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Houghton Mansion

Transcript 2-8-07

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Spirits beware
'Ghost Hunters' coming to North Adams
Three of the stars of Sci-Fi Channel's 'Ghosthunters' show are coming to investigate the reportedly haunted Masonic Temple in North Adams in March, and again in April. Photo by Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript

Thursday, February 8
NORTH ADAMS — You've seen them on the Sci-Fi channel's hit show, "Ghost Hunters" — now the show's stars are offering a chance to ghost hunt with them right here.

Three members of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) — founders Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson and team technical manager Steve Gonsalves — will be investigating the former Houghton Mansion on Church Street, not once but twice in the coming months.

Tickets for a weekend in March are sold out, but fans will have another crack at joining the team of paranormal investigators for a weekend in April when tickets go on sale Friday. Tickets and itinerary of events for April 13 to 15 will be available at www.idealevent manage.com.

"We've spent the last two years building up the reputation of the house and, now, it's getting national recognition," said Joshua Mantello, founder of Berkshire Paranormal, which is hosting the event. "It's going to be great for us and for the house. A portion of the proceeds will go toward the restoration of the house."

Mantello, along with several family members, formed Berkshire Paranormal about three years ago and have since conducted a series of investigations at the Masonic Temple, which was once home to the city's first mayor, Albert C. Houghton.

Houghton, his daughter Mary and his driver John Widders all died days apart after a automobile accident in Pownal, Vt., in 1914. Mary died from injuries sustained in the accident. Her father soon followed. Widders, who reportedly blamed himself for the deaths, committed suicide. All three are said to be haunting the former mansion.

The first weekend of March 23 to 25, originally the only one scheduled, sold out in two weeks — a rarity even for the hit show. The event is limited to 75 people.

"This is a small event, but even our events that are limited to 125 people take about four weeks to sell out," Gonsalves said Wednesday night. "We do a lot of these events, but they have 200 to 300 people at them. This one is awesome because there'll be more one-on-one time with the groups."

As part of the three-day events, participants will join the ghost hunters as they investigate the mansion. They also will be able to hear the investigators' thoughts on any evidence collected over the course of the weekend.

Marc Tetlow, a former Transcript circulation manager who is now a booking agent for several TAPS members, said the popularity of the event is based on its limited size.

"I have people coming from California, Texas, Maryland and Missouri," he said. "The attraction is the size. I've heard from these people that they like the idea of a smaller group. When they investigate, we can keep the groups limited to 15 to 20 people and they'll get to work with all three over the course of the weekend."

Another attraction is the lineup of TAPS members — having three main characters from the show, namely Hawes, Wilson and Gonsalves together, is a unique feat.

"It's not something we do, usually the booking agents line up events for Jason and Grant and then for me and another TAPS member," Gonsalves said.

Mantello said he could not believe the overwhelming response the event received, with minimal advertisement.

"It's my understanding that it was going to be advertised locally, as well as online," he said. "At first, it went out on Marc's site and for the first two days, no tickets sold. Then it went out on Steve's MySpace page. He sent out a bulletin. He has like 20,900 friends on MySpace. Once the bulletin went out, you could watch the ticker on our Houghton Mansion Web page go from five hits a day to 150 or 200 a day. In two weeks, we had 1,500 hits. When it went out on Grant's MySpace page, it was crazy."

The spike in attention to the Houghton Mansion Web site eventually caused a need to upgrade the site, adding additional bandwidth to handle the Internet traffic.

Tetlow said the immediate fan response convinced him to add another weekend in April.

"I'm hoping to do more events with them in Berkshire County as well," he said. "There are a slew of haunted mansions and inns in the area. The ultimate event though would be Alcatraz."

Gonsalves, a resident of Springfield and founder of New England Paranormal, cautioned that the investigations might not turn up Houghton or his daughter.

"We go into any investigation with the intent to disprove the haunting," he said. "We find every possible explanation — man-made causes, the environment. Sometimes, we come up with nothing and have to look at the paranormal aspects. When we do find ghosts, we're pleasantly surprised."

One of those occasions came during the first season of "Ghosthunters," when the team investigated a National Guard armory.

"It's one of my favorite investigations because of the activity," Gonsalves said. "It wasn't just us that experienced the activity — members of the crew did as well."

During the filming of the episode, a boom operator named Frank was knocked to the ground by an unseen force. Thermal images of the incident show that something knocked both him and his equipment onto the floor.

But he doesn't expect that to happen every time.

"The only way to do an investigation is to go in to disprove it," Gonsalves said.

For more information or to buy tickets for the April 13-15 ghost hunt, visit www.idealeventmanage.com. Information about the Houghton Mansion can be found at houghton-mansion.tripod.com.