Since it’s pride weekend here in Atlanta and I think this is a very out-of-the-box concept, enjoy this article
The Queer Ghost Hunters is a group of paranormal investigators who search for LGBTQ ghosts at haunted sites around Ohio. New episodes of the show will debut Oct. 11 on YouTube.
They might not have been able to be themselves during their lifetime without fear of reprisal, but the Queer Ghost Hunters want to help them come out in death.
In less-enlightened times, people deemed “sexual deviants” often found themselves locked up in prisons or insane asylums alongside criminals and those with mental illnesses. The group of central Ohio paranormal investigators suspects that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people would have faced ridicule or punishment if their sexual orientation or gender identity became known.
The group seeks to help any spirits that might linger to find peace and also educate viewers of its YouTube episodes about the ugly history of the country’s treatment of the LGBTQ community.
“It’s a great way to restore our community’s page to a history book,” said Shane McClelland, who, along with Lori Gum, founded the ghost-hunting group in 2015. “Not a lot of our history is happy, but we get to teach people in a fun way about our history.”
A simple revelation during a ghost-hunting outing in 2014 — “Why don’t we ever ask about gay ghosts?” McClelland said — prompted the pair to form the group dedicated to contacting LGBTQ spirits.
McClelland, a German Village resident, and Gum, of North Linden, initially named the group the Stonewall Columbus Queer Ghost Hunters, after the advocacy center where they worked at the time. The pair initially hosted workshops centered on queer ghost hunting at Stonewall, and the program proved so popular that it grew into something more.
The first season — which made its debut in October 2016 — took place at a cemetery in Toledo.
The cast changed slightly for the second season, most notably with the departure of Gum. For the second investigation, the Queer Ghost Hunters twice visited the former Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield.
The first half of the season ran from June to October 2017, and the remaining episodes will premiere Thursday.
The series — consisting of episodes of five to 10 minutes — has drawn thousands (and, in a few cases, tens of thousands) of views nationwide.
Some fans say the queer representation in the media is what attracts them to it.
“They’re doing it to explore a hidden queer history that is right around us that we don’t realize,” said Jerome Stueart, 49, a Dayton resident. “I think the program straddles an interesting line in talking about what it means to be queer today, what it was to be queer in the past and the scary ghost aspect.”
Fans of the series extend well beyond Ohio.
“They really make you care about the people, the ghosts they’re looking for,” said Josh Banke, 45, of Portland, Oregon.
Ami Fleischman of Long Beach, California, shared a similar sentiment.
“I think what they’re doing is fun and wonderful, and it doesn’t really matter if you think ghost hunting is real,” she said. “The people are interesting, the stories they tell are interesting and sometimes it’s fun to see people having fun.”
Beyond the specific subset of ghosts that the group targets, the show resembles other ghost-hunting series in that the hunters use various tools and instruments to identify and communicate with spirits.
An ovilus, for example, synthesizes words based on electromagnetic waves in the air; a parascope turns different colors based on static fields in the air; and dowsing rods are low-friction copper wires thought to be easily manipulated and moved by spirits.
But what also sets them apart, group members say, is their approach to their work. Because they’re not looking for ghosts in general, they visit places where LGBTQ spirits might logically reside.
In Season 2, for example, they visit Cell block 3 Northeast at the old Mansfield prison — nicknamed “The Ladies Wing” — where gay or gender-nonconforming inmates were held. The ghost hunters share their own stories — who they are, their sexuality, how they came out — to form a connection with any spirits that are present and to make them comfortable.
“We think of these entities, whatever they may be, as people,” McClelland said.
The ghost hunters — Scott Priddy, Kai Stone, Michelle Apgar, Susan Crawford and McClelland in Season 2 — sometimes employ unconventional methods to coerce a spirit to open up.
Stone, for example, entices spirits with junk food, cigarettes and grilled-cheese sandwiches — all items that he thinks, for one reason or another, are favorites of the former inmates.
At another point, McClelland applies bright-red lipstick to trigger a response from a ghost in “The Ladies Wing.”
In a moment of levity, the ovulis records the word “rent,” believed to have been uttered by a spirit.
“He might want to ‘rent’ you,” Apgar quips at McClelland.
McClelland quickly replies, “Can’t afford me, honey.”
Such moments soften the grim reality for many who are said to haunt the halls of the former prison. The ghost hunters learned, for example, that 50 young men, because of their sexuality, were imprisoned at the Ohio State Reformatory, which operated from 1896 until its closing in 1990.
“I’m a strong activist myself, and it just pains me to know that people went through such horrible things,” said Stone, a Clintonville resident.
All the more reason, the group members say, to give such tormented spirits a voice.
“We’re giving them an opportunity in death to be able to come out or get any messages that they would like to put out there,” said Crawford, who lives with Apgar, her wife, just north of Downtown in Harrison West.
“We’re letting them live their true authentic self.”