Local Haunts

director Duncan Jones

by erin thursby
I recently previewed three episodes of Local Haunts, the newest show to hit CW-17. It’s got several features that set it apart from other shows of the same format.
First, they get right down to the ghostly EVPs or recorded voices from beyond. If you’ve seen Ghost Hunters, you’ll recognize the eerie green cast of night vision cameras. The little beads of light that are reportedly evidence of apparitions are interesting, but far less compelling than the spooky EVPs and sounds coming from empty rooms. They don’t have as much equipment as other shows of this kind, but they use what they have very well–and they don’t waste the viewers time on the stuff that some of these other shows do. (Do we really need a shot of the team turning out the lights? Probably not, and so they don’t bother with it.)
While there are other phenomena, the team relies heavily on EVP recordings, easily one of the most spooky ways of ghost hunting. EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomenon are phantom voices or sound heard on playback but not heard when recording.
Local ghost aficionados are tapped as guest stars for the locations, as well as people who own, work in, or have had experiences at the site. Guests are often from local ghost hunting societies such as the Northeast Florida Paranormal Investigation Team or the Jacksonville Paranormal Research Society and RIP Team. The two faces you will see consistently are Steve Christian and his sister Amy Gaston, who co-host the show together.
There’s one thing they don’t have on the show, at least not on the episodes I saw: the open-minded skeptic. It’s not a gaping hole just yet, but I was reminded that not a single person on the show was looking for any kind of rational explanation for anything during the Homestead House investigation, when Renee Duddy from NEFPI said with conviction “We know you do [exist]. We want to take your message to people who don’t believe.” I’m not asking for a debunking or for a show where they don’t find any ghosts. I’ve always found those In Search of… shows emotionally dissatisfying because they never actually found anything. In this show it’s gratifying because they search for ghosts and actually find them–but it would be nice to have a nay-saying skeptic to balance out the rest. That way when the skeptic says that even they are a little freaked by the ghosts, it really hits home!
The local angle also sets the show apart from its fellows. It’s interesting, because these are all places we could drive to with little difficulty. St. Mary’s, GA’s Orange Hall, the Olustee Battlefield and the Homestead Restaurant in Jacksonville Beach are just some of the local haunts they investigate.
There’s also an irreverence and sense of fun with the cast and their guest stars, which sets the show a bit apart as well. They ask the ghosts questions such as “Do ghosts change clothes?” and then discuss the prevalence of the lady in white in ghost stories, as they wonder about ghosts being issued a standard haunting uniform. This humor shows up in unexpected places, and it doesn’t always come from the people in the show. In the Olustee Battlefield episode, when they ask the ghosts what they think of the Civil War reenactors, the ghosts answer that they’re “sick of ’em.” It’s an answer that makes sense (even if it did strike me as funny at the time). After all, if you were hanging out for a hundred-plus years, you might not be so fond of the people who keep coming to where you died to pretend to die the same way you did.
All in all, it’s a show you should tune in for. It’s got thrills, chills, a bit of humor and local interest.