOW it's there. How? By maps and people telling me it's there. Much like the paranormal...until I experience it for myself, that's all it will ever be...a postcard or a tale. Of course, you may point out the differences in comparing the paranormal to a land mass in the one has ever disputed a vacation photo of a hobbit hole as dust. But still, it holds up in that I BELIEVE the paranormal is real. I've experienced enough to not turn a blind eye to it anymore. My goal now? Measure it. Quantify it. Establish a set of reliable, repeatable numbers surrounding it. Doubtful this will be accomplished in my lifetime, but if I can add my data to the collective and entertain a little bit via the show while I do it, that's not a bad way for me to spend my nights, I think. :)

    All that being said, I also think that much o what is reported is NOT paranormal...which is also why I believe psychology is a big part of the way I investigate. It all starts with the observer...

    1. Let’s begin with paranormal as considered to be an experience that lies outside the range of ‘normal’ experience or scientific explanation (gracias wiki-p).
      First problem is that quirky little nugget of a concept called normal. Keeping with the subject at hand and not going into freaky deaky kinky realms (sorry dude-that’s another treatise and lame reality show ;), what is paranormal/normal to a ‘regular’ person is not to a ‘sensitive’.
      Consider Exhibit A my dear plaited scientist: grandma’s 100- clove garlic roast beef wafting through the house 20 years later only on Sundays experienced by a multitude of people. Add to the recipe, if it’s pleasantly hauntingly familiar, people aren’t so bothered by it and, in fact, become used to it and even look forward to it. After a while, regularity napped a savory hint of mouthwatering nostalgia morphs The Paranormal into The Normal. Pretty soon visitations, poltergeists and whiffs of Jean Nate on the back of your neck are just grandma saying ‘zdrasvitsya, pass the gravy.’ The regulars unwittingly become sensitives. So yes, it comes down to perspective and experience. Despite your adherence to science, I predict you’ll soon cross that line into sensitive simply because of repetitive perspective and experience. Then things will get really interesting, interesting being a very cool thing. You really want to find something, that something will start looking for you too. Be careful what you wish for, don’t pick up weird dolls at the flea market, et al. You may be very surprised by what will be proven in the near future. After all, scientists think they just found that elusive little bugger, the god gene.
      Personally, I think the recent plethora of ghostly, occult-based shows reflects a drastic change in perspective and acceptance. A very few years ago, this would’ve been unheard of. The network suits wouldn’t understand it, much less capitalize on it. Most people didn’t talk about it for fear of strange looks and straightjackets. Fortunately, burnings and stonings are a thing of the past…well at least in this country. Now young ‘uns can’t wait to get jumped by a vampire and poked by a ghost. Paranormal is becoming mainstream, a fun and lighthearted romp (which as you know can be dangerous depending on your intention, something else’s intentions and inner strength). If you throw open a door, you also better know how to close it and floor the mystery van, Fred.
      And New Zealand-it’s on my bucket list, hobbit holes and all. Someday…a girl can dream.

    2. ps (yup, I'm still not done). Regarding Sheetz, I particularly like the touchscreen system which apparently ensures (according to corporate hdqtrz) "no need to scream over the counter as well as prevents others from knowing your strange eating habits." Well, thank jezuz for that AND their tazty fryz and shwingz. Not to mention that you can "refuel your car while refreshing your body". ??? Care to eluzidate on that one, Sir Parazyzologist? Signed Confuzed in CT

  3. Amazing blog entry, It is odd to me at times that some people do not believe that their can be other life in our grand universe, with new planets new stars, and planets that have plant life I think that is amazing, sometimes I do wonder if people here are from out there looking how we live, it does sound crazy but don't you wonder that at times? when you look at a person is that person from out there? hmm strange.. Astronomy always interest me how scientist always can find an answer or just theory. I wonder we have the paranormal world more open now, I wonder if back in the days of centuries past they had paranormal and just could not explain it imagine what they must have thought seeing the dead or objects move. It had to be a hush hush thing back then. I still have to look at the new episodes of the show I have to see if Syfy put them up yet, without cable it is hard to watch any shows. I have on line, you can learn allot on line haha.. I read much now good for the brain as they say. You have to check out the quantum physics on line news paper it is so wild all the new finds and well just amazing world we have *Universe* not sure if you understand my blabbing but your entry was good, have a wonderful evening pop in and say hi sometime:)

  4. Hi Brian, Great post and YES please take a video camera with you on your travels and cases. I find Native American practices very interesting. I'm a weird mix of spiritual and science minded. I can't seem to find a bible in any religion that acknowledges evolution LOL! So I refuse religious labels. Native American practices really seem to make more sense to me. It's great to feel at one with nature. It's been a while but I know that feeling. :)

  5. If you could shed any light on the subject on shamanism, I would be very interested in finding out where to meet one myself. I love the fact you shed light on such an unusual and most of the time sensitive subject. Your work is appreciated and doesnt go unnoticed. Thank you.