My latest guilty pleasure is the cryptid-hunting ‘reality’ show, Mountain Monsters, that can be seen on both the History Channel and Destination America. Every time I turn it on, I just picture myself on a log cabin’s front porch with a bunch of good old boys, sipping fire water and spinning yarns. These proclaimed Sons of West Virginia travel the Appalachians searching for mythical beasts and deadly creatures of yore hiding in the dense forests and mountains.
Do I believe they’re really hot on the trail of actual cryptids, from the Mothman to the Hogzilla of Hocking Hills and Fire Dragon of Pocahontas County? Hello no! Is there even the slightest chance I think any of the filmed evidence that they or their eyewitnesses present are anything but CGI, smoke and mirrors? Not a chance. Truth be told, I don’t need to know the truth. When I watch Mountain Monsters, I just want to be entertained, and on that level, they deliver.
I’ve written about America’s newfound fascination with hillbillys and reality TV. Mountain Monster is just another entry in a growing video library of redneck home cooking.
So, what makes this show work? Well, for me, I get to discover a host of new monsters supposedly roaming our land. I may be a New Yorker but I’m a freaking monster addict. Even I never heard of the Kentucky Hellhound (and I have relatives in Kentucky) or Ohio Grass Man (another take on Bigfoot). Gvie me a monter and you have my attention.
The cast is downright amusing. These are good old boys of the highest order. I get beard envy every time I watch. Wild Bill is the standout for me. He mumbles better than Boomhauer from King of the Hill and looks capable of wrestling a Bigfoot to the mat. Dude is 50 shades of loco. I worry about portly Buck having a stroke running through the woods in the dead of night. Willy, who could be Rob Zombie’s demented uncle, builds homegrown traps that look straight out of Wile E Coyote’s playbook. Trapper is the elder statesman and leader with hulking Huckleberry as his muscle and FLIR camera wielding Jeff the brains (when he’s not playing Santa Claus). Scareist of all, these boys all carry some big ass guns and aren’t afraid to pull the trigger. With all their running around in the dark, I hope they’re shooting blanks. Plus, I want my Sheepsquatch alive, dammit!
There is not an ounce of skepticism in the bunch. If they see bones, hell, a wolfman must be feeding on cattle. When they zero in on a monster, everything they see has to be related to that monster. It reminds me of when my friends and I were kids, searching for creatures we made up and convinced ourselves lived around the reservoir by my house.
My advice to you. Suspend belief, kick back with the cocktail of your choice, and just have some fun. Want to take your fun up to a whole ‘nother level? I have a drinking game for you. Take a shot of your favorite beverage every time you hear the word ‘sumbitch’ or when Wild Bill grunts ‘huh’. You’ll be crawling on your hands and knees by the end of the show.
And tell me what you think of the show. Guns up or down?
Are you a fan of PARANORMAL LOCKDOWN? Want to find out more about Katrina Weidman? You’ve come to the right place!
Back in 2010, I was lucky enough to interview Katrina for a magazine that, unfortunately, fell on hard times, so the interview was never published.
For those of you who don’t know Katrina, she is a Penn State graduate with a dual degree in Integrative Arts. Katrina was born and raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She joined PRS in 2006 along with Heather and became the team’s interviewer as well as an investigator. When Dead Time comes around (Dead Time begins at 3 a.m., when spirit activity is purported to be at its most potent), you can be sure Katrina will be sitting vigil, calling out to any spirits in the room, inviting them to make a noise or touch her hand, with nothing but her Katrina Cam for company. In those moments, we see that Katrina isn’t Superwoman. She’s just the same as we would be in her shoes; curious, cautious, often times brave and sometimes scared. The search for proof of the paranormal trumps any trepidation she may have and viewers quietly cheer Katrina and the team on while vacillating between wishing they were there, exploring the unknown, and being quite content to watch from the safety of their familiar couch.
HS : Is there any specific event from your past that sparked your interest in the paranormal?
KW : Yes! The first house I lived in (from the time I was born until age 6) had a lot of activity in it. I was very young at the time so all I remember was being scared to death to be left alone upstairs or in my bedroom. I have an older sister and I would constantly follow her downstairs. Even though we had our own rooms I fought to sleep in her bed.
