Devin says: While I’m so happy to have gone to Fantastic Fest this year, I must admit some pangs of regret that I couldn’t make it to the SciFi Channel’s Digital Press weekend, the centerpiece of which was an actual ghost hunt with the Ghost Hunters themselves, Grant, Jay, Steve, Chrissy and Tango. I sent my brother Derek in my stead; you’ve seen Derek writing about Ghost Hunters here before, and as a huge fan of the show, I thought he would make a great stand-in for me.

This is part one of his three part coverage. The actual ghost hunting happens in part three.

“If this goes down, do you have my back?”

Travis Draft – Actor – Scare Tactics

The journey from Denver Airport to The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado is creepishly similar to the opening of The Shining, which I guess shouldn’t be a shock, as Stephen King came up with The Shining while staying at the Stanley Hotel.  I don’t often write for CHUD, and when I have, it has never been anything in which I had to travel more than ten miles for, so leaving the state and spending a few days surrounded by various members of the press, Sci-Fi executives, high ranking advertisers and some of the stars of the Sci-Fi Channel, one thing constantly went through my head, “How long before they figure out I’m not one of them”?

The Stanley Hotel stands atop a hill overlooking the small town of Estes, Colorado.  From every direction you can see snow capped mountains and the occasional elk.  I have never taken a trip by myself, and the sense of being so far from anything I know while alone was a strange one to me.  After checking in and grabbing a quick shower, I walked the grounds of the hotel.  The air in Colorado is crisp and has a total lack of pollution, which is an odd sensation for this city boy.  The hotel itself is simply amazing in both its beauty and the sense that there is something strange going on that you can’t quite grasp.  The hallways are long and silent, with red carpeting and chandeliers illuminating the path.   The lobby is filled with dark wood and marble; the doors to the banquet rooms are ten to twelve feet high and made of thick oak. The front of the Stanley changes depending on the time; during the day it is warm and inviting (made more so by the wedding that I watched from a distance shortly after arriving.  There would be three weddings in total during my stay).   At night, the Stanley Hotel has an air of quiet knowledge, almost as if the hotel is self-aware and watching everything you do.  It is easy to see why this place piqued Stephen King’s imagination. The hotel takes pride in its connection to one of King’s most celebrated works, selling souvenirs with quotes or moments from The Shining on them from key chains for room 217 to Redrum chocolate bars.

By nature I take some time to warm up to my surroundings and even longer if I don’t know anyone where I am.  In many cases, and this one was no exception, I will turn to liquid courage to loosen my jaw and get the talking going.  With that in mind, I did the only thing I could think of, I began drinking.  Not right away, but once the cocktail hour started, so did I.  It was through this that I learned how the thin air of Colorado interacts with booze – it gets you feeling relaxed a lot faster.  For the cocktail hour and dinner I sat with, what I have come to decide, was the cool table of the lunch room.  Besides myself, there was Chris Canada and his wife Tara from , Stephanie from, Bill Brennan, the Sci-Fi Channel’s Vice President of Marketing, Scott Hallock and Travis Draft, both from Scare Tactics.  The dinner itself goes quickly and I take full advantage of the open bar while we spend much of the time talking.  I have a chance to talk briefly with Josh Gates of Destination Truth who is in high spirits as he was recently inducted into The Explorers Club and is well on his way to reaching another goal: visiting 100 countries (he has recently passed 70).  I learn that Josh’s passport has been altered to add more pages multiple times in the last few years because he travels so often.  

As things begin to wind down, I head to the Stanley bar with Scott and Travis for a few more drinks.  It is here that things go in a direction I had not expected.

Travis and I meet a group of people outside who are all in good spirits and, like us, having a few drinks.  We have an interesting if not somewhat confusing conversation about skin walkers and the Native American tribes in Colorado.  I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but the conversation moved to politics, which did not surprise me as many of the conversations at dinner turned this way, as the first of the presidential debates was happening on the same night.  Between the buzz I had from drinking and the noise in the bar, I missed at what point the jovial conversation between everyone turned tense, but you could feel it in the air.  Suddenly, one of the people we had met, a short bald man working on a serious whiskey drunk, turned aggressive; he stepped up to Travis and began yelling about guns and how no one would take his away, which Travis tried to assure him he had no interest in doing.  As their eyes locked, I couldn’t help but laugh, as this tends to be my initial reaction to a moment of machismo, though I don’t think it helped in this situation.  Before I could finish my giggle, Travis turned to me and with a wry smile asked, “If this goes down, do you have my back?”

I’m not a fighter, which my pale and doughy body will attest to.  The last time I was in a fight was years ago when a man tried to hit my friend’s wife and all I did in that was block his punch with my arm (something I will always be proud of, I didn’t know I could move that fast).  Before that, I was a freshman in high school.  I imagine my face became even paler at Travis’ question and I can only hope my voice wasn’t horribly shaky when I responded with a low “Sure”.  My heart raced as Travis turned his attention back to the Angry Man, who was puffing out his chest.  My heart raced as my mind went through the possibilities of where this could go:

- Angry Man would swing at Travis.  Travis would dodge and I would get hit and more than likely start crying.

- Angry Man would swing at Travis and connect.   I would fall into a fetal position and beg for mercy.

- Angry Man would swing, but in his drunken state, would miss and slip.  His head would hit the bar and he would die.  I end up in prison and CHUD is never invited to another Sci-Fi event.

- At some point things would get really crazy and I would piss myself in fear before learning that this is all an elaborate set up for Scare Tactics.

Lucky for me, the night did not come to fisticuffs, as the Angry Man’s girlfriend stepped in and pulled him away.  I downed my beer as my heart relaxed.

The rest of the night went on without any real excitement.  I spent a few more hours drinking with Travis and a few other people before finally making my way to my room and passing out while watching a recap of the debate on CNN at around 5 AM.  If I had known that the next day I would be chased across the hotel grounds in the pouring rain, I probably would have gone to bed a little earlier.