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.

1 comment:

  1. How lucky I always loved to venture to Vegas only 4 hours away:)and all the interesting things and places and people you meet along the way (desert)I always love to stop in out of the way diners they have to be the coolest, this entry has been interesting to read, I never went to a Copperfield show but I hear it is wild, I went to the dolphin and pirates shows, still have to catch the showgirls I hear they are amazing. It is wild how sometimes Vegas can feel our shakes here in So. Cal, I live near the Andrea and I always tell my dad when it hits wwe might have a new addy in Hawwaii we will float over there, imagine lol.. your entries make feel at times to get in my car and drive to exciting places lol, keep them coming, hope you had a good Thanksgiving.. *Smiles* good song pics as well..