The T.A.P.S. Ghost Hunt
Diane and I agree that Jason, Grant
and Steve of T.A.P.S. are truly
gentlemen and exemplary ghost
The T.A.P.S. Ghost Hunt at the
haunted Houghton Mansion at 172
Church Street in North Adams,
Massachusetts (March, 2007) was an
ideal place to work side by side with
Jason, Grant and Steve for the first
time. Diane and I had been to the
haunted mansion for two prior ghost
hunts with our good friends from The
Berkshire Paranormal Group and
The New England Ghost Project and
we knew the place well.
We were already well versed in the
tragic love story that still unfolds
amongst the ghosts that reside in the
hallways, basement and upper rooms
in the old mansion. We had been
there in July of 2005 for the first
paranormal event ever CONTACT I
as attendees, and again in
September 2006 for CONTACT II as
speakers during the weekend-long
This time - along with seventy three
other people - Diane and I had the
privilege of joining the T.A.P.S.
ghost hunters on their first ghost
investigation ever held with
members of the general public.
Josh Mantello of B.P.G. at
Nicole and Tony Ardolino - The
Ardolino's caught extrodinary EVP
in Mary Houghton's bedroom.
Ghost Hunters Sean Coffey of Saugus, Massachusetts
and Jay Chasse of Walpole, New Hampshire.
Jason with Josh and Nick Mantello
of the Berkshire Paranormal Group
Tony Ardolino's sits in a chair in Mary Houghton's
former bedroom on the second floor. This the room
where Tony recorded extordinary EVP and where Jason
Hawes of T.A.P.S photographed a man both sitting and
standing at the same time - at normal shutter speed!
Paul Oleskiewicz of the Berkshire Paranormal Group
and Sean Coffey listen to EVP captured in the
Part I The Ghost Hunt
Part II Arriving at the Mansion
Friday evening: Jason, Grant and Steve were in the
front of the room at the head of a long line of happy
people who were waiting anxiously for a chance to have a
photo taken with the famous Ghost Hunters from the Sci
Fi Channel. To the right of the line of waiting people
were a couple of tables with T.A.P.S. T-shirts and other
goods for sale that people could buy as they stood on line.
To the left of the line of people were rows of folding
chairs set up facing the stage and these chairs were
nearly filled to capacity with either people or the jackets
and photo equipment belonging to people participating in
the hunt who were standing on line.
To buy a sleek picture of the Ghost Hunters, so they
could sign it, cost $20. I bought one from the girl sitting at
one of the tables so I could put it up on the wall of our
studio. But I was biting my tongue while doing it because
it seemed such a sophomoric thing for me to do. I had only
seen three or four episodes of the show Ghost Hunters; I
don’t think I could be classified a true fan. It was more
that these guys were at the pinnacle of ghost hunting, a
thing Diane and I do regularly and seriously.
When lecturing as The Paranormal Adventurers at
libraries and for private groups Diane and I are often
asked about the ghost hunters of T.A.P.S. In a real way,
recognizing the T.A.P.S. guys is recognizing our own
ghost hunting as a valid pursuit. Here were the same
ghost hunters in the flesh who chase ghosts on T.V – they
search for ghosts, just like me and Diane!
Nonetheless, I grumbled at my own vanity as I waited on
line with everyone else to have the photo I bought signed.
I looked around at the people I was standing on line with
and randomly said hello to folks. I met people who had
come all the way from Texas for the event, from
Tennessee, from California, from Florida, from New
Hampshire, from New Jersey, from Pennsylvania – from
all parts of America.
It didn't take too long for me to realize Diane and I were
part of something much more special than just a ghost
hunt, much more than just an autograph signing of the T.
A.P.S Ghost Hunters: We were part of a national family
of people in search of answers about the existence of
ghosts, and we were here this weekend to validate what
we do with the three men who most clearly represent our
interests on a national level. We are ghost hunters. We
are united this weekend!
I had a picture taken with the guys from T.A.P.S. and I
took one of Diane with them. I felt a little silly, but Jason,
Grant and Steve were extremely polite and
accommodating and did not seem aloof or snobby in any
way, and I was glad. I would have shrunk in my boots if
they had frowned at me or looked at each other and
rolled their eyes. But they didn’t. And this friendly,
personable attitude would be exactly how they were the
In fact, the next morning when Diane and I were having a
late breakfast at the Moonlight Diner and Grille, Jason
strolled in alone for some lunch and came over to our
table and talked for awhile. I was struck by how
personable he was. After all, I figured he’d have no time
for the little people of the “general public,” but he was
not at all like this.
