by Karen Frazier, Managing Editor
Paranormal Underground Magazine
Leigh and Renee Macneil were excited. After an investigation of their 1856 home by New Hampshire Paranormal, they were contacted first by New Hampshire Paranormal and then by Patrick Powell of Pilgrim Productions asking if they would allow their homes to be featured on an episode of the wildly popular SyFy network show, Ghost Hunters.
According to Leigh Macneil, he was excited that their home’s history would be shown, and he was looking forward to having others see some of the strange goings on that he and his wife, Renee – a high school teacher – have experienced during their time in the house.
After sharing the house’s history and some of their experiences there with Powell, the Macneils were off and running. On the first day of the shoot, the entire TAPS and Ghost Hunters production team arrived at the appointed hour. According to Macneil, everyone from TAPS was really nice, and their experience with Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson and the rest of the team was great.
The Macneils did a walk through of the house and a recounting of many of their weird experiences, and then they were off to the nice Pilgrim provided hotel for the night. TAPS and the production crew investigated and filmed into the wee hours of the morning.
On day two of filming, the crew returned without the cast to shoot what is commonly known in “the biz” as B roll. They retraced the steps of the house tour in order to capture footage that would be interspersed throughout the portion of the episode featuring the Macneil’s home.
Day three of filming involved background interviews seeking out the history of the house – including interviews with the local historical society.
On day four, Hawes and Wilson returned with their crew for the “reveal”. During the reveal, Macneil was disappointed with the findings of the investigation, but felt reassured when Hawes and Wilson assured him that hauntings don’t happen on cue and that the house could be an ongoing investigation. The producer from Pilgrim was also reassuring, telling the Macneils that the house looked great and would present really well in the episode.
All in all, the Macneils really enjoyed their experience with TAPS and Ghost Hunters. Until the show aired.
Unfortunately for the Macneils, their case was featured as a “debunking episode.” Those familiar with the formula of Ghost Hunters are aware that, in the midst of the cases where hauntings can’t be disproven, Pilgrim Productions likes to throw in a good old fashioned debunk now and again just to maintain the show’s credibility.
The Macneil home findings, according to Ghost Hunters? A radio that has turned itself on is debunked as having an alarm set to go off every night at 3 a.m. According to Macneil, this surely can’t be the solution. For starters, the radio has only ever turned on twice – and always in conjunction with an immediate rise in volume followed by the CD tray popping open. It doesn’t happen nightly, and it isn’t just the radio going off as portrayed in the show. The volume increase and the CD tray are always part of the equation.
“We can read an instruction manual,” Macneil said in a phone interview yesterday. “If it was set to go off every night at 2 a.m., it would go off every night. It doesn’t. It’s gone off twice and never at 2 a.m.”
Other debunks set forth on the show include earthquakes and the instability of a rug. The conclusion that one is left with at the end of the episode? There’s nothing unnatural or paranormal going on at the Macneil house.
According to Macneil, they shared a number of incidents that have occurred in the house with both TAPS and the show’s producers that weren’t even mentioned in the final cut of the episode. There have been a number of odd incidents that just can’t be explained away with pat answers like earthquakes and alarm clocks.
Macneil gave me one such example involving Christmas lights. As Macneil tells the story, he was alone in the house one night, making pizza in the kitchen. The flour from the pizza made him sneeze, and he was certain that he heard something that sounded like, “bless you,” from the middle of the house, followed by footsteps. Macneil followed the sound and wound up upstairs, where the Christmas lights that had been hanging securely in six windows from three different rooms all season were mysteriously on the floor.
When it came time for their show to air (Episode 5.5 – Judgment Day), the Macneils told all of their family and friends to watch. Macneil was looking forward to seeing the house’s history on television, and maybe receiving some validation of the things that they’d been experiencing. Instead what he saw made him feel duped, and he felt it made his wife, Renee, look paranoid. All of the unexplained events, all of the history of their home was distilled into a 15 minute debunk that, according to Macneil, “I could have come up with myself.”
Throughout our conversation, Macneil reiterated that TAPS and the crew were all extremely courteous and very nice. One gets the impression that he doesn’t have an ax to grind with Wilson, Hawes et al, but he’s none too happy with the editing done by Pilgrim Productions.
His reaction is understandable. In their time in the house, the Macneils have experienced a number of strange events like the Christmas light story he related to me. The Macneils were hoping to have their story told in a way that shared their experience of the house, rather than in a manner that met an editor’s “debunking quota.” Both were embarrassed and felt that they were made to look like fools on an extremely popular national television show. I’m sure many others in their shoes would feel the same way.
After reading about the Macneil’s experience and talking with Leigh, I contacted Jason Hawes to find out his take on the Macneil investigation, as well as how much input he and Grant Wilson actually had into the editing of the show.
According to Hawes, “We have investigated over 100 locations so far just on the show, and I have only heard three people who have been upset with us after.”
Hawes went on to list the three investigations where they’ve gotten negative feedback. One involved a homeowner who stated that she didn’t want her house shown on television and it was (most likely Brenda from an early episode of Ghost Hunters, who has been quite vocal on the Internet with this criticism and a few others), one that involved a personal issue with one of the team members, and the Macneils.
Hawes accepts responsibility for the issue of the house being shown on television in that early episode saying, “… was not TAPS, but was still wrong and she should hold us all responsible.”
About unhappy clients, Hawes had this to say, “… it would seem certain people are not willing to accept the answers we may give them. If someone calls us into their home and has us investigate they need to be able to accept a yes or no. Bottom line is that LA can only use what they (The Client) gives them to use on camera.”
As for the editing of the show?
According to Hawes, “We at TAPS have no say over that.”
He went on to explain, “We have say on our cases, where we go and so forth, Production can not touch our evidence, they can not tell us who is on our team or who is removed.”
And are they happy with the editing?
“Sure sometimes we are not happy with editing. There have been cases like that.”
About the MacNeil investigation in particular, this is what he had to say:
“The family in New Hampshire are great people and I very much enjoyed speaking with them and investigating their home. We did not catch anything, these things don’t happen on cue. Cases take time. That was brought up at the table. We told them it could be years before we caught anything. If LA showed that then great, if they did not then at least (they) know it was said.”
This is, for the record, exactly what Leigh Macneil told me that TAPS said to them in the reveal. That the investigation would need to be ongoing.
Hawes went on to talk about the criticism that evidence obtain by New Hampshire Paranormal that was not featured on the show, saying, “We can not use other team’s who investigated their homes evidence for the main reason, we have no idea what was going on, no idea who was there, and no idea on possible contamination. How can I take another team’s evidence and claim it is legit when I have no idea where, how, when and so forth they caught it?”
In the end, it seems that the Macneil episode was unfortunate for both TAPS and the Macneils; however, on one thing both parties agree. They enjoyed working together.