Dark Matters: the wonderful TAPS
Who you gonna call..?
A few years ago, I discovered the TAPS or The Atlantic Paranormal Society while watching a Sky television channel. They were and are a group of ordinary people who try to uncover the reality behind alleged hauntings. Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, a pair of plumbers who were sometimes called out by distressed members of the public to investigate the eerie sounds often caused by malfunctioning ductwork, founded and still lead the group. Gradually, Jason and Grant began to seek the help of other technicians, most notably Dave Tango and Steve Gonsalves, technicians able to operate equipment designed to detect the kind of atmospheric changes that seemed prerequisite to strange happenings.
Night after night, I followed the adventures of Jason, Grant and other TAPS members on their excursions into old warehouses, derelict hospitals, crumbling theatres and the homes of very ordinary families. Most “symptoms” were mysterious tappings and other sounds, doors, furniture and other household items that seemed able to move by themselves and just plain feelings of unease on the part of the "haunted" people. Unsurprisingly, the majority of clients were suffering from little more than faulty plumbing and electrical wiring, ill-fitting furniture and loose floorboards and, of course, plain anxiety. Every so often, however, TAPS happened on a phenomenon that they could not explain in any logical way.
When I tuned in to this season’s Ghosthunters series on Really television channel (UK broadcast area) I was overjoyed to see “the boys” at work again, Jason and Grant, Dave and Steve, now in company with investigators Joe Chin and Britt Griffith, Kris Williams and Ami Bruni. I was also touched to see that though the technical equipment they use has become rather more sophisticated, their investigation method has remained largely unchanged since when I first discovered them.
What happens is this. The office gets a message, usually an email, from a troubled party. A member of the group probes the query for authenticity and either Jason or Grant decides if the problem is suitable for investigation. A group leader with other investigators and equipment in tow sets out to meet the troubled party. This is usually a business or homeowner whose life is being continually disrupted by unexplained happenings. At the initial meeting, he or she explains the exact nature of the problem. The troubled individual, family or group of workers tend to hear noises, see shadows or lights, and are bothered by unexplained misplacement of personal possessions. There are often instances of doors opening and shutting themselves, and unseen agents that have even touched people. One pattern that Jason has noticed from interviewing people is that the renovation of a building often “stirs up activity.”
When the TAPS members agree to investigate, they set up their equipment; cameras, voice recorders, thermal image recorders and electromagnetic field detectors in various areas of the building. At this point, you would think the group members would leave their “stuff” to get on and do the heavy work, but no. Jason, Grant and the other members insist upon accompanying their cameras and registers for a fair portion of the time.
Here, I must point out that Jason and Grant have been investigating for over twenty years. They have gained considerable experience of the strange tricks that atmospheric, old buildings can play upon the senses. They know the sounds that bats in the belfry and rats under the floorboards, can make. They know that a mere speck of dust floating past a camera lens can appear as a “mysterious globe of light” on a film montage.
They usually investigate at night, not for special effects, but because this is when the majority of happenings occur. The group splits into pairs, and each pair goes to a strategic part of the building. Throughout the investigation, they stay in radio contact, reporting anything unusual. This reporting is in addition to the “background” information gathering by the recording equipment. Eventually, usually after a few hours, the group leader decides that that the investigation is “complete” and the team members pack up their equipment and return to base.
The next part of the investigation is the analysis. Technicians, often Dave Tango and Steve Gonsalves, spend many hours analysing all of the film footage and sound recordings, unusual happenings like batteries dying during the investigation, sudden changes in temperature, extraordinary magnetic activity and significant patterns on the thermal image recorders. Incidentally, batteries of electronic equipment often do die suddenly on investigations. Jason has put forward the theory many times over that “entities” need energy as much as humans do to operate and have developed the ability to extract power from batteries.
The final part of the investigation is the reveal, where members of the team return to the client and make a presentation of their findings. This is the part that I love because, quite simply, the group members tell the truth. They go through all the phenomena reported originally by the client, explaining that, for example, a door that keeps opening by itself may be caused by an ill-fitting doorframe, while feelings of unease and of “being watched” are often an indicator of electromagnetic activity that can be the result of faulty electrical wiring. Every so often, however, the investigators do find unexplained happenings – film or thermal images, sounds on magnetic tape – compatible with what the client has reported earlier. It is here that TAPS recommends or not that the client seeks the help of a psychic.
It is important to point out that TAPS are not psychics, that the team members can only recommend clients seek further help from other people. Over the years, TAPS has grown into an umbrella organisation that other paranormal groups can join. Their stringent joining conditions are laid out on the TAPS website, along with information for people seeking their help. In the current series of Ghosthunters, the team is being not only called upon to investigate unexplained happenings but to establish “celebrity” hauntings and ghost sightings. For example, in a recent episode the team paid a visit to the house of Dr. Samuel Mudd, the doctor that John Wilkes Booth fled to after his shooting of Abraham Lincoln. During the investigation, the thermal imager picked up what looked like the outline of a woman in a dress and bonnet flitting past. Needless to say, there was no such party present, at least, not in human form.
I have watched the work of TAPS so often that I feel I have gotten to know the boys and girls, and wish I had reason to call on them. Unfortunately, I live in a non-haunted, perfectly peaceful house.
Ghosthunters, Really television channel, 8pm Thursday evenings, UK broadcast area.