Ghost Hunters' Jason Hawes
When season eight of Syfy’s hit paranormal reality series Ghost Hunters aired its mid-year finale this past May, Jason Hawes and his fellow GH teammates said goodbye to Hawes’ fellow lead investigator/producer and co-founder of TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), Grant Wilson, who has taken a break from the show.
On September 5, Ghost Hunters returned to the air with 14 all-new programs. In the first of these investigations, “A Serial Killer’s Revenge,” the GH team checked out some strange goings-on at the Old Charleston Jail in Charleston, South Carolina, which was the winner of TAPS’ "America’s Hometown Ghost Hunter Contest." This case produced some amazing results, including chilling physical evidence, and Hawes promises there are even more thrills and surprises ahead in the weeks to come.
“First off, we’ve brought in a new investigator named Ashley,” he says. “I think you guys will really enjoy seeing how she grows on the show as well as her interaction with the rest of the team. When it comes to upcoming cases, I think they’re some of the best we’ve had to date, and our investigations resulted in some of the best evidence we’ve caught to date. I can’t get into too much detail, but I honestly believe that this is probably going to be one of the best seasons ever.”
Last week, Hawes spoke with me as well as other journalists via conference call about the second half of Ghost Hunters’ eighth season and his general involvement in the paranormal investigative field. The following is an edited version of that Q & A. Enjoy!
Heading into the second half of season eight, how tough was it to adapt to the investigations without Grant. Can you touch on that just a little bit?
Honestly, it wasn’t that tough at all because Grant is still around and I deal with him daily on other things. He had to take a leave of absence from the show but our families are extremely tight and we’re like brothers.
For many years of our friendship, I investigated without Grant being around. At one point, he left to go to Utah and was gone for a couple of years. Of course, it’s a little odd not having someone I refer to as my brother standing beside me all the time, but it wasn’t an issue for me at all. And to be honest with you, there’s a new energy with the entire team. Everybody is just so alive lately, so yes, it’s been interesting.
Jason, it seems like in the upcoming season you’re going to be looking at some ghost stories down south. Why take the focus for the rest of this season down there and can you give us a preview of some of the good as well as bad things that you guys found?
Some of the good and the bad things? Well, we had some wild investigations. We were actually able to investigate a zoo [“Don’t Feed the Apparition”], which is tough enough if you think about it. We also spent some time in Charleston, South Carolina, which has a rich history, and in some places there is an insane history. One of the locations was connected with the first so-called female serial killer [“A Serial Killer’s Revenge”]. So just to be able to get out there, hear those stories and investigate some of these locations is just incredible.
Going into season 8.5, what do you think about the evolution of Ghost Hunters throughout the years?
I didn’t think we were going to make it past season one, so the fact that we’re at 8.5 is incredible. I mean, 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. It’s such a great feeling to know that we were a part of that movement to try to really advance this field. Also, the number of new investigators who have stepped into the field really shows that it’s advancing and becoming a respected area. That means everything to us.
When you needed a new investigator, what criteria did you use? What were you looking for in a new team member?
When we were looking for somebody new, we wanted somebody who wasn’t going to automatically believe that everything is a ghost or paranormal. We wanted somebody who’s willing to try to go that extra mile to figure out what might be truly creating the activity, from electrical issues to plumbing, over medicated, under medicated individuals, anything.
Beyond that, though, I needed somebody who could mesh with the rest of the TAPS team because the main thing is we’re a big family. Steve Gonsalves has been with me for 20 plus years. Dave Tango has been with us for years. Amy Bruni has been a friend for almost ten years, and the same with Britt Griffith, and K. J. McCormick was my next door neighbor as a kid growing up.
We all spend so much time together doing this show, but we also hang out outside the show. So I just needed somebody who was going to fit in and be able to work well with the group and that the group was going to accept as a whole. Bottom line, they’re the ones who make the decision as far as if somebody stays or if somebody goes.
I need your expertise. I’m getting ready to buy a house, so how can I tell if it’s haunted without actually spending the night there?
Well, the thing is, you could buy a house and not know that there’s something going on there for years. There’s really no way to know. Over 80% of all claims can be disproved, so chances are you’re buying a house that doesn’t have anything going on.
I noticed that in this season you guys are looking into some different types of hauntings, for example, in the “Cape Fear” episode. Is there any difference between looking for the typical ghost as opposed to something like an elemental spirit?
Absolutely. A lot of times when you’re looking for a typical ghost, if something is actually there and it’s an intelligent type haunt, you’re able to make contact with it. You’re able to get it to communicate back and forth with you. When you’re dealing with what some believe to be an elemental type of activity, you’re dealing with something that is purposely trying to avoid you, and at the same time create fear in order to make you leave or sort of push you out of whatever area it is that you’ve now encroached into.
So yes, it’s a totally different style of investigation. Also when you’re doing an investigation outside, you’re dealing with animals as well as insects and a lot of other contamination issues that come into play.
Now that Grant has left, do you see an end in sight for your involvement with the show and when do you think that would be? And do you think Ghost Hunters could continue without you?
You know, I’m never looking that far ahead to wonder when I’m leaving or if I’m leaving or anything of that nature. To be honest with you, every time I’m requested to do another season, I sit down with my wife and children and it’s a choice that we make as a family. I spend a lot of time at home; even though it looks like I’m always on the road, I’m not. However, if my children were to ever come to me and say, “You know what, Dad, we prefer you not to go,” well then, I would walk away knowing that I’d been able to bring it this far. However, as of right now, my children love the fact that I’ve been doing this since even before they were born and have enjoyed seeing how this whole thing has advanced.
