12 Surprising Facts About Ghost Hunters

Syfy
Syfy

On October 6, 2004, paranormal reality show Ghost Hunters premiered on Syfy (then know as Sci-Fi). Over of the course of 11 seasons, 217 episodes, and 13 specials (including live Halloween specials), the show amassed a huge following. At one point, the show was attracting 3 million viewers per episode, and was popular enough to spin-off into the short-lived Ghost Hunters International and Ghost Hunters Academy.

Paranormal investigators Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson led a team of investigators—including Amy Bruni, Adam Berry, Steve Gonsalves, and Dave Tango—to research supposed paranormal activity, from Mason, Ohio's Kings Island amusement park to the Philadelphia Zoo. The purpose of the show was not to prove if a place was haunted, but the opposite. “If it may be haunted, we try to disprove the haunting,” Wilson told The New York Times in 2009. He went on to say that the show wasn’t scripted: “We’re not changing anything we do to make more of an entertainment factor.”

The show ended its successful run on October 26, 2016 as Syfy’s longest running reality show. However, almost three years later, Ghost Hunters is returning for another season—this time with “better tech.” Wilson, who departed the show in 2012, will be back for the rebooted Ghost Hunters, which will start airing on A&E on August 21.

While Hawes won’t be returning to Ghost Hunters, he also has a new show—Ghost Nation, which will feature his former Ghost Hunters cohorts Tango and Gonsalves—that will premiere on Travel Channel in October. Here are some facts about the original series, which turned people into believers (and skeptics).

1. Ghost Hunters was born out of the Rhode Island Paranormal Society.

In 1990, Jason Hawes founded the Rhode Island Paranormal Society (RIPS, which later became The Atlantic Paranormal Society) as a support group for those who had experienced unexplained encounters. When Hawes was 20, he had his first supernatural encounter. He had been experimenting with reiki (a Japanese relaxation technique) and started seeing apparitions. “It wasn’t until he ran into a stranger at an aquarium—a woman who suggested that he try eating green olives—that he obtained any relief from his visions,” Wilson wrote in the book Seeking Spirits: The Lost Cases of The Atlantic Paranormal Society.

2. Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes met through the RIPS website.

Wilson came across the RIPS website and offered to redesign it. “I contacted Jason and discovered that he was interested in improving the site, and could use the help," Wilson wrote in Seeking Spirits. "A short time later, we met at a donut shop and started batting ideas. But the conversation kept drifting away from website toward the paranormal.”

Since the RIPS website received queries from all over the world, they decided to change the group's name to The Atlantic Paranormal Society (or TAPS). According to Hawes, the website receives an average of 1000 case requests per day. To manage all these cases, they have TAPS teams situated all over the world.

3. A New York Times article helped Ghost Hunters happen.

On Halloween 2002, The New York Times published an article on plumbers/paranormal investigators Wilson and Hawes and RIPS. When the article “went viral,” Hawes said the guys began receiving requests from TV show producers. Craig Piligian, who runs Pilgrim Films & Television, made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. “He didn’t want to change us," Hawes told The Alternative Route Podcast in 2018. "He just wanted to send cameras with us. He said, ‘Bottom line, if you don’t do it, somebody else is going to do it, and how are they going to represent the field?’ We wanted to make sure that if we did the show, the field would be represented the way we saw it.”

4. Jason Hawes didn't think Ghost Hunters would be on the air for very long.

Television personalities Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson attend the Sci Fi Channel 2008 Upfront Party at The Morgan Library & Museum on March 18, 2008 in New York City
L to R: Ghost Hunters stars Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson in New York City in 2008.
Scott Wintrow, Getty Images

Hawes admitted that he didn’t think the show would last more than one season, or 10 episodes. In signing on, Syfy agreed to not own the show, which gave Hawes and Wilson more freedom. It was that kind of dedication and independent spirit that attracted Syfy to the project in the first place.

In a 2009 New York Times article on Ghost Hunters, Mark Stern—Syfy's then-executive vice president for original programming—explained why Hawes, Wilson, and TAPS appealed to him: “They would get in their vans on their days off, drive for hours and stay up all night investigating for no money."

5. Grant Wilson does not like to be called a "Ghostbuster."

In an interview with Daily Herald, Wilson said that being called a "Ghostbuster" was a particularly “sore subject” for him. “We do not bust anything,” he said. “We investigate people and places that are potentially haunted. We can disprove over 80 percent of the cases we investigate. For that reason we like to be referred to as investigators because we are spending more time investigating the people and their situation than we are ‘busting ghosts.’ It’s a great movie, but it did a serious disservice to the paranormal investigation field.”

