Ghosts of Shepherdstown Brouhaha—It Hasn’t Been Debunked as Fake
This week saw Destination America’s sophomore series Ghosts of Shepherdstown under attack as “faked” in order to “make good television.” While tracking down the story, it was difficult to locate the originating source that actually calls the show out. In fact, the original article does NOT. The subsequent articles misconstrue the intent of the first article to kick up some paranormal dirt.
Destination America’s Ghosts of Shepherdstown debuted last year. It features ghost hunter Nick Groff, formerly of Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Lockdown, and Ghost Stalkers; Elizabeth Saint, an actress and paranormal enthusiast; and Bill Hartley, a Civil War re-enactor and ghost hunter. The first season explored strange phenomena occurring in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Billed as “America’s most haunted town,” Shepherdstown is a small college town. Thomas Shepherd received a land grant in 1734 and established the town as an outpost. The town was officially formed in 1762 as Mecklenburg. The name changed to Shepherdstown honoring Shepherd shortly after the Civil War. It sits on the Potomac River and is home to a small college. The town’s population peaked at 2,137 in 2012 and currently sits at 2,095. This is one small town!
Dread Central posted an article on July 3, 2017 penned by Steve Barton. He claims that the show has “recently come under the microscope.” He cites another article in The Inquisitr whereby the director of the local visitor’s center was quoted as saying parts of the show were “staged and faked.” The article contains an Editor’s Note stating Barton used an earlier version of The Inquisitr’s article noting it was misleading. The note describes an error with incorrect quotations and original sourcing.
Julie Johnson wrote the July 3rd article in The Inquisitr. This article quotes “critics” who claim the show is scripted and hires actors as witnesses. Further, the author points to Paranormal U.S. and posts on the online forum LiveSciFi to highlight viewer skepticism. Paranormal U.S. is a website run by Donna, no last name is provided. She writes of a life-long interest in the paranormal and blogs about haunted locations. Ms. Johnson does not refer to Donna by name nor links to any of her blogs in the article; therefore, she may or may not be the person stating Shepherdstown looks staged.
LiveSciFi is a forum where paranormal fans and viewers chat. They have one bulletin board devoted to Shepherdstown. The forum “Is Ghosts of Shepherdstown Fake?” began July 20, 2016. The last entry was posted on March 31, 2017. There are 17 posts from 12 people. The consensus from these para-fans is that the show seemed faked or staged but none proffered much in the way as evidence. One user, Lee Keensnach, proclaimed the show fake because one of the “witnesses” has an IMDb page.
Yes, one of the “witnesses” was played by the actor Bradley Nnadi. He appears in the pilot. Considering the show utilizes re-enactments, it’s reasonable to expect actors to be hired to play other roles. This hardly supports the show being faked. Further, most reality television shows are scripted. It doesn’t mean they are fictitious; it’s an industry standard. Finally, note the last entry date. It is a full 3 months since the Dread Central article was posted. None of the posts refer to the quotation from the visitor center’s director.
But then there’s the quotation from Marianne Davis, the director of the visitor’s center. Specifically, the article states: “parts … are staged (locations were changed) and fake (ghost stories were changed) ‘to make good television.’”
First, there seems to be a misunderstanding of the word usage of “staged.” While the Dread Central article used it to mean “made-up,” here it clearly means “locations were changed.” Pay attention to the direct quote. Producers changed the locations. It doesn’t mean stories were fabricated; it means the producers used different locations. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t explain why this occurred. However, there are numerous reasons why: inability to film, location no longer exists, safety issues, etc.
The second part is more problematic—just slightly, though. Taken at face-value, the quote states that paranormal stories were altered for production reasons. Again, there may be reasons for this. Fear not, though. The author helps with the interpretation. She provides the exact quotation from the original article: “Davis said some of the locations or ghost stories were changed by the show’s producers ‘to make good television.’” Read it again. Ms. Davis does not say the show was faked. She merely states that stories were altered. Again, no reason is provided. Sadly, paranormal trolls latched onto this quote and ran with it proclaiming that the show has been debunked! Well, not exactly.
The original-original now original article is from January 25, 2017. Mary Stortstrom wrote the article “Strange Things: “Ghosts of Shepherdstown” Gears Up for Second Season” in The Journal. Ms. Davis is quoted as stating the above; however, she further states that some of the stories are from long ago. Ms. Davis nor Ms. Stortstrom provided examples of such changes. Ms. Davis’ comments were positive and encouraging. She merely spoke about the impact the series has had on the town and tourism.
Nick Groff jumped out in front of the Dread Central article by posting a response to his Facebook page. In part, he points out that Dread Central did not provide the original content or research for their article—they regurgitated information from another site. Next Mr. Groff states what is addressed above: At no time did Ms. Davis say the show was faked. At no time did she say the stories were made up.
And it’s true. Marianne Davis never said those things. Therefore, to publish articles claiming she did is misleading. To further state the show has been debunked as fake is libelous—not unless the author provides solid evidence and examples (which none have been provided to support these stories). Reality TV has been around for a long time. It’s not a secret that locations and stories are scripted to fit the constraints of the genre. Moreover, the paranormal community should be skeptical, but that skepticism doesn’t mean everything is faked. It means that more research should be conducted. Frankly, it means that more locations should be explored and more stories shared. To be clear: None of these stories support this show as being faked. Neither the Dread Central or The Inquisitr stories interviewed Mr. Groff or his team. Nor did they interview a sufficient pool of people. Sorry one blogger and 12 fans aren’t critics. They’re a blogger and fans.
Note from Lesia: I usually do not provide sources for my articles. However, I have pasted them below. Thank you for reading.