Ghost Hunters and other Paranormal

DVD Review: Ghost Hunters Season 2, Part 1 – Half A Season Is Better Than None

The Atlantic Paranormal Society, or TAPS, has developed a lot of credibility in the paranormal investigation field. The reason why is stated upfront on the first disc of the second season of their television show, Ghost Hunters: they go to an investigation trying to disprove the reports of a haunting.

TAPS is led by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. They are plumbers employed by Roto-Rooter in their day jobs. Their hobby is the paranormal investigations. They were motivated into this field by separate, personal experiences they had no explanations for. They founded TAPS together in 1993, a long time before there was even an inkling that a television show could come out of it. In fact, one of the things I have been surprised to learn from the show is just how many local paranormal investigative groups there are out there.

In the first season, TAPS worked off of a trailer on Jason’s property in Rhode Island. Now, probably thanks to the success of the television show, they have space in a local storefront. They also have a new van for traveling to investigations that acts as a mobile command unit.

For people who are unfamiliar with paranormal investigation, in each episode, it’s explained what the various instruments are used for and why. For example, an EMF detector is used and Steve often explains that this is used to detect electromagnetic fields. He also explains that to use it, there needs to be a base reading in a room when they first enter it for investigation. It’s generally believed that a high EMF reading is a sign of paranormal activity since spirits need to draw on energy from somewhere. TAPS does a pretty good job pinpointing physical and explainable sources of high EMF readings at various locations.

There are personnel issues this time around that were just below the surface in the first season but are bubbling up a lot more during this first half of the second season. Investigator and Tech Supervisor Brian Harnois has been caught in lies, lost equipment, and generally acted unprofessionally. Grant and Jason show themselves giving him one final chance and his subsequent dropping the ball with it. Steve Gonsalves is promoted to tech manager mid-season and immediately everything begins working smoother than it has in the past.

Dustin Pari is one of the new faces at TAPS, as is Jen Rossi. Dave Tango is first seen this season during one of the investigations in New Jersey and he has become a fixture at TAPS in subsequent episodes. I like the blend of different faces as well as some continuity.

As I have watched the show and gotten to “know” the personalities involved, it really has built their credibility as far as I am concerned. Unlike other “haunted” shows, they don’t feel the need to find something at every place they visit. Jason especially doesn’t believe orbs are any indication of paranormal activity and seems to get annoyed when they are shown to him. Generally he writes them off as dust, but even when they seem to act intelligently, he believes it’s just residual energy in a place, not of paranormal origin. In any episode where one is found, he will tell you about it. Some fans of the show have developed drinking games around things like this and the EMF explanation.

They also aren’t afraid to come clean when something that looks like amazing evidence of activity is something entirely different, as happens in one episode. At times when they are going back to an investigation where they haven’t found anything, they seem to be nervous because the people who have asked them to come are just so sure that they have spirits in their location. It’s the human side of many of the events that really get me into it all.

Probably due to the exposure TAPS received from the television show on the Sci-Fi channel, they were invited to investigate many places with reputations for being haunted during this season. Those included the Myrtles Plantation in New Orleans, the Battleship North Carolina, the Winchester Mystery House, one of the Astor’s mansions, and the Queen Mary.

My kids and I really enjoy this show. Even re-watching episodes we’ve already seen now that they are out on DVD brings excitement to them and it’s really created a bonding experience for the family. At the same time, they have learned about critical analysis and not always accepting first impressions of what they see. I’ve found it to be a terrific learning tool. There’s some language that gets bleeped out, and Grant frequently uses other “f” words, such as saying “What the fetch…” when I know he means “What the f**k…” so some people might object to that. My kids hear worse than that when Daddy drives.

A complaint I have that can’t be leveled at just Ghost Hunters but at the new trend in television-based DVDs in general is the marketing of half a season at a time. This drives me crazy, and this year I have even noticed how many shows are doing “Fall Season Finales” in anticipation of getting two seasons (and consequently two DVD sets) out of what used to be one.

I wasn’t happy with the overall quality of the DVD, however. If you like to pause the DVD to look at the evidence, often it’s not crisp enough to really see it well. These scenes as well as any paused scenes in general, tend to be blurry. Near the end of the DVD, I also noticed the sound getting quite distorted. I actually thought the speakers in my television were damaged until I switched it back over to regular viewing and the sound was fine.

The Deleted Scenes are generally pretty good. There’s some insight into the issues with Brian which seemed to preoccupy this entire season. A lot of the scenes are good and seem like they were deleted for the show to fit the time slot, so being able to view them now is a real plus.

The Bonus Investigations were really nice. I figured if they didn’t make it to the television show, they must have been investigations that were boring and didn’t show anything. They were actually really good and interesting and there was some activity as well as incidents during the investigation.

For people who are true skeptics, there’s nothing that will convince them and I am sure Ghost Hunters won’t cut it either. For people who have had experiences or who believe but still need more proof, I think you’ll be happy with the show. We enjoy it as a family.


EPISODE GUIDE

DISC ONE

• Myrtles Plantation in New Orleans – TAPS travels to this location in New Orleans where they uncover a few pieces of potential evidence they can’t explain as well as several personal experiences which lead them to conclude the place is haunted.