6. The Ghost Hunters prioritize cases that involve kids.

In a 2012 interview, Hawes explained the criteria for choosing certain cases. “Honestly, out of those, it’s going to fall under are the people terrified? If they are, what type of activity’s going on? Are there children involved, because if there’s a child involved, that jumps to the front of the list,” he said. “I’m a father and the last thing I would want is for my children to feel threatened in their own home.”

7. Ghost Hunters helped normalize paranormal experiences for many people, and gave them a safe space to talk about them.

“For a field that used to be laughed at and people felt that they had to whisper about their experiences, to see that things have come so far and that now these people feel like they can openly discuss it, is just amazing,” Hawes said about the show’s success. “It’s such a great feeling to know that we were a part of that movement to try to really advance this field.”

8. The show led to a sharp increase in the number of ghost-hunting groups around the country.

In 2008, the Los Angeles Times published an article on how “Ghost-hunting groups around the country are swelling with members.” Along with Ghost Hunters, 2008 saw an array of other ghost-centric shows, including non-reality series like Ghost Whisperer and Medium. "Thank God for the Ghost Hunters on Sci Fi," Patti Starr, founder of Lexington, Kentucky's Ghost Chasers International, said. "Through that show, I think people see we are really serious about what we do, and they’ve raised the bar."

9. Jason Hawes thinks there are too many paranormal-focused TV shows.

"That was a big reason why I chose not to re-sign for more seasons,” Hawea told The Alternative Route Podcast in 2018. "When we got near season 7 or 8, you saw all these other networks popping up with their own spin-off or copycats of Ghost Hunters, and a lot of them would come and go and so forth. You had a network that was only playing paranormal shows, which was ridiculous. There’s a bunch of shows out there that seem to follow the same format as Ghost Hunters did. And they’re not doing anything different. It gets boring."

10. Meat Loaf was a fan of the series, and appeared in two episodes.

In 2009, during a season 5 episode titled “Bat Out of Hell,” rock star Meat Loaf joined the investigation at Thousand Island, New York. (He returned in 2010 for another episode.) “Meat Loaf had contacted his agent about wanting to get on the show. He’s a real, die-hard fan,” Hawes said in an interview. “Meat took it upon himself and emailed the TAPS website.”

According to Wilson, Meat Loaf was so excited during filming that he actually hurt himself. “They gave him a video camera and he took off toward a house,” Wilson said. “I was in the process of telling him, ‘Hey, when you walk in the dark, you want to step a little higher.’ And there was a set of stairs and he just plowed right into them and broke the camera.”

11. The idea for the Travel Channel's Kindred Spirits came from an episode of Ghost Hunters.

Amy Bruni and Adam Berry—who was a “cadet” on Ghost Academy and won a spot on Ghost Hunters—exited Ghost Hunters in 2014. In 2016 they developed the paranormal reality show Kindred Spirits for the Travel Channel. The idea came from a Ghost Hunters episode where they investigated Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville.

"We were connecting with the nurses there, and we really wanted to do something more than just acknowledge their presence and then kind of leave them in their space, and we couldn’t do that at the time,” Bruni said.

"It’s the sensitive side of ghost hunting," Berry said. “It’s kind of healing that confusion about what is happening to me and why do I feel this way. We wanted to help families only, and give them a solution as to what’s happening in the house.”

12. Ghost Hunter Steve Gonsalves is a skeptic.

"Yeah we get a lot of flak from skeptics," Gonsalves told Miami New Times. "What most people don’t realize is, I don’t think there’s any bigger skeptic than myself. I encourage what they’re saying. You shouldn’t believe anything unless you see it yourself. What we’re dealing with are things that are so fantastic to believe. If you say, ‘I saw this table sliding across the room’ or ‘I saw this bouncing light,’ the average person will look at you with raised eyebrows and think, ‘yeah right, buddy.’ I sort of appreciate that outlook because you really have to be that way. There’s no sense in fooling yourself or other people.”

While Gonsalves admits that ghost hunters aren’t scientists, he says that they do take a scientific approach. The "hateful skeptics," however, annoy him. "They think we’re all liars, which is fine," he said. “But when they start to get hateful it’s just like, come on guys, really? It sounds horrible, but boil it down to jealousy. I end up finding out that half of these skeptics are members of paranormal organizations, and when we first came out they loved us and said we pushed this into the forefront. But then they always sort of have that mindset that, it should be them on TV. I have yet to meet a skeptic that doesn’t have an ulterior motive to what they're feeling or saying.”

