Queer Ghost Hunters Catching Up With The Past

Queer Ghost Hunters Catching Up With The Past

Have you ever wondered what was life like for a queer person in the past? They fought their own battles and made amazing contributions to the world that we know as it is. We found this web documentary series, Queer Ghost Hunters,  tracks the adventures of the Stonewall Columbus Queer Ghosthunters in various locations of the US, such as Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. The group selects sites that show evidence of queer people’s existence. Then, they do research before heading out to these places. Along with the quest for poltergeists, there’s also LGBTQ history weaved throughout the series.

Here is a trailer of Queer Ghost Hunters.

The Hunt for a Queer Ghost

The show creator Stu Maddux, San Francisco documentary filmmaker, believes that mainstream paranormal reality TV completely ignores the existence of queer people. This show throws light on queer historical subjects who have been rendered invisible, those who have been stripped of their presence, denied their voice, and who haunts the periphery of historical knowledge. The show stages an intervention within the paranormal reality television genre, critiquing the lack of queer content in popular shows such as Ghost Hunters. Despite the routine investigations of prisons and mental asylums, sites that have historically functioned to oppress queer people, queer ghosts are not sought after in mainstream paranormal reality TV, thereby rendering queer history and injustice invisible. Queer Ghost Hunters aims to rectify this invisibility by attempting to contact queer ghosts and revealing the presence of lost pasts.

“Were you a guy attracted to other guys?” they ask a chatty spirit presence.

The dowsing rods seem to answer “Yes.”

“So, were you incarcerated here for violation of sodomy laws?”

Again the dowsing rods shift to the “yes” position.

“Oh, my god!”

Uncovering Tales of The Past

Queer Ghost Hunters/ LGBTQ Community in the past/ Queer History
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Queer history, like Black history, or women’s history, or the history of any group that has been systemically silenced, is too easy to think of as relevant only to the subjects at its center. These histories tell us, too, how we became who we are.

It is not an easy task to exhume deliberately suppressed histories associated with prison sentences or shame. In addition to that, queer people’s pasts can be difficult to piece together, whether through archival whispers and murmurs or second-hand tales riddled with silences and secrets. Other documentation giveaway places that might attract queer hauntings. Nunneries, like theaters and opera houses, are promising for obvious reasons. Mansions previously inhabited by rich men and women who never married while alive may also be ghost hotspots.

Show Origins

It all started when programming director Lori Gum and her former coworker Shane McClelland began attending ghost hunting trips in the state and neighboring Kentucky for fun. However, they faced frustration with the heteronormativity of the ghostbusting scene.

“Driving home that night, we were talking about how ridiculous that really was and that no one had ever found a queer ghost. [LGBTQ people] were disproportionately incarcerated throughout the centuries, disproportionately put in insane asylums, we worked in theaters [and] operas disproportionately. So why is it that in all of these ghost shows, no one has ever found a queer ghost? Moreover, Queer Ghost Hunters started right then and there.”

– Lori Gum, Programming Director of Queer Ghost Hunters, to Vice

The team of Queer Ghost Hunters consists of a diverse crew of queer people whose gender identities and sexual orientations are every bit as diverse as the spirits they’re attempting to track down—there are bisexual cisgender paranormal history researchers, pansexual genderfluid photographers, and one who simply identifies himself in his title credit as “Bear.” However, they all believe in one particular idea –  in the LGBTQ community, a lot of things happened before Stonewall. They’re never in the history books. As a result, most ghost hunter series feature a straight male finding and contacting ghosts through different mediums, Queer ghost hunters do it differently.

This is clear in one particular episode, Gum appears to make contact with a dead nun called Madeleine—but instead of playing the encounter for dramatic thrills, Gum is positively overjoyed when the apparition appears to move the dowsing rods to profess that she was in a relationship with another sister.

How do they do it?

They do not rely on fancy electronic equipment and testosterone to interact with ghosts. The group again deploys a friendly, empathetic approach. Hence, when the ghost hunters get in touch with the spirits, their method seems to have more in common with a therapy session chaired by an especially welcoming LGBTQ counselor than an encounter with the unknown.

“Curiosity, openness, and empathy, that’s what you need to be a queer ghosthunter. Somewhere down the line is courage… I’m sure that other ghost hunters say that you need nerves of steel and courage to go. But, we’re coming from a totally different approach.”

– Lori Gum, Programming Director of Queer Ghost Hunters, to Vice

In all three seasons, the focus of the show remains solely on connecting with people. This way, more people can feel comfortable to find the history of our queer ancestors. The presence of queer people is not explicitly visible in mainstream ghost documentaries. This does not make them invisible or erase what they did for the community.  The queer community has always been there and the voices of our predecessors can guide the generations to come.

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