Wednesday, April 17, 2013

'Deep South Paranormal' team on ghost hunting, debunking and southern culture


Are you ready for another heapin' helpin' of ghost hunting gumbo? If you said yes (or yee-haw), then that must mean you're a new fan of Syfy's paranormal investigative show Deep South Paranormal. The show, which debuted last week, follows the ghostbustin' good ol' boys, and one gal, as they explore Dixie's supposedly haunted history, utilizing recognizable gadgets along with a guitar.

The show, which we reviewed last week, is the latest in TV's so-called redneck wave. And tonight at 10 p.m., the adventures continue when the DSP team investigates Mississippi’s Mont Helena Plantation House and Nitta Yuma. In advance of tonight's episode, Paranormal Pop Culture joined team leader Jonathan Hodges and team "rocker," the big-bearded Keith Ramsey to chat about Deep South Paranormal and how it differs from other ghost hunting shows out there.

Q: How would you define the difference between your investigative style versus, let’s say, the Ghost Hunters or Haunted Collector or other paranormal shows out there?

Hodges, courtesy Syfy
Jonathan Hodges: Anybody can get a voice recorder or a camera and go out to a cemetery and stuff, and
that’s great. We really like that. But we try to be more original and come up with some methods or some techniques that is -- maybe some people might even think they’re a little off the wall.

But for example, Keith is our musician of the group. We do a lot of music, a lot of guitar. We’ll get him to play the guitar while out on an investigation and we kind of look at that in two different ways.

The scientific way of the strumming of the strings will actually send out vibrations through the air which could possibly attract paranormal activity. Then also, depending on where we’re at we may be at a hospital where a lot of hardship or something went on.

And a lot of times we’ve found, you know, the guitar will actually soothe and bring the spirits closer. So we’re always trying to think a little bit outside the box in the way we do and even kind of have some old school techniques versus some new school techniques.

Q: Let’s be honest, there is this element of people that’s saying the show is just trying to tie into Duck Dynasty because southern culture is very popular right now. What do you say to people that might say, "look, this is just playing on southern stereotypes and could even potentially set back 'real' paranormal research?"

JH: People are going to have their different thoughts on the show, you know? But I think the south is so rich with history and the people. I’m hoping it’s going to give good exposure.

It’s going to bring light we’re not all just -- we’re not all Duck Dynastys, you know? We all don’t -- yeah, we have some guys in our group that have long beards but that doesn’t mean we all go out and we’re not all, you know, shooting ducks and stuff like that.

It’s not just playing on that. We’re trying to bring light with Deep South Paranormal. We’re trying to get it out there to show people the history of the south, and what the south has to offer in the paranormal field.

The south is hot right now. I mean, it’s hot for a reason. People are intrigued with the south because it has so much history and it has so much to offer. You know? And at Deep South Paranormal that’s what we’re trying to do is just get that more out there for everybody can see it across the nation.

Q: And Keith, can you weigh in on that as well?

Keith Ramsey: Well yeah, that’s -- like John said, the heritage in the south is ... a lot of people’s curiosity about it, all through the rest of the nation and around the world, it’s an opportunity for us to show what it’s all about. Our group is like has become like a family of its own, you know, just like we share with our families back home.

JH: We have a saying here. We’re big fishermen, I’m a big fisherman, you know? And a lot of times, you take somebody out fishing and they’re like, "why are we going to the spot where everybody is?"

Well we’re going to the spot where everybody is because that’s where all the fish is. We look at it the same way. Why is everybody filming in the south? We’re filming in the south because there’s a lot of history and a lot of ghosts here, you know? So...

Q: How did you guys get interested in the paranormal?

JH: I know that so many people have different reasons in why they dive into this stuff. And me personally ... I grew up in a house that was haunted -- but you always are told by your parents and stuff, you know, that oh, it’s nothing. That’s not a sound. You didn’t see anything. Go back to bed. And then you get to an age where you can start researching a little bit on your own and reading books and stuff and then you continue to get older and stuff, and you finally get to a point in your life where you’re like there’s only one way I’m going to know if this is real or not.

I can sit and watch TV, or read this book and try to decide if it’s real, or I can go out there and do it myself. So me, personally, that was my whole goal was to prove to myself first.

Ramsey, courtesy Syfy
KR: I started having experiences at a very early age, at five years-old, through dreams and visions.