13. TAPS doesn't charge people to investigate their reported hauntings.

Hawes and his team continue to investigate hauntings, but they never charge for the investigations. “I feel that if you charge to remove something that is very difficult to prove is even there, then that is prime sham material,” Wilson told Daily Herald in 2004. "I'm not going to come into your house, fall on the ground and say you’ve got three demons which will cost $1000 apiece to remove. That’s just ridiculous. Your credibility just goes down the toilet when you start charging money. Also, rich or poor, all people deserve help. It’s not like they can just call the police. Where else are they going to turn?”

"We will not accept any money for this service whatsoever," TAPS' website reads. "Any expenses which may arise are covered by the team."

K-Swiss Has Cooked Up an Entire Line of Breaking Bad Sneakers

Breaking Bad lives on in sneaker form.
Breaking Bad lives on in sneaker form.
K-Swiss

Breaking Bad has been off the air for nearly seven years, but there’s no sign that AMC’s breakthrough drama is showing any hints of slowing down. On the heels of their success with a limited-edition Breaking Bad sneaker in October 2019, K-Swiss has returned to the seedy underbelly of Albuquerque, New Mexico, with an entire line of shoes.

The company announced a joint venture with Sony Pictures Consumer Products for three new sneakers based on the popular drug-running series starring Bryan Cranston as Walter White, a chemistry teacher-turned-unlikely drug kingpin. All of the K-Swiss x Breaking Bad Classic 2000 varieties are based on the K-Swiss Classic 2000 low-top design and take inspiration from different elements of the show.

The Cooking shoe has a yellow color scheme that takes after the protective suits worn by Walter and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) during meth cooks. K-Swiss will make 1144 pairs available:

The K-Swiss x 'Breaking Bad' Classic 2000 Cooking sneaker is pictured
The K-Swiss x Breaking Bad Classic 2000 Cooking sneaker.
K-Swiss

The Cleaning shoe (1162 pairs) is patterned after the jumpers worn by the two during the cleaning of their elaborate underground lab built by drug lord Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito):

The K-Swiss x 'Breaking Bad' Classic 2000 Cleaning sneaker is pictured
The K-Swiss x Breaking Bad Classic 2000 Cleaning sneaker.
K-Swiss

The Recreational Vehicle design, with a stripe that looks like the exterior of White’s mobile meth laboratory, resembles the October 2019 shoe release. K-Swiss will make 1396 pairs available:

The K-Swiss x 'Breaking Bad' Classic 2000 Recreational Vehicle sneaker is pictured
The K-Swiss x Breaking Bad Classic 2000 Recreational Vehicle sneaker.
K-Swiss

The Cooking and Cleaning shoes have “Heisenberg,” Walter’s alias, written on the sole:

The K-Swiss x 'Breaking Bad' Classic 2000 Cooking sneaker sole with 'Heisenberg' printed on it is pictured
The K-Swiss x Breaking Bad Classic 2000 Cooking and Cleaning sneakers have 'Heisenberg' printed on the sole.
K-Swiss

All the sneakers come packaged in a Breaking Bad periodic table box. Men’s sizes retail for $80 to $90. No women’s sizes have been announced. You can find them in limited quantities online at KSwiss.com, FootLocker.com, Footaction.com, and ChampsSports.com beginning February 20.

8 Surprising Facts About Andy Kaufman

Andy Kaufman in 1981.
Andy Kaufman in 1981.
Joan Adlen, Getty Images

For fans of the late comedian Andy Kaufman (1949-1984), the debate over whether Kaufman was more interested in antagonizing audiences or making them laugh still rages. During a career that saw him appear on stage and on television (Taxi), the performer often blurred the lines between his real persona and the characters he inhabited.

For more on Kaufman, keep reading. Thank you very much.

1. Andy Kaufman got a letter from his doctor that kept him from being drafted.

Born in New York City on January 17, 1949, Kaufman was raised in Great Neck, Long Island and displayed an interest in performing from an early age, entertaining children at their birthday parties when Kaufman himself was only 8 years old. After graduating from high school in 1967, Kaufman though he might be drafted for military service but didn’t wind up serving. His doctor wrote a letter explaining that Kaufman seemed to have no basic grasp of reality, let alone the Vietnam conflict. Joining the Army, the doctor wrote, might cause Kaufman to completely lose his mind. The letter, which likely contained a good measure of hyperbole, earned him a permanent 4-F deferment from service. He went on to attend Grahm Junior College in Boston.

