Sure there are lots of ghost hunters out there, but why is it that they always just assume the ghosts they find are straight? In fact, back in the day people were hung for being gay, or declared a witch if thought to be lesbian and burned at the stake! So actually, when you think about it, it’s probably more likely to find torn LGBTQ souls roaming this earth with some unfinished business than it is to find straight ones.
Stu Maddux is a film director and producer. He’s known for his LGBTQ documentaries, such as “Reel In The Closet” which features home videos of LGBTQ couples dating back as far as 1939, and “Gen Silent,” which exposes the hardship senior citizens have to go through in the LGBTQ community. He also started the website Our Family Album, which features photos from the queer community of both the past and today.
While he was showing one of his documentaries at the Columbus Queer Film Festival, he found out that the local pride center had a queer ghost hunting group and he had to go check it out. He fell in love with the project and now is showing the world The Queer Ghost Hunters.
They’re skeptics and are able to laugh at themselves, but they’re all also very open-minded and have joined the paranormal community with the utmost skill. They’ve found a deceased nun who identified as lesbian and followed one of their team members home; they found a prison with many convicted for sodomy; they’ve even found a homophobic ghost that doesn’t seem to be to courteous to them.
BTRtoday spoke with Maddux, the producer and director of the Queer Ghost Hunters series. He tells us how it all began, the goal of this project, how it’s helping the LGBTQ community, and of course, he shares some of their wildest ghost stories!
BTRtoday(BTR): How did this whole project begin? Give me a quick history lesson of The Queer Ghost Hunters.
Stu Maddux(SM): So I am a documentary filmmaker usually and I had a film at the Columbus Queer Film Festival last year, and the person who picked me up was telling me about all these great things that were going on at the pride center there. They have a veterans program, a prison program, and queer ghost hunters. I was like, “stop the car!” All those things are great documentary ideas, but when she said queer ghost hunting, I was like, “somebody has to do this!” So I started following them around.
It’s a real group of people, from all different kinds of backgrounds that are trying to do ghost hunting a little differently. It started as a documentary and then it just became clear it should be a series pretty quickly.
BTR: Cool! What’s the process been like to create this project?
SM: Well, we’ve been doing this for about a year. We follow them to about a half dozen different places. What they find can be hit or miss, which you can see online… When they do find an entity of some kind, they almost always find a queer entity. These entities, if you believe in this, it seems like they’ve really been wanting to talk about this, they seem to feel really safe around this group.
It’s not like what you see on the ghost hunting shows where they’re very much like, “come out or I’m coming in after you.” It’s more like everybody gets in a circle and says, “hey, we’re queer! Are you queer?” I’m over-simplifying it, but it’s a little something like that.
BTR: What’s the team like?
SM: Let’s see… We have a school teacher, a lawyer, a trans-gender activist, researchers, we have somebody who identifies on the Asperger’s spectrum and thinks that it helps them on hunts, and we have a program director of a local pride center. They’re all really smart and the ages range from mid-twenties to mid-fifties, and their sexual preferences and gender identities are very diverse. Yeah, they’re just smart and funny! They kind of don’t take themselves too seriously, but they keep an open mind when they do this too.
BTR: What’s the ultimate point that this project is trying to get across to its audience?
SM: It’s interesting. We thought of it as this really fun thing to do, and there’s a couple of things. No matter how you identify gender or sexuality, it seems like when you see people all doing something together, it’s actually more rare than we thought. We found the gay men don’t really want to watch this show because there are too many lesbians in it, we found that the lesbian crowd is not really into it. The queer crowd, actually young people write in and say, “wow, I never thought I’d hear somebody talk about another gender fluid person on a television show and this is really great to be able to see myself.” So that’s what I think we’re trying to get across. Letting people see themselves with other members of their community doing something really great that is also finding all this lost history of LGBT lives from the past.
“We’re all skeptics about this, we’re just keeping an open mind. We do it, and the meters go off and the EVPs [electronic voice phenomena] happens and stuff like that. We’re not like, ‘oh, this is real!!’ We’re more like, ‘well… it could be, who knows what’s happening here?! Let’s just go with it.’ – Stu Maddux
BTR: So does the project concentrate more on the history aspect or the ghost hunting aspect?
SM: It starts out around a lot of historical research. For example, we have some episodes coming out that take place at a prison. The researcher on the team went through the prison records and found more than 50 young men convicted of sodomy around the 1900s, like the turn of the century, within a couple years of each other. We also discovered that many of them worked at the same hotel as either bellboys or something like that. So there’s something going on there that has never been talked about before and it is historic—on a historical day-to-day life level, something was going on there.
These are people who were predominantly African-American or Irish immigrants. So then you take that information and you go back to this prison and you kind of just see if anybody identifies like that there. It starts out as a historical research project that has this really fun twist where they might possibly make contact with some of these people they’ve found in the research.
BTR: What’s one of the wildest things this group has come across?
SM: We went to a convent in Toledo, where one of the nuns identified as lesbian only wanted to talk to a particular other person in the group who surprisingly/not surprisingly, also identified as lesbian. They kind of had a private conversation and it turns out that, or at least the story we were able to document, that this ghost came back with her back to the car, which she was borrowing from her parents. So when she gave the car back the ghost seemed to start haunting her parent’s house—I know this is crazy! Try to suspend you disbelief and just kind of go with it, I have to.
So over the Thanksgiving holiday, the team went to her parent’s house and they made contact with this ghost and got the ghost to go back to the convent—but not before making a deal that the ghost could stay one night at this woman’s house, the ghost hunter’s house. So she actually played back some recordings and it looks like she found footsteps of this nun walking around her house, before they all got in the car the next day and went back to the convent and set her free I guess.
Now listen, I have to qualify this as I know it sounds crazy—this group, we’re all skeptics about this, we’re just keeping an open mind. We do it, and the meters go off and the EVPs [electronic voice phenomena] happens and stuff like that. We’re not like, “oh, this is real!!” We’re more like, “well… it could be, who knows what’s happening here?! Let’s just go with it.”
BTR: Do you guys get any backlash from other ghost hunting communities or even from homophobic a-holes?
SM: I’m sure there will be more of that as time goes on, just because of the way things have changed recently, but we’ve actually gotten a lot of support from the ghost hunting/paranormal community. They realize that this has just never been addressed before. I think most people, not all, but a lot of people are looking for ways to be supportive of the queer community, or any under-represented community. When something like this presents itself I think that people try to jump on the chance to say, “hey! Let us know how we can help!” So it’s been mostly like that.
However, there haven’t been people who have been homophobic to us, but we did run into a homophobic ghost at one point. There was a lesbian couple and they were having all these things happen. So the queer ghost hunters went in and it turned out that the ghost did not like the fact that there was a lesbian couple in this house. So they’ve been working on trying to figure out what the situation is—they’ve got some EVPs where the ghost is saying, “fuck you” and using the “c” word on them a lot and all kinds of stuff.
This happened like four or five times and that’s a big deal. They tried to communicate with this ghost and it turns out that the ghost is not homophobic, but probably is a child who is using bad language to get attention. I could go into more detail but it’s complicated…
BTR: Where do you see the future of this project going?
SM: We’d like to build our audience and have a really nice YouTube channel around it. If you look at some of the comments on our page, that’s really fulfilling in itself. Also there are a lot of place we’d like to go to outside of Ohio, just think about it! There are great places to go—so we’d like to hit the road. To do that though we’re trying to build our pledge base so we can support doing more things. We’d like to spread out a little more.