• House in Grafton, Massachusetts – A report of children being awakened in the middle of the night by toys flying around the room and pulling of the bed sheets. When they cut through the floor of the old house, they uncover a newspaper from 1902 and bones that might be human.

• House in Cranston, Rhode Island – A house is investigated which has had apparent paranormal experiences for the residents for two decades. These two episodes back to back highlight the way the investigators have to behave. At this house, Jason is scratched or burned while on the investigation, without having touched anything while he is talking to the homeowners.

• DeVille House outside of New Orleans – Another paranormal investigative organization from Southern Louisiana asks TAPS for help when they cannot solve a case where a man seems to be continually harassed by spirits in his home, especially whenever he wants to bring a girlfriend home.

• Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans – TAPS is asked to investigate the famous “Haunted Dining Room” at this restaurant. Although the food is great and the stories the Captain tells are fascinating, they are unable to investigate due to interference from live humans with the restaurant being open.

DISC TWO

• Mordecai House in North Carolina – This house is the birthplace of President Andrew Johnson. TAPS goes there with the intent of giving some new members of their investigative team a chance to train. They meet up with members of an investigative group called Haunted North Carolina and attempt to check out the house, when people on the team start becoming ill, probably from what they ate.

• Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington, North Carolina – Since they are in North Carolina, Grant and Jason decide to take an opportunity presented to them to investigate this ship and its reputed hauntings. TAPS has some very interesting and unexplained experiences on this ship which suffered a torpedo hit and many deaths during the war. My daughter was so enthralled with this episode that we had to go see this ship when we visited Myrtle Beach last spring.

• Bradley Playhouse in Putnam, CT – Reports of figures on the stage and other areas of the theatre have made the actors uncomfortable. TAPS goes in to investigate, but most of the happenings seem to be about Brian.

• Firehouse in Groton, CT – A firehouse is having trouble attracting volunteers due to reports of paranormal happenings. This is the first case without Brian running the Tech Department. There are some interesting events that happen during the investigation, but is it enough for Grant and Jason to say the place is haunted?

• Ledge Lighthouse in New London, CT – Deemed one of the most haunted places in America, TAPS member Andy Andrews gets permission to investigate this place after seeing it featured on another show.

• Merchant’s House Museum in New York City – TAPS travels to New York City to investigate an old brownstone house built in 1832 which has been turned into a museum. They almost lose some of their equipment before they even get off the ground with the investigation. The museum has had a lot of reports of apparitions and noises through the years.

DISC THREE

• Tanguay House in Springfield, MA – TAPS investigates a case involving a child who is being poked in the head, shaken, and pulled. His mother reports extreme nausea every time she enters the house’s basement. It’s also revealed here that Kristyn became a member of TAPS after her 2-year-old son was experiencing something similar.

• Sutcliffe House in NH – TAPS investigates a house that was previously investigated by another paranormal group who relied more on mediums and the senses rather than technical equipment. They bring in the grandson of those original investigators to help as the current homeowners report incidents of doors opening and closing on their own, furniture vibrating while they sit in it, hearing voices, seeing mists and the like.

They do have a few things occur during the investigation which they try to disprove.

• Astor Mansion in Newport, RI – The staff there have reported hearing voices, footsteps, cold spots, and even an apparition of a woman in a yellow dress. TAPS has a difficult time covering the entire mansion with their equipment.

• Mrs. X in New Jersey – Ray Mennicucci and Dave Tango of Central New Jersey Paranormal Society call TAPS for help with the case of a woman who has been having paranormal activity in her home for three years and wants to remain anonymous. There are some cool findings in the house.

• Worthington House in NH – A family has been experiencing paranormal activity since they moved into their home a year ago and are about ready to move out when they ask TAPS to come in and investigate.

• Rolling Hills Asylum in Bethany NY – Over 1,000 people died in this abandoned building in upstate New York. There have been reports of mysterious noises, smells, people being touched, and EVP activity. Jason and Grant have an experience in the basement that they cannot explain.

DISC FOUR

• Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA – TAPS returns to the location of one of their most active and productive investigations. This time, the results are very different.

• Ogden House in Connecticut – A woman walks into TAPS headquarters with reports of strange happenings in her home. Jason and Grant investigate immediately, fearing it’s a negative entity.

• Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA – The home of Sarah Winchester who kept construction ongoing in the house for 38 years in fear she would be plagued by evil spirits if she didn’t is investigated. It presents quite a challenge to the team due to its size and unusual configuration.

• Queen Mary Ship in San Diego, CA – The ship has a reputation for being haunted, both among guests who have stayed on it as well as the people who staff it. Although some evidence of paranormal activity is experienced by the investigators personally as well as caught on tape, TAPS really keeps its reputation when it doesn’t accept something and manages with a little tenacity to prove someone tried to stage something for them.

Bonus Investigations

These are investigations that never made it on the air.

• Carousel Gardens Restaurant in Seymour, CT – This is a restaurant that has a reputation for paranormal activity and has had numerous psychics and sensitives come out, but never an organization with the credibility of TAPS.

• Spanish Military Hospital in St. Augustine, FL – Not only have apparitions been reported in this more than 200-year-old building, but during tours, there have been mysterious noises, people being scratched, and other odd occurrences.


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