Somedays it seems like my entire time is spent dealing with the paranormal. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, I can certainly think of worse things to have my life revolve around…(porn, drugs, The View, Lifetime movies)
One of the best aspects of running Ghost City Tours is that I get to interact with many people, tens of thousands per year, who share the same interest and passion for ghosts and hauntings. Inevitably the topic of how I started Ghost City Tours comes up. And that question always leads to someone asking me to tell them about my first ghost experience, how I got into ghost hunting and paranormal investigating. Well, that story takes place in a little town in Pennsylvania named Gettysburg.
During the past 15 years I would often find myself visiting Gettysburg Pennsylvania. Even before I associated her rolling hills and intricate monuments with ghosts I thought of Gettysburg as a very spiritual place. Knowing what happened there can help bring balance to any issue I was having in the ‘real world’.
Many weekends I would spend in Gettysburg, much to the dismay of my ex-wife (maybe one of the contributing factors?!). It was easy for me to unwind and recharge my mental batteries while walking the same paths that men much braver than I took. They were facing their destiny upon those fields, I simply wanted to forget that I was pissed at some dip-shit client that I dealt with all week.
I was, am still am, a huge Civil War history buff. I would often take books to the battlefield, just to grab a seat on a rock and indulge. Sitting on the rock, reading about the battle is was easy to imagine that the very rock I was sitting on, at one point, probably sheltered a man from a barrage of lead being fired in his general direction. It helped bring the words on the pages to life and give them more meaning.
One evening I was getting ready to leave the battlefield. You are not required to be off of the battlefield until 10pm during most of the year. I would leave at sunset though, seeing there was no way for me to…well, see. Many times I would take notice of people walking around the battlefield, waving flashlights around. One evening I asked one of my friends, a Park Ranger who had worked at Gettysburg for almost 8 years, what were these people doing. Thinking they were relic hunters I was thinking he would surely know all about these folks and their activities. He proceeded to tell me that they were ghost hunters, people looking for ghosts. I thought to myself, and may have even exclaimed out loud..”That is the most ridiculous shit I have ever heard of”. We both had a good laugh, said our goodbyes and drove off in opposite directions.
A few weeks later I was heading back to Gettysburg with my daughters. At the time they would have been 4 and 7 years of age. After a day of boring them with history that nobody cared about I decided I would try something a little more adventurous to make up for what I put them through. “Who wants to look for ghost?!” They looked at me like I was crazy (I may have been) while the girls looked at me with wide eyes and immediately let me know their thoughts on the subject….”YES!”. So, ghost hunting it was.
We drove through Gettysburg to get to a Walmart. If you’ve never driven through Gettysburg before you really need to get there. Aside from the historic nature of the town, the main streets are lined with beautiful old homes. Many of them have been turned into historic..and haunted..bed and breakfasts. You’ll also find little mom and pop stores offering you everything from candy apples to civil war reenactor garb. My favorite places are the old antique stores. You can often find some rusty, dirty artifact from the battle itself…okay, okay…I am getting off-track here.
So, at Walmart we picked up a few of those $50 voice recorders so that we could try to talk to ghosts. As we were checking out the girls we anxiously discussing the ghosts they planned to talk to. I couldn’t help but notice the cashier looking at me funny, the smirk on her face couldn’t hide the amusement she took in my situation. I told her that they didn’t know what they were talking about and we just using the recorders for fun. Oh yeah, she totally bought that…
Not long after the sun disappeared behind the ridgeline to the west we headed to the Wheatfield. After a quick Google search for ‘haunted places on Gettysburg Battlefield’ we determined that the Wheatfield would give us the best chance of capturing one of these ghost voices.
My youngest daughter decided that maybe ghost hunting wasn’t her thing after all and waited near the car. My oldest daughter and I departed into the unknown of the grass and darkness before us. You couldn’t even imagine the sheer volume of bugs that were out that night, all intent on sinking their hateful beaks into every square centimeter of exposed skin. Sometimes I think back in amazement at the dumb shit I put my kids through and shake my head. We reached the end of the trail that we started down. Directly in front of us was the treeline. After the sun went down the branches turned into a black mass of waving limbs and tentacles. It was more than a little unnerving, staring into the lightplay creating by the motion of the branches, trying not to imagine that a ghost would emerge and make me shit my pants, because I totally would have. It was much more creepy than I thought it was going to be. Of course I hid this from my daughter and played the cool calm dad. Aside from my little one telling me she had to pee every 30 seconds, all was quiet.
The first time you do an EVP session, you feel like a freaking moron. It was soo hard to spit out those first words, “If there is anyone here can you give us a sign”. I mean, I was still a skeptic, in the battlefield after dark, talking to myself, or the ghosts which were supposedly there. How could I not feel like a crazy fool?
After a few minutes of asking various questions that we felt would catch a dead soldier’s interest we wrapped it up and headed back to the car, much to the chagrin of the bugs which were bleeding us for every drop they could get. Enough already!
