Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson are two guys who spend their days working for Roto-Rooter installing toilets and fixing pipes, and at night head out all around the East Coast (and now further, venturing west to California in this sixth season) of these here United States either proving or, just as frequently, disproving evidence of paranormal activity. This unlikely hit has done good things for SyFy, proving to be one of their longest lasting and more popular original series, which just goes to show that there are a lot of people out there with an interest in this type of material. There have been a couple of spin-offs so far (Ghost Hunters International and Ghost Hunters Academy) and more than a few rip offs on other channels, but the original is still the most popular thanks to its interesting mix of supernatural sleuthing and the regular (and very likeable) cast members who make up the investigative team.
At any rate, Jason and Grant formed TAPS - The Atlantic Paranormal Society - a group that specializes in using high tech equipment, with a deft blend of common sense, experience, education and speculation to figure out what some people consider to be actual hauntings. Once again, Ghost Hunters Season Six Part One gives them a chance to, with cameras rolling, do their thing and the results as interesting as usual. Grant and Jason aren't the only members of the team, however. There's a heavily tattooed ex-cop named Steve who helps out with the cameras, a technical expert named Dave Tango, and a few other experts out to lend a helping hand.
The series has been airing on Sci-Fi/SyFy for the better part of a half a decade at this point, but Jason and Grant still manage to find a lot of interesting places to investigate. Not every investigation produces chillingly eerie results, which is what makes this series more believable the countless other ghost shows that have swarmed the airwaves in its wake. This first half of the show's sixth season, however, has some pretty good episodes. Here's a look:
Alcatraz: The two hour season premiere and the one hundredth episode of the series found the TAPS team investigating their most notorious location yet, the island prison of Alcatraz off the coast of San Francisco. It's a solid episode with some interesting discoveries but it didn't quite live up to all of the hype that surrounded it.
Fort Ticonderoga: This second episode of the season brings the team back east where they explore this old fort in New York State. We're treated to some interesting history of the location before the investigation starts, which is always appreciated, and the TAPS team set out to investigate the legitimacy of the claims that the location is haunted by soldiers who may have died there years and years ago.
Shamrock Spirits: From there, the team heads south into New York City to explore Paddy O'Reilly's Pub on 5th Avenue and 29th Street where various people claim to have seen ghosts, one of which supposedly looks like Gene Hackman and another of which enjoys using an exercise bike. The second half of the episode brings them to the other side of the tri-state area to investigate Harriet Beecher Stowe's residence. As she was a spiritualist in her later days, they have high hopes for this investigation - but neither turn up all that much evidence.
Spirits Of New Jersey: The team heads east to check out the Absecon Lighthouse which is located very close to the casinos in Atlantic City. Unfortunately foul weather makes this investigation difficult but they do catch some interesting anomalies on video. From there they head down the coastline to Asbury Park where they explore the home of Stephen Crane, the author of The Red Badge Of Courage.
Touched By Evil: The New Jersey explorations continue when the TAPS team goes to investigate Southern Mansion in Cape May. Built in 1863, this is one of the better known haunts in the state and quite an impressive and beautiful buildings in its own right. That said, the history of the family who built it seems to not want to let go.
Haunted Reform School: The best episode in the set is this one that brings TAPS back to California to investigate the massive Preston Castle in the town of Ione. A story exists that one of the housekeepers was murdered in the basement in the laundry area and that her spirit, and many others, are still hanging around this building, abandoned for decades but now being restored. TAPS manages to get some interesting stuff both on video and on EVP here, and there are times where you can tell that the investigators are starting to get legitimately weirded out by some of what happens.
Ghosts In The Attic: This episode takes the team to Plymouth County, Massachusetts where the investigate the paranormal activities going on in the Grzelak residence where spiritual encounters have been common place but recently taken a turn towards the nasty. After that, they head back to New Jersey to check out a bar in Mine Hill which is located in a building built in the early nineteenth century in which employees and guests alike see things they cannot explain.
