My Huffington Post readers know me as a dating expert, but what you might not realize is that my first love was actually the paranormal. While other teenagers were going to the mall and making out with one another, I was chatting it up with the witch at our local occult store about the best techniques for tarot card reading. I was always curious about the unknown, but my analytical mind wanted to understand, not just believe. So you can imagine that about the best thing to ever happen to me was the show Ghost Hunters. I was a rabid fan who saw this show as the answer to my paranormal prayers. Finally, a program that followed skeptics who looked for logical answers before jumping to conclusions! At the time, I was an executive at NBC Universal and I hoped that one day I might cross paths with Jason and Grant at a company party and share some supernatural small talk with them. A few years later, my dreams really came true when I got transferred to the then Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) and was assigned to oversee the show.
In 2011, when searching for signs of life after Syfy, I started to think about the next evolution in paranormal programming. I wondered, "Why isn't there a TV show about real people documenting their own paranormal experiences?" I called the one person I knew who could bring that show to life in a credible and exciting way, Rob Katz, who had been the executive producer of Ghost Hunters for seven seasons. This Saturday, February 16th, that show will be born on Destination America at 10 p.m. ET as The Paranormal Project. I grabbed a few minutes with Rob Katz to discuss the new show and get advice for readers who, like the participants of the show, may be experiencing something strange or sinister in their homes.
DH: Why is The Paranormal Project different from other ghost shows?
Rob Katz: It's the only ghost show out there where the homeowners get the chance to investigate their own homes. When someone is dealing with their own fears in a place that they have to sleep, eat, and live every day the investigation is much more emotional. In one story, we follow a family who reached out to ghost groups in the past who would not help them because they believed the entity to be demonic. This family has a mother who is being attacked by an unseen force and frightened children who are seeing and feeling strange things. With this show they were given an opportunity to find answers on their own since the experts would not help them.
DH: Even though you call yourself a skeptic, you've seen some pretty amazing things that you can't explain. In all your years of producing ghost hunters, what really made an impact on you?
RK: I've seen many things that I just don't have an explanation for. One incident that stands out was when TAPS was at The New Bedford Armory. In the middle of an investigation, our sound person, Frank, dropped to the ground and instantly went into shock. We called a medic thinking that something medical had occurred but all of his vital signs were normal. Frank told us that something went right through him and knocked him to the ground. When we reviewed the footage, we actually caught his sound bag moving up on it's own and knocking him in the face. He was standing completely still and the sound bag just lifted up. Interestingly, right before he was knocked over I had felt a cool breeze and I reached up to see where it was coming from. As a skeptic, I was looking for an open window or any possible logical explanation. I just don't know what happened. At Eastern State Penitentiary, I was with Jason and Grant investigating in one of the cell blocks and we all saw what appeared to be a black figure walking on the catwalk above us. We went up to investigate and there was nothing there. Unfortunately, it did not record on our cameras and never ended up on the show, but I know what I saw with my own eyes and there was a black shadow walking above us.
DH: What is the best thing for someone to do if they think their house may be haunted?
RK: Take a step back and take a logical approach.
1. Check for any plumbing or electrical issues in the house. Make sure there are no rodents or other animals living in places you can't see. Also make sure your ventilation systems are clean and working properly. Things like carbon monoxide and other pollutants can effect how you are feeling in your home.
2. Set up cameras to see if anything strange occurs when you are not there.
3. Get a digital recorder to see if you pick up any sounds or voices.
4. See if there is a pattern to when the activity occurs. Many times what people experience is a residual haunt and those cannot hurt you.
5. Contact a local ghost group for help if all else fails.
Rob's advice is well-researched after exploring nearly 300 haunted locations on Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International. If you have been through the steps he mentioned and you still can't get to the bottom of it, you can always write to Destination America and ask to be on a future episode of the show or you can just do what my pal Jason Hawes suggested in his book, Ghost Hunting: True Stories of Unexplained Phenomena from The Atlantic Paranormal Society, "When in doubt, get the hell out!"
The Paranormal Project premieres Saturday, February 16th at 10 p.m. ET on Destination America.