I remember being a good little Catholic schoolboy of 5 years old, eating my brown sugar oatmeal out of my plastic Bugs Bunny bowl and listening to “Ebony and Ivory” play on a cassette recording I made off of the radio.
“Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?” sang Sir Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.
And now, 33 years later, I sit here in front of my laptop keyboard pondering the same question that puzzled McCartney and Wonder many moons ago.
It is no secret that there has been discord throughout the paranormal field which dates back long before reality television ever came to be. Physical and spirit mediums chastised and criticized each other. Illusionists and magicians challenged paranormal researchers. Rivalries, adversaries, and shenanigans are all a colorful part, of a checkered history, of the questionable reality, that is the paranormal field.
There are many paranormal shows on television today. There are reality shows that feature teams of investigators, duo pairings, and even solo researchers, all looking for answers that are cloudy at best. There are recreation shows that regale us with tales of ghost stories and demonic attacks. It appears that almost all the main angles of the field are covered and even some of the obscure ones.
I have been an on-again, off-again part of the Ghost Hunters franchise for what seems like forever. I am thankful for it. I appreciate the opportunities that I have had to further explore the field on such a grand platform. I have been able to travel the world with Ghost Hunters International and see places and meet people that I never would have been able to meet otherwise. I have lectured at the most grandiose of colleges and appeared at the smallest of local libraries. I am thankful for all of them equally.
I have done countless paranormal conventions, events and public investigations. I have given lectures, sat in on panels, attended Q & A sessions, and even sang karaoke for the entertainment of convention attendees. And whilst traveling up and down the road and back again, I have made a lot of acquaintances, some friends, and come in contact with a few truly kindred spirits. Despite what the general public thinks about the paranormal and those who are interested in the field, the paranormal community is comprised of some real beautiful people with large hearts and kind souls… all tucked in neatly beneath their un-tucked black t-shirts. (I kid because I love.)
I get the same old questions time and time again. How did I start in this field? What was my first experience? What was the scariest place I have investigated? How long does it take to do my hair? What do I think about paranormal unity? Who is my favorite person to work with? Who is my least favorite? What is Jay Hawes really like? What do I think of Zak Bagans?
Some of these questions, if not answered tactfully, would speak more about me than they would about others. I am always cognizant of my position within this community, and as a role model to anyone in need of a role model. Now trust me, I do not carry an over-inflated opinion of myself. I can honestly say that I have a kind heart and I walk this earth trying to help as many others as possible whilst enjoying my human experience. I try to be a good little Christian soldier without being judgmental, and knowing that I make more mistakes than I care to admit. As an investigator and paranormal researcher, I do a decent job. I haven’t discovered anything ground breaking. I haven’t pioneered any new techniques, nor have I developed any gadgetry. But I approach the field honestly and respectfully. I have fun doing what I do and I try to establish true communication with the other side. On the shows I am a tertiary cast member, secondary at best on occasion. I may not have a lot of “pee your pants” type evidence, but I stand behind what things I have documented and experienced as genuine.
People speak to me often about paranormal unity. I think it is a wonderfully idealistic concept, but one that will not come to fruition. Which is fine. I actually think it is good to not have everyone singing from the same hymnal. Let me tell you why. If we all are standing in a row doing the same thing, with the same equipment, time and time again, we are stagnant. We are weak. There is no progression. There is no What’s Next. (Not so coincidentally, What’s Next is the title of my latest book. Now available on Amazon. Plug. Plug. Plug.)
That being said, we need to stop whipping our EMF detectors out of our pants and arguing over whose is bigger. (It’s mine. Trust me. I kid. Or do I?) We need to be able to disagree in a polite and refined manner. Fighting amongst ourselves only furthers the agenda of those who think the paranormal is a pseudo-science that will never have any merit.
As it pertains to the shows, it would be impossible for any show to truly encapsulate what goes into an investigation. The time. The research. The dedication. If you are a paranormal researcher you know this. The countless hours of sitting on your arse asking questions into the void doesn't make for good television. The shows are a highlight reel at best. The investigators on these reality shows need to have personalities that draw people into the moment and keep them there. The story must be conveyed somehow. It has to be filmed in such a way that it is visually stimulating. It has to be formatted and edited to carry sponsorship. Television is changing. Marketing and advertising are trying to interpret the ratings in a trusted medium that is changing for the first time in forever thanks to Hulu, Netflix, DVR, and various new ways to watch your favorite programs.