I remember my oldest, who is now 21, used to come downstairs as a little kid and see me, Steve, Grant and everybody else sitting around trying to figure out cases. So she has seen how this whole thing has grown and now become this international thing. So, yes, I will stay as long as my family wants me to. As far as if the show can survive without me, I don’t know. I think it could, but I guess that would ultimately have to be from the viewers' standpoint.
I know that if I was to step back Steve, who is 100% capable and able to, could easily run what is going on. I don’t know how he’d feel about doing that, though. Time will tell. I guess you’ll have to tune into the show and find out.
Jason, will there be a Halloween special and will we be seeing Maddie [the investigative canine] again this season?
I’m actually not going to do a Halloween live show this year. I’ve spent a lot of Halloweens away from home, and my twin sons are eight now, so I want to spend time with the family on that day. We’ve always loved that holiday and one thing I can’t stand is getting picture texts to make me feel like I’m there. So I’m staying home with them this year and will be celebrating Halloween with them.
As for Maddie, yes, and in fact, I had her on some cases we just did. I try to keep her somewhat to more local cases just because of the amount of travel. I don’t want her sitting in the back seat of a car for two or three days while we’re driving to these locations; it just takes a toll on her. But you will definitely see her on more cases.
After so many years of doing the show and all these investigations and having, I’m sure, way too many location options to pick from, how do places make the cut? What tips one location over the edge that you’d go to it as opposed to another?
Well, the TAPS website last year alone received 96 million hits. We receive about a thousand to 1,500 emails a day with possible case requests. 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. I’m a father and the last thing I would want is for my children to feel threatened in their own home.
Those are the main factors that will bring us to an area. Also, we do a lot of residential cases using absolutely no cameras because people don’t want to be on camera. We have to be cautious, though, with those types of cases, and sometimes they don’t air. In fact, there are a lot of cases we do that never make air. But again, anytime children involved, we’ll get there ASAP.
Ghost Hunters has been on the air for a number of years, so how has that changed your life? Looking back is it kind of night and day? For example, are you still doing the daily plumbing [for Roto-Rooter] and stuff, and do you get spotted a lot in public?
I definitely get spotted in public. The bald head and goatee make it easy to recognize me. As for plumbing, yes, when I’m not full swing production with Ghost Hunters, I go back to the norm. I worked for Roto-Rooter years before the show and I’m still employed by them, so I’ll go out and price jobs for them. They’ve been a great company, and they also understand that they’re getting advertising while I’m on the road with the show, so we scratch each other’s backs. Honestly, it’s wild to see how big this whole thing has become and we’ve just been having a great time.
What continues to fuel your passion for this type of investigative work after all these years?
First off, it’s still such an unknown field, you know? Of course, I’m looking for answers in it and also trying to help out as many people as I can along the way. I don’t know if I’ll ever figure out all the answers I’m looking for and that people are hoping I’m able to find for them. But if 100, 200, 300 years from now somebody does figure out all those answers and we've even played the smallest little role in the foundation that led them to there, then that’s all that matters to me.
It’s just trying to figure this out and trying to be a part of possibly what it might be. I think that’s really what fuels me as well as trying to understand how these things are possible, because there are so many different types of haunts. You can have intelligent type haunts, you can have residual [energy] type haunts, you can poltergeist type haunts, etc. However, you can also have intelligent type haunts that aren’t like anything we’ve ever thought about as far as ghosts communicating back and forth.
For whatever reason, some of these intelligent type haunts are spirits that are stuck in their time and still living a normal day in their life. How is that possible? How is it possible to have time that seems to be folding on itself, and if so, does that now lead into maybe what psychics or sensitives are? Somebody who’s still in their time but able to hear voices as these things are able to hear us. It’s just so interesting and there are so many different layers that that’s just what keeps us going.
I know that there different paranormal shows out there, but do you have limitations on what TAPS recognizes as far as the technology they use or do you try new things? Will there be new technology this season?
There will be, and actually I’m working with a company right now on an app that will take any Android, iPhone, iPads and similar technology and be able to work off of meters that are built into them. I can’t go into too much detail, but I was just using a prototype of it the other day.
There’s also a lot of equipment out there that becomes rather laughable and that, I guess, other people have brought into this field including, for example, these boxes that generate voices. Well, the voices and words are actually programmed into these devices. So there are a lot of things out there that I think are holding the field back, but there’s also a great deal of technology out there dealing with infrasound and stuff like that that we’re really trying to bring to the forefront. So I think you’ll be able to see a lot of newer stuff coming out from us and to other areas.
Jason, I was just curious, what do you love about your job, what do you not love about your job?
I definitely love the problem-solving and figuring out what’s truly going on as well as the new people that I’m able to meet and interact with. Sometimes, though, that can be the stuff that you really don’t love about your job because you never know whose house you’re walking into. I’m a plumber for Roto-Rooter and I’ve walked through some peoples’ homes where you just know you have to get out because they’re not all there. It happens in this field as well. We had a case a couple years back where we walked into a house and come to find out that this person had loaded weapons all throughout the place. When it becomes a safety issue, you need to get out and get away.
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