This is the final part of Derek’s adventures at Colorado’s Stanley Hotel. To read about his first night at the place that inspired The Shining, click here. To read about him playing the new SciFi Channel game The Cha$e, click here.
“Nice to meet you, how long have you been dead?”
Grant Wilson – Co-Founder – T.A.P.S.
The main event was quickly approaching and I was a little nervous. I wanted so badly to experience something paranormal that I was worried I would become one of those people that hears the wind and calls ghost. As I relaxed in the Stanley Hotel lobby with a group of my digital press brethren, I made myself a promise to go into this night with a very skeptical mindset.
At around eleven, a group of us were corralled to one side of a banquet hall and brought to the second floor of the Manor House where T.A.P.S [The Atlantic Paranormal Society] members Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango were waiting. The lights were completely out on the third floor and I could only see about ten feet in front of me. Our group was split into two smaller groups and I was first sent off with Steve. Steve, an ex-police officer, has a calm voice and pauses to consider his responses before answering. Besides Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, Steve is the longest running member of T.A.P.S to appear on Ghost Hunters. He brings us into room 1302 where a small table had lifted off the ground during T.A.P.S’ first investigation of the hotel. The room is pitch black with a slight bit of light entering through a window. Once we are gathered in the room, Steve pulls out a thermal imaging camera and begins to explain how it works. When he asks who would like to use it first; my hand is in the air before he finishes talking. See, since I first saw Ghostbusters, I wanted all the fresh equipment that Egon had and while I don’t think he used a thermal imaging camera, this was as close as I would ever get to a PKE Meter and I wasn’t about to let the chance go. Though I was quickly disappointed with the thermal camera not because it wasn’t cool, but because there were so many people in the room the chances of picking anything out that wasn’t just a reporter in a chair or his heat reflection off of a picture frame was pretty much impossible. Still, I happily played with the camera for as long as I felt was just enough to give it up before being told to. From there I made my way over to the famous jumping table to try some debunking.
For those of you who haven’t seen the Ghost Hunters episode in question, Grant Wilson, one of the co-founders of T.A.P.S, sits at a two person table in a small nook in room 1302 to change out the tape in one of their camcorders. While sitting there and using the light from one of the SciFi Channel cameras, the table jumps up, startling Grant and making the SciFi camera man scream and jump back. Now, on the show the question is brought up if Grant could have moved the table himself and they dismiss it. As I stood in the room, I took it upon myself to give moving the table with my leg a shot. The base of the table is very sturdy and I couldn’t move it with my foot very easily and surely not enough to make the table jump. Anyway, moving the table at the base would just cause it to shift, not hop into the air a bit. The next move I try is to hit under the table with my knee. While Grant is taller than I am, we are of comparable height that if he could hit the table with his knee, I should be able to as well. I could not hit the table with my knee as the table top is unusually high. Does this prove without a doubt that it was some wacky ghost? No, not at all. Even Steve questions it when I mention my attempts to move the table. This leads into an interesting question, how much does Steve believe?
Steve explains that he, and all the members of T.A.P.S have a simple belief, if they don’t personally experience it, it has to be doubted. This goes so far as if Steve sees a glass move but no one else is there, T.A.P.S will not call it evidence. One of the rules that T.A.P.S follows is that no investigator should ever be off alone. Besides it being a safety call in case someone gets hurt, this is also used to better gauge what did happen and to have two viewpoints to a situation. It is not that the members of T.A.P.S doubt each other; it’s that they know full well that the eyes and memory can play tricks on a person.
Sadly, nothing paranormal happens while we are in room 1302, but I am happy to at least have checked out the table and played with a very cool camera.
We next make our way to the other end of the Manor House where Dave Tango is waiting for us. Dave leads us to a hallway where supposedly the ghost of a little girl has been seen, though as far as Tango knows, no member of T.A.P.S has seen it themselves. Of all the members of T.A.P.S, Tango is the most skeptical. When asked what event brought him into studying the paranormal, he says that for him it’s just an interest in anything he doesn’t understand. Tango explains that he has never had an experience that he would say proves that ghosts exist, but he hopes to one day. Tango does explain that with the last group he had, they heard an odd banging on the floor at the end of the hall. He brings us to the point of the hall he was at when the banging started and tells us how one of the people in the previous group is staying on the second floor of the Manor House directly under where the banging was heard. This person claimed that the banging had also been going on the night before and that he even complained to the front desk more than once. Tango begins to talk to what he hopes is a spirit, asking it to bang on the floor again, “Can you make the same noise you made before?” After a few moments, Tango speaks again, “Can you make any kind of sound?” And that is when we all heard it.
