In 2004, Ghost Hunters debuted on SYFY and, while shows like In Search Of... and Unsolved Mysteries attempted to uncover the realities behind paranormal events, the investigative series aimed to uncover the truth behind supposed encounters. The series focused on Jason Haws, co-founder of The Atlantic Paranormal Society alongside Grant Wilson, and his team of investigators exploring private residences, hotels, asylums, and military bases in hopes of finding rational explanations for the bizarre experiences that unfolded there. Hawes and his team, thanks to their approach of debunking supposed hauntings, made them authorities in the paranormal investigation field, with that original series concluding in 2016.
Hawes is back with a new program, Ghost Nation, and he's brought Ghost Hunters investigators Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango along with him to continue his attempts to not only find the truth behind hauntings, but also offer a sense of peace to those who feel they have been targeted by something from beyond the grave. Given the nature of the show, this isn't to say that all of these hauntings can be debunked, leaving Hawes and his team with some extraordinary evidence that could confirm that ghosts really do exist.
ComicBook.com recently caught up with Hawes to discuss what he's been up to since Ghost Hunters concluded, what familiar things fans can expect from Ghost Nation, and what this new opportunity presents him and his team.
ComicBook.com: When your original show first debuted, it was billed as you being a plumber for Roto-Rooter who investigated homes in your time off. We would regularly see you handling a plumbing emergency when learning about new cases to investigate, but the popularity of the show led some people to doubt how much you actually kept the relationship with Roto-Rooter while traveling all around the globe going on investigations and speaking at events. How did the popularity of the show impact your relationship with your day job, and did you return once the show concluded?
Jason Hawes: To this day, I still work for Roto. I'm in more of a supervisor position, but I'll price out big jobs. I'll give a price on renovating a whole hotel system and put 12 guys to work and so forth. That's recession-free. We're never going back to the outhouse, so I'll always have a position. But, of course, during the crazy production schedule we had on the previous show, Roto-Rooter would step back and allow me to get out there and invest more time into this, which was great. It's one of those things where I'm a plumber by trade. Before that, I was a master tech. I used to work on computer systems, and so it's always been one of those things, I've always been a guy who wants to get in and figure out what's truly happening, whether it's paranormal or not, and fix the problem.
You can see how supporting you, not only as an employee, reflects well for the company, in addition to allowing them some positive publicity within the show.
It's funny, because I initially had talked to a very good friend of mine, Paul Abrams, who works at the home headquarters in Cincinnati and I had told him, "Hey, you know, I've been asked to do a show." Now I had been asked to do shows numerous times throughout the years because I had helped out on everything from MTV's Fear, Scariest Place on Earth, and all that, and I had been asked to do a show, I just always turned it down because I didn't want to be on television. It wasn't until I did a New York Times article with an author, John Neeland, that he came out and he did multiple days with us on an investigation, and we were able to debunk something as a medication issue. They were mixing two different prescriptions together, and it was creating issues. And we were able to debunk it, and John wrote this great article. It went out on the wire and 140 other papers went viral with it, so I started getting offers to do shows again.
I had met up with Craig Piligian, owner of Pilgrim Studios. At that time, it was a small company, and one of the most important things Craig had ever said was, "If you don't do it, somebody's going to and how are they going to represent the field?" And it was true. So I decided I would do a show and see how it goes, and I contacted Roto and told them that this offer was there and, of course, they were a little stand-offish at first. They were like, "Paranormal?" I was like, "Yeah, let's see how it goes." But they stayed with me through it, and it was mutually beneficial to both of us. They're a great company. Honestly, I can't say anything bad with them. I've known the guy, who's the head guy, who's been there for a long period of time and they know that I've always been a hard worker. It's been great for both of us.
What have the past few years been like for you? Has it been a relief to be away from TV or have you been counting down the days until you could come back since the last show ended?
I decided I didn't want to go forward with that show and I decided I was going to leave, and my boys were still at a young age. I just wanted to make sure I was there for them through all of that. Also, I started doing nationally syndicated radio, so I'm nationally syndicated. Beyond Reality Radio through WestWood One and Entercom. I do that from a studio that I have, and besides that, I've still always investigated the paranormal. I investigated it prior to the show, and I'll investigate it long after. So the last couple of years have been great. I've been spending a lot of time with the kids, being very involved in their football and in their wrestling. My boys are state championship wrestlers. They're football players, but it got to the point where I had been asked probably 40 times to do a new show, and I turned it down, but it wasn't until I sat down with the great folks over at Discovery and Travel channel, that I decided that it was just time.
There were so many shows that came after we started Ghost Hunters and have come and gone and so forth that we felt it was time to get back into it. It was time to get back into what we loved doing on camera, and just trying to let people out there know that there's so much more, there really is. I think the big thing with this show, is that when we did our other show, it was following just our group and everything else, and it gave the misconception that that's all that was out there, but there's so many great people involved in this field throughout the entire world, and I think that's where Ghost Nation really steps in.
We highlight all these other investigators, and all these other people that are all around the country that are involved in this field, and they bring us some cases that sometimes they get stumped on or that they don't have the resources to really get all the answers on, and we come in and we assist them. Just like many cases we've done, we've had to call in outside assistants to come in and help us. Just a new set of eyes to come in. So it's nice because we're trying to show that this field is a huge community of researchers and explorers and investigators, and we wanted to show that there's so much more than just the people on the show.