Rather, Jason asked us how we thought he and the other
Ghost Hunters were doing. “Are you guys having fun?”
he asked. And he asked these question earnestly, as
though searching for honest answers about how the event
was progressing. He did not appear to ask these sort of
questions of us just to shoot the breeze. I was glad to see
he was truly concerned about whether he and the other
Ghost Hunters were meeting our expectations. Of course
they were, so we told him so. He seemed happy. "That’s
good,” he said. “It should be fun.”
At any rate, when the line for photos taken with the
Ghost Hunters was gone, Jason and Grant took up
microphones and ran a projector from a laptop showing
pictures and video of their best and worst experiences
ghost hunting. It was a very interesting segment because
they discussed the difference between ghosts and spirits,
residuals and poltergeists, etc. And they showed video of
a fence gate shutting on Jason and then Grant at a
haunted location. The gate swung closed before Jason
could get through it, and later it did the same thing to
Grant – right there on video! I was amazed.
They showed other video never seen on the Sci FI
channel. I realized then and there these guys were for
real! They were on television only because they were
good at what they do!
Part III The Ghost Hunt
Josh Mantello of the Berkshire Paranormal Group (hosts
of the event) spoke after the Ghost Hunters. Josh and
other members of the B.P.G. are also members of the
Masons. The Masons have owned the mansion since the
late 1920’s. They have a temple in the upper part of the
mansion. It’s a big room, as big as the ballroom
downstairs. There are very few signs in the mansion that
Masons are there. In fact, in every way the building looks
and feels, well…just like an old haunted mansion.
Now standing with a microphone in the front of the
ballroom filled with T.A.P.S. fans, Josh detailed the tragic
history of the Houghton Mansion (read history). He told
us how Mary Houghton and her best friend Sybil Hutton
died as the result of injuries sustained in a car accident in
1914 and how John Widders, the chauffeur driving the
car, committed suicide in the barn behind the mansion the
next day because he blamed himself for the accident.
Then Josh told us how Mary’s father, Albert Charles
Houghton, died eleven days later from the grief of the
whole sad miserable affair of accidental death and suicide.
A particularly sad aspect of this tragic story is that Mary
Houghton and John Widders, the chauffeur, were in love.
At least that’s what medium Maureen Wood of the New
England Ghost Project said during the CONTACT
events. Maureen had been to the mansion many times and
conducted numerous investigations along with Ron Kolek
of N.E.P. Maureen has actually been overtaken by the
spirit of Mary Houghton and Mary spoke through her.
Mary was searching for John Widders, her love, and with
Maureen's help at CONTACT, Mary's spirit was
reunited with John Widders, also a spirit in the house. But
Albert Charles Houghton, Mary's father - also a ghost in
the mansion - disapproved of the union of Mary and John
when they were all alive. Yes, it gets a little complicated,
but you can feel their energy when in certain parts of the
house, and especially when participating in a séance or a
Ouija Board session, as Diane and I have done on
occasion there. Once we participated in a chair lifting
session with the Witches of Salem - right before a séance
at which Mary spoke through Maureen Wood. Wow, it's
always a trip at the Houghton Mansion.
EVP expert Karen Mossey has also been to the mansion
and recorded amazing EVP. She too believes Mary
Houghton's spirit and other spirits roam the house.
Mossey’s EVP's have been featured in the movie White
Noise, starring Michael Keaton, as well as on the
television show The Ghost Whisperer, starting Jennifer
Love Hewitt. Mossey produced and sells a CD of the
EVP's she captured at the Houghton mansion.
The Investigation Gets Underway
We broke up into four groups when Josh was done
speaking about the history of the place, and each group
followed one of the T.A.P.S Ghost Hunters or somebody
from the B.P.G. to an area of the mansion that we would
investigate for an hour. Thus, for the next four hours
we'd be doing nothing but investigating the old mansion,
searching for ghosts. My tour started with Josh Mantello
in the upstairs rooms on the third and second floors. The
second floor is considered the most haunted part of the
house by some folks because it's where Mary
Houghton’s bedroom is located. I think it's the most
active area of the mansion.
Each group had one hour in each of the four main areas
of the mansion that were under investigation - the
basement, the upstairs rooms, the third floor and one
group was always in the ballroom examining past
evidence of paranormal activity on a large screen on the
stage. The evidence was compiled by the B. P.G . over
years of investigations. The evidence is in the form of
video, still photos and EVP. The EVP was amplified over
a sound system so members of the audience could hear it
The lot of us did this switch of locations around the
building on both Friday and Saturday nights, with a
Reveal on Sunday morning, wrapping up the weekend.
