[Images courtesy Charlotte Fletcher/Discovery Communications LLC]
Do you believe in ghosts?
Do you want to believe?
Or better yet, do you want proof?
Anyone who answers yes, sure, or maybe to the above questions might want to find the Destination America channel this Tuesday for the return of the Tennesee Wraith Chasers (TWC) and Haunted Towns August 15 10/9c. TWC, started in 2009 by Christopher Smith, first came to the airwaves in 2014 with Haunted Asylums (also on Destination America). Joinging Smith are Doogie McDougal, Scott Porter, and Brannon Smith to start off their new series with a visit to the history (and ghost?) soaked town of Gettysburg, PA.
As a hard core history buff who loves ghost stories, this series could at the bullseye of my Venn diagram of interests. And if ghosts are created by conflict and tragedy, then the site of one of America’s bloodiest battles would be chockablock with specters of the unquiet dead. The clash between Union and Confederate forces at the Battle of Gettysburg from July 1-3 1863 resulted in an estimated 46,286 casualties, including 7,863 killed.
The premiere episode begins, as all good ghost hunts should, with coffee. Afterwards the TWC crew visits two sites in and near the town of Gettysburg. First stop – Mason Dixon Militaria. True to its name, this store is full of actual clothes, weapons and other memorabilia from the Civil War era. Using some of those items, (including a wicker display casket), the gang sets up their equipment in a basement that would do a horror movie proud; full of rusty bedframes, mortuary equipment – an perhaps a ghost or two.
The second segment of the episode visits the Stewart Farm. Outside of the town propery, it was used a field hospital during the battle. As with the first segment, the TWC crew uses “trigger items” to (they hope) awake the ghosts of Gettysburg enough to register on their equipment. As befits a legendary battleground, a rifle shot in the night is used to (hopefully) awake the dead.
So did I buy in? Yes and no. As a history nut, I love seeing the site of such a major part of American history. But as a novice to the reality television paranormal investigation genre, some things were a bit too much to believe. In a movie involving paranormal researchers like The Awakening (2011), part of the tension is the balance between doubt and belief; wondering if the ghosts are real or an elaborate hoax is part of the fun (and the scares).
On a reality program like Haunted Towns, it’s very apparent that the people invovled are true believers. I felt like the investigators aren’t so much searching to see IF ghosts exist – as looking to record confirmation of what they already think is true. And whether it’s a convention of reality television, or the compression of events to fit a specific run time, the phenomena recorded during the investigations in this episode were a bit too “on the nose” for me.
The words, sights, and sounds of the Gettysburg ghosts are surprisingly specific to what the investigators want to hear and see. But I am a novice to paranormal investigation reality show in general. I’ll take my own doubts with a grain of salt and try and suspend my disbelief for these enthusiastic ghost hunters.
Not that it all isn’t very entertaining. Haunted Towns is a fun show, as are the the interactions of TWC crew in their interations with the people they meet in Gettysburg. I might be following these investigators to their next stop (Hello, Salem Mass.!), even if I find the ghosts of fiction a bit easier to believe in.
Haunted Towns airs on Desination America Tuesdays at 10/9c.
The Tennessee Wraith Chasers homepage.