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."

7 Top-Rated Portable Air Conditioners You Can Buy Right Now

Black + Decker/Amazon
Black + Decker/Amazon

The warmest months of the year are just around the corner (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway), and things are about to get hot. To make indoor life feel a little more bearable, we’ve rounded up a list of some of the top-rated portable air conditioners you can buy online right now.

1. SereneLife 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner; $290

SereneLife air conditioner on Amazon.
SereneLife/Amazon

This device—currently the best-selling portable air conditioner on Amazon—is multifunctional, cooling the air while also working as a dehumidifier. Reviewers on Amazon praised this model for how easy it is to set up, but cautioned that it's not meant for large spaces. According to the manufacturer, it's designed to cool down rooms up to 225 square feet, and the most positive reviews came from people using it in their bedroom.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black + Decker 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner and Heater; $417

Black + Decker portable air conditioner
Black+Decker/Amazon

Black + Decker estimates that this combination portable air conditioner and heater can accommodate rooms up to 350 square feet, and it even comes with a convenient timer so you never have to worry about forgetting to turn it off before you leave the house. The setup is easy—the attached exhaust hose fits into most standard windows, and everything you need for installation is included. This model sits around four stars on Amazon, and it was also picked by Wirecutter as one of the best values on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Mikikin Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $45

Desk air conditioner on Amazon
Mikikin/Amazon

This miniature portable conditioner, which is Amazon's top-selling new portable air conditioner release, is perfect to put on a desk or end table as you work or watch TV during those sweltering dog days. It's currently at a four-star rating on Amazon, and reviewers recommend filling the water tank with a combination of cool water and ice cubes for the best experience.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Juscool Portable Air Conditioner Fan; $56

Juscool portable air conditioner.
Juscool/Amazon

This tiny air conditioner fan, which touts a 4.6-star rating, is unique because it plugs in with a USB cable, so you can hook it up to a laptop or a wall outlet converter to try out any of its three fan speeds. This won't chill a living room, but it does fit on a nightstand or desk to help cool you down in stuffy rooms or makeshift home offices that weren't designed with summer in mind.

Buy it: Amazon

5. SHINCO 8000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $320

Shinco portable air conditioner
SHINCO/Amazon

This four-star-rated portable air conditioner is meant for rooms of up to 200 square feet, so think of it for a home office or bedroom. It has two fan speeds, and the included air filter can be rinsed out quickly underneath a faucet. There's also a remote control that lets you adjust the temperature from across the room. This is another one where you'll need a window nearby, but the installation kit and instructions are all included so you won't have to sweat too much over setting it up.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Honeywell MN Series Portable Air Conditioner and Dehumidifier; $400

Honeywell air conditioner on Walmart.
Honeywell/Walmart

Like the other units on this list, Honeywell's portable air conditioner also acts as a dehumidifier or a standard fan when you just want some air to circulate. You can cool a 350-square-foot room with this four-star model, and there are four wheels at the bottom that make moving it from place to place even easier. This one is available on Amazon, too, but Walmart has the lowest price right now.

Buy it: Walmart

7. LG 14,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner; $699

LG Portable Air Conditioner.
LG/Home Depot

This one won't come cheap, but it packs the acclaim to back it up. It topped Wirecutter's list of best portable air conditioners and currently has a 4.5-star rating on Home Depot's website, with many of the reviews praising how quiet it is while it's running. It's one of the only models you'll find compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, and it can cool rooms up to 500 square feet. There's also the built-in timer, so you can program it to go on and off whenever you want.

Buy it: Home Depot

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The Maestro: 10 Facts About Ennio Morricone

Peter Tea via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Peter Tea via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Famed composer Ennio Morricone died on July 6, 2020 at the age of 91, leaving behind a body of work that eclipses the idea of “productivity” itself. It’s not just that Morricone composed thousands of hours of music for hundreds of movies. It’s that he managed to create so many original, indelible moments over and over again, in such a broad variety of genres for so long, without acquiescing to repetition or compromising his creativity. The last, best comfort to take in his absence is the thrilling—and rather intimidating—volume of music he left for us to revisit and, more likely, discover while celebrating his legacy in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

In spite of his seemingly constant presence in the film industry for more than 70 years, there are many details about Morricone's life and career that even longtime fans may not know. In honoring the man and the artist, we’ve collected a handful of facts and figures about the Oscar-winning composer and his vast, incredible, and unforgettable body of work.

1. Ennio Morricone made music for 85 of his 91 years.

Ennio Morricone was encouraged to develop his natural musical abilities at a young age—he created his first compositions at age 6. He was taught music by his father and learned several instruments, but gravitated toward the trumpet. When he was just 12 years old, Morricone enrolled in a four-year program at the prestigious National Academy of St. Cecilia in Rome, where he was born, and completed his studies within six months.

2. Ennio Morricone's career primarily focused on film, television, and radio compositions, but he also worked in popular music.

Morricone’s professional career began in 1950 as an arranger for jazz and pop artists. He helped compose hits for a diverse slate of stars including Nora Orlandi, Mina, Françoise Hardy, Mireille Mathieu, and Paul Anka, whose song “Ogni Volta” (“Every Time”) sold more than 3 million copies worldwide.

Morricone later worked with Pet Shop Boys, k.d. lang, Andrea Bocelli, and Sting. From 1964 to 1980, he was also part of Gruppo di Improvvisazione Consonanza (or “The Group”), an ensemble focused on avant-garde improvisations. Although it was reissued a few years ago, original copies of their 1970 album The Feed-back once fetched as much as $1000 on the collector’s market.