My sister remembers a lot her experiences from that house. She used to see a man walk into the bathroom at night. According to her, this happened on several occasions. She also remembers seeing a little girl sitting on my bed. Assuming it was me, she thought nothing of it, until she got to the bottom of the stairs and I was sitting there putting together a puzzle. I actually remember this day, too. I was putting together a Winnie the Pooh puzzle and I remember my sister saying, “How did you do that!?” I obviously answered, “Do what?” Of course this went back and forth for some time until we realized that I couldn’t possibly have been in both places at once. Looking back at it, my sister does remember that there was something very “odd” about this little girl, although she could never put her finger on it. The next two families after that also experienced similar activity, all very childlike, and one of the last reports out of that house is a guest seeing a man walk down the attic stairs and disappear.
HS : Can you describe your first paranormal investigation and the feelings you experienced? Do you remember how it turned out?
KW : I remember it was mid-November 2006. I actually joined the investigation a day late because I was at a wedding the night before in Philadelphia. The team and I were investigating a house in between State College and Pittsburgh, PA. We named it “The Dark Man”. I remember feeling really shy, which if you know me, is NOT me at all! I was pretty quiet on that case as I had just met everyone, except Heather (my partner in crime). There was a crew of about twenty people, again, all of who I just met, and cameras were in my face the duration of the investigation. It was, to say the least, a little intimidating. I remember just wanting to do a good job. This is something I had always wanted to do and I just wanted to learn everything I could! The house felt uneasy. I’m not sure what was there, but if we’re labeling things I would say it was HAUNTED!
Heather and Eilfie shared the bed in the master bedroom and I was on the couch right next to the bed. I felt fine, until everyone started to fall asleep. I kept telling myself, “Even if you have to pee, you’re laying here!” I did not want to get up in the middle of the night in that house, that’s for sure! Evidence-wise, our crew had all their batteries drain consistently and they had numerous other problems with their equipment. We had a flashlight explode and overall everyone just had a very creepy feeling being there. I remember leaving and feeling really good about the work we had done. Helen, the client, had completely welcomed us into her home and treated us like family by the time we left. That is something I’ll never forget.
HS : Are there any special preparations you and the team make, whether physical, spiritual or emotional, before you enter a location or Dead Time that we don’t see on TV?
KW : I’m sure we all have something we do. Everyone is pretty private about it, though. For me, I just tell myself, “You can do this, don’t get scared”, because I still get scared from time to time. If I’m really scared I just ask for my brother to watch over me.
HS : You really do a great job interviewing children on a topic that I’m sure is frightening and confusing to them. They seem very at ease with you. How does your approach to interviewing children differ from that of interviewing adults?
KW : With children, you really need to take your time. It’s not something you can get done in ten minutes. You have to play with them, show them you’re fun and befriend them. We usually go to their bedroom because they feel the most comfortable and “at home” there and I ask them what kind of game(s) they want to play. Kids get bored if you ask them question after question after question. So we’ll play a game, then I’ll ask some questions, then play another game, then I’ll ask some more questions. I’ve never had to play a game with an adult client to get them to feel more at ease, but sometimes I wonder if it would help the process, just a little.
HS : Have you ever been frightened on a case (especially when it’s just you and your trusty “Katrina Cam” in a dark room)? If so, can you name an incident that frightened or, perhaps better, unsettled you the most? How do you cope with fear of the unknown?
KW : Yes! It was during the season four opener “Suicide Spirits”. Heather and I were in the kitchen after just hearing footsteps from above moments before, and we heard the basement door, which was just a few feet away, start to POUND, almost like someone was on the other side trying to kick it in. We ran! Our first thought was “someone broke into the house”. I don’t think I have ever held onto someone as tightly as I did that night! We took a few minutes and calmed ourselves down. After the initial fear and shock wore off, we remembered, “we are investigators and we have a job to do” so we went back in and checked it out. That’s usually what I say to myself whenever I do get scared, “you’re an investigator”, and I think about all the women out there who do this and that in some way I’m representing them and I’m not going to represent them by running out of a room with flailing arms screaming!
HS : With PRS, you have Eilfie on board as your resident demonologist. Do you feel all ghost hunting groups should have one as well, or at least someone they can contact in instances of a possible demonic haunting? In your experience, how often have you come across demonic entities?
KW : Eilfie is more of our resident Occultist. Whenever we do run into a darker haunting we usually consult with Lorraine Warren because she has worked on darker cases for the last forty some years. I do think it’s a good idea for teams to have specialists they can call on. Not just demonologists though, electricians, psychologists, doctors, etc. It’s always good to have people on hand that you trust because you may think you know how a case is going to go, but that can change quickly once you step into the field.
HS : What was your favorite investigation?
