When you think ghost hunting, the first names that come to mind are usually Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters. Zak Bagans, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. The majority of popular ghost hunting shows are male dominated, and rather pervasively straight. Men yelling at ghosts and never quite learning much about the ghosts and their lives.
In comes Queer Ghost Hunters and the Stonewall Columbus Queer Ghost Hunter; a group of people all across the LGBTQ spectrum with one goal in mind, to find queer ghosts and tell their stories. This group of ghost hunters in the focus of the Queer Ghost Hunters web series, set to broadcast on YouTube in mid-October. Stu Maddux is hard at work placing the finishing touches on the series, so I had the opportunity to talk to three members of the Queer Ghost Hunters team: Scott, Shane, and Kai. These people are only a small sample of the members on the Queer Ghost Hunters team.
Scott, a self-described bear (and single), who works for an LGBTQ Health Center as an accountant. He is in his 40s and grew up in Nitro, West Virginia, but has lived in Columbus, Ohio for more than 20 years. His favorite things are live bands, horror movies, hiking, going to the zoo, exploring breweries, and the color purple.
Kai, a 31-year old demi-romantic transman from Logan, Ohio. He interns at Stonewall Columbus with another queer ghost hunter, Lori, who we did not get to interview. He is into making videos, and music, and gaming. Kai describes himself as spiritual, but not religious, and has been interested in the paranormal for a long time. Upon seeing the ghost of his birth mother, Kai has experienced increased sensitivity to the supernatural.
Shane, who co-founded Queer Ghost Hunters, has two dogs and is an attorney. He grew up on a farm and like Scott, enjoys hiking. He enjoys poorly singing karaoke (preferably embarrassing himself with Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, and Reba McEntire). For Shane, Sunday brunch is rarely optional and Lana Del Rey is queen.
I asked each member the same questions, from their experiences with the paranormal to information about the show. Each member remained rather tight lipped about what to expect in the show. No spoilers, it seems, would come from these members!
Q: Everyone tends to have an experience that got them into the supernatural. What is yours and why do you think it stuck with you?
Kai: One night when I was sleeping in my room, my adoptive mother was across the hall. The night before I had a sleep over with my next door neighbor. She brought over an Ouija board. I tried to contact my birth-mother who had been murdered in Dayton, Ohio. We freaked out when the thing actually moved, it was just me and her. The next night, I had the radio on low in my room, and I was listening to “Michael Jackson’s – You Are Not Alone” on the radio. I was thinking about my mother and her laying in the coffin the last I had seen her. In a white dress. I was sad and singing with the song, because I loved Michael Jackson’s music, as I was lying in bed, my mother appeared to me in a white dress.
Shane: I’ve been interested in the paranormal/supernatural from a young age. I remember several experiences from when I was 8 or 9 that really made me believe, and made me pay more attention to what I’m sensing. That first experience was terrifying to me. I vividly remember waking up in bed and being cold. As I was moving around to adjust the blanket, I noticed that there was a hand on me. It was bright blue, electric blue really. It was resting on my shoulder. I remember pulling the blanket over my head and just waiting, terrified. Eventually it went away. But it is something that I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
After that, I was more aware and eventually determined that I was sensitive to entities – I’m frequently able to see them, or somehow be aware of their presence. When I met Michelle Belanger the first thing she said to me, before I even got to say my name, was that she could tell I had strong psychic abilities – I thought that was cool, and somewhat personally validating.
All of that to say, what got me actually “into” the paranormal was living in a haunted house. I lived there for three years, and everything paranormal that could possibly happen, happened in that house. Whether it was voices, ethereal music, stuff moving, stuff being thrown, weird/unexplainable smells, being touched, seeing balls of light (that only happened once, but there were several people in the room and made a believer out of everyone), and actually seeing several full bodied apparitions. It was an interesting place to live, and I’ve wanted to go back for a long time for an investigation. Nothing that happened ever seemed malicious. But that is when I really started researching the paranormal, and becoming more informed on the theories of the topic.
Q: What can viewers expect from the show?
Scott: I think people will learn a little of our LGBTQ history and get an understanding of what some of our LGBTQ pioneer’s struggles were. I think it will also give us a better appreciation of how far we have come with LGBTQ issues. Not to say we still don’t have a long way to go, mind you.
I also think it may reveal and shed light on the fact LGBTQ folks have been amongst us throughout history and in all walks of life.
Shane: A bunch of queer weirdos walking around in the dark, trying to talk to queer entities, until ungodly hours of the morning.
More seriously, we’re exploring places where queer folk were likely to have been in the past. We discuss the history of these places to help explain why we’re there. And we try make contact with queer entities. Our methods are unorthodox – and I think a lot of viewers will find that refreshing. We aren’t there to confront anything – there’s no yelling at entities, no demanding they do something. We’ve built a team of likeminded individuals, who are focused on spreading the warmth of community to everyone – including ghosts. And we’ve had amazing success with that method!