So, later in my life, I found out, as the visions got stronger in my early teenage years. I confronted my mother with it and -- because it was troubling me a little, worried me and confused me and scared me sometimes.

And come to find out through her, which comforted me when she told me, that she had it and her mother had it, and not only that but my grandmother on my dad’s side and my great grandmother had the gift of vision and sight.

So around the age of nine I seen my first apparition and it growed stronger through the years. So, just with the wondering, what that was to do with me, what was going on with me, I always wanted to get into doing it and sharing it with other people as a group to find answers.

And that’s how me and Benny and John ended up starting together on it. Once I was confronted by them to join up with them with my abilities.

Q: Would any of you ever consider coming to the north and bring some of that Deep South Paranormal here?

KR: Well yes. I’d go anywhere in the world.

JH: I would love to. I’m telling you, because this -- Deep South Paranormal -- is going to get it out there and show what we do and hopefully show people how we do it and we do it the right way ... I would love to go up and take a southern point of view of it and bring it Deep North.

I mean what’s going to happen when you go to one of the big Civil War places up there or maybe some type of some old Civil War home up there and come in there with our country accents and stuff, you know? To me that would spark more interest. People down here, we go to these plantation homes and we’re talking about hunting and stuff like that; well, they’re used to hearing that. But to flip it, I think that would be wonderful.

Q: John, you said you guys have investigated for a couple of years together? 

JH: I mean me and Benny Reed and Keith, we’re the three guys. You all find us from Huntsville, we’re from Alabama. And we’ve investigated with each other and we’ve known each other for a long time.

We’ve investigated with each other tightly for a little over -- probably a little over five years. And we’ve been to a lot of locations. But the paranormal community is such a tight community and we had talked when Randy and those guys.

The name of our group was BOA Paranormal, and Randy and them was Down South Paranormal. And so we had (told) them before and they had  helped us with a few things as far as a little research and whatnot.

But it’s such a tight community that they were able to actually bring us together because I don’t think people really realize how diverse the south is. It’s not just southerners. I think you’ll find a southerner from Louisiana is nothing like a southerner from Alabama. Two totally different southerners, you know. A southerner from Texas is nothing like a southerner from Alabama.

So I think the show did bring us together as a mix and stuff but it wasn’t our first time of ever speaking or anything. We were aware of each other at least.

Q: You've mentioned Randy Hardy is your fearless skeptic, but in the first episode, at least, there wasn’t a whole lot of debunking taking place or really trying to find out what other causes could be there. Is that something that we’re going to see more of?

JH: That’s a good question. I think a lot of it happens also off-camera because we don’t want to put anything up there that we’re not feeling pretty solid about.

I think that’s very fair to say. I haven’t seen the first episode so I would like to see more if there’s not a lot in there because you definitely ... I think that just helps with the paranormal community to show credibility.

That just shows, hey, we’re not just hearing a bump going, "there they are, there is the ghost over there." The debunking does -- it’s super important. So if there’s not a lot in there, definitely I would, you know, like to see more portrayed at least on there.

But as far as our investigating, we do try to debunk and we actually a lot of times have to dismiss a lot of stuff. I mean, you hear a door close and you’ve got to check. Could it be a draft? It could be a draft. Me and Keith actually had happen a specific incidence when we were together -- just me and him investigating. We saw the door open and slam right in front of us and we can’t use it. Do I feel in my heart it was paranormal? I really truly do. But we’ve got to throw it out, you know? So yeah, I -- that’s a fair question. I hope debunking does is portrayed more on-camera at least, but it is there. It is there behind the scenes for sure.

Q: Keith, do investigators get too caught up in the gadgets? Do you think it would be cooler or better if you just kind of went in with your gut feeling and your guitar and the gris-gris?

KR: Well all of it with the gadgets and the instinct and, you know, with my ability and everything, it’s -- if something’s happening to me, it’s good to also have the gadgets on hand to see them respond at the same time I’m experiencing whatever I’m experiencing with the sensitivity.

Q: And John, do you want to weigh in on that?

JH: I’m not going to lie. Sometimes it does when you can get solid evidence without all of the gadgets. I’m not going to lie, it does; we call it old school and we do that sometimes.

...But like Keith was saying, I think that was a good answer in the sense of yeah, it is satisfying to go in there and do it old school. But it also backs up all your claims and all your evidence if you get something old school, if you have that equipment there to help out, to validate it.