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.

L to R: Ghost Hunters stars Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson in New York City in 2008.
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."