Inn Of The Dead: This episode brings TAPS back to Massachusetts to explore the Orleans Inn in the town or Orleans. Here a few different spirits supposedly keep things interesting in this historic building. A trio of deaths on the premises over the years - a suicide, a murder, and one that could be either - have resulted in a long history of ghostly encounters in this classic Cape Cod structure.
Spirits Of The Night: TAPS sticks it out in Massachusetts to investigate the Scully residence in Bellingham where the parents of a young boy claim he's told them that the ghosts of some young children appear to play with him. Others have seen and heard things in the room, like footsteps upstairs when no one is home and shadows on the stairways. The investigation is an interesting one, with some rather eerie video footage of a child's toy stroller moving at one point - but attentive viewers will notice that not all of the stroller is in the shot so put as much stock in that as you personally see fit.
Norwich State: The coolest location of the set is this abandoned mental hospital in Norwich, Connecticut, long a popular destination for 'urban explorer' types and reportedly a very active location as far as paranormal activity goes. While more history of the location would have been welcome the TAPS team does venture down into the tunnels and through a few of the long abandoned structures that make up the hospital. The team gets some interesting result and again, you can tell in a few shots that they are starting to get freaked out - but they really should have made this a two-parter. It's such a huge structure that they could have done a lot more than they did here.
Haunted Hotel: The Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, New York is next on the list. TAPS shows up to explore this massive hotel that's been in the same family for generations and where supposedly a woman had a piece of molding ripped off of the wall and thrown at her by an unseen force. Other guests claim to have seen lights bouncing around in dark rooms and other strange behavior. Neat location, mediocre results, but a decent enough episode as much for what it disproves.
America's First Zoo: Last but not least, the Philadelphia Zoo hosts the team overnight for an interesting investigation. There's not really any interest in or interaction with the animals here but instead the team focuses on the tunnels and historic buildings where various employees and guests claim to have seen things that cannot be easily explained. The team gets some interesting thermal camera images and finds a few cold spots but the evidence here isn't presented as well as it could have been.
Overall, fans know what to expect here while those not impressed with the series won't find anything new to convince them to change their minds. The series is interesting though edited a little too heavily, and with more focus on the investigation rather than the results of the investigations. This is fine as it is probably what most viewers want out of the show but for those looking for a little more 'proof' it can sometimes be frustrating. Where the show succeeds is in its case of likeable team members and in its entertainment factor. Like every other reality TV show on the planet, we have no way of knowing what happens behind the camera to staging is possible, but if you can get past that and suspend your disbelief, you can have a lot of good spooky fun with this series.
Each of the twelve episodes that make up this set are presented in their original 1.78.1 widescreen aspect ratio in AVC encoded 1080i high definition. If you've seen the show on SyFy in HD then you more or less know what to expect here. The transfers improve on previous standard definition offerings in terms of showing more detail and less compression but the night vision footage still looks like night vision footage. This isn't the type of series that sees a huge upgrade when moved over to HD, but it does see some improvement in terms of detail, color reproduction and stronger black levels.
The packaging states that the audio for this release is Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo but it shows up as LPCM 2.0 Stereo. There are no alternate language tracks nor are there any subtitles, which is a shame as a lot of the investigation footage features the cast members whispering at times and they'd have come in handy for that reason. Regardless, most of the dialogue is pretty clear and there's some goof left to right channel separation up front.
Each of the three discs contains a static menu that offers episode selection, but there are no actual supplements here at all - this one is barebones, kids!
Ghost Hunters - Season Six, Part One could and should have had some extra features, but there's no use crying over spilt milk. The A/V presentation is better than standard definition DVD can offer, but you're not going to be buying this for a picture perfect high resolution transfer or a bombastic multichannel surround mix, it's not that kind of show. The content here is good, and while it won't sway those who don't already enjoy the series, for fans of the show this set comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.