Ghost Asylum S01E02 – Kuhn State Hospital

imageFor this episode, the members of Tennessee Paranormal Society head to Mississippi to investigate the Kuhn State Hospital. The hospital was established in 1832 and has been the scene of some nasty events. It certainly housed victims of smallpox as well as the injured in the Civil War. It was also a mental hospital and prison. As with most asylums of the day, lobotomies, ice baths and electroshock were prescribed regulary. It would also be pretty hard to image that there wasn’t some sort of abuse or mistreatment of both patients and prisoners. Like other facilities, it seems this was built to store the unwanted of society rather than take care of them.

As we learned from the previous episode, the goal of the team is to actually capture spirit energy. To that end they are working to devise a "trap" that can hold the energy while at the same time giving some sort of measurement reading to prove they actually have it. It’s certainly an interesting idea (and yes, it sounds like the plot of Ghostbusters), but can something like that actually be done? Can you really hold spirit energy the same way you store energy in a battery? Does the technology and know how exist to make it happen. And more importantly, is this group the one that will make it happen?

The reports for such a place could be guessed before talking with anyone. "You can feel their presence when you walk in the door", full bodies apparitions and shadow figures that roam through the halls and come darting at you when you view them straight on. Really the only thing missing was the footsteps and the glowing red eyes. Perhaps those were claims but were just edited out.

The part I do like about this show is they take baseline readings during the day and the team sticks around for more than just one night. At least they can get a sense of the building and understand some of the noises it makes so they don’t think every bump and creak is paranormal. It’s also nice to not see orbs or flying dust particles mistaken for paranormal events. They do seem to get a few hits during the daylight hours and from this they mark their "hotspots".

As the investigation goes along it appears the entities are attracted to Brandon who has Asperger’s. Back in the day, this would have been seen as a mental disorder and someone like Brandon would have found themselves as a patient in such a facility. The team feels that Brandon is seen as a kindred spirit and the energy is attracted to him.

As they make their way around the massive 40,000 sqft facility they hear the usual bangs and bumps and get repeated hits on their mel meter and K2. I can’t say I’m satisfied with either of these devices, but they were making noises and have  flashing lights. If that’s an indication of the paranormal then so be it.

The trap they create and set up consists of a doorframe, some glass sheets in the frame and a crystal suspended in the center. The crystal is supposed to hold the energy and they’ve added lasers so they can see if anything is moving within the panes of glass.

To be honest, I’m not sure which trap seems the most unusual. I know many people feel that crystals focus and contain energy, but are you able to capture a spirit with one? And especially in this sort of contraption?

The team uses lasers to "herd" the spirits toward Brandon who is trying to lure them into the container. The meters go off, bangs are heard and in the end they feel they’ve captured something in the crystal. However, when they get it back to Tennessee they aren’t able to get any readings to confirm they have something in their trap.

As they review the evidence they pull up footage of what they believe is a full-bodied apparition. Tucked away in the corner is a mass that seems to reveal itself then disappear. What do we have there? Is this an actual spirit or "matrixing" that makes you try and make out shapes and patterns even though they don’t really exist?

This wasn’t a bad follow up episode, but I’m in no way convinced their "trap" is going to work nor do I believe their "inventions" are inventions at all. Putting a diffuser on the end of a laser pointer isn’t an invention. Brandon may be a bit of a tinkerer, but to say he’s an inventor might be stretching things.

While this isn’t a bad show, it’s by no means great. Sometimes the low tech answer is the way to go, but I don’t know if you’re going to catch a ghost with door frame parts you find at a hardware store. But as with so many of these shows, it’s about the location and story behind it rather than actually capturing evidence. I was unaware of Kuhn State Hospital before this episode, but there is a fair bit of information out there. I’m sure going inside and wandering through the halls would be a thrilling adventure. Here’s a couple interesting links to begin your own research.

Additional information on Kuhn State Hospital:

Pictures of Kuhn State Hospital at Abandoned Playgrounds – Notice how the buildings lay out in the form of a cross.
Abandoned Mississippi: Kuhn Memorial State Hospital
Pictures of Kuhn Memorial Hospital at World of Decay

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Ghost Asylum S01E01

imageA new show has entered the paranormal arena, Ghost Asylum, put on by Destination America which follows the investigations of the Tennessee Wraith Chasers (TWC). For their inaugural episode the team heads to Scottsville, Kentucky to investigate the Old War Memorial Hospital which served as both a hospital and an asylum until it was closed in the late 90′s. It’s an old abandoned hospital that now servers as a Halloween attraction. People report all sorts of activity including voices, shadow figures, apparitions, footsteps and the appearance of one of the old doctors. An interesting location to be sure.

The TWC team is to do more than just capture evidence and sounds of the paranormal – their goal is to actually capture a spirit. Yes, indeed, their stated goal is to actually capture and contain spirit energy. The stuff of Ghostbusters fame is going to be attempted for real. Is it really possible to contain the essence of spirit energy? And what would happen to the entity if such a thing could be done?

To be honest, I’ve had my fill of paranormal shows and while I’m always ready to see what they have to offer, Ghost Asylum won’t have me as a fan. You don’t even have to watch the show to know there will be a blip on the Mel Meter, a jump on the K2, a shadow figure and some horribly grainy and low voice speaking to them. This is nothing more than a rinse and repeat of everything else that’s been on in the last 8 years. At least these guys stay and do more than one night’s worth of investigations and they actually go into the location during the day to get some baseline readings. They at least get credit for that.

The hook to make their show different is the want to actually capture a spirit. That actually sounds incredibly interesting and ambitious, but when it all comes together it almost laughable like some horrible high school science fair project gone wrong.