KW : My Favorite investigation was probably the “Pet Cemetery”, which aired during season one. I think it’s because if we got that case now, we probably wouldn’t even give it a second glance. The biggest thing the clients were claiming was that their dog was acting weird and that two previous dogs were hit by cars. Obviously, that stuff is pretty easy to explain away. There are a thousand different reasons why a dog would start acting different. Unbeknown to us at the time, there was actually something to it. Every owner of that house since the 1960s had a dog go haywire while living there, a complete personality change, then the dog would run out into the middle of the street and get hit by a car. This is a little town in Maine. Maybe ten cars travel on it per day, tops. The odds of four or five dogs getting hit by a car seemed pretty slim. Then low and behold, we find out a previous owner used to beat and kill dogs, for fun apparently. That was our AHA moment! I love this case because it showed us a thing or two, that even if it sounds outlandish or completely explainable, it just might not be. Never assume anything in this field.
HS : We all know that not every case reveals a haunting. How many investigations do you film for Paranormal State compared to the number that actually make it to air?
KW : We get asked this a lot. Every case we do is filmed and every case makes it to air. PRS has been an organization since 2001 and there were many cases that they investigated before the show came along, but since the show started everything has graced the screen. We are looking to do private investigations again. We all feel very strongly about that, however, with our schedule, it’s been hard to find the time to take on a private investigation. But it is something we’re working towards.
HS : Do you ever worry about “brining your work home” with you and finding you now have a haunting that’s attached itself to you?
KW : It’s really not something I’ve thought of or was concerned about. I did, however, have an experience after an investigation in Kentucky where I know something attached itself to me. Back home, I noticed that I had unconsciously changed my habits, like I wasn’t singing in the house…I normally to love to sing. I felt that someone was watching me and even heard breathing close to my ear a couple of times. I spoke to Ryan about it and he said not to give in to my fear because that would only give strength to whatever had found its way into my house. Thankfully, after 3 months, it eventually stopped and things went back to normal.
HS : Does filming during an investigation make it harder or easier to do your job?
KW : There have been times where it’s been harder. When you want to go investigate or talk to someone, you have to wait for the cameras. We haven’t always been great at that, but I think we’re pretty used to it now and it comes as second nature at this point. The only problem is when we run into people (witnesses or potential clients) who won’t appear on camera because they’re worried about how other people (the audience) will look at them. We have lost potential cases because of this. We also get the people who are just looking to be on TV, but we weed through them pretty quickly.
HS : I see PRS is now breaking from the Penn State campus and will become a national organization, yet the campus paranormal club will remain. Can you explain what that means for PRS?
KW : As of right now we are officially broken from Penn State. This is just because none of us are students and it was time to “stand on our own” if you will. At this point there is no longer a student club in existence, but there are students working to get the club up and running again.
HS : Are there any special haunted places you’d like PRS to visit in the future? What would be your dream investigation?
KW : I’d love to check out Waverly Hills, I’ve had so many investigators tell me crazy experiences they’ve had and I’ve seen some amazing evidence come out of there. My dream investigation though would be to investigate the house I grew up in. I’d like to finally have answers as to who or what was there.
HS : PRS seems to be a really tight knit family. Like any family, I’m sure you all have your ups and downs. How has it been working with Ryan, Sergey, Eilfie and Heather (just to name a few)? Who would you say you’re closest to?
KW : We definitely have our ups and downs. We have our arguments and our agreements, but we always manage to work everything out and come to a common ground, which is a key foundation in any relationship. I’d have to say I’m the closest to Heather. I think it’s because Heather and I went through training together, we were the newbies of the group, and Heather and I have a lot in common. I actually met her at my second meeting in PRS and we talked afterwards for a while. So we were becoming fast friends before we were picked for the team. Typical girls, what we both remember about each other the first time we met is each other’s shoes and how much we liked them.
HS : What’s next for you? Do you plan to stay with PRS and Paranormal State?
KW : Since I graduated I underwent training to become a crisis counselor and for the last two years I have been volunteering at a crisis centre. I definitely can’t wait to return to acting, music, writing, etc., but I don’t think I’ll ever leave the paranormal. It really is a passion and part of my roots. Every time I try to take a break from it I find myself picking up a book on ghosts, or doing research on UFOs, or telling a perfect stranger a ghost story with them giving me that, “she’s crazy” look. Being an investigator has been a great outlet to explore my passion for this field and given me the opportunity to meet and work with people who, just like me, want answers.
In the mood for a ghost story? How about a chilling tale of what happens when you hunt for ghosts…and they hunt back!
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