It was unmistakable; a loud moaning. For a moment each of us in that hallway held our breath. This was it; the moment we all wanted, the moment that we would rush home and tell our friends and family about, “I heard it. I heard a disembodied voice with my own ears. Ghosts do exist.” The moaning continued and became louder; it was obviously the voice of a woman, but we still could not tell what she was saying. Then we did understand what she was saying, something along the lines of “Oh, god, yes!” Sadly, it was not the moaning a ghost, but of a woman in one of the rooms in the hall enjoying, as we would come to learn, her wedding night.
I think that this turn of events demoralized Tango a bit, as it put into question the noises heard earlier as well. From this point the time we spent with him was less about trying to find the paranormal and more about him. As I mentioned, Tango has never experienced anything he would say is definitive proof of ghost, which is something he shares with Steve. Tango is also an avid fan of magic, though I believe it is more the sleight of hand type and not the Alan Moore chaos magick. When it comes to the paranormal, his interests are not solely ghosts, but also UFOs, though in this too he has seen nothing he would consider definitive proof. Later in the night I get a chance to sit around with Tango and Steve and learn that one of Tango’s jobs as a member of T.A.P.S is to bring movies for he and Steve to watch during the downtime, though Steve questions Tango’s tastes.
“Tango, did you bring any movies?”
“Did you bring any good movies?”
“I brought the classics.”
“Tango, you think Above the Law is a classic.”
Steve and Tango finally come to the agreement that Big Trouble in Little China is a classic; as matter of fact, Tango has selected the Jack Burton theme as Steve’s theme, singing it whenever Steve walks by. It is obvious that, as Tango and Steve are the ones that drive the T.A.P.S equipment across the country for the investigations, they have become good friends.
After the investigation with Tango, we are brought back to the main building of the Stanley Hotel and up to the fourth floor. As with the Manor House, the lights of all the halls have been turned off, so it is a little hard to see. We are brought to a room where the newest member of T.A.P.S, Kris Williams, is waiting. Kris explains that her room has been pretty quiet, though a few people claimed to see the curtains move and they could not find a breeze. Kris follows the same method of questions that the rest of the T.A.P.S members do, but she is much more specific. While the others will ask for a noise or for a ghost to move something, Kris requests specific noises or movement; “Can you knock three times in a row?” “Can you turn on the TV?” “Can you pull someone’s hair?”
This room turned out to be my second chance to do a little debunking. As I stood near the bathroom, I was positive that I could hear something inside moving. My first guess was that the shower curtain was brushing against the tub, but upon closer inspection, there was no shower curtain but a sliding glass door. With that option out, I looked around the bathroom a little more carefully before I came to the conclusion that the sound was made when I shifted my weight on a specific floor tile. No ghost there, just a tile that needed some glue
Before too long, it was time to move again and we were brought to the main attraction of the night; Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson and room 401. On the show, Jason stayed in room 401 and while he slept a glass next to his bed shattered from the inside. The camera he set up in the room also caught the closet door, fully open, closing and latching itself. This was the room that held the most promise to show us something amazing. As we entered, a glass on a nightstand fell over with no one within three feet of it. Jason explained that this is the second time tonight the glass had done this, though he seemed to be unimpressed with this bit of oddness. Grant then introduced us all to a device called a K2 Meter. The theory behind the K2 Meter is that the series of lights on it will light up when an electromagnetic field comes within a certain distance of it. Now, this is something that has recently been introduced on the show and I am very skeptical of it. It is not that I think Jason and Grant are trying to trick people, but I question how definite this device can be used as evidence. Grant explains that the K2 itself is not enough for them to claim a place is haunted, but it is a good place to start. He also explains that the device can only really be used for questions that can be answered with a yes or a no. When they first bring out the device, they instruct anything that may be in the room with them that if they wish to say yes, they should move towards the K2 and if they wish to say no, to move away from it. Now, on the show, it appears as if almost every question Jay and Grant ask gets a yes response, but after sitting there I can say for sure that there is some serious editing going on for TV.
