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Haunted or Hype?

I’ve been talking about this for a few weeks now. Or at least hinting at it here and there on my blog and in comments I’ve left on other people’s blogs. But today I’m finally going to start my “Haunted or Hype?” series.


Back in October, Donna Marsh (Nashville Ghost & Hauntings Examiner and founding member of the American Paranormal Society) held an open house for APS. I was late getting there, but managed to attend the back half of her presentation.

One of her favorite stories to share is about the Bell Witch Cave. (In fact, she wrote about The Bell Witch on her blog not too long ago.) During her open house presentation she brought up how she’s no longer welcome on the property of the people who run the Bell Witch Cave.

See, she debunked one of their apparitions. They tell people taking tours to have their cameras ready when the first enter the cave. They claim people often capture apparitions then.

Donna analyzed some of the alleged apparition photos and was even able to recreate a few. As she explains it, when you first walk in the cave and the hot of your breath meets the cold of the cave, a mist forms. Conveniently it’s right in front of your face and camera and voilà…an apparition!

Well, the owners of the Bell Witch cave didn’t take kindly to her putting the kibosh on their fun. Tours of their cave are their major source of income after all. (Didn’t help that she also pointed out that the witch was only associated with the Bell home, not the cave. They don’t like people thinking too hard about that.)

Anyway, that story planted the seed. As much as I love finding a Haunt Jaunt (and the story of the Bell Witch is as fascinating as they come), I also don’t like to be played.

If there’s a disclaimer, that’s fine. (Like a “Please be advised” kind of warning.) But to purposely try to snooker anyone? Not cool. Especially when money’s involved.

It brought to mind the Ghost Hunters episode of the Moss Beach Distillery.


If you don’t recall the Moss Beach Distillery investigation, I suggest reading The Skeptical Viewer’s post about it.

But for a quickie refresher, maybe this will spark some memories: the restaurant was rigged with FX. Women’s laughter every time the door to the ladies room was open. A hollowed out space behind a mirror with a light to make it look like a face was staring out from the mirror. Ceiling lights rigged on a pneumatic device to make them move.

Jason and Grant found them all and were not happy.

When I watched the episode, I thought, “What idiots those owners are! Don’t they know they’re going to be exposed like this?”

I had continued to think that until just recently, when I sent a request to HARO about hyped up haunted places, like the Moss Beach Distillery. I got a lot of responses, but the most interesting was from Loyd Auerbach.


Mr. Auerbach himself has investigated the restaurant. He informed me the producers did know about the effects. Jason and Grant claimed not to. Which means either they’re lying or the producers didn’t tell them. (Mr. Auerbach said he gives Jason and Grant the benefit of the doubt and suspects it’s the latter.) Here’s part of what he had to say:

The GHOST HUNTERS episode, the producers and the TAPS team did a great disservice to the restaurant. The producers absolutely knew about the effects, which are widely known to exist (and have been featured in local and national TV and newspaper stories). In fact, besides my own conversation with one of the producers, I know that the local TAPS family group in Sacramento that referred the producers to the place to begin with spoke with them about the effects.

In 1998, when the effects were activated, I took part in a press/media party to show them off, and then wrote an article on them for a national magazine (FATE).

He also went on to say:

…the Distillery makes no money from their effects or even directly from the ghost/haunting. They get publicity which brings in additional customers, but the success/failure of the place totally depends on food and beverage sales. The effects were put in to give the place a little more atmosphere and remind people of the haunting, for fun not anything serious.

Some kind of info to digest, huh?


I intend for “Haunted or Hype?” to be an ongoing series examining whether certain paranormal hot spots are in fact haunted, hyped, or perhaps a combo of both.

That way, if you choose to jaunt to them, you’ll know what to expect beforehand.

the Distillery makes no money from their effects or even directly from the ghost/haunting. They get publicity which brings in additional customers, but the success/failure of the place totally depends on food and beverage sales. The effects were put in to give the place a little more atmosphere and remind people of the haunting, for fun not anything serious.

Courtney Mroch
Courtney Mroch, otherwise known as HJ's Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism, is an author, traveler, and ghost enthusiast. When she's not writing, jaunting, or planning her next trip, it's a safe bet you'll find her in one of three places: on a tennis court somewhere, on a yoga mat somewhere, or watching a horror movie somewhere. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

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3 thoughts on “Haunted or Hype?

  1. Fantastic post–as always! I have to admit that Amityville was probably the first time a “famous” money making haunting got debunked. I’m glad people are skeptical. That debunking of the cave was brilliant. In researching it, I found out they claim there was Native American burial ground above the cave, but there’s no proof of it. Caves in and of themselves are creepy. It’s like going into a big old castle. It just HAS to be haunted, right? Well, people make money off that. GH really disappointed me with the distillery show because even the most beginner ghost hunter has heard of that restaurant and its rigged stuff. It’s something talked about often. There’s no way they blindly went to a location without looking it up. If you look it up, you find out all about its rigging. I’m sure the producers were the ones pushing that just to show something different and give the team more legitimacy. Honestly, if Jason hadn’t known about it, he would have probably rung the guy’s neck right there. They let him off way way too easy for how embarrassing that would have been. I’m sure J&G weren’t happy to do that episode, but sometimes it’s like having proud parents that want to dress you in a dorky sweater for the Xmas photo, you just do it and get it over with. Thanks for the fun post! You made great points!

  2. Wow! Thanks for all these nice comments! And pointing out that caves ARE creepy by nature…but creepy by itself does not haunted make! One of these days, like 20 years down the road when the do a GH reunion show or some such, I wonder if J&G will ever fess up that they did or did not know ahead of time about the FXs in the MBD? (You got me wondering that with your “ringing his neck” comment. He was ticked, but not as ticked as you would’ve expected…you are correct!)

    Until that show I had never heard of that place, but I’ve certainly never forgotten it since! (Oh, and LOL about the Christmas sweater comment…there you go again, you funny girl you! Love your wittiness!)

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