Love it or hate it, the television show “Ghost Hunters” stands as the epicenter of the new paranormal pop culture phenomenon exploding out of cable television. It seems that new ghost-busting shows hit the airwaves on a weekly basis, some with staying power, others fading away and easily forgotten.
Through it all, “Ghost Hunters” remains king. The show is one of cable television’s highest rated original programs and grows every season. I recently had the opportunity to speak with one of the original cast members and TAPS member, Kristyn Gartland, and discuss the early years of TAPS. Gartland gives a glimpse into those days, the advent of TAPS as TV stars, the awesome power of the editing room and the pressures accompanying success.
Q&A after the jump.
Kristyn, thanks for talking to me today. Let’s start with your history of the paranormal before TAPS entered the picture. What were you doing before TAPS entered your life?
The pleasure is ALL mine! I was a single mom raising my son. Working crazy hours to keep the bills paid. It was a very tough time for me.
What is your earliest paranormal experience?
As a child I used to tell my mother I thought there was someone in the house, I would hear footsteps. My first real experience was in my first apartment. Thing would go missing, my TV channels would change etc. Finally, I asked someone and we found out it was a man named John and he lived in the house. For whatever reason he liked me and never stole my things after that, only my roommate’s stuff.
Were you interested in the paranormal before this happened?
NO!! Scared of it really, but then I started to read about it to learn more.
What was it that motivated you to become a paranormal investigator?
How awful and isolated I felt with my own experiences. I wanted to make it easier for someone to talk to people about what was going on.
How did you meet TAPS’ founders Jay (Hawes) and Grant (Wilson)?
I searched for a group to assist me with my haunting, and I found TAPS. It was not until the 2nd or 3rd investigation I met Jay and I didn’t meet Grant for quite some time after that.
What was your role in TAPS in those early years?
Oh God, I did website stuff. Nothing major, but I was a part of something I believed in so I didn’t care.
Tell me about those early years of TAPS, before television entered the picture. Where would you meet? What were your investigations like? What were the dynamics of the team?
Starbuck’s, that’s where meetings took place. Investigations were serious, there was something new every time. The people in the group only cared about the investigation and helping people. We talked shop! We were all different, but all there for the same reason so we didn’t argue too much.
Can you tell me about your favorite, pre-SyFy Channel, investigation?
There were a few. There was one where the woman was involved 100 percent in the investigation. She wanted to learn a ton and did! We helped her more than she thought we would.
How did TAPS meet with the folks from Syfy? What was the general feeling of TAPS members when this new endeavor presented itself?
I don’t know how the meet was with SYFY. I was not there for that. I think we were all happy! It was a new thing, and a chance for us to all be heard. A chance to make what we did acceptable.
Was the TAPS team shocked at the popularity of the show?
Yes! I still am.
How has the TAPS team handled this new fame?
All of us handle things differently. I always remember where I came from and why I was where I was. Not to mention I am not anywhere near famous!
How has the dynamics within TAPS changed since the television show?
There is no longer a bond, its hard to keep up with everyone and their schedules.
What was your favorite on-air investigation?
All of them. They were all awesome in their own way, much like the home investigations. All brought something to my life I didn’t have before.
TAPS’ involvement in the television show comes under fire frequently from viewers, skeptics, and other paranormal groups, to the point where TAPS members have become symbols of the paranormal community. Personally, do you feel that this is fair to the members of TAPS?
Yes and no. There is this thing called editing. You are made to look how they want you to look. I get the bitch role, not too far from the truth, however I am not like that all the time… but you think I am based on the editing. I joke, we all do, but you never see that. Steve is always a “joker” right, but he is one of the few I go to for knowledge, he is very serious about investigating.
I think you need a spine, you need to know about the paranormal to be in the spotlight because when asked simple questions your words should never falter. The answer should be right there. If one person is not happy about evidence presented, they will go as far to accuse you of faking evidence. I have pride! I would never in a million years fake anything!
How do the members of the show handle the pressure brought on by the show?
It’s not easy on family, friends, yourself. We all handle it differently. I have a wonderful man I vent to. I have been unemployed for almost 2 years now and I’ll tell you what, a few times I went on interviews the person knew me from the show and that’s all they could talk about, yet still unemployed! They wanted to know why a TV star needed a job! Or how often I would miss work to go be with the team. Can you imagine? I am NOT a star, and I certainly am NOT rich, jeesh. I need a real job to take care of my family just like everyone else does.
Your life is put out there; you can’t have an address people can find, or a job. I have warned my son about all of it and he is careful. I have gotten letters at home from people who found my address on the web. My son will wear a GH shirt to school and his teachers ask for free stuff! It is kind of funny sometimes.
