This Is How Ghost Hunters Got Its Start

The fate of the "unscripted" reality show Ghost Hunters is currently uncertain. After getting its start on Syfy back when the channel was called Sci-Fi, where it ran for 11 spooky years, it left the schedule in 2016. But like a spirit with unfinished business, it came back to haunt the airwaves in 2019, this time on A&E, said The Hollywood Reporter. Unfortunately for fans, the show faced its most formidable unseen opponent in 2020, when the coronavirus halted production along with just about everything else in the world. Co-creator Grant Wilson tweeted in late October that he still couldn't get a proper readout of the show's future with A&E, but said it has the potential to materialize elsewhere, so just hang on.

With its future unknown, let's take a look back at how Ghost Hunters got its start, from its humble beginnings in Rhode Island as an extramundane support group for people concerned that the bumps they heard in the night were actually signs that they were losing their minds to the reality TV juggernaut it has become today. For the moment, let us put aside the mountain of evidence — that's right: real, tangible, plentiful evidence, not electromagnetic field blips — that Ghost Hunters is totally fake, and focus on the show's origin story. It starts, as all good ghost stories do, with a skeptic who started seeing things.

The show's creators were looking for answers about the things they saw

The show's origins go back to when co-creator Jason Hawes began seeing things in his early 20s. In the 2007 book he co-wrote with Wilson, Ghost Hunting: True Stories of Unexplained Phenomena from The Atlantic Paranormal Society, Hawes said that he had "gotten involved with a lady who practiced Reiki," an alternative medicine technique from Japan that involves manipulation of a person's energy fields to purportedly relieve stress, alleviate mental disorders, and cure — like any good pseudoscience — just about any other disease that ails you. He was initially skeptical, but continued the treatment, and after about six months he began to see results — just not the ones he'd expected. "I started seeing things," he wrote. "Usually it started with a mist, out of which emanated a dim light, and then out of the light came other things — including see-through animals and full-body human apparitions."

Naturally, Hawes attempted to corroborate the existence of these "light beings," whenever they would manifest themselves, with those who were around him, but all he got were funny looks. "I felt like I was honestly and truly losing my mind." So he started up the Rhode Island Paranormal Society, or, rather bleakly, RIPS. It wasn't a ghost hunting group — not at first. It was a support group for people who were going through similarly disturbing and unexplainable experiences. He still had trouble finding someone who could help him.

The precursor to the Ghost Hunters, and the mysterious green olives lady

Hawes wound up finding help where he least expected it. During a visit to the aquarium in the fortuitously named Mystic, Connecticut, a strange woman walked right up to him and asked how he was doing. Taken aback by her familiarity, he was unable to respond before she continued: "Hon ... you're seeing things, I know. But you can make it stop. Try green olives. I'll see you again soon." Apparently still "too dumbfounded" to use his words, Hawes let her walk away without asking her for an explanation. But he tried green olives, gulping them down by the bottle, and it apparently worked. It wasn't a cure, because if he stopped eating them, the apparitions returned, but they did serve as a palliative for his paranormal sensitivity.

His RIPS group continued to grow, and one day he got a call from a guy who said he wanted to revamp its website. After they met up at a donut shop, Hawes could tell that Grant Wilson had something else to get off his chest. He got Wilson to spill the beans — an "intense experience" in the Rhode Island woods when Wilson was a teenager that he doesn't like to talk about — and the two sparked up a friendship. They would go on to form The Atlantic Paranormal Society, which dedicated itself to the "scientific" investigation of haunted places, and the rest is reality TV history.