Paranormal Hide and Seek: Interview With Ghost Hunters International 's Barry FitzGerald

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Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Syfy

Ghost Hunters International's' Barry FitzGerald

Since 2008, Ghost Hunters International has traveled the globe, its team members using their knowledge of the paranormal and technical know-how to try to substantiate -- or debunk -- claims of ghostly sightings.  Last month, the GHI team, led by Barry FitzGerald and co-lead Investigator Kris Williams, returned to Syfy for a third year of investigations.

In the season opener, “Rising from the Grave,” GHI visited Trinidad and the Lopinot Plantation to check out reports that the spirit of Count de Lopinot, a cruel slave master, rises from the grave on his cocoa plantation. FitzGerald and the team remained in Trinidad for the following episode, “Sensing Evil,” and journeyed to a former leper colony on Chacachacare Island. This episode also featured an investigation at the Frigorifico Meat Packing Plant in Argentina where the ghostly apparitions of four murdered workers have been seen throughout the building.

“We had a fantastic couple of cases in Trinidad, one of which that really stands out for me is Chacachacare Island,” says FitzGerald. “There were some time constraints with this episode so we weren’t able to fit everything in, but we really battled the elements on that island. On the way across we lost motor blades on the boats and when we finally arrived on the island a storm kicked up, so we battled that as we tried to get our equipment onto the pier. The swells were carrying the boats up and down and people were falling into the water.

“There were also prehistoric insects on the island that actually chased [investigators] Joe Chin and Scott Tepperman out of the house. It was quite an amazing place, and, of course, the jungle itself has taken over the island, so we used machetes to cut our way through to get to these places. People were falling over each other and at one point Kris actually fell down a small cliff edge. It was really tough to get that episode done and by the time it was all over we were exhausted, but we absolutely enjoyed it through and through.

“Lopinot was a fantastic trip as well,” he continues.  “The strange thing there is that when we finished the investigation it was made clear to us that they’d brought in a priest and had exorcised the place. We never really saw anything inside the plantation itself. All the evidence we were collecting was outside, but that then began to make sense to us. We said, ‘Well, it seems that the exorcism was successful, but you do have things happening outside the plantation,’ including the lights in the trees and the cave system along with the shadow in the cave.

 

“And it wasn’t just me who saw the shadow; Paul Bradford [tech manager] and Susan Slaughter [GHI case manager/investigator-in-training] also saw it. Paul assumed it was Susan moving around and never thought anything more about it, until she stood up behind him.  He then suddenly swung around expecting to see the shadow again, only it was gone.

“There are a lot of the darker arts, let’s say, practiced in Trinidad as well as Argentina. That proved to be a great learning curve for us because as with many superstitions or legends there is always a spark that creates some smoke. It’s a matter of then getting to the bottom of that to see what is actually going on, and I have to say that we saw for ourselves that there was something weird going on up in Lopinot.

“Trinidad is a special place for us because when we were leaving the Ministry of Tourism asked us to attend its steel band competition which happens once a year all over the island. So we got to see how that was done and how well those drums are meant to be played as opposed to how we played them,” chuckles FitzGerald. “It’s a remarkable island and, fingers crossed, I’m hoping that we’re able to get to Tobago the next time because while we were in Trinidad we discovered that Tobago has quite a number of hauntings as well, which intrigued us and we would certainly like to get back there.

“As for the meat packing plant in Argentina, what a place that turned out to be. We searched that building from top to bottom looking for all these different types of activity, but we actually found it in another part of the plant that we were least expecting to find it in. I’m not quite sure what was going on and I have to say that my gut instinct was telling me, ‘This isn’t right. There’s something else going on here.’

“I’d seen that shadow move towards the other building, and then there was the recording of the voice inside that building as well. Joe and Scott also saw something unusual leading down to the same place where I’d seen that shadow. Something wasn’t adding up. Again, I tend to follow my instincts quite a bit and they were telling me not everything was as it seemed and to tread lightly.

 

“So it was quite a place, but that’s always true of Argentina. I love Argentina; the horse riding there is fantastic and the sunsets are something to behold. I love the Argentinean people, too. We have a terrific fan base down there and the night before we left we met up with them in Buenos Aires and had a wonderful time.”

The next stop for GHI was FitzGerald’s home turf of Ireland.  Episode three, “Touched by the Dead,” focuses first on Roe Valley Hospital, where the spirit of a dead doctor is reportedly still seen. From there the team ferries to Spike Island in County Cork to see if it can catch a glimpse of the infamous banshee on Ireland’s Alcatraz.

“I always enjoy Ireland, and we had a terrific case starting up north and in the valley,” says FitzGerald. “I lived about 15 or 20 miles from there, so it really was in my backyard and there are a number of legends that circle around Roe Valley, but for us it was the hospital or the old workhouse. The workhouse was built during a time when things were very different in Ireland. You either went to the workhouse or you died. Your back was up against the wall because there was no food, and whatever food was being produced was being shipped out.

“It was a very sad time in Irish history and really a case of damned if you do or damned if you don’t. The unfortunates had to go into the workhouses, which were spread all over Ireland, and they worked for their keep. They certainly didn’t work to get paid, and that’s the way it was back then. Different times, different measures, different people, different mindsets. Thank God it’s not like that anymore, but definitely a lot of painful memories.

