Ghost Hunters' Steve Gonsalves on His Freakiest Paranormal Experiences, Jealous Skeptics, and the Evil Dead
|Courtesy of Seminole Casino Hollywood|
Despite the wacky charms of our childhood friends Slimer and Beetlejuice, real ghosts are no joke. And tracking 'em down with high tech equipment takes a special kind of courage. (Balls. It takes balls.)
Enter Steve Gonsalves and Jason Hawes, two of the stars of the SyFy channel's longest running spook show, Ghost Hunters. Their team uses high-tech equipment to investigate paranormal phenomenon all over the country. And while cynics constantly challenge the show's authenticity, the crew insists it's all legit.
With Halloween right around the corner, Steve and Jason appeared last weekend at the Seminole Casino Hollywood for a little metaphysical meet and greet.
Cultist caught up with Steve and chatted about his "first time" (with the paranormal, that is), haters, and his love for all things Universal Studios.
Cultist: What experience first led you to believe in paranormal phenomenon?
Steve Gonsalves: I started researching it long before I had an experience. The first experience I had I was in this graveyard when I was 16, just before I started doing it semi-professionally. I was leaving the graveyard and it felt like something kind of tripped me a little bit, but I was confused. I didn't know if I just tripped over something. I didn't stick around to evaluate what might have actually happened. I don't really consider that a legit experience. Five or six years later I saw a spontaneous fire, which was very strange to me. Just to see a fire start on a table when you know there's nothing there ... I'm in this family's house and it just appears. I know something goofy's happening here (by goofy I just mean unexplained). But I've never seen a ghost, unfortunately.
What do you say to skeptics?
Yeah we get a lot of flack from skeptics. What most people don't realize is, I don't think there's any bigger skeptic than myself. I encourage what they're saying. You shouldn't believe anything unless you see it yourself. What we're dealing with are things that are so fantastic to believe. If you say, "I saw this table sliding across the room" or "I saw this bouncing light," the average person will look at you with raised eyebrows and think, "yeah right, buddy." I sort of appreciate that outlook because you really have to be that way. There's no sense in fooling yourself or other people.
The hateful skeptics are kind of a nuisance. They think we're all liars, which is fine. But when they start to get hateful it's just like, come on guys, really? It sounds horrible, but boil it down to jealousy. I end up finding out that half of these skeptics are members of paranormal organizations, and when we first came out they loved us and said we pushed this into the forefront. But then they always sort of have that mindset that, it should be them on TV. I have yet to meet a skeptic that doesn't have an ulterior motive to what they're feeling or saying.
But in general, I think that mindset is healthy and they should approach it as we do.
What's the science behind your equipment?
It depends on the equipment. While we don't consider ourselves scientists per se, we do take what you could call a scientific approach. If you talk to any scientist, they'll say a scientist is just a person that seeks the answer to a question.
Our EMF gauge measures energy, radiation given off by a fluctuation in the magnetic field. Everything on earth has a static charge to it. Even a pencil on a table is surrounded by static electricity -- as soon as it moves, it becomes electromagnetic. So a movement of energy creates a little bit of radiation, which is what our EMF picks up. If we see a fluctuation it could be something natural or manmade. We look for sources like electricity, power boxes, copper piping, etc. If we don't find a source and it seems to be a free-floating disturbance, we move our meter in every direction and make sure it dissipates, to determine that it's not coming from any one direction.
Once we see and can rule out any natural or manmade source, then we can look at the potential that there's something else there manipulating that energy.... The theory is that spirits are made of energy. So we believe that when we get a little fluctuation and we can't find a source for it, there could be something there. It doesn't mean it's a ghost. It could be geothermal energy, it could be a lot of things -- we just know we can heighten our investigation as there's a chance something could be present. We also use our equipment to disprove claims of hauntings.
We also use digital recorders, cameras that can see in the night, infrared cameras, thermal imaging cameras, full spectrum cameras. We use a device called a geophone that's basically a mini seismograph. It takes an electric impulse caused by a vibration and converts onto digital reading.