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The Ghost Hunters Effect: Oprah-esque Boon for Non-Profits

Image from stock.xchng; Created by Gabriella Fabbri
Image from stock.xchng; Created by Gabriella Fabbri

Are you familiar with something called “The Oprah Effect?” I’m not sure who coined the term, but CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla explored “how she turns no names into brand names.” I believe Syfy’s Ghost Hunters is having a similar effect, except not so much on no names as non-profits.

More and more I’m running across museums and historic sites offering ghost tours or ghost hunting tours in addition to their regular tours. This is just a sampling of some of them:

It’s not like the ghost stories or reports of paranormal activity at these places are new. It’s just that rather than dismissing them as curiosity (or hushing them up for fear it’ll scare away visitors), these days non-profits and other businesses are realizing it’s fashionable (not to mention economically feasible) to embrace  their haunted histories.

Which they’d be wise to do. Ghost Hunters is a hit show. It’s gotten a lot of people interested in the paranormal and investigating. If a non-profit can bring in visitors and make money off it at the same time, it’s almost silly not to!

“But are they really bringing in more money?” you may be wondering.

I came across two stories in the past week that seem to suggest they do.

For example, Cyndi Pauwels, spokeswoman for the Museum at the Friends House, said in “Learn how to be a ghost hunter” by Justin McClelland of Dayton Daily News, “The Ghostly History Walking Tour has been one of the biggest fund-raisers for the Museum. This is a chance for fans of the tour to try and spot their own ghosts.”

Similarly, Janice Kissinger, chief executive officer of Slater Mill (which was also featured on an episode of Ghost Hunters) noted in “Pawtucket’s Slater Mill offers ‘ghost hunting’ tour” by John Hill of the Providence Journal, “They get 30 per group, and it often sells out…”

Sells out? Impressive. How many non-profits can say that about other programs they offer?

The Providence Journal article also went on to state:

The ghost tours are part of a strategy Kissinger called “affinity marketing,” where Slater Mill tries to attract people with particular interests by focusing on different aspects of the mill and its history.

Programs on quilts are aimed at crafters; the grounds’ gardens lure backyard gardeners. The number of people interested in the paranormal is “huge, huge,” she said. And besides, by having the tours twice nightly, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 7, they draw people, and revenue, at a time that the mills aren’t normally being used.

When you get right down to it, that’s smart marketing.

If you’re a Ghost Hunters fan, you might recognize that the TAPS team has even visited a few of the locations I listed above. Not all of them are non-profits, but I’m willing to bet they’ve experienced a boon from the Ghost Hunters effect nonetheless. (The Sorrell-Weed House unabashedly advertises the fact Ghost Hunters investigated there to promote their ghost hunt. If it wasn’t bringing in business, they wouldn’t do that.)

Perhaps some forward-thinking non-profits were doing it long before Ghost Hunters made it popular, but offering ghost hunting is a win-win for everyone really. And for non-profits struggling to draw in visitors, perhaps they should consider adding a ghost tour or ghost hunt to their line-up. They just may find themselves benefiting from the Ghost Hunters Effect too.

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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5 thoughts on “The Ghost Hunters Effect: Oprah-esque Boon for Non-Profits

  1. Fantastic post! Yes! Yes! Yes! I know some places about to go under embraced their haunted aspects and were able to stay above water. I’d encourage lots of historic sites that want to refurbish, should consider tours to make money for renovations that are much needed. Historic tours (a staple of Virginia where I grew up) are steady but weak with generations that aren’t into history until they’re much older. Bringing in money and getting an interest in history means opening up graveyards to teach grave rubbings and talk about symbolism and traditions for burials, as well as educating the young the respect cemeteries deserve, as well as tours of historic sites and stays in abandoned jails can help to make money for other historic endeavors. I know of a mental hospital with a very old long abandoned building that they want to renovate into a mental health museum which they could make if they’d open it up for ghost tours for a few months easily. I was never really interested in history until I started ghost hunting and they go hand-in-hand. When a place has a history that might contribute, I want to learn about it. When I learn about it, I appreciate it. Now, I understand how history has to do with our present and our future. A younger generation could learn that too without having to reach retirement age to appreciate what went before us.

  2. Gosh, thanks, Autumnforest! I agree with you…until you can find a way to get people to connect with history, it’s hard to get them excited about it. I’ve always loved exploring older places, but it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I really started understanding and appreciating the history that went down in those places. And I have to admit the thought of the history lingering in the form of ghosts just enhances it all. I sure hope that mental hospital you wrote about one day opens up that abandoned building for ghost hunts/tours. Or even if they turned it into a Halloween haunted house…it’s really pretty easy to make some mula for their renovations any of those ways. Thanks so much for your insightful comments once again!

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