“The hospital itself was a wonderful place with wonderful people, and there were a lot of strange things happening on its grounds as well. I saw a figure there that I simply can’t explain. It was 2 o’clock in the morning and I assumed it was someone out walking their dog. I nonchalantly watched as he walked from left to right. However, my line of vision was blocked by a tree, and I waited for him to come out the other side but he never appeared. I didn’t think to put a camera or anything else on him because I really did believe it was an actual person. So I have to admit that I was caught out, but it happens from time to time.

 

“When it comes to County Cork, Cove that was a place I had wanted to get to for a long time as it’s the last port of call for the Titanic. There’s still quite a bit of evidence down there of the White Star Line [the British shipping company that owned RMS Titanic] including the piers and the post office that the White Star Line used to send mail across onboard the Titanic. It’s all still there, and to think that the last 250 or so passengers left Cove on that particular day to sail on the Titanic, the majority of whom never returned. What a harrowing experience.

“The Titanic was, of course, built in Belfast, something we’re extremely proud of in Ireland. It’s one of those unfortunate tragedies, though, that I suspect needed to happen because a number of laws, including the lifeboat laws, were changed after the sinking of the Titanic to ensure that such a thing would never happen again.”

FitzGerald speaks with great enthusiasm about the GHI episode airing tonight on Syfy (Wednesday, August 3rd @ 9:00 p.m. EST/PST), “Search for the She-Wolf.” It takes place at Castle Rising in England, once home to Queen Isabella and where the current groundskeeper fears that lingering spirits are specifically targeting him.

“This is a remarkable case and it’s my favorite of them all,” notes FitzGerald. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I hear a lot of tall tales about what people see and things of that nature, quite a few of which you have to take with a grain of salt. Going into this case we were told a particular story, which was one that I hadn’t heard in my 20 years, and, naturally, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I thought, ‘Well, we’ll look into it.’ By using our new video technology we were actually able to see what he was talking about. It was amazing and made for some fantastic footage which you’ll see in this week’s episode.”

GHI capped off its UK jaunt in “Murder and Mysteries” with a trip to Castle Rusten on the Isle of Man to investigate the apparition of a little girl. FitzGerald and the others then traveled to Riccarton Racecourse Hotel in Christchurch, New Zealand to investigate a haunting connected to an unsolved murder mystery.

 

“The Isle of Man is a fantastic little island,” he says. “It was my first time there; I had heard plenty about it but had just never gotten around to going there. It’s steeped in every myth and legend imaginable. The people there could have their own show on myths and legends alone.

 “Rusten Castle is where the last burning of a witch took place on the Isle of Man. It was a terrible thing because usually the [accused] witch would be strangled first and put out of her misery before being burnt. On this occasion, however, it seemed that the church or perhaps someone else had a vested interest in this woman’s property, so not only did they keep her alive, but they actually burnt her son with her as well.

“Over in Europe there were hundred of thousands of people killed for being witches. Thankfully in Ireland that was pretty rare because we developed outside the influence of the Roman Empire. Of course, England had that influence, and the church pushed through there as well and took care of the witches, just as it did in Mainland Europe. We shouldn’t forget, though, about the people who were accused of being werewolves. In France, 30,000 people were executed because they were accused of being werewolves. Again, it definitely was different times.

“Now, with Christchurch, New Zealand and the Racecourse Hotel, I’m always up for a murder mystery, but this was one with a difference. We were trying to understand and get all ‘CSI’ with the facts we were given, and as a result we arrived at a different conclusion insofar as who we believed committed the murder.

 “So it was an amazing case, and also being in Christchurch was a humbling experience because while we were there we were feeling the aftershocks of the earthquakes they were having there. I mean, huge skyscrapers were leaning over and touching each other. The entire city was destroyed and to see all the damage and utter devastation was just unbelievable. The week that we left they got hit with another big quake. It really was an experience-and-a-half for us, and during our investigation we’d constantly be thinking, ‘When’s the next tremor and how can we get out of this building if we have to.’”

 

In GHI mid-season finale “Imprisoned Souls,” airing August 17th on Syfy, the team heads to Napier Prison in New Zealand to search for the ghosts of former inmates.

“There were several very strange claims of [paranormal] activity at Napier Prison, including from the traditional Maori people who established the site before it was taken and used as a prison by the Crown,” explains FitzGerald. “Then, of course, there were people held there for a variety of murders and crimes, some of which were pretty harsh. One man had his newborn baby on a chopping board and was caught by his wife before he could bring down the deadly blow. Thankfully the child was saved, but this man went on to do other things that led to him being put in prison and charged with murder.

“So the place has plenty of history, and with it now being run as a hostel, there were concerns that some of this activity would interfere with people coming to stay there. We had a fantastic investigation and ended up with lots to show the client.”

At the time of this interview (late July) FitzGerald was in Peru doing research for his next book. He was also waiting for the rest of the GHI team to arrive so that they could start work on the next batch of episodes. “Wait until you see the new ones coming up,” he enthuses. “They’re going to be absolutely amazing and nothing like GHI has ever done before.”

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A native of Massachusetts, Steve Eramo has been a Sci-Fi fan since childhood, having been brought up on such TV shows as Star Trek and Space: 1999. He is also an Anglophile and lover of British TV. A writer for 35 years – 17 of those as a fulltime freelancer – Steve has had over 2,500 feature-length…

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