Paranormal-themed reality show, “Ghost Hunter’s Academy”, is an original SyFy series based off the network’s ‘Ghost Hunters’ franchise. The shows include ‘