The butterflies of Lost Creek have led us to SyFy’s newest ghost-hunting ‘reality’ show, “Ghost Mine”.  Premiering in January, the Season 1 finale episode is set to air tonight.  I happened to catch up on the show on one of my days off work, when SyFy aired all the episodes as a marathon leading up to the new episode.  I’d seen commercials for the show, and was skeptical before I watched it.  Little did I know….

“Ghost Mine” is set at the once-abandoned Crescent Mine in Oregon.  The story goes that the old gold mine had been abandoned, not because the gold ran out, but because of paranormal activity that drove workers away.  New owner Larry Overman had already had one entire crew walk out on him, so this go round he’s brought in Patrick Doyle and Kristen Lumen, supposed paranormal investigators, to assure the men they are safe working in the mine.
Better than anything the 'investigators' have captured
More like a mini-series than a reality show, Season 1 follows the miners and the investigators as they search for gold and ghosts.  There are no revolving locations; we stay at the Crescent Mine, with side trips to a local bed and breakfast and other sites that tie in to the Crescent mystery.  The investigators seem to have happened upon an extremely haunted location as they immediately begin capturing evidence that causes even the most skeptical miner to wonder.  Capturing good evidence is rare, and Patrick and Kristen appear to capture it over and over, presenting their findings to the miners. 
I tried to watch objectively, but I couldn’t help but notice that while staying on site in their own primitive cabin, the investigators always appeared ready for camera.  Kristen’s hair always looks professionally done.  Then I noticed that even the miners seemed too good to be true.  Everything, from their clothes down to their beards, seemed a little too stereotypical.  I began to wonder if they weren’t all hired actors.  Or actual miners coached and rehearsed at the very least. 
The action picks up when Kristen and Patrick are watching the miners work on monitors set up in their cabin.  Duck and Jay are working when they hear a strange banging sound.  After the second time it’s heard, Duck says its ‘Tommyknockers’ and decides to get out of there.  Kristen and Patrick meet them when they come out to ask them about what happened.  Soon after, Duck packs up his things and ‘tramps’ out, leaving his job and telling foreman Stan it’s due to the Tommyknockers.  When Kristen and Patrick go inside the mine to investigate, they find a cave in not far from where Duck and Jay heard the strange sounds. 

When mine owner Larry showed up upset that Patrick and Kristen were sharing evidence with the miners and insisting that they only do so with him or the foreman, and reminds them that their job is to convince the miners of their safety, I became convinced that what was being presented as a reality series was scripted fiction.  Sure this guy could have stormed onto the site and gave them a piece of his mind, but it was the reactions of the investigators that convinced me that wasn’t so.  Patrick does all the talking, assuring Larry they will do as they are told, while Kristen just sits there with an obnoxious look on her face. 

Later when the miners invite them to join them at the campfire, Kristen assures them that they will continue to share any evidence they find with the miners, leaving out that owner Larry said not to, going on to tell them that if the investigators ever feel like the miners are in danger they will let them know they think they need to get out of there.  Ignoring Larry’s warnings, she goes on to tell them she believes something malevolent is in the mine.

Much ado occurs when miners Graybeard and Jamal are working and notice the smoke from Graybeard’s pipe blowing sideways.  This spooks them, as they say there shouldn’t be any breeze in the tunnel and they make haste getting out of the mine.  Watching them on the monitors, Patrick and Kristen meet them at the mouth of the mine to ask them about what happened.  In all his years in the mine, Graybeard says he’s never seen anything like it.  Jamal, who is married to a Native American and professes a belief in spirits, is spooked as well.  The investigators enter with enough high tech equipment to make any ghost hunter drool.  They find strange air flow measurements, but that’s about it.

Up until this point it could be that SyFy just happened upon a really good location to shoot their show.  Being the daughter of a retired mine inspector, seeing someone smoking a pipe underground set off alarms in my head.  Unless gold mines are unlike coal mines in that there are no hazardous gasses like methane that could be combustible, the pipe was just a prop to illustrate phantom breezes.  If smoking’s a no-no, then why is this guy constantly got a pipe in his mouth? And on camera? Seems reminiscent of Amish Mafia and Moonshiners on the Discovery Channel blatantly breaking the law with next to no concern of repercussions. 