“So, did you guys run into any ghosts out there?” my ex asked with a shit eating grin on her face (I have come to learn that if you go looking for ghosts you better get used to people mocking you). Well, I didn’t know, we didn’t even listen to the recording that we made. As we started to play the recording we all listened very attentively, scanning the wavelengths for the proof we were looking for…a ghostly voice answering our questions.
About 2 minutes into the recording we heard what we were listening for. After I had asked “What is your name?” a voice answered from the emptiness….GEORGE. Everyone in the car did a collective WTF?! I mean, it was plain as day, we all heard it. It sounded like a gruff old man. This ‘ghost’ had just told us his name was George. Sweet baby Jesus on fire!!
After we played it back another dozen times or so I felt something in me start to change. I was instantly addicted. I needed to know more, how was this possible? My mind was completely and utterly blown.
Since that day I have spent much of my waking time learning everything I can about ghosts and ghost hunting. I have been to more haunted places than I can count, chasing that high you get when you make contact with the dead. And now, I have one of the largest ghost tour companies in the world under my belt. And it all started from George.
I have never been able to track down who George was. There were an untold number of men named George maimed and killed during the battle of Gettysburg. Every time I visit Gettysburg I head back to the secluded spot in the Wheatfield where I first caught George’s voice. I would love to be able to speak with him again and find out more about him and his story.
So, there you have it. That was my first paranormal experience on my own. It is what sent me down the road of ghost hunting. It was because of that moment that I am here to meet all of you great people…and that is even more mind blowing.
When I went on my first ghost tour in Savannah, it was a great experience. I had a good time seeing some of Savannah’s most haunted locations and hearing about the ghosts that haunt them. That was until I went home and started researching those locations on my own. What I found out was that much of what I was told was completely made up. It wasn’t just that ghost tour, it seems to be how most ghost tour companies run things. The creepier their stories are, the better they did. This really irked me. As a History buff, I found it slightly offensive. I knew that I could do better.
When I started Ghost City, I decided right away that all of our tours would be historically accurate. This decision wasn’t popular, especially with other ghost tour companies. As I started posting my research online a number of tour companies attacked me personally, and Ghost City. In the process of simply trying to uncover the truth behind Savannah’s haunted locations, I had torn apart each and every ghost story that they were telling. Unfortunately, that did nothing to deter these companies from continuing their ways. To this day, the same ghost tour companies still tell the same B.S. stories to their guests. Finding out the truth behind our haunted locations, in Savannah, New Orleans, Charleston, and elsewhere, has become one of the pillars of Ghost City. Our guests love it, concierges recommend us in droves because they all appreciate that we take the time to get their city’s history correct.
On top of all of that, the truth is often much more interesting and creepier, if you’re willing to put in the work to get to the bottom of things. My team and I take a lot of pride in the hours that we put into getting a story right. Whether it is researching the location in the Historic Archives or interviewing the people who live and work in these locations, we do what it takes to get to the truth.
Companies which engage in this practice of making up false history are doing their cities a huge disservice. Here at Ghost City, we take our mission very seriously. Our mission of preserving our history through story-telling. It is crazy to see how many of these made up stories about ghosts and the history behind the locations they haunt quickly become part of the ‘common knowledge’ about a city. Before you know it, the real history is lost to made up tales from a company who is simply doing anything they can do to make a quick buck.
When we opened up in New Orleans, we met a lot of pushback. But not from where you’d expect it. We were expecting to deal with the same crap we deal with in Savannah, from competitors. Surprisingly, there has been very little of that. The pushback we encountered was from the local tourism professionals. “We don’t push ghost tours”, is something we heard time and time again. When we asked why, the reply as always the same, “Those things are corny and stupid”, “There are no vampires here”, “Ghost tours are an embarrassment to New Orleans, barely anything they say is true”. Wow.
In the one year plus that Ghost City has been in New Orleans we have spent a lot of time showing the local tourism professionals, concierges, and others, that Ghost Tours, when done properly, can add immensely to the enjoyment of someone visiting New Orleans. We talked about how all of our tours are based on real history and investigations, not hearsay and made-up nonsense. We don’t do Vampire Tours. We have shown the skeptics that a ghost tour should be on the itinerary of anyone coming to New Orleans. And it is working. Each week, we receive more and more recommendations from the Hotels and the Concierges who work at them. We’ve had a number of Hotels, who have sworn off ever promoting Ghost Tour, agree to recommend our tours to their guests. This all happened because we stuck true to our mission, to research and preserve the real history, to uncover the real hauntings.
It has been very gratifying to see our efforts help change an entire industry in New Orleans. We hope, as time goes on, more tour companies in New Orleans follow our lead and actually base their tours on the real history of New Orleans, instead of simply saying that they do.
As a paranormal investigator, with a ton of experience, one of the real joys of founding Ghost City has been introducing thousands upon thousand of people to the ghosts of our Country. It is very rewarding to me, to see someone who considered themselves a non-believer, to walk away from one of our events knowing that ghosts are real.
