Continuing the tour of shuttered institutions that perhaps should have never been open in the first place, Pennhurst, built in 1908, was originally a school for what we would now call the "mentally challenged." It became a dumping ground for every manner of perceived human detritus, and in 80 years of operation gained a particularly distasteful reputation for being all kinds of not nice to its captives, I mean "students." As with similar abandoned warehouses of the damned, such as episode one's Rolling Hills Asylum, Pennhurst is now a "hornet's nest of paranormal activity."
For those who haven't seen the show yet, Paranormal Challenge pits two three-member investigation teams against each other at an iconic haunted location under the watchful electronic eye of Bagans, Darkness Radio's Dave Schrader, and a rotating panel of expert judges, who determine the winner based upon the criteria of teamwork, efficiency with provided equipment, familiarity with the history of the location, and, of course, evidence captured during the investigation in the form of two audio and two video clips.
This has resulted in both compelling television and a boon to participating teams, most of which have never labored under the spotlight of the TV Eye before. Tonight's episode pits two teams with radically different approaches to investigation: the more cerebral and, in Zak's words, "technical" New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society; and the aggro Quest Paranormal Society ("society" has sort of an antique, genteel ring to it), whose goal is to get up in the nutsack of every spirit they encounter.
NJ Ghost Hunters Society -- with sleeper cells all over the Garden State -- is led by avowed skeptic L’Aura Hladik, author of Ghosthunting: New Jersey and Ghosthunting: New York City, who has been stomping the ghostly beat since 1993, and founded NJGHS -- New Jersey's largest assemblage of ghost grillers -- in 1998. Joining L'Aura is occultist and researcher Nathan; and tech specialist Rob, with over 15 years in the field.
Quest Paranormal storms in under the bandana-ed command of former Marine Kenny Weikel, whose hallmarks are "intensity, character, and honor"; followed closely by his fiance, the formidable Elaine DeAngelo, devout Catholic and ass kicker; and tech guru Bob Barrasso, who saw his first ghost a the tender age of nine.
QPS recites a group protective prayer, then careens off to investigate a Basement of Doom, taunting depraved spirits, debunking noises, and swearing con gusto at each other. NJGHS begins a bit more.. gingerly, easing into the investigation. But you can't tell a book by its cover, nor necessarily judge an investigation by its opening act.
Check out the adventure for yourself tonight at 9 on Travel Channel.