Community feature: 'Queer Ghost Hunters' scares up more fans with second season

Erica Thompson

Previously on the “Queer Ghost Hunters” web docuseries, the team of investigators identified an entity in the Ohio State Reformatory prison as Michael, who was incarcerated at 19 years old for sodomy in 1942. Using their metal dowsing rods, which ghosts supposedly manipulate to respond to questions, the hunters gleaned some information from Michael, which matched his prison record in the Ohio State archive.

“While we're [communicating] … we have no idea who it is,” team leader Shane McClelland explained. “So having it work out was definitely huge and super cool.”

The discovery can be viewed in episode 11 on the “Queer Ghost Hunters” YouTube channel. More of the group's adventures in the Mansfield prison can be seen when the next two episodes premiere on Halloween.

Finding LGBTQ, gender-fluid or otherwise queer entities such as Michael is a priority for the crew, which launched its video series — now in its second season — in October 2016.

“We sit in a circle and we start off saying, ‘We're nice people, we're good people, but we're also queer people,'” McClelland said. “We finish it by saying, ‘If you feel like you meet any of that, or you might be like us and you want to talk to us, we'll definitely talk to you right now.'”

Entertainment value aside, the show uncovers the hidden stories of queer people, many of whom were imprisoned, committed to asylums or employed in theaters and opera houses. Learning that history has been rewarding for the ghost hunters, who, despite some personnel changes, are building a national audience.

“We have fans and people that we get to interact with who are excited,” McClelland said. “On the other side of the country, people are like, ‘Queer Ghost Hunters are so cool.'”

The group experienced that cross-country love during the TWIST Seattle Queer Film Festival, where they showed the series and led a community ghost hunt at the Egyptian Theater on Friday, Oct. 13. In one area of the venue, they found strange scrawling on the walls, including the sentence, “Must feed Tom Bowland.”

“[A ghost hunter] made contact with the dowsing rods with somebody who said they were not Tom Bowland,” team member Susan Crawford recalled. “But they said they killed Tom Bowland.”

Despite that creepy result, the “Queer Ghost Hunters” team was infected by the energy of the participants, and expressed a desire to do more community hunts in the future.

“To be able to go other places and connect with other queer folks like ourselves that share in the same interest … would just be an awesome adventure,” said team member Michelle Apgar.

While in Seattle, the group members also investigated Nightjar, formerly Double Header, which opened in 1937 and is said to be the oldest gay bar in the country. They believe they made contact with a couple of performers, one of which they believed to be gender-fluid. It was a new experience for the team.

“It took quite a bit of dialogue to gather that they were gender-fluid because those terms did not exist back [then],” Crawford said.

“I feel like I had to explain it [and] explain my journey and see how they identified,” said videographer Kai Stone.

Fans can expect more content this year, and potentially a look into some Civil War-era ghosts, given reports of women dressing in men's clothing to join the military.

“During the 1860s, it would've been an oppressive time to be queer in any fashion, so wouldn't that be an excellent opportunity for either a lesbian or trans person to go ahead and start being more authentic … [with] no one questioning it?” McClelland said. “So we really want to … just continue to share the history of queer people existing no matter what's going on.”