In 1984 there were three famous men best known for fighting evil spirits which had taken New York City by storm. They took to the streets in a fancy white car complete with sirens and flashing lights and carried equipment designed to inhale ghostly spirits from the sky. Those men, Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler, were better known as the Ghostbusters. Some twenty five years later, their concept lives on and most recently right here in the heart of the Thousand Islands.
Photo courtesy Syfy/NBC Universal © 2009
The TAPS team (from left to right) featuring Dave Tango, Steve Gonsalves, Kris Williams, Amy Bruni, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson.
In late June, the newest celebrities on the ghost scene rolled into Alexandria Bay in their black vans with bright yellow script spelling out TAPS (also known as The Atlantic Paranormal Society). The members of the number one ranked Syfy Channel TV series Ghost Hunters were in town to explore a well known island which had reports of ghost-like activity.
The home was said to be one of the largest built island homes of the early 1900s. After a number of owners, including a religious group, the home landed in the hands of a family looking to seek out answers regarding some of the happenings they had encountered during their many summer stays there. That opportunity would come when producers for the hit show would select Isle of Pines, located just off the shore of Fishers Landing between Clayton and Alexandria Bay, New York, as a finalist in the 2008 Great American Ghost Hunt. Danielle Parody would share the story that so many had yet to hear during the live broadcast of Ghost Hunters on Halloween night, October 31, 2008. Once the stories of the three selected finalists were told, the fans had a chance to determine the winner. Over 50,000 votes were cast among the three finalists and it was determined that Isle of Pines and Parody was the winner of a special visit from the cast and crew of the show. “Thank you. That’s awesome, we’ll be glad to have you,” Parody told Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, founders of TAPS, after being told her location was selected on live television.
Nearly eight months after the announcement, the time had come for the ghost hunt to occur.
The celebrities of the TAPS. team, including Hawes, Wilson, Kris Williams, Steve Gonsalves, Dave Tango and Amy Bruni, would arrive as the tourists cleared out of town after a summer weekend and they would quietly set up shop at the Edgewood Resort.
“We were asked to keep it (the cast and crew’s stay) quiet” said Janine Ridley, operator of Edgewood Resort. “That’s usually common practice with these situations.”
In addition to the cast and production crew that bunked up in approximately seven hotel rooms, they were joined by another celebrity ghost hunter, one with no ghost hunting experience, but rather for being best known as a bat out of hell. Popular music rocker Meat Loaf had also checked into the resort and was preparing for a haunting time in the Islands. Meat Loaf is a self-proclaimed Ghost Hunters fanatic and it was rumored that his wife had recently purchased Ghost Hunters apparel for him for Christmas.
The team had been told that Meat Loaf would likely be joining them, but they didn’t believe it until he arrived. “We didn’t think it was real until he was actually in front of us. He gave each of us cast members a big hug, that was the highlight of my year.” Bruni, the newest cast member, joyfully shared via telephone from a location in Georgia where the team was filming a hunt in late August. Her mother was a huge fan of the once heavy-set musician and Bruni figured she should take advantage of the superstar being in front of her and managed to wrangle up an autographed photograph to bring home.
When the exchanges of hello and how-are-you’s were over it was time for the team to get to work. Equipment and camera gear would be transported from the resort to the parking lot of Foxy’s Restaurant at Fishers Landing where they would then unload and board a boat in order to make the trek over to the island.
After spending the afternoon setting up their gear, the sun would begin to set just after 9 p.m. and the hunt would begin. The ghost activity that was reported was not that of green slimy ghosts or oversized walking marshmallows, like they portray in the movies. “There were reports that people were hearing ballroom style music, it’s not coming from Foxy’s Restaurant (which is just a short distance away), it’s just unexplained music,” according to Town of Clayton historian Norm Wagner. The music was being heard in the ballroom of the large white mansion.
Parody had explained during the Halloween episode that she once slept in a bedroom and awoke to a girl standing at the foot of the bed. The figure then ran toward the wall near the head of the bed and disappeared. Between that claim and the reports of music, there was plenty to search for and Bruni was enthralled with that.