That is not to say that the device itself wasn’t impressive; once we entered the room I had made a decision to ask a question early on, and then ask the same question later to see if I would get the same response. For this test I went so far as to sneak in with the final group of the night, about an hour after my group had been in the room, and ask the question. The question I asked was a simple one, “Are you happy here” and both times the K2 lit up. I also watched both Grant and Jay’s hands to see if they were in any way using a remote to make the K2 go off (again, not because I question them, but I’m sure others would want to know). I can honestly say that I saw no signs of shenanigans.
Jay and Grant have been working together for about 18 years now and have a strong friendship. They both also like to play gags on people and I suppose that night the gag they decided to play was ‘get the press in the closet’ as Grant was obsessed with pushing people into the closet and closing the door on them before they could say yes or no, though he would always start with “Are you claustrophobic?” and when one person responded yes, he moved on to someone else. This move of locking people in the closet ended up leading to one of two ways I apparently impressed Jay and Grant, but let’s start with the first one.
While asking questions with the K2, I have to admit that I kind of took up most of the time. It wasn’t that I meant to hog it up, but I was honestly interested in how the thing worked and wanted to try and get as many questions answered as possible. The line of questioning that set Jay off was when I asked if whatever was in the room with us remembered Jay and Grant from their previous trips to the hotel. The K2 lit up about half way. I then asked if it was happy when they would show up and the K2 lit up all the way, the brightest we would see it for the night. Grant laughed, “I never thought about asking if it liked us!” At this point Jay, who was relaxing on the bed, shot up and began asking questions, “Do you remember the first time I stayed in this room?” The K2 lit up. “Were you the one that broke the glass next to my bed?” The K2 lit up. “Did you break the glass on purpose?” The K2 stayed dark. “Was that an accident?” The K2 lit up. Jay seemed very excited about this as he smiled, “Well, now I know it wasn’t trying to hurt me.”
At this point, questions were coming from all around and the matching responses from the K2 were impressive. When one person asked if the spirit was a guest at the hotel, it stayed dark; a few minutes later someone asked if the spirit worked at the hotel and the K2 lit up. One moment that I imagine was somewhat embarrassing for the person asking was “Do you know you’re dead?” The K2 stayed dark and Grant sighed, ‘We don’t like to ask that. Our theory is that most times they don’t know they are dead and that to them, we are the strange thing that is happening. I mean, imagine how you would feel if I walked up to you and said ‘Nice to meet you, how long have you been dead?’ You would get a little freaked out, right?”
Between the group I was supposed to be in and the group I snuck in with, I must have heard fifty or sixty questions asked and the continuity of answers was impressive. I’m still not ready to sign off on the K2 as absolute proof of anything, but I won’t be so annoyed when they bring it out on the show anymore.
As I said, there were two occasions when I was able to somewhat impress Jay and Grant. Now, I didn’t bring up the whole door gag for nothing, as that connects to my second moment of ghost hunting pride. During the second group I went into the room with, I stayed by the closet door (the previous time I was closer to the K2 Meter). At one point, when Grant was letting someone out of the closet, I went to close the door behind the person and felt what seemed like someone pushing against the door. I quickly pulled the door back, which got Grant’s attention. I explained that it felt like I hit someone with the door and Grant looked inside the closet to see if something had fallen to block the door. No go. I played with the door a bit before getting the push back to happen again. At that point I was able to make it happen three times in a row and figured out that if you are closing the door slowly, it seems to hit a slight jump in the frame. Grant shook my hand and smiled, “That’s what it’s all about, man, debunking!” As a fan of the show, this was better than seeing a ghost kid with a red ball any day.
What I was most impressed with when it came to the members of T.A.P.S was that they all had their own reasons for investigating the paranormal, be it something that happened to them when they were younger, or that nothing at all had happened but they saw a movie that made them interested (in Steve’s case the movie was The Entity). They also don’t always agree with how to investigate; Steve and Tango don’t like to use the K2 because they feel it hasn’t had enough testing yet (Jay and Grant made sure to tell us that they do not consider the findings of the K2 conclusive as they are still testing it out and have found that cell phones can often set the meter off). This group of ghost hunters has come together from various backgrounds, two plumbers, a cop, a magician and a genealogist/photographer all with one common question; what goes bump in the night? And as they’ll happily tell you, 80% of the time it’s just the plumbing.