Ghost Hunters is going live again tonight for their sixth annual, six-hour Halloween special and it is gonna be a creepshow! This year, the TAPS team is returning to the notorious Pennhurst State School in Spring City, PA, a sprawling abandoned facility that's allegedly haunted by some very unsettled spirits who endured unimaginable stays at the former institution. TV Guide Magazine spent the hours leading up to Mischief Night with the crew as they set up for their All Hallow's Eve hunt to check out the creepy site and deliver to you this report on what we can expect see...or maybe just hear moaning in the dark.
Pennhurst's Painful Past
Built at the turn of the century and shut down in 1986 after a local news affiliate exposed the asylum's atrocities, Pennhurst's myriad sins included everything from overcrowding to doctors ripping patients' teeth out as punishment for unruly behavior. "It seems they put a lot of people in here they didn't know what to do with," says Destination Truth's Josh Gates, returning for his fifth Halloween hosting gig. "And what's really sad about the property is that you had this weird mix of mentally disabled people, developmentally challenged people and [wards of the state] who just didn't have any education. There were a lot of people here who slipped through the cracks."
Speaking of cracks, there are plenty of them after so many years of neglect. "A lot of the buildings are falling in on themselves, there's a ton of water damage, and it's scary," says Gates. "There's a tunnel system that runs beneath all of the buildings...I went down there by myself and it's terrifying."
The Live Angle
While TAPS members strap on their infrared cameras and EVP recorders and head off into the night, viewers will get a front-row seat to any potential scares, thanks to an interactive option during the six-hour broadcast.
"Syfy.com has a pretty robust presence online, they stream live cameras over the website, people can make comments, there's a chat room, and a 'Panic Button' that viewers can hit if they see something," explains Gates. "That sends a message to the interactive center, where there will be TAPS members talking to people. And those message will direct what's happening, giving the viewers a real interesting control...they're part of the team."
During the evening, Gates will report in from the interactive center, as well as the TAPS command center (both located inside one of the more intact buildings), to see what watchers are saying about the investigation, so watch your mouth, kids!
"Jay and I chased a shadow in one of the buildings," says Grant Wilson of his and TAPS co-leader Jason Hawes' first go round at Pennhurst, which also netted them a recording of disembodied laughing, while two other team members had a heavy metal shutter slam shut near them and heard voices in one building's main rooms. "There's a lot going on here."
Although we never saw anything during our tour of the facility with team members Amy Bruni and Adam Berry, there was a definite air of something permeating the place. Between the dilapidated, windowless playroom known as "Candyland," the random, rotting children's toys left behind after the site's closure, the rusted filing cabinets teeming with ancient medical files, and the lone, old-school wheelchair sitting on its side in one of the cavernous underground tunnels, this is not where you want to find yourself after sundown.
"It's a real sad place," agrees Bruni. "Terrible, awful things happened here, so we try to be respectful of that." For Berry, the key to scaring up any signs of lingering spirits is showing the respect anyone would expect from uninvited visitors. "You don't want to provoke. The last thing you want to tell someone is 'I'm gonna get you if you don't do this!' because they were told that all the time [as patients]. They're not going to want to communicate with us if they're afraid of us."
Still, that doesn't mean all are welcome, even if they have the kindest of intentions. "One of them told us to go home," recalls Bruni. "We heard it out loud. But then at the same time, two of the guys heard laughter, so you have this mix of happy, anger, sadness...you never know. We're dealing with entities that, in life, were mentally disabled, abandoned, and abused...we're not just here for ourselves, or the show. We're also trying to help them."
Having tackled Pennhurst once before, Hawes and Wilson are psyched to be back among the apparitions they've already met. "Obviously this place has given some amazing results for us," says Wilson. "And the owner of the property truly needs more help."
To that end, the guys plan to "go in and target the areas the owner has the most concerns about and see if we can come up with some rational explanations," says Hawes, who admits to being more afraid of humans than any possible paranormal activity. "The owners are [usually] the ones that scare us, because you never know who they are or how they are," he laughs. "When you're investigating, you might have frightening moments, but you're going there in search of it, so why let it frighten you?"
"We've been doing it so long, we now have a good sense of what could happen," continues Wilson, who jokes that the team knows they won't be hunted by a serial killer or "sucked into a TV." In fact, even with the live aspect, this night "is no different from any other investigation. Once we get going, we forget all of the live stuff and do our thing."
Plus, they'll have millions of viewers watching their backs online.
"That's the really cool thing," offers Hawes. "All the fans who tune in are able to see everything that's happening and they'll be experiencing it at the same time. That means everything to us."
So are you signing on for a night of hunting with the Ghost Hunters Live? Or do you have other Halloween plans?
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