Their "ghost trap" consists of a couple layers of chicken wire, a capacitor and solar cells. The chicken wire is charged which draws in the spirit and then the capacitor captures the entity. On the one hand the idea sort of makes sense. If spirits are indeed energy then "storing" that energy in a battery is plausible. But when you see the whole thing cobbled together it doesn’t instill confidence in any sense of the word. Their experimental equipment makes me roll my eyes just it did for all the ridiculous gear I saw on Ghost Lab.

It’s really hard to believe that 5 guys from the hills of Tennessee are able to capture spirit energy using chicken wire and solar cells. Seems like it should be a little scientific and high tech. I suppose low tech answers can be just as good, but this seems a little silly.

Anyway, I’ll tune in for another episode just to see where this goes, but I doubt it’ll change my mind. Paranormal shows are all doing the same thing with the same cast of heavy set, beard wearing, I know how to make electronic devices no one has ever seen before, guys like every other show. The investigation is the same, the evidence is the same, hell even the shadow figures are the same. At least they aren’t gasping every time they hear a sound or standing with their mouth hanging open because they thing something crossed their path.

The timing is right for another paranormal adventure and I’m always looking for something new. I’ll see what next week brings, but I’m pretty sure I’ll just keep waiting.

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Aaron Kosminski Named as Jack the Ripper Through DNA Evidence

imageThe stories are popping up all over the place and so is a new book which names Aaron Kosminski as Jack the Ripper. This evidence comes to light from Russell Edwards who says he has DNA evidence from a shawl he bought at action that proves Kosminski was Jack the Ripper.

A pretty heavy charge to throw down o be sure, but Edwards says he has conclusive proof to support his claim. The shawl was supposedly kept by one of the original detectives who investigate the murders. The office took the shawl to give to his wife. The blood soaked garment didn’t exactly woo the mrs and the item was put in a box where it sat for a hundred years. Supposedly it hasn’t been washed or handled so the DNA hasn’t been contaminated.

That same DNA was then tested against descendants of Kosminski to confirm the results.

As you recall, Kosminski has always been on the list of suspects and some feel he was the right suspect while others dismissed him. Many felt he didn’t have the skill nor mental capacity to be the Ripper. Kosminski was subsequently put into an asylum where he later died and that is what many think brought the killings to an end.

Many think that Aaron Kosminski was actually confused with another person with the same surname and that it was a completely different person on the suspect list. Also, many say the garment has been handled by too many people and probably contains the DNA of hundreds of people. It is even said that Kosminski frequented that part of East End to engage the services of the ladies and that his DNA on a garment owned by a known prostitute doesn’t prove anything.

So let the fervor begin! This seems to happen every few years. In 2002, Patricia Cornwell gave her conclusive evidence for Jack the Ripper. In 2011, Jeff Mudgett, have his view and theory on who Jack the Ripper might be. And I’m fairly sure in a couple of years from now another author will put forth yet another suspect with their conclusive evidence.

So what do you think? Will the DNA testing stand the scrutiny and peer review that is sure to follow? Did Kosminski possess the skills and mental faculties to carry out such dastardly crimes? Have we finally reach a conclusion to these 100 year old murders?

The book, "Naming Jack the Ripper" by Russell Edwards comes out September 9. Do you agree with the assessment and do you plan on grabbing a copy of this latest piece in the Jack the Ripper collection?

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Penny Dreadful Season Finale

So, which one of these characters is Penny Dreadful? Well, there’s the rub. If you recall, a penny Dreadful was the name given to the 19th horror stories that were serialized in different publications. With that in mind, this series brings to life serial interesting literary characters. First, we have the hunt for what we assume is Dracula since Mina Harker has disappeared. Vanessa and Mina were childhood friends until Vanessa did a bad thing and seduced Mina’s fiance on the taxidermy table. Not a good way to keep friendships I’m afraid. She is aided by Sir Malcolm, who just happens to be Mina’s father and the mad who seduced Vanessa mother. Oh dear, what a tangled web we weave.

Next we have Dorian Gray, who lives a life of excess and decadence knowing his image will bear the brunt of his abuses. He has a fancy for Vanessa and a few other characters.

Helping to hunt down Dracula is Victor Frankenstein who has his own demons to wrestle with. Victor has a habit of dabbing with the undead and cobbling people together. It appears he just wants a friend and strangely enough he makes one. But the bromance doesn’t last as his previous creation comes back seeking vengeance for being abandoned by his creator. Now this new, unamed, creature wants a bride and has set a deadline for Frankenstein. This monster has no problem in ruining everything Victor has worked for.

And finally we have Ethan from the Bill Cody Wild West Show. He provides the muscle for this rag tag band and he happens to have a thing for his tuberculosis ridden love interest Brona. It’s a fairy tale romance of boy meets girl, it just happens this girl coughs up blood on a regular basis. She does have a tendency to put a damper on the evening but Ethan is willing to look past that.

So the search for Mina continues. The gang has run into several creatures that seem to stalk the night, but they haven’t found their king yet. Reinfield may hold the key, but he’s a little punch drunk at the moment to really offer anything solid.

Overall this is a slow moving show that is still introducing characters and building the plotline. It’s been a very short season with only 8 episodes, but that’s not a bad thing. That is just enough to get the main points across and set the wheels in motion. This isn’t a high action drama and there won’t be big explosions or car chases or ridiculous fight scenes. This is the 1800′s, things happen a little more slowly. You have to be patient. You can’t search through documents on a computer and you can’t just zip down to the lab to get something analyzed. That’s actually why I like these sorts of shows, you actually have to think a little bit.

In many ways this feels like Dracula or at least where I think Dracula was headed. That show had a slow build as well. It was trying to build layers and give the characters a solid background. I think they should have extended that show for a second season.

But anyway, an interesting show that should yield an interesting story for next year. I wonder which characters they’ll introduce next time around?

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