The bottom line is this: The spirit world is more of a reality than any show could covey in the time allotted, even if we had all day to do so. I for one do not think we are meant to ever have all the answers.
For a long time now, two shows have been at the forefront of paranormal reality television: Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventurers. Each show is focused on documenting paranormal activity. The methods may vary from show to show and from investigator to investigator. But once again, this is a good thing.
I don’t watch much of either show. That is not a statement made in arrogance. I watch Ghost Hunters if it is an investigation I was a part of so that I can show my wife and daughter what it is that I do. I watch Ghost Adventurers when I am on the road and in a hotel when a marathon is on.
Here is why I don’t watch reality based paranormal shows-- I’m on one. When I am not investigating, I would rather watch cartoons or sitcoms. Why? I always use this same analogy: If you were a dentist, when you came home from work would you want to watch a show where other dentists pull teeth? Spin again.
I do enjoy paranormal recreation shows. I love a good ghost story and I like to see interviews featuring researchers and friends of mine that I met out on the circuit. Good people. Lots of good people.
I have traveled the road and worked alongside Jay Hawes for many years. We have done investigations locally. We have filmed investigations across the country. We have done events and panels together. Do I always agree with everything he says or does? No. But I am sure he feels the same about me. And that is okay. There exists a trust and understanding between us when we are out in the field, and that is what is important.
Zak Bagans and I have met only once. We were both guests at the Michigan ParaCon in the upper peninsula a few years back. We spoke briefly at our tables on the convention floor and then went on with business as per usual. I don’t know him well at all. I watched his fan interaction that day and saw that he and the Ghost Adventurers crew did a fine job of talking with and entertaining their fans. This may sound like a small thing, but I have been up and down the road many times and done many conventions, and I can tell you that this is sadly, not always the case. I have seen many other “para-celebrities” and real celebrities that treat their fans quite poorly.
We were all supposed to meet up for a drink at the karaoke bar in Michigan afterwards but I ended up having to get driven out of there and placed on a flight that night in order to beat a winter storm that was coming in, so that was the extent of our interaction.
Hawes and Bagans, Bagans and Hawes; the two of them are easily the most polarizing figures in the field today. Both have their supporters and their detractors. Both shows have their loyalists, purists, and haters. And that is also okay-- though in my blue heaven the haters could be a little more polite when voicing their displeasure. Once again I stress the point, a respectful conversation stirs thought about and progress for the paranormal field, whereas hate mongering and in-fighting make us all look poorly.
You and I may not always agree with what we see on various paranormal programs. We may not approve the approach being taken by certain investigators. We may not like their implementation of new technology. We may not believe their evidence. We may not like the behind the scenes stories that we hear. We may not like some of the unfortunate truths that are just beneath the surface of those stories. And even that is okay.
Yet fandom is fandom, and just as supporters of the much shipped Supernatural pairing known as Destiel are antagonized by those who do not believe in the pairing, and vice versa-- there are GH fans that dislike GAC fans and GAC fans who dislike GH fans.
It is time to rise above this.
In season two of Punky Brewster there is an episode called “The Perils Of Punky” which pits Miss Brewster against an evil spirit. The spirit is terrifying people and makes them vanish when they encounter it. Punky gets visited by Princess Moon, (stay with me), who tells her that the way to beat the evil spirit is by not being afraid of it and showing it love. They basically hug it out.
Yes, I know. Love? D.Pari you hippie! Listen, I truly don’t want us all singing from the same paranormal hymnal as written by John Zaffis, and Lord knows that I love me some Zaffis. I know that in retrospect, the all-star lineup that we have playing ball in the field today may not ever tie the shoes of those like Hans Holzer, Ed and Lorraine Warren, William Roll or Loyd Auerbach to name a few, but they are keeping the conversation about the paranormal going. They are keeping it relevant.
So when you see or hear something from the field that you do not agree with, voice your opinion in an educated and well thought out way. Continue the conversation. Do not be hateful. Do not be unintelligent. Be mindful of your position. Be mindful of our position as paranormal researchers. Let us go forward in love and light and work on advancing the field by lifting each other up instead of stepping on each other. Let us answer the bigger questions together.
Jay, I’ll be seeing you on the road. I’ll have a hug waiting for you. Don’t deny it- you know you love me.
Zak, I’ll see you when I see you- and I’ll hug you too- and I hope there are a lot of fans there to witness it, instagram it and tweet it, because together we need to break down the walls between the various factions, and advance the field as one.