But then the investigators are contacted by a local who wants to secretly meet with them.  Taking their truck to what looks like a very obscure location (but could actually be along the same road that leads to the Crescent Mine) they wait until another pickup pulls in, driven by an older man.  He tells them his son was part of the first crew Larry had at the mine that walked off.  He tells them a couple spook tales related to the mine, then asks if they’ve noticed any Masonic imagery.  We were told a few episodes back that the Masons were involved with the mine, and once used the bed and breakfast in town as a meeting hall.

The man draws a map for Patrick and Kristen, telling them to look for large rocks.  These rocks are supposed to mark the entrance to a hidden mining tunnel.  When they return to the site and start looking for the rocks, they are immediately joined by, who else, Foreman Stan, who quickly finds a piece of granite with 3 holes drilled in it to form a triangle.  Nearby they find the other two similar rocks, and Stan gets one of the guys to jump in a dozer and move the dirt.  After a few scoops, they see mining timbers, and soon have the hidden entrance uncovered.  They send in Patrick’s RIPA robot, which finds a bulkhead blocking the path.  When they go in on foot to inspect it, they find Masonic markings on it. 

When asked why someone would block a tunnel off like this, the miners tell them it could be because there’s something behind there somebody doesn’t want found…like a large deposit of gold. About as un-superstitious as you can get, miner Eddie takes an axe and makes short work of the blockage.  Always keeping safety first, they send RIPA ahead, but when she becomes unresponsive to the controls, they go to see what the problem is.  While Patrick and Kristen try to fix RIPA, Stan and Eddie, anxious to see what the bulkhead was hiding, continue on to discover a rich vein of gold. 

The 'investigators'
If it weren’t for those pesky kids….Larry wouldn’t have uncovered the tunnel with the mother load, or have gotten a crew to stay onsite, or been any closer to solving the puzzle of the Crescent that involves the Freemasons, a ghost named Joe, and the haunting that seems to blanket the entire town of Sumpter.  I’ve done a lot of digging, and couldn’t find any previous stories about the mine being haunted.  Of course the only people on site were most likely miners, possibly with a handful of others, so I can’t rule out a real haunting based solely on that.  So I decided to investigate the investigators.

Considering all the bells and whistles on RIPA; IR cameras, real time audio, floodlights, and about 20 other features, I wondered what Patrick and Kristen did for day jobs.  You’re not going to build a toy like RIPA on minimum wage.  It turns out that Patrick does have a history in the paranormal world.  Since the ‘Ghost Mine’ premiere, Patrick’s old website, “Haunted Hoax” has been taken down.  Quotes he made in the past showed that he sided with the skeptics, and likened ghost hunting to an addiction: “These sensational encounters and the person's undying commitment to prove the existence of ghosts and the afterlife have created a dependency -- A need for the chemical rush they receive during intense situations, amplified by anxiety, desire and anticipation.”

He goes on to explain how he knows these ‘paranormal reality’ shows aren’t real: “These TV shows are entertainment. It's all entertainment value. It's 100% entertainment. It’s not real in the paranormal field. It's not. It's all just put out there. It's shot, it’s edited, it’s put together and tied with advertising to get you to watch. And then the networks make the money off the advertising dollars.” He adds, “TV shows are staged because they are getting something every episode. It just doesn't work that way. You gotta remember they are on a network called SyFy, Science fiction. It's not true.”

Then there’s his investigating partner, Kristen Luman.  It didn’t take much digging to expose Kristen’s past, which unlike Patrick’s, doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the paranormal.  If you go to and look at Ghost Mine’s page, it lists Patrick Doyle and Kristen P. Luman as being on the show.  Where’d her middle initial come from?  A little digging exposed her other imdb page, listing Kristen Luman as appearing in 3 films, including “Harvest of Fear.” She’s even in the trailer for that one, shown below (appears at 1:19).  Adding that initial would keep anyone checking her out from realizing she had a prior acting career, unless they kept digging.  More research unearthed the fact that Kristen once appeared in a Girls Gone Wild video as well. 

