Over the years, my line of work has kept me from enjoying many holidays in the same way so many others do. I’ve missed several New Years celebrations, 4th of July, part of a couple Thanksgivings, and a few Halloweens… and there’s also Labor Day and Memorial Day. Being pulled away for work is sometimes a real bummer, and other times it has been for really incredible opportunities. One of those that fall into the “worth it” category is the work I did on one of the more popular ghost hunting TV shows in 2009. I’ve talked about the ghost hunting experiences in other posts (i.e. Haunted History, The Strangest Coincidence of My Life, and Reflections on Eastern State Penitentiary & Hauntings), and here is another story vital in getting me where I am today.
It was the week of Halloween 2009, and we were shooting the ghost hunting live show in Delaware. It was frigid outside, and the weather hadn’t been cooperating, making load-in and setup on the island really difficult. Like many of my coworkers, I had really worked by tail off, so one random day during the week the bosses gave me a break and put me on call. So I did what any good employee would do: I made the 30 mile drive to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and eat cheesesteak. “The City of Brotherly Love” is a place I had always wanted to visit, due to its incredibly rich history and also being a big Eagles football fan.
So there I was, gallivanting around town and enjoying the day when my phone rang. I had become so accustomed to seeing that 302 area code, so my heart started pounding… nearly out of my chest, it felt like. “We might need you to do a run…. but if we do, it won’t be for another hour or two.” “Great!” I exclaimed and carried on, relishing the experience.
Not knowing if I would ever make it back to Philly, I had a tough decision to make: Pat’s or Geno’s. Both are equally famous cheesesteak establishments, conveniently located across the street from one another. Leaving the decision to the flip of a coin, Pat’s was the winner. Geno’s eventually earned my money, too, but more on that later…
Enjoying a Pat’s cheesesteak in the mobile office, on call
The serenity and freedom to explore the city on my own was awesome. I walked through Independence Hall, saw the Liberty Bell, visited Ben Franklin’s grave, and had a beer in the rebuilt tavern where John Adams, George Washington, and other important dignitaries dined and drank over 200 years ago.
After my free time was bygone, I headed back to the “ranch” to do that work I was on call for. It was a lot of shuttling people between the airport, hotel, and shooting location on the remote island. To actually get to the island, we had to radio the boat captain to pick us up. Again, the weather had not been cooperating and, at one point, our itinerary got delayed because the violent waves made the trip too dangerous.
I won’t really get into the meat and bones about the production and what it was like sitting alone inside a fort for eight hours on a cold, cold night. But I will touch upon what most people ask me about my experiences: Hearing there was only one death at Ft. Delaware, the weird vibes were minimal but not totally absent. One odd thing was when I did some exploring during down time and found a winding, unlit hallway that terminated at a small, pitch black room (maybe 15’x15′) that was deep within the fort. I started snapping pictures in there, and one came out with a weird, white cloudy blur near the ceiling. Whatever that was, Ft. Delaware is fairly low on the “creepy” scale compared to other places I’ve been… places like Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky and the former Essex County Hospital (psychiatric facility) in New Jersey.
One other thing about that topic, though… My job during the live investigation was to control a video switcher going to the show’s Director, who was working probably 300 feet away from the fort in a video truck. In fact, all of our cables to the truck ran across three boats that were floating in the moat around the fort… it was really a huge undertaking and operation. The point I am getting at is that – I kid you not – while scanning the eight camera feeds on the screen in front of me, I saw the legs on a bar stool rotate back and forth for probably about 30 seconds. That’s one of just a very few times in my life that I’ve pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was such a bizarre moment that my mind could barely comprehend.
After the investigation, load-out was a little more easygoing. We had more time to spare, and the bad weather had passed. In fact, the bosses let us Production Assistants off work early one day so we could go have fun in Philadelphia. Due to my prior trip to the city, I was recruited as the navigator on our way to get… you may have guessed it… cheesesteaks. So that was my opportunity to give Geno’s a try. Ultimately, I found both places to be too similar to pick a favorite, although both were delicious. And it caught me off guard that what makes a cheesesteak really unique in Philly is Cheez Whiz.
Thanks for a great time, Philadelphia (and Delaware, I guess). Speaking of, remember the line from Wayne’s World, when Wayne and Garth are in front of a blue screen, acting like they are in different states?
Wayne: We’ve got a new feature on Wayne’s World. It allows us to travel through time and space… it’s called “chroma key.” ….
Garth: Say you wanna go to Texas. “Howwwwdy, partner. Let’s raise and rope broncos.”
Wayne: Or imagine being magically whisked away to… Delaware. [pauses] Wayne Campbell: Hi. I’m in… Delaware.
Yeah, it’s really about like that. Anyhow, Philadelphia, I look forward to visiting you again one day… and hopefully sooner rather than later.
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