Friday night produced very little evidence because we
were being introduced to the parts of the building and
our guides spoke loudly and freely to inform us about
things. You really need peace and quiet when conducting
By Saturday night, however, everyone was familiar with
the mansion and we all quieted down for a serious
investigation. Saturday night produced results (see
Since Diane and I have been to all three of the major
events held by the Berkshire Paranormal Group in the
Houghton Mansion since 2005, we were well known to
the members of B.P.G. and we were thus invited to
investigate at will wherever part of the building we
wanted to as long as it was in the parameters of the
investigation. At this point I am honored to say that
Diane and I are privileged to know the folks of B.P.G.
They are hands-down just the nicest group of great
people you’d ever want to meet – and Diane says the
same thing. We have bonded over the years and became
I was happy to have the freedom that tour guides on the
ghost hunt afforded me because I was able to wander
wherever the "spirits" moved me. This also allowed me
to get to know people who interested me. Nearly
everyone there was interesting.
Some of the people were ghost hunt savvy, others were
not, but just about everyone was endlessly interesting.
There was one lady from Lehigh, Pennsylvania who I
followed around for a while because I had a camera and
she had a EMF detector. She took readings, I took
pictures. She didn't know anything about ghost hunting -
she came with a ghost hunting friend who wanted
At one point in the dark basement Grant showed the
woman the effects of the overhead copper piping on the
EMF. The detector jumped from .01 to 3 and 4 and 4.5.
Significant changes in numbers take place when
something that conducts electricity is near an EMF
detector, which could cause a false positive. Now who
better to know this fact than Grant, who is a world class
ghost hunter and a plumber?
Jason is an extremely cool person, and when you are in
his company you can’t help think, “This is an extremely
cool person who knows he’s cool but he’s so cool he
would never act it because that’s the nature of his
coolness.” In other words, he could have made us all feel
like lesser ghost investigators if he wanted, but he
didn’t. He was one of us on a ghost hunt. He was not all
about publicity and public relations, he was about ghost
At one point I caught Jason standing alone in the
darkness in the wide hallway on the second floor, staring
up at a large window with some indirect hazy light
streaming through it. The large window was at the
landing at the top of stairs leading up to the third floor.
Jason had his black Minalta SLR digital camera on a
tripod pointing up the stairs. It was the second night of
the event, Saturday night, and the hour was drawing
I heard you got a great shot of something,” I said.
It was true. I heard he had a picture of an apparition. In
fact, it was the only apparition photographed the whole
weekend, that I heard about.
Jason immediately took his gaze off the staircase and
worked at his camera, finding the picture in the folder in
the camera’s memory chip, and he showed me the exact
photograph to which I had referred.
In the photo that I viewed on the small 2-inch rectangular
viewfinder stood a translucent figure with a red jacket.
The photo was taken in Mary Houghton’s bedroom on the
second floor where another person was seated on a
The apparition appeared to be a man wearing sun
glasses. He seemed to be holding a cigarette between the
fingers of his right hand, but there was no smoke. I could
see his hair and his ears and neck - pretty much all his
“You can see right through his legs,” Jason said.
And he was right, you could! “There’s a lot of definition
to that apparition,” I agreed.
I was amazed. Here was a picture of an apparition that
appeared to be wearing sunglasses, holding a cigarette
and his entire face and body were apparent!
I focused on the apparition's sunglasses: “In some of the
pictures we (Diane and I) have taken of apparitions, it
looks like they are either missing their eyes or wearing
sunglasses,” I said. I figured Jason would cock his head
sideways at me and think I was a lunatic.
Yeah, I get some of that, too,” said Jason. “I know what
you mean. I've seen that, too.”
I was again amazed. Jason was the only ghost hunter
besides Diane who I had ever met who had recognized
this trait of paranormal strangeness in photos. I was
startled that we could relate to this fact – he being a
famous Ghost Hunter and all and me being just a member
of the “general public.” It dawned on me once again -for
the hundredth time this weekend – that Jason knows
what the hell he’s talking about.
And since we are on the subject of knowing about what
one is talking about, I should tell you that during the
Reveal on Sunday Steve was sitting on the edge of the
stage keeping to himself as Jason and Grant talked to the
audience. He said nothing. While we were all discussing
the photo Jason took of the apparition, I called upon
Steve to give us his impression.
I must admit that of the three men, Steve is probably the
most interesting to me in some ways because you know
from watching the television show, Ghost Hunters, that
Steve is the one down in the trenches, doing the actual
grunt work of reviewing all the footage shot during a T.A.