The show is just a show, it's about the people who make it all up.
What can fans of your old series expect to be brought back for this new series and what sets it apart from other paranormal investigation series?
I was the initial person that was asked to do the reboot of Ghost Hunters, and I turned that down, because they wanted to recast the team, a new team around me, and I just didn't feel that that was the correct way for me to go. Steve and Dave, they've been with me forever and we're a big family, and I have the utmost trust and faith in them and their knowledge and so forth. And also, this show, where my past show was more about going out and investigating these big locations, who does that help? That's not really helping anybody. Ghost Nation was more about us staying together as a team, as a family, involving other teams, and also getting in there and helping out homeowners. People who truly are frightened in their home of things that are going on. Whether it's them, their children, or anything like that.
Fans are going to be able to see us get back to our roots of why TAPS was originally created and what we did. Getting in there and truly trying to figure out what's happening for these homeowners, to empower them, and just give them their strength in their homes back. And the nice thing is, where my past show was more we tow in, you'd investigate, and you'd move on, our new show Ghost Nation shows from how we get the case, to when we meet the clients, to then also diving deep into the historical research and being an investigator of figuring out what's accurate about the property that the homeowners know, and what inaccuracies they have, and bringing them the real information. If somebody's heard that somebody fell in their house and laid there for three-four hours in pain before they died, that can be a traumatizing thing, but when you go in, and you're able to show them that that's not accurate, that's not how this happened, you can see that weight come off their shoulders and it really helps to empower them.
It's more about really getting back to our roots and showing really helping people who need help.
And that's interesting because, while you investigated some interesting places with your old show, the earlier seasons often saw you showing up to a place and saying, "We're here to help." There's no one left to help at those abandoned asylums, even if you caught good evidence.
Back then, I had final say on where we investigated. Of course, that network had final say on what shows aired, so you'd film a ton of things that would never air, because they only wanted to air certain big locations. On this, the best part is Discovery and Travel Channel, they're just phenomenal and when I told them, "If I'm going to do a show again, this is what I want to do." They're like, "Fine. We're not stepping on any toes. You do it the way you want to do it. You do it how you want to do it." And that's exactly what we do. We went in, we investigated homes, we checked them all out, and we just filmed it. And there haven't been any issues, any argument. They wanted us to do it how we were going to do it. We wanted to get back to the roots, and all those episodes, all those cases, are going to air. And I think that means everything, because they're putting all the faith in us, and we put all our faith in them, and it's such a great mutual relationship.
I mean these truly have to be some of the best people I've ever worked with. I'm not just saying that. I could've gone to any network. I'm saying that because I truly mean it.
And in the 15 years since your last show debuted, countless imitators have popped up that are more interested in delivering scary footage than shedding light on the world of the paranormal.
You bring up a great point there. I think a lot of the problems with shows out there, are that a production company comes in and they cast people. They sit here and say this person will work great with that person. This person will be great drama, and so they're building a team. A production company's building a team, and I think that really doesn't help the field. That hurts the field, because you're taking people who've never been involved and you're throwing them in because you think they're going to be good on camera, whereas we've never been casted. We existed prior, we will exist after, and we were never casted. We were just a group doing what we truly have always done, and it's just now we do it on camera. I think you can see the difference. People can see the realness behind that.
Part of the appeal of that old series were all the cases where you didn't capture any evidence and just debunked things. That meant when you really did capture something, it felt much more compelling, since it would only happen a few episodes.
And that's the truth. When we go in, you'll see cases where we were able to catch incredible activity that will air. You'll also see cases where we were able to figure out what was really going on in the house, and it didn't have any paranormal activity. I think you're going to see such a wide range there, because every single case we filmed will air, whether it had great activity, which some of the stuff we caught, we're using some newer equipment and stuff like that. Some of the stuff we caught is mind-blowing. But then again, you're going to sit there and see some of the things that we were able to figure out and you're going to be like, "Wow, that is truly amazing. I didn't know that that could cause this," which could lead down the path of people thinking that that's a ghost.
I think it's really going to open up doors for people, but it's also going to open up a lot of people's eyes as to what really goes on in the paranormal investigation.
Is there a particular episode this season that you're really looking forward to sharing with the audience, whether because of what you debunked or what you captured?
The first episode, I actually pushed for the first episode to be the first episode because we were able to get out there and help out a veteran who's dealing with PTSD and help his family who were literally not staying in the house because they were scared. They were staying in a Winnebago they had on the property. Being able to get in and help somebody who gave his life to help us, I think was just an incredible episode, and also just an incredible investigation.
We have some insane investigations. We've got Brooklyn and Dale, New York, which is going to be mind-blowing for a lot people. We had a case in Maryland in which people are going to be totally mind-blown. New Jersey. I wish I could sit here and say there was one, but the thing is, each case is fascinating in its own way, whether it's paranormal or not, to get in there and figure out what's really happening, I think beyond the learning experience, it makes each case fascinating to me. And I think the fans are going to feel the same way.
Check out the series premiere of Ghost Nation on Friday, October 11th at 9 p.m. ET on the Travel Channel.
Are you looking forward to the new series? Let us know in the comments below or hit up @TheWolfman on Twitter to talk all things horror and Star Wars!