Tube Talk: A new look at an old town

By Paula Hendrickson

I admit it. I love most (but not all) of the ghost hunting shows on TV. Some, like Destination America’s Ghost Brothers – centered on a trio of African-American paranormal investigators who acknowledge the humor in their circumstances – are fun and engaging. Others, like Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures can be so overly dramatic that I tune in mostly to mock their pretension.

What I respond to the most about these kinds of shows is when they delve into stories about previous generations, especially when historic locations are being investigated.

So when I heard Destination America’s newest supernatural series was centered on investigating a copious amount of purported paranormal activity in the historic town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, I was intrigued. Located about as far from Washington D.C. as we are from Chicago, Shepherdstown – the oldest town in West Virginia – was directly impacted by the Civil War, with September 1862 proving particularly bloody.

On September 17 of that year, the Battle of Antietam was fought nearby, leading to an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 casualties flooding into and overwhelming the small town. Three days later, over 100 Confederate soldiers were killed in the Battle of Shepherdstown. That’s a lot of carnage for any town to handle. No wonder Shepherdstown has long had a reputation as one of the most haunted towns in America.

Despite a current population hovering somewhere around 2,000, in just one year local residents reportedly logged over 1,000 calls to police about paranormal activity. That’s why the premise of Ghosts of Shepherdstown starts with local law enforcement inviting a team of paranormal investigators to town to check out some of those claims and try figure out why there’s been an increase in paranormal claims in recent years.

That investigative team includes Nick Groff (who also appears on Destination America’s Paranormal Lockdown and used to be on Ghost Adventures), Bill Hartley, and Elizabeth Saint.

While watching a preview episode, I realized something: I didn’t react much to scenes where they peeked into dark corners using EMF meters and infrared cameras, but I really enjoyed the parts where regional history was discussed – having a local historian talk about the people and situations of centuries past really reminds viewers about the important contributions of those who came before. That was definitely more interesting than watching a “psychic medium” trying way too hard to sell me on her abilities. (I’d watch Monica the Medium over that woman anytime.)

Something that really fascinates me about Ghosts of Shepherdstown is that these aren’t one-and-done ghost hunting episodes. Because the whole series is set in this one small town, we’ll have some context for the stories we hear. Whether you believe the claims or think the investigations were faked doesn’t even matter when you’re being immersed in a town’s rich and historic backstory.

Programming Note

Ghosts of Shepherdstown premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on Destination America.

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