Greeting the Ghost Hunters – TAPS in Taunton

Is “Ghost Hunters” real?

This is a question I see often in a couple of online spiritual forums I frequent, and one that confuses me.  What is this question really asking?  Is the SyFy show “Ghost Hunters” real?  Is the SyFy show “Ghost Hunters” actually a reality show?  Is “T.A.P.S.” a real-life group?  Or are folks who are asking this question really meaning, “Are ghosts real?”

Well, in honor of tonight’s season premiere of “Ghost Hunters International” on SyFy, I’m finally getting around to posting on this subject.  (Also because I’m growing rather tired of typing out my same answers in these forums over and over – now I can just provide a link to this page and save my wrists and fingers a little wear and tear!)

Here I’d like to respond to some common questions/comments I come across in the forums – from my perspective, my experiences, what I’ve learned about T.A.P.S., and the paranormal in my own studies.

Of course the television show “Ghost Hunters” is real.  That goes without saying – any of us can tune into the SyFy channel on Wednesday nights and watch it.  And yes, it IS a reality show.  The interest in this subject is far greater than some folks can seem to fathom.

T.A.P.S. IS a real-life paranormal investigation and research organization.   Based out of Warwick, RI, T.A.P.S. was founded by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson.  Having had paranormal experiences himself and wanting answers (and to know he wasn’t completely crazy), Jason had started a group called RIPS – Rhode Island Paranormal Society – which he started out to be a support group for people who had had paranormal experiences.  It was through this group and its website that Jason met Grant, who was working in the computer field at the time and offered to help with the design the RIPS website.  And, come to find out, Grant had a bit of an ulterior motive for volunteering his services, as he had had paranormal experiences himself and was also seeking answers.  To make a long story short, the two became the best of friends. They had discussed their theories and philosophies on the paranormal at length, and T.A.P.S. was born.  They decided to take a more rational approach in their search for answers, unlike other paranormal teams at the time that seemed to deem every location they investigated as being “haunted”.  As Grant said, “If you set out to prove a haunting, anything will seem like evidence.  If you set out to disprove it, you’ll end up with only those things that can’t be explained away.”

T.A.P.S. sets out in each investigation to disprove and debunk as many of the paranormal claims as they can find rational and normal explanations for.  Then they are able to focus further research on the actual paranormal – the currently unexplainable evidence and experiences.  Such things as EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomena), which I must admit, intrigues me.

Is the goal of the show to prove the existence of ghosts?  Well, not exactly.  The show is more about following a group of real-life paranormal investigators, a team that takes a skeptical and scientific approach in their continued study of this field.   To show how they conduct a paranormal investigation from beginning to end.  (Notice the cameras that are filming the show are most always focused ON the team members doing the investigating.  One complaint I’ve heard a lot is, “The film crew never have the cameras pointed in the right direction at the right time…they never catch anything that the Ghost Hunters are seeing.”  Quite simply, that’s not their job.  Their job is to film the investigation process.)

Of course, a complete case from start to finish couldn’t be aired as a whole, especially not in a one hour episode since the whole process can take several days and nights, so we are shown a highly edited version in a Ghost Hunters episode – highlights of the investigations.  From the acceptance of the case, to the travel to the location to be investigated, to the research put into the location, the set-up of equipment, investigation, breakdown, analysis of evidence, and the conclusions to be discussed with the representatives of the location.   Through “Ghost Hunters”, we learn about T.A.P.S. philosophies and theories, the equipment and technology they utilize, what the most common theories and beliefs about ghosts and hauntings are in the field of paranormal study, etc.

T.A.P.S. never claims their theories and beliefs to be absolute fact.  This field of  study is, after all, still a work in progress.  It is still being developed.  At this time, there is no commonly agreed upon proof of ghosts in the scientific community.  T.A.P.S. presents what they believe to be “closest to the truth” based on their education in the field, and their years of research and experience.

This is not to say that we will never have absolute, scientific answers.  Come on folks, there was a time in our history when people believed that a god rode a chariot through the sky towing the sun along, and this explained the daily travels of the sun above them.   There was a time when folks believed the Earth to be flat.  We humans have come a long way scientifically, in our understanding of many things about the world around us that were once mysterious to us.  But there are still things out there we have yet to discover, phenomena we have yet to be able to measure and explain scientifically.

At this point in time, it is up to each individual to decide for themselves whether ghosts are real, whether they exist.  And I can totally understand how difficult it is for someone to believe ghosts exist if they’ve never had any genuine paranormal experiences themselves.  (Keep in mind, paranormal simply means not scientifically explainable.  It does not equate to “supernatural” – death is a very natural part of life!)

Personally, it took several experiences, most always shared with others at the time, for me to develop my own interest in this study and set out on my own quest for answers.  I am thankful for folks like the T.A.P.S. team who have put as much energy and effort into it as they have.  Skepticism is good.  A completely closed mind on the other hand…well, let’s just say, if I’d have always kept my mind closed to new or different ideas, I would have missed out on a lot in life.

I’ve also seen many an accusation that “TAPS fakes evidence”, either of their own accord or at the prompting of SyFy to make the show more entertaining and keep their ratings up.  And they are accused of doing this “for the money” as well.

I have a few things to point out here.