Entertaining. Great story. But don’t insult me by thinking I’ll believe all these coincidences were stumbled upon.  Either SyFy sent out a dozen crews to a dozen different locations, and chose the one with the most compelling evidence, or they totally scripted the entire show.  Look at it this way, professional wrestling is fake, does that stop people from watching?  Hell no, it’s a multi-million dollar industry. 

Presenting this stuff as a reality show is an insult to true paranormal investigators who are out there searching for the truth.  It taints the ghost hunting community, and could cause people to question actual evidence.  Don’t present something as reality when it so obviously isn’t. 

Actors, wardrobe, props, writing, they all did exceptional jobs.  Too good to be true actually.  Just admit the obvious, and I’ll happily watch.  Don’t insult actual investigators who are not faking evidence and making up the story as they go.  I hope the creators and participants are haunted by relentless poltergeists as penance for their deceptions.

Goofing around behind the scenes?
Sometimes my research projects seek me out.  This is one of those instances.  A trail of butterfly effects led me to the fascinating story of the Smurl Haunting.  I first heard the name when reading a book that was a Christmas gift.  Curiosity led to serendipity, which led to West Pittston, PN during the 1970s and early 80s.  Jack and Janet Smurl were flooded out of their home in Wilkes-Barr after Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  They moved into a duplex owned by Jack’s parents who lived in the other side of the house.  They began experiencing paranormal phenomena and their story became more bizarre than the Amityville Horror which had become popular in the early 70s and involved some of the same players.

When I read about these cases I try to keep a level of skepticism.  Like I said, I wasn’t there and even if I were I can’t be sure that I wouldn’t still be wondering. The country had dug the Amityville Horror.  A few years had passed since then and an opportunity was there for the next big ghost story.  Something with that “based on actual events” tagline would be especially popular.  Enter "The Haunted," a book and subsequent film about the Smurl family’s ordeal following the media coverage of their situation.  Other than a few neighbors claiming two women had lived in the house and had practiced Satanism, the Smurl case lacked the sensational background story, but more than made up for it with it’s more bizarre claims and paranormal activity in higher frequency and intensity. I wasn’t there so I have no idea if their claims are true or not.  For my purpose that is beside the point.  It’s a really good story whether it actually happened or they made it all up.  If they did, they deserve the money they made off books and movies.  We make authors and screenwriters rich don’t we? I’m going to tell their story as if it really happened only because it’s easier and more entertaining to not insert “supposedly” and “alleged” into every sentence.

The Smurl family
The Smurl’s ordeal began with a stain on their new carpet a year and a half after they moved in.  Despite several attempts, the stain couldn’t be removed.  Following that, an array of paranormal activity began, including but not limited to: toilets flushing on their own, footsteps heard, scratches appearing on a newly installed bathtub, drawers opening and closing on their own, radios that were unplugged suddenly blaring, rocking chairs creaking and rocking as if someone were sitting in them and Jack feeling the caress of an unseen hand.  These occurrences plagued the family for what seemed like an eternity.  One of their daughters told them about waking up and seeing many people floating around her room.  Neighbors even noticed strange things, like hearing screams and scratching noises and later learning no one was home at the time. 

The Smurl House
The activity eventually moved to Jack’s parents’ side of the house too.  They would feel icy cold spots and hear Jack and Janet arguing loudly, to discover they hadn’t been home at the time.  One day in 1985 Janet was doing laundry in the basement and heard her name called.  She went to see who her unexpected caller was, but she was alone in the house.  Two days later in the kitchen she saw a black shadow figure with no facial features appear and go through the wall, appearing to Jack’s mom, Mary, on the other side.  It seemed that after the apparition was seen, activity intensified.