P.S. investigations. A guy in the thick of it like Steve has
a sharp sense of what is paranormal and what is not. He is
definitely a hard-core, no-nonsense ghost hunter.
I took note of a few example's of Steve's no-nonsense
attitude while on this weekend's investigation. For
example, there was one incident involving someone
whom went up to the stage in front of all of us during the
Reveal on Sunday to show the evidence of the paranormal
that he said he caught, but oddly, suddenly couldn't locate
the evidence. To this Steve quipped, “So much for your
organization.” The audience drew a collective breath.
“It’s all in fun,” Steve said after hearing the audience’s
“GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER!” is basically what
Steve was saying by “So much for your organization.” I
smiled because I was glad he was so emphatic. And I
admired Steve for being so honest, even if his honesty
was brutal. However, I felt badly for the poor sap who
lost his evidence because I can see something like that
happening to me.
Grant, meanwhile, is the best looking member of the
Ghost Hunters, according to some women I heard
speaking, including Diane, my partner. As a rule, a guy
doesn’t care or understand the looks of another guy, so I
related to Grant as a ghost hunter, and of the three of
them I spent the most time with Grant. It was not quality
time for Grant, I must say, because it seemed every time
I shot a photo in the darkness of the basement over a two
hour period, the flash shot directly into Grant’s eyes and
he had to experience that terrible blindness a flash can
cause. "Sorry, Grant," I kept saying.
Grant and I were in the basement along with a pair of
excellent ghost hunters Sean Coffey from Saugus,
Massachusetts and Jay Chasse from Walpole, New
Hampshire - who had captured EVP and had personal
experiences in the basement and upper rooms - when a
basement door that reportedly opened by itself earlier in
the evening shut by itself with a loud boom. We were all
in the immediate area when the door shut. Grant and I
examined the door, saw that it could not have shut on its
own - with a loud boom yet – and embarked on a task of
keeping an eye on that door to document what it would
do in the next hour or so.
Nothing surprises me at the Houghton Mansion any more.
I have seen some strange stuff there, and heard even
weirder things. I once heard a woman moan loudly in a
room upstairs: the moan was right over my shoulder and
the other two people in the room heard the same thing
and felt the same chills I felt. Moments after the moan a
man was thrown up against a wall. I saw the man bounce
off the wall as I turned into the hallway, unaware that
this man had been lifted off the heels of his feet by
something unseen and slammed him against the wall.
I stood around and Grant stood around and we weaved by
each other from time to time in our pursuits while waiting
for the door to shut again by itself. It didn't.
There were so many things I wanted to ask Grant , but
we couldn’t talk in the basement because people were
recording for EVP and they didn’t need us making noises
or confusing their EVP with our voices. The question I
most wanted to ask most was, “Do you like being
famous?” While he definitely seemed comfortable in his
own skin, he just didn’t strike me as someone who would
like to be famous. He seemed like the kind who would
rather that the results of his investigations gain
attention, not him personally. But I could be wrong.
Grant was kind to everyone who wanted to speak with
him, and I often saw him patting someone on the back or
grabbing their shoulders in a friendly and supportive way
with recognition of their efforts. I saw him many times
express friendship to people and I thought such actions
were very telling about his kind nature.
In contrast, Steve shut a door on my face while I was
following him and some other people around with a video
camera. I don’t think he appreciated my camera in his
face, and when we were on the second floor, he shut a
door in my face as I was trailing behind him. I secretly
said to myself, “Yes, that’s it! That’s exactly what you
should do! You are a ghost hunter, not a show object!
Good for you, Steve!”
But it just so happens I like to record investigations on
video so him shutting the door in my face was not
appreciated at the moment.
Steve, however, is a genuinely sincere and good human
Try this out as evidence of his good-nature:
Diane asked Steve to sign some ticket stubs to the ghost
hunt. She was planning to give the signed stubs to three
children who had requested but never received an
autographed picture from T.A.P.S. The kids are big
T.A.P.S. fans. When Steve heard the kids never got a
response to their letter to T.A.P.S. he turned to the
marketing crew at the tables where things were sold and
convinced the marketer to let him have three expensive
T.A.P.S. glossy magazines, and he signed those instead of
the ticket stubs and said to give those to the children as
his gift. We were impressed with Steve's compassion and
There you have it then: I hope you get the drift about
these guys. The Ghost Hunters of T.A.P.S. know their
stuff and they’re great guys. I think in the future Diane
and I will hook up with them again.
by Joseph Flammer
Jason Hawes and Joseph Flammer