Anybody who has watched “Ghost Hunters” from the beginning can clearly see that proceeds were immediately invested into the T.A.P.S. organization – to upgrade and purchase equipment, to be able to travel greater distances and investigate historical, reportedly haunted locations all over the country, to set up a decent sized home base of operations, etc.

One must also understand that this quest, along with doing the show, means taking a lot of time away from their families.  Both Jason and Grant are married with children – they have families to provide for, so why would anyone knock them for getting paid for doing the show or to conduct training workshops?  How many of us can afford to give all our time and energy away for free?  The T.A.P.S. team are regular folks who deserve to have a life too.  They do NOT charge clients for investigations.

As far as “faking evidence” – this serves no purpose toward their goal, which is still what it always was – to debunk the normal and focus further research on the paranormal, to try to find the answers they seek, and to be able to help others who may have had paranormal experiences.  Such experiences can be unsettling, and people need to know they’re not alone in dealing with such phenomena.

Heck, sometimes all Jay and Grant are able to do on an investigation is help with their plumbing experience and fix a small leak or a broken pipe for the client that may have been causing strange noises.  As they say, “we’re here to help”, even if that help means a little handy work.   The T.A.P.S. co-founders are the first to tell us that on at least 80% of investigations, they capture no evidence of paranormal activity and are able to do a lot of debunking.

About this time last year, I was afforded the opportunity to attend a lecture featuring Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, hosted by Bay State Paranormal Society which was held in Taunton, MA.  The lecture was also a sort of paranormal workshop, as the audience was presented with evidence collected on various cases and asked to do the debunking.  We had a pretty good group of debunkers there!

Jason and Grant, who claim that they are not professional speakers, certainly held our attention with their presentation, and kept us entertained with their humor.   In fact, these not-professional-speakers could easily be a stand-up comedy team.  I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard since.  They are a hoot!  Their good friendship and their ability to work well together certainly shows, which makes it all that much better. They are a dynamic duo for sure.

One of only two complaints I had about this event was that the lighting in this auditorium was horrible for photography – and I like to have a few photographs from my adventures, especially those that become most memorable moments.

Meeting Jason and Grant in person was a pleasure.  They are two down-to-earth, genuinely nice guys.  They were hanging around casually chatting with folks before the presentation, and they hung around after to meet folks in person, sign autographs (as everyone wanted them), and give everyone a few minutes of more personalized time.

And here I am, just after talking with the guys briefly, having shaken hands and thanked them both, provided a few of my feedback comments, now getting my copy of their first book autographed. Also from the looks of it, I was having a bad hair day.  LOL  Not that Jason could relate to that at the time.  😉

We were charged a ticket price of $25.00 to attend, but this was more of a fund-raising event with proceeds being donated to local animal shelters.  Being the animal-loving charitable pagan that I am, I was pleased with this.  Many attendees, including me, also brought dog and cat food to be donated to the shelters.

For folks in this area, like myself, who wish to delve further into T.A.P.S. style studies and investigation techniques, there are “Paranormal 101” classes held right at the T.A.P.S. offices in Warwick, RI.  Though they are conducted by T.A.P.S. team members other than Jason and Grant, they are most certainly worthy of checking out – the other T.A.P.S. team members have a lot to offer, and they also have great personalities.

Believers (for lack of a better term) and skeptics alike, for further insight into Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, T.A.P.S., and “Ghost Hunters”, I would highly recommend reading both of Jay & Grant’s entertaining and informative books, “Ghost Hunting”, and “Seeking Spirits”.   These give you so much more than a few one hour episodes of “Ghost Hunters” are able to.  But also, keep watching “Ghost Hunters”, Wednesday nights on SyFy!

In addition, a plethora of information can be found on the The Atlantic Paranormal Society’s website, by clicking here.

As an aside for my Deaf friends, while settling into our seats awaiting the start of the presentation, my paranormal partner-in-crime, Evan (who actually paid both of our donations – thank you again! :-)), pointed out to me that there was an ASL interpreter across the room chatting with some Deaf folks.  At first I thought, “awesome, I’m so glad to see that access provided here”.  But soon after, I got a feeling.  Before leaving that day, I approached the Bay State Paranormal Society’s representative who had coordinated the event, and inquired as to who provided the interpreter.  As I had come to suspect, the interpreting services were not offered in advance or provided by Bay State Paranormal – she told me the Deaf group brought their own interpreter, who was of course not charged a donation fee for attending.  Okay, so the desire for but lack of provision of interpreting services was the second complaint I had.

Though it didn’t seem as though the cost of providing interpreting services was the immediate concern of the BSPS’s coordinator – the coordinator admitted that she wasn’t aware of the need for such, and wouldn’t have known where to go to find such services.  I honestly don’t know if BSPS was contacted prior to the event about providing interpreting services or not, we didn’t quite have the time to discuss all that in detail.  In any case, once again, thanks to my Spirit Sister, Ocean of Deaf Pagan Crossroads, who keeps me well informed, I was able to point the coodinator in the direction of local agencies who could help her with setting up interpreting services for future events.

Though just tonight I was perusing their website, which I haven’t done in a few months, and it doesn’t seem the same lady is still with Bay State Paranormal Society…and I am unsure as to what they are doing for current events.  I will look into this further.

To “team T.A.P.S.” – thank you for all you do, and keep up the great work!  Happy Hunting!

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