So, in 2013, we started our series of overnight ghost hunts. We gave people the chance to investigate some of our Country’s most haunted locations with us. At that time, there was only a handful of companies offering this kind of experience.So, I knew that if we did this, we would have to do something that sets Ghost City apart from our competition. Today, it seems as if every paranormal group is trying (almost always unsuccessfully) to break into the ghost hunt market. We are continually trying to innovate the ghost hunt market. While remaining true to our roots of providing real ghost hunts by experienced ghost hunters, we are finding new ways to be the best tour company in America when it comes to offering ghost hunts. Wait until you see what 2016 has in store!
I decided very early on that Ghost City would supply our guests with all of the ghost hunting equipment that they need to do a real ghost hunt. And when I say all of the ghost hunting equipment that they would need, I mean it. We had enough equipment to outfit 50 people with any kind of ghost hunting equipment that they could imagine. This wasn’t easy, or cheap. After we were stocked, we had spent nearly $60,000 on ghost hunting equipment. But the public loved this. Our events would sell out in a matter of weeks, or even days in some cases. We were, and still are, the only company in America that offers their guests such a wide variety of ghost hunting equipment.
The other way I wanted Ghost City to stand out was that we would offer real ghost hunting events. Other companies would offer events where you could meet celebrities from ghost hunting TV shows. They would pull in well over 100 people to their events. But time and time again, we would hear from people attending those events “There is no way we could have had a real ghost hunt with that many people there’. So, instead of following the flock, we decided to never hold celebrity events and make our ghost hunts real ghost hunts. We limit the number of people at our events to ensure that each and every person has a real ghost hunt. You don’t have to worry about other people wondering around, ruining your EVP sessions. With all of these changes, Ghost City took the paranormal event world by storm. We couldn’t keep up with the demand.
The reason we do ghost hunts, and why they are so important to Ghost City’s mission, is that we truly allow our guests to experience the paranormal. With so much nonsense on TV, when it comes to ghost hunting, we feel that it is our responsibility to keep things grounded, to show people that what you see on TV is hardly what a real ghost hunt looks like. We aim to educate people in how to communicate with ghosts in a way that actually produces results, yet remains respectful of the ghosts.
I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished with our ghost hunting events. I am also very excited about 2016. While we laid low during 2015, because 2014 was so exhausting, 2016 is the year that Ghost City is returning with everything that we have to offer. If you’re looking to experience what a real ghost hunt or paranormal investigation entails, we hope you’ll consider joining us on one of our ghost hunts when we come to a location near you!
This year, Ghost City is going to continue pushing the envelope in regards to Ghost Tours and Ghost Hunts. We know what we are doing is awesome. Our guests love us. However, we need to constantly be improving. Complacency is not allowed here at Ghost City. I stay awake at night wondering, ‘How can we make our tours better?’, ‘How can we make our customer service better?’, ‘What new cities can we bring our tours and events to?’. I obsess over it.
2015 was a year of a lot of growth here at Ghost City. And with growth comes growing pains. And I can assure you that we had plenty of those. Personally, I made a number of mistakes that cost the company time and money. They say that no mistake that you learned something from is really a mistake. I can assure you, it doesn’t feel that way. I’ve also learned a lot about the tourism industry. In 2016, we’ll be implementing all of this new-found knowledge to help Ghost City continue to improve and grow. We added a General Manager, Gretchen, we moved into a new (big) office. We have implementing training programs for all of our employees. We hired Maria, our content marketing guru. I can go on and on…it feels like Ghost City has finally grown up. We even have whiteboards all over our office now! ; )
Opening up in San Antonio is going to be a big step for Ghost City in 2016. Now that New Orleans is hitting its’ stride, we want to bring our experiences to others. San Antonio seemed like the perfect city. Our General Manager, Gretchen, grew up there. She knows the town as well as anyone. On our initial trip to San Antonio, I was very impressed with the city and its’ hauntings. I can’t wait to see the reaction people have to us being in San Antonio.
We are also going to be expanding our Ghost Hunts. We are going to our favorite locations and some new ones. We are also going to be bringing along new equipment, expensive equipment, for our guests to us. We are also going to be implementing a new system that will streamline the process of our guests downloading their video and audio recordings.
Most importantly, in 2016, we are going to have an awesome team. I am very proud of everyone who works here at Ghost City Tours. We have over 30 employees now, and will be adding more in 2016. We are going to be expanding our marketing department and our office staff. Of course, we are always on the lookout for new guides. Only the best tour guides can work for Ghost City, so sometimes it is hard to find the right fit. But we are putting in the work to ensure that when you go on a ghost tour with Ghost City you are having the best possible paranormal experience possible.
Will you be joining us in 2016 for a ghost tour or a ghost hunt? We sincerely hope that you do. 2016 is going to be a blast!