October 8, 2005
‘Ghost Hunters’ Tackle Haunted U.S. Towns
SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Blown-out candles rekindle themselves, silverware moves untouched around vacant tables and a shadowy figure lurks in the basement.
Based on the manager's description, the Moon River brew pub is a perfect spot for Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson to hunt for ghostly shadows and eerie bumps in the night - at least those not coming from the cameraman filming their every move.
Though their Sci Fi Channel series debuted just a year ago, Hawes and Wilson of Warwick, R.I., have been investigating haunted hotspots for 15 years as leaders of the Atlantic Paranormal Society.
Away from their Roto Rooter day jobs, they seek solid evidence of spectral encounters with no-nonsense skepticism, relying on the electric eyes and ears of techno-geek gadgets rather than the sixth sense of mediums and psychics.
"I'd really like to get away from the sensitives who come in and do the floppy tuna, saying, 'Satan's living in your closet,'" says Hawes, 33, as the four-man team sets up six infrared cameras to constantly record the rooms throughout the brew pub.
The ghost hunters have traveled to Georgia's oldest city, founded in 1733, to film an upcoming Halloween episode. There's no shortage of raw material here.
The city's haunted history stems from its grimmest episodes - a bloody Revolutionary War battle, a harsh Civil War occupation, devastating fires and three yellow fever epidemics. In 2002, the American Institute of Parapsychology dubbed Savannah "America's Most Haunted City."
"Everyone here has told us, 'Oh, you've got to go to THE most haunted place,'" Wilson, 31, says after posing for snapshots with fans outside the pub. "And it's always a different spot."
At the Moon River, built on the bones of an 1820 hotel, manager Chris Lewis gives the ghost hunters - cameras in tow - a tour and a rundown of spooky sightings reported by his employees.
Workers say a folded chair propped against a window upstairs will upright itself with all four legs on the floor. They say candles snuffed on tables in the basement will flicker back to life after 20 minutes. One reported spotting a hooded figure in the darkened basement.
Lewis says he's witnessed one strange occurrence himself, enough to make him jittery about sticking around after the bar closes.
"We have silverware that gets left on the tables, and if you watch it'll start circling around on the tables," he says. "I would hope they could find some proof of something in this building, just so I know there's some validity to me being scared to be here after 2 a.m."
After the bar empties after 11:30 p.m., the Atlantic Paranormal Society team shuts off the lights and goes to work. Infrared cameras and digital audio recorders will record from six rooms through the night. Hawes and Wilson begin by monitoring the camera feeds on a computer screen in the main bar area.
A small ball of light appears on-screen from one of the upper floors and shoots across the room. Wilson types into a computer log: "11:50 light anomaly" and zooms in to review the footage.
"It's a freaking bug," Hawes grumbles.
After midnight, they head to the basement with their thermal imager displaying objects in the room in a rainbow of blue, green, yellow and red, depending on their temperature. Besides the image on the screen, the basement's pitch black.
They stop by a wall, noting a blue blob on the gadget - there's a trail through the room that's 10-degrees colder than the surrounding air.
"It looks like a human shape," Hawes tells Wilson. "It's stops with your knees and it's as high up as your head."
A ghost? They can't say for sure. Hawes and Wilson will spend hours in the coming days reviewing recordings and examining other evidence before returning to the brewery with their conclusions.
"About 80-to-85 percent of the time, you're able to disprove the claims," Hawes says. "That's not to saying the 15-to-20 percent that's left, it's actually a ghost. It's saying it's paranormal - meaning above the normal."
They've managed to capture some spooky stuff on tape for "Ghost Hunters." At Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, they filmed what looks like a caped figure swooping toward the camera, then quickly retreating.
A show taped at a National Guard armory in New Bedford, Mass., caught footage of their sound technician knocked flat when the 40-pound equipment bag at his waist swung up to smack him in the face. A tavern in Ashland, Mass., yielded a recording of a whispering voice that seems to say, "I am not dead."
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