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Globe & Mail Feature: 'History's Most Haunted'

When filming a TV show about paranormal events, be ready - and get out the sage

Published on October 26, 2023

Read the full article here.

When you’re filming a paranormal investigation at what’s said to be one of the world’s most haunted places, you need to have a different kind of conversation with the camera operator and the rest of the crew.

“I­­t’s basically about staying grounded the whole time. It’s important to be grounded and centred in yourself, you know, not in a place of fear, and then maintaining that groundedness as you enter the investigation,” says Kelly Ireland, one of three Canadian paranormal investigators and stars of History’s Most Haunted. The six-episode series, which drops on T+E on Oct. 28, features real people who share their experiences with the paranormal in locations across North America, including Quebec and Newfoundland. “If you’re in a place investigating and somebody’s fear all of a sudden spikes, that’s when attachments can occur.”

By attachments, she means a ghost latching on to you. Thus the need for the crew to know how to handle themselves.

Television productions will typically have a standard health and safety protocol for cast and crew to follow. But a show about paranormal investigations is hardly, well, normal. Before each filming, they would go over topics such as burning sage to dispel bad energy, the protective properties of crystals and emergency plans to avoid possession – er, attachments. It was also made clear to the crew they might very well become part of the show – things that go bump in the night don’t only bump the investigators.

“It makes for pretty memorable health and safety meeting, which most of the crew usually tunes out,” says Stephen Sawchuk, one of the show’s executive producers.

The show’s stars – Ireland, Corine Carey and Leanne Sallenback – were previously featured in the two-part documentary Haunted Gold Rush, in which the B.C. investigators made their way up the province’s Gold Rush Trail, examining the paranormal along the way.

They’ve honed the tools of their trade through experience.

“We have sage with us at all times. If anybody after the investigation feels like they need it, intuitively, then it’s something that we offer,” Ireland says.

During the shooting of Haunted Gold Rush, one crew member who was overwhelmed by feelings he couldn’t quite explain asked for sage to be burned. The process helped free him of the energy he’d been feeling, Ireland says. “It’s giving me chills just remembering it,” she says.

Crystals are also part of an investigator’s toolkit, Carey says. “Sometimes I’ll wear crystal bracelets,” she says. “Black tourmaline, or obsidian, or whatever the crystal may be. It has protective properties.”

But it’s the crew who needs to be most prepared, especially because they often end up being featured on the show, says co-executive producer Sean De Vries. “We had to tell the crew you have to be willing to be on camera because things are going to happen,” he says. “And if something happens to you, we’re definitely going to be shooting it.”

There were several incidents of crew members experiencing paranormal phenomena during filming of History’s Most Haunted, Sawchuk says. “We had an instance in Bell Island, Newfoundland, where during an investigation – we were at a morgue for victims of the World War Two boat fatalities – and our local camera operator was pushed when no one else was around.” Another time, in New Orleans, the show’s director of photography said he heard male voices coming from upstairs at what people say is one of the most haunted B&Bs in North America, he says.

All of them come just in time for spooky season – who doesn’t enjoy a good ghost story in October?

True believers watching the show will see it as confirmation of a spirit world that wants to communicate with us; skeptics will find an earth-bound explanation for the events that unfold.

But for the paranormal investigators – and we know which side they’re on – such incidents may explain why they prefer to have as small a crew as possible.

“If there’s too many people in a space, it’s just too much energy,” Sallenback says.

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