Do you feel that the show reflects TAPS accurately, or is it a different beast all together?
See, TAPS is not represented as TAPS. Its Ghost Hunters. TAPS is the name of the group. There is also a home team who don’’t so much as get a glance from people because they are not on TV, yet they are a great bunch of investigators who ONLY care about the people.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts how rabid, and sometimes scary, the TAPS fan base can be. Has there ever been a time when you felt like you were a part of “Paranormal Beatlemania” — that it may have gotten to be a little too much?
A few times at events, yes. It is hard to go anywhere that someone doesn’t stop you. It’s a blessing and a curse all at the same time. But I’m not on the show all the time so I don’t get that as much as the others.
Your involvement in the show has decreased over the years, yet your involvement in TAPS’ home team as a case manager has remained the same. Has this been a decision on your part, to drop out of the limelight and focus more on investigations off-camera? Or are there other powers that be?
My involvement is not my decision, I get asked to go on cases on an as needed basis. The need to have me in particular has decreased, apparently. I will always be in the paranormal, TV show or not. Being the case manager gave me the opportunity to pick away at our tactics and be more involved in writing policies, training and the overall running of the TAPS home team. I love it.
Tell me a little bit about the “Paranormal 101″ workshop.
I love teaching. It is the tip of the iceberg though. Most people are uneducated of misinformed about the paranormal therefore being scared for false reasons. My class brings light to the happenings. I give you real life cases. The books to read to assist you further. I tell you why I am here, and about the experiences I have had over the years to give me the knowledge I have. I was not just a fan of the show that jumped on board with no knowledge at all because I wanted to be a star.
I have people to go to like John Zaffis and Adam Blai, the top respected Demonologists in our field. I consult Chip Coffey for info on psychics. There are a variety of people I have had the luck to learn from. I use knowledge from the groups I have met over the years, other perspectives that I didn’t think of.
You started Paranormal 101 years ago, yet Para101 has suddenly appeared from another TAPS member. What is the difference between the two? And how did this come to be?
The name to me was an insult. It was everything I worked for. My words put on paper to help others understand what the paranormal was all about. Cases I went on. Clients I had. It was my money that copyrighted it. Thank god. I don’t know what possess someone to try to take that hard work away. The name of that class has changed several times now so I’m not sure what goes on with it.
Similar to all pop culture phenomena, success brings a certain level of discomfort in the ranks. There seems to have been a rift in the TAPS team in recent years, negative postings from TAPS members concerning you and other members have popped up periodically on message boards and other media posts. What do you feel has brought this division between TAPS members? How does this make you feel? And does TAPS have some form of regulation or code of conduct that should prevent this from happening? Can TAPS overcome these obstacles?
It breeds bad blood. I have seen the postings, I’ve heard the talks. I am nauseous over it. I have never said that I refuse to do Beyond Reality Events, I have never been asked, in fact quite the opposite, I have been left out until someone stepped in. I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to teach my class and meet people with the same interest. However, what I feel is the issue is MY class. I doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what the problem is. I’ll let you come to your own conclusion.
There is a policing system in place; I don’t know what else to say about that. It makes me feel the team is no longer a team. “We” as a team, and there is no “I” in team, should not be allowed on any level to publicly shit on each other. There should be a level of discipline for that. I don’t know that we will overcome it, I just don’t know. I know I hope that we will, however I am losing faith.
TAPS got me where I am today. I am forever grateful for all the places I have been, all the people I have met and all the experiences I have had. That is always something I will remember. Any time Jay Hawes or production calls to go on a case, my first words are ”thank you for thinking of me.” I am not too sure that too many members say that, maybe that is my problem.
There is so much negativity in this field right now it’s insane! People going to jail, people intentionally hurting others to get ahead? What the hell are we here for? What is so important that people feel the need to place hurt on others? Or feel they are better than others? There are MySpace pages and websites dedicated to hurting people in this field and yet those writing claim to be investigators? I am at a loss! Maybe I will lay low until all the crap blows over and I can go back to where we started.
People who attend workshops or paranormal events notice that you are also a photographer, taking photographs of many locations where TAPS members investigate. Has photography always been an interest?
Yes, I love photography. I like to put my eye in it, so you see the places how I saw them.
Recently, you started a line of paranormal investigator equipment bags called “Anomalie Paranormal” – what inspired you to this endeavor?
I was sick of carrying the equipment in every pocket and sock I had! We needed something for us.
Finally, what’s next for Kristyn Gartland?
I am getting married on 2-27-10 so until that is done that is all I’ll be doing.
And yet my mailbox remains empty. Thanks, Kristyn!