Q: Was there an event during your ghost hunting adventures that particularly touched you?
Kai: When I was trying to communicate with the angry nun in Toledo to see what I could do, and she did affect me during an investigation there. Also, when we met the runaway slave in Prospect Place, he said he found freedom in Canada in life, yet for some reason his ghost is still haunting Prospect Place, like something was unfinished or couldn’t be understood.
Shane: There have been several to be totally honest. Because we have a different focus than other paranormal groups, we tend to get very different results. I don’t want to give anything away, but asking a popular spirit at a well-known, nearby location (I’m being deliberately vague), about her children, and simultaneously catching an EVP of a woman crying – well, it was heartbreaking.
But there have been so many! Including ghosts coming out to us, ghost talking about how they had lovers they couldn’t recognize in life. Really, the full gamut of heartbreaking experiences that regularly occurred to folks before there was more equality and acceptance.
Q: How has the reception for the show been so far?
Scott: The reception has been incredible. So much so I felt compelled to post a special video, and I’m extremely shy…so that should tell you how motivating the response is. I never expected to get messages from people telling us how grateful they are or how they now feel they belong…stuff like that. I never thought of myself as someone who could inspire others, so it’s quite humbling.
There have been some negative comments made on some postings, but for every one hater there are 100s of supporters. So I’m good with it.
Kai: Mostly positive, I think. I know there are going to be those types of folks that laugh it off as something stupid, well, yes it may look silly – but – if it allows me to figure out a way to communicate? To find those that thought they were forgotten? We bring it back out. The only way to clear the air is find where all of the queer ghosts are, and how we can learn and interact with one another.
Shane: Amazing! I’m blown away by how well received this idea has been. Lori and I knew we were on to something when we discussed it with our personal circles. That said, I never expected the online and public reaction to be so warm. The stories people are sharing with us are just absolutely amazing. It makes all of us very excited to share with you our adventures. It really just proves the power of community and sharing.
Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring queer ghost hunters?
Scott: Accept and appreciate the skeptics.
Kai: You need to have a core group of believers. People who are willing to be anything and any one. Keep an open mind. Stay positive. Know your boundaries. Don’t make fun of queer ghosts, cause… they’ve been through enough. Don’t you think? Be willing to vulnerable and open if you expect someone else to be. This is a learning curve on both sides. Doesn’t matter who you are, it’s the being
Shane: Ha! We could probably do a seminar on how to be a queer ghost hunter. If you want you to find queer ghosts, just remember how difficult it was for you to be your authentic self. Now, imagine that being 100 times harder. The real key is being open, honest, and authentic with any entity that you are contacting. You need to share. You need to build rapport quickly, with someone who may have never admitted their secrets to anyone else. When that happens, when you share a sense of community, we’ve found that entities open up and also share with you.
Q: What place do you want to ghost hunt at the most?
Scott: There are so many places I want to go, I’m not sure I could pick just one…lol. Ghettysburg and Waverly Hills are definitely high on my list. And I would love to return to Collingwood in Toledo. We’ll see what the director reveals about that one, then maybe you’ll see why.
Kai: The Mayan Ruins.
Shane: There are so many good places, that’s a really tough question. However, there are a few that come to mind: The Upstairs Lounge, the Lizzie Borden house, and a place I read about in “A Queer History of The United States” (it was a town/colony called Merrymount, that was apparently very progressive and open for the time, which to me sounds like there are probably some queer ghosts hauntin’ around).
Q: Any final words to the fans?
Scott: I can’t say thank you enough. When I went to that initial meeting at Stonewall about a year ago, I never in a million years thought I would be here now. You say we inspire you, I say you inspire us…let’s keep inspiring each other!!!
Kai: I think it’s time for ghosts to come out of the closet, and show the world that we indeed surpass death. Maybe we really are energetically magnetic spirits with souls, sprinkled with stars. I believe there is a star for each and every one of us. It’s ok to let go and believe that nothing has ever been lost at all!
Shane: Thank you all so much for the tremendous amount of support – the beautiful comments we have received from viewers are so heartwarming. We love getting to interact with you – so please keep commenting! And don’t forget to share with your friends. Knowing all of you are along for the ride, is now half the fun. We will need all of your support, and the support of your friends, to keep this a success!
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The first episode of Queer Ghost Hunters is on YouTube and can be found at this link. There is also a Kickstarter to continue the project beyond October. Thanks to Scott, Kai, and Shane for doing this interview with us and thank you to Stu for getting us all in touch! You can follow the project on their Twitter or their Facebook as well.
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