3. Ennio Morricone hit the ground running as a composer—and never slowed down.

Many of Morricone’s first efforts in the movies were as an orchestrator for more established composers, but he quickly joined their ranks. Between 1955 and 1964, when he created his breakthrough score for A Fistful of Dollars, he either orchestrated or composed (or both in some cases) some 28 film scores. During this time, he was already working with Michelangelo Antonioni (L’Avventura), Vittorio De Sica (The Last Judgment), Lucio Fulci (twice!), Lina Wertmüller (I basilischi), and Bernardo Bertolucci (Before the Revolution).

4. Ennio Morricone helped turn A Fistful of Dollars into a worldwide classic.

When Sergio Leone hired Morricone for his first Western, he’d already embarked on an iconoclastic journey, referencing Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. Leone’s initial “concession” was to evoke Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for Howard Hawks’s Rio Bravo in its music. Morricone combined ideas from Tiomkin’s music with an arrangement of folk singer Peter Tevis’s cover of the Woody Guthrie song “Pastures of Plenty” to create what became the opening title theme. The music won the Silver Ribbon Award for Best Score from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists and forged a longtime partnership between Morricone and Leone.

5. During their heyday, Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone worked in a way that was virtually unprecedented outside of musicals.

The music in Leone’s films is at once one of their most distinctive features, and also one of their most inextricable. Later in his career, Morricone explained that he would often compose portions of the music for Leone’s films before shooting began, and then scenes were staged and shot to match the timing and rhythm of the composer’s music. “That’s why the films are so slow,” Morricone joked in 2007. His use of so many then-unconventional instruments, including electric guitars, the mouth harp, and sound effects like gunshots redefined the musical landscape of the genre, while Leone razed its traditional morality tales to explore darker, more complex stories.

6. A Fistful Of Dollars spawned a lifetime of awards.

Morricone won his only competitive Oscar just four years ago, and had previously received an honorary Oscar in 2007. But after that recognition from the Italian National Syndicate of Journalists, he racked up hundreds of nominations and awards from the Motion Picture Academy (five other nominations), the American Film Institute (four), the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (six nominations, three wins), the Grammys (five nominations and four awards including their Grammy Hall of Fame and Trustees Award), and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (a Career Achievement award and a win for his score for Once Upon a Time in America). Somewhat predictably, much of the work he did in “genre” films, even the acclaimed “Spaghetti Westerns,” was marginalized at the time, but went on to be appropriately recognized and reevaluated for its impact and artistry.

7. Ennio Morricone was both a critical and a commercial success.

Morricone's work with Leone raised his profile as a formidable collaborator for filmmakers and gave him worldwide chart success. His score for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly sold more than 2 million copies, and the soundtrack to Once Upon A Time In The West, his fourth collaboration with Leone, sold approximately 10 million copies worldwide. It remains one of the top five best-selling instrumental scores in the world today. To date, Morricone has sold more than 70 million records worldwide.

8. Ennio Morricone’s partnership with Sergio Leone was exemplary, but he wasn’t the composer’s only frequent collaborator.

From A Fistful of Dollars to Once Upon a Time in America, Leone’s final film, he and Morricone always worked together. While working primarily in Italy, he often teamed up with Sergio Corbucci and Sergio Sollima, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Dario Argento, among others. After being courted by Hollywood, Morricone began developing long-term partnerships with American and international filmmakers like Brian De Palma, Warren Beatty, Samuel Fuller, and Roland Joffe. By the late 1970s, he was working with John Boorman and Terrence Malick, and by the 1980s and ‘90s, he was regularly collaborating with John Carpenter, Barry Levinson, George Miller, and Pedro Almodóvar.

Beginning in 1988, Morricone began working with Giuseppe Tornatore on the Oscar-winning Italian film Cinema Paradiso, and subsequently worked on all of Tornatore's other films, including 2016’s The Correspondence and the director's commercials for Dolce & Gabbana.

9. Quentin Tarantino championed Ennio Morricone’s work even before the two of them ever worked together.

Quentin Tarantino’s films are always an exciting pastiche of past and present influences, and he has used cues from Morricone scores in many of his films, beginning with Kill Bill: Volume 1 and 2. Tarantino first hoped to work with the composer on Inglorious Basterds, but when the timing couldn’t be worked out, the filmmaker utilized eight older tracks by Morricone on the soundtrack.

Morricone composed the song “Ancora Qui” for Django Unchained, but it wasn’t until The Hateful Eight that he composed a full score for Tarantino, who still used archival tracks—namely, some unreleased cues from his score for John Carpenter’s The Thing—to expand the film’s musical backdrop. In 2016, Morricone won his first competitive Oscar for his work on Tarantino's film after being nominated six times over the course of nearly 40 years. Morricone also earned an Honorary Oscar in 2007 "For his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music."

10. Morricone’s discography remains an embarrassment of riches—at least, whatever’s left of it.

Though the extent of the loss hasn’t been reported, Morricone’s was among the work reportedly destroyed in the 2008 fire on the Universal backlot where the company’s Music Group stored original recording and master tapes from some of the world’s best-selling artists. But Morricone recorded more than 400 film scores throughout his career and more than 100 classical pieces, not counting the thousands of pieces licensed for use. More and more of them have been restored and re-released digitally, on CD and vinyl. Meanwhile, his work continues to elicit as strong reactions from moviegoers as the images they were originally written to accompany.

Yo-Yo Ma released an album of performances of Morricone pieces in 2004 that sold more than 130,000 copies. His work tested and redefined the boundaries of film composition, what instruments could be used, and how music and imagery could work together to tell stories and generate powerful feelings. And each listen of those recordings, whether of transgressive experimentation, pointed drama, or lush sentimentality, honors Morricone's enormous talent and evokes his irreplaceable spirit.