The night of their daughter Heather’s catholic confirmation a heavy chandelier mysteriously fell, just missing their daughter Shannon.  One night while making love the Smurl’s reported Janet being pulled off the bed while clutching onto the sheets, and Jack laying paralyzed and overtaken by a vile odor.  The Smurl’s german shepherd, Simon, wasn’t spared form the oppression, being picked up and thrown several times.

Loraine and Ed Warren
In 1985 Janet Smurl had heard about Ed and Loraine Warren who had been involved in the Amityville investigation and other high profile paranormal cases.  In desperation she contacted them.  The Warrens came to the Smurl’s home, accompanied by Rosemary Frueh who was a registered nurse and psychic.  After collecting background information the Warrens concluded the culprit for the violent activity was a demon.  They posited that it had lain dormant for years and when the family moved in with two girls hitting puberty, it was fueled back to life.  Rosemary agreed that there were up to four spirits in the house, but one was a major demon. 

The Warrens’ first tactic was to try and provoke the demon.  They played religious music which resulted in a mirror violently shaking and a voice growling.  Ed invoked the name of Jesus Christ and was hit by a noxious smell and fell ill for days.  He saw a black wispy smoke appear and spell out, “You filthy bastard, get out of this house.”  For the time being the Warrens had Rev. Robert McKenna perform two exorcisms and the sprinkling of holy water and prayer seemed to abate the demon.  But it was only to be for a short while.

Loraine Warren at work on the Smurl case
The occurrences returned and their intensity was magnified.  In the book The Haunted Jack tells how he was raped by a succubus who appeared as a woman with a young body but the head of an old woman with red eyes and green gums.  Janet was also sexually assaulted by a shadow figure.  Pig noises were heard throughout the house.  Demonologists insist pig noises are often associated with demonic activity, probably relating to the story in the book of Matthew wherein Jesus casts demons into a herd of swine and drown them. 

Medium Mary Alice Rinkman came to the house.  Her reading corroborated that of Frueh, saying she felt there were 4 spirits in the house; a woman named Abigail, a man named Patrick who had killed his wife and her lover and then been hanged by a mob, another earthbound spirit, and a powerful demon. 

The intensity of the activity continued to increase.  The demon followed Jack to work and followed the family on a camping trip.  After being turned down by the Catholic Church for a sanctioned exorcism they sought media attention in hopes of finding help.  They went on a local talk show and told their story, although their faces weren’t shown.  It seemed the demon didn’t like this.  Immediately upon returning home Janet was picked up and thrown into the wall.  Later that night Jack says saw a figure that resembled a pig standing up on two legs and was raped again.  Now I’ve been subjective in telling this story up to this point.  However, I must pause here.  Would the small possibility of making some money off the story entice a man to claim he had been repeatedly raped by a ghost?  Or was the activity in this house THAT severe.  Are these claims so outrageous that one couldn’t make them up?  As I said before, since I wasn’t there I will never know.  Now on with the tale.

The shadow figure appeared to Jack, beckoning him to join it.  Ed Warren feared the family had been in the second stage of possession, oppression, and the figure was trying to lure Jack into the third stage, actual possession.  The final stage is death.

The media attention seemed to help and eventually the Catholic Church sanctioned the participation of clergy.  Father McKenna returned and performed a third exorcism.    The activity would die down then pick back up.  Frustrated, the family moved to another town.  After they left a fourth exorcism was performed and no further activity has been reported by subsequent owners.  A film version of The Haunted was released in 1991.

While the scientific world is hesitant and often scoffs at claims of the paranormal, the entertainment industry loves them.  “The Conjuring,” a film about Ed and Loraine Warren comes out this July.  For any readers who are Walking Dead fans, the film version of the Smurl story stars, Jeffrey DeMunn as Jack Smurl.  DeMunn was also Dale Horvath for two seasons on A&E’s The Walking Dead.  Janet Smurl is played by Sally Kirkland who appeared on television as Dr. House's mom and as Senator Ruth Martin in The Silence of the Lambs.

DeMunn and Kirkland in 1991's "The Haunted"