When it comes to paranormal TV shows, there is none more globally recognised than Ghost Hunters. Jason Hawes is the co-founder of The Atlantic Paranormal Society, more commonly known as T.A.P.S, based in Rhode Island, and has been investigating on the show along with Grant Wilson and Steve Gonsalves for over 12 years.
The Roto-Rooter plumber and dedicated family man has so much more experience and diversity in the field of the paranormal than Ghost Hunters could every portray, so Spooky Isles’ Irish editor ANN MASSEY O’REGAN spoke with Jason and find out more:
ANN: Many may not have been aware that prior to Ghost Hunters, T.A.P.S was already a well-established paranormal team working with those in need of legitimate help and clarification of ‘paranormal’ occurrences within their homes and businesses. How did you decide to make the leap to T.V and was it a difficult decision to make?
JASON HAWES: Well first I am a firm believer in the paranormal, although at least some 80% of claims can be disproved. It was the unknown 20% ‘what if’ mentality that led to production companies asking us to work with them behind the scenes on such programmes as ‘Scariest Places on Earth.’
We were offered our own show numerous times and turned them down as we were hugely concerned with whether the viewers would really understand what we did and would our passion translate on camera. It was a real fear of people not understanding what we were doing and trying to accomplish. We did not want to become a mockery and not seem professional. What if we ended up harming the field of the paranormal?
I’m not scared of being judged, I don’t give a damn if people like me or not, I am who I am and I’ll always be that person. This was about more than me.
Things changed when a guy called John Leland wrote an article based on an investigation with us for the New York Times. We told him from the outset the odds were well against finding something supernatural. In this case it turned out to be a problem created by mixed prescriptions. The article took off as we were not afraid to debunk an alleged haunting and it showed that we were serious about our work.
A small company called Pilgrim contacted us (now a major production company) and said they wanted us to be ourselves and they would just follow us with cameras. They pointed out that if we didn’t do it someone else would because of the attention we had brought. How would they represent our field?
I sat down with Grant (Wilson) and Steve (Gonsalves) and we decided to give it a go with serious reservations, particularly as we all had good day jobs and Steve had the added pressure of being a police officer at the time.
So, you made the decision to go ahead with the show. How was it at the start?
Well firstly we were never casted. My crew is my crew and it was important the team ran as it always had. Mainly we carried on as we always had, however there were a few people we brought in who began to behave differently when on camera and that was addressed.
Tonnes of shows have come and gone and the reason is simple. The people in it were cast specifically for the shows in question and had no prior involvement in the paranormal. In our case we had never wanted to be on television and we had the production team working around us. People make TV, TV does not make people.
The only thing out of our control was the name, Ghost Hunters. We hated that name as it did not reflect what we did. It drew people in though and got them to watch – they then realised what we were about.
The TV show took off and became a huge success both in global attention and ratings. How did this impact on you and your team and how did you feel about the changes to the show format as the seasons progressed?
At the start the team worked together and our families were very much involved. That was so important to us as our families have always come first. Of course, while this was who we are and what we wanted to portray, it also came at a price.
There were stalker issues to deal with, people who felt they ‘knew us’. It got so bad that there were individuals who knew where I would be and when my family was alone, pretending to be me. To the point in fact I had to get involved with law enforcement agencies to get it dealt with. It takes months out of your life and you live in fear for your family.