“It was probably one of the most memorable hunts I have been on,” Bruni said. “I didn’t think it was a scary place though.”
Scary to her and her fellow ghost enthusiasts perhaps not, but there were a couple of incidents she encountered, much like the family that resides there now. “I can’t say much since the show hasn’t aired, but I would say the boathouse and living room had some experiences. Kris and I both shared some.” Williams and Bruni have become close friends both on the show and off the air. During most hunts they spend time together in the dark waiting for these so-called experiences to occur. “You’ll just have to watch,” she teased after not leading on to what exactly those experiences were.
One experience that could be discussed was that of common nature to most folks along the river, spiders. They spin their webs in the middle of the night only for you to wake up the next morning and walk face first through them. One Ghost Hunter who has a fear of spiders is Steve Gonsalves. On the show he is seen running from time to time away from webs and eight-legged creatures and the same could be said while shooting at the Isle of Pines. “It’s terrible of us because we know he is terrified,” said Bruni in relation to the cast members pointing out every large creepy crawler found the night of the hunt to the weak stomached Gonsalves.
While in the region however the cast and Meat Loaf were not always stuck sitting in the dark listening for noises or ducking spider webs. There was time to play too.
Bruni, 33, of Placerville, California, located between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, claimed that she felt as if she was on vacation while working the hunt. “It didn’t feel like work, but don’t tell anyone that,” she explained. “It (the region) reminded me a lot of Lake Tahoe.”
When it was overheard that Meat Loaf wanted to go for a boat tour, but hoped to avoid the crowds, Edgewood Resort employee Marie Denman spoke up and offered time on her and her husband’s boat. “Meat Loaf didn’t want to go on the tour ride, so we took them out.” Two hours were spent on the St. Lawrence as the Denmans showed off the many highlights of the area. “We took them to the Canadian side, the typical sight seeing points, homes, Boldt Castle,” Marie stated. “They were interested in the homes that were for sale and Meat Loaf got a big thrill out of the bridge.”
It wasn’t easy to dodge everyone however in the small towns of Clayton and Alexandria Bay. “At one point there was a photographer following us around, paparazzi I guess for some local web site,” Bruni mentioned in regards to being recognized while in the area. “It was kinda funny.”
And as they roamed the water or strolled down the streets folks were quick to notice, but never went as far as being a bother.
One local store owner had the chance to meet up with some of the cast as others sat next door at the Thousand Islands Museum chatting with historian Wagner for a segment on the show.
"The TAPS vans rolled into Clayton and parked right in front of the store,” said Heather Gazdik, owner of Freighters of Clayton. “A few of them wandered into the store while they were waiting for the rest of the crew to finish up. They were great guys and girls!"
The Ghost Hunters visit to the Thousand Islands was an experience for everyone. From the cast and crew enjoying the scenery and excitement of the hunt, to locals being able to watch the process of the show coming to life and to the area businesses that benefited from their stay.
If you want to really know what was experienced by the team however, you will have to be sure to look for the episode featuring Isle of Pines, and creatively named “Bat Out of Hell” in reference to Meat Loaf’s appearance, on Wednesday, September 30 on the SyFy Channel at 9 p.m. EST.
By Michael Folsom, The Ship Watcher
Michael Folsom is a regular contributor to TI Life. He the the Owner/Blog Writer of the The Ship Watcher. His signature states: “Proud to be a Contributing Writer for Thousand Islands Sun & ThousandIslandsLife.com.” You can visit him on the web at: at http://theshipwatcher.blogspot.com. This is your source for ship watching info on the St. Lawrence. You can also follow the ships and Michael at at www.twitter.com/theshipwatcher. Michael is also an accomplished photographer. One of his photographs, with geese and the Seaway is the cover photo on the September 9th edition of the Thousand Island Sun Vacationer.
Mike has created a countdown clock until Ghost Hunters come on air. Be sure to check it out at The Ship Watcher