2. Andy Kaufman’s stand-up act was very, very bizarre.

Kaufman got his start in the early 1970s performing at comedy clubs in New York and Los Angeles. Unlike most comics of the time, Kaufman didn’t write a conventionally-structured act. Instead, he would take on the role of performance artist, confusing audiences with stunts like reading from The Great Gatsby and threatening to start over if they complained. He would also drag a sleeping bag on stage and climb into it or do his laundry with a portable dryer. These appearances were sufficiently provocative that Kaufman sometimes hired off-duty police officers to break up fights in the crowd or intercept people trying to attack him.

3. Andy Kaufman once opened for Barry Manilow.

Before Kaufman got television exposure, it was easy for bookers to assume he was a polished and conventional performer. As a result, Kaufman got a number of gigs in the early 1970s opening for established musical acts like the Temptations and Barry Manilow. Appearing onstage in 1972 before the Temptations came out, Kaufman wept and then shot himself in the head with a cap gun. Similarly bizarre behavior was also displayed before a Manilow concert, with irate members of the audience having to be calmed down by Manilow himself.

4. Andy Kaufman was once voted off of Saturday Night Live.

Kaufman succeeded in drawing attention to himself on stage, which led to being invited to perform on Saturday Night Live beginning in 1975. During these appearances, Kaufman would take material from his act, including his lip-syncing of the theme to the Mighty Mouse animated series. Such stunts drew a mixed reception from viewers. From 1975 to 1982, Kaufman made a total of 14 appearances on the show. Then, producers decided to offer viewers the chance to “vote” Kaufman off by calling in to cast their ballot. On the November 20, 1982 broadcast, 195,544 callers asked that the show not permit him to come back on. They outnumbered the 169,186 viewers who called in support of him. While the bit was intended to be humorous, Kaufman honored the results and never appeared on Saturday Night Live again.

5. Andy Kaufman once took his entire audience out for milk and cookies.

Kaufman eventually took his show to Carnegie Hall in 1979, where he was greeted by 2800 people who had come to appreciate his eccentric approach to performing. At the show's conclusion, he invited the entire audience to board buses waiting outside the building. Kaufman took them to the New York School of Printing in Manhattan, where he served the nearly 3000 attendees milk and cookies. He later gave them a ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

6. Andy Kaufman thought about franchising Tony Clifton.

One of Kaufman’s great ruses on the public was dressing as the abrasive lounge singer Tony Clifton, complete with prosthetic chin and torso padding, all while insisting Clifton was an entirely different person. Kaufman sometimes enlisted associates, including his brother Michael and his writing partner Bob Zmuda, to put on the make-up. In 2013, Michael told Vice that Kaufman’s plan was to have Clifton become a roving character. “Andy had been talking about franchising Tony Clifton before he died,” Michael Kaufman said. “He was going to have one in every state.”

7. Andy Kaufman insisted on an Andy Kaufman stand-in for Taxi.

When Kaufman agreed to appear on Taxi (1978-1983) as Latka Gravas, a version of the “Foreign Man” character he had been performing on stage, he had a peculiar request: He wanted to be expected on set for only two of the five shooting days for each episode. While Kaufman didn’t seem to want to do it at all, the paycheck allowed him to pursue his more experimental brand of comedy. Producers agreed. In 2018, co-star Carol Kane, who played Kaufman's love interest, told The Hollywood Reporter that the cast “would work with a fake Andy who wore a sign around his neck that said ‘Latka.’”

Kaufman also showed up to shoot an episode as his alter ego Tony Clifton, insisting that he was not Kaufman. Star Judd Hirsch got so angry that he had Clifton thrown off the set.

8. Andy Kaufman broke character for Orson Welles.

While there were certainly times Kaufman spoke from the heart, it was rare to see him break any one of his myriad characters in front of an audience. That happened—fleetingly—when Kaufman appeared on The Merv Griffin Show in 1982 on a night it was being guest-hosted by legendary film director Orson Welles. Sporting a neck brace from his stint in professional wrestling, Kaufman didn’t keep up appearances for long. After Welles told him he was “fascinated” by his characters, talk turned to Kaufman’s “Foreign Man,” his Elvis Presley imitation, and his “third character,” Tony Clifton. “Well, he wasn’t a character,” Kaufman said, correcting himself. “There’s a lot of debate over whether it’s a character or a real guy, and that’s Tony Clifton, but that’s a whole other story.”

“That’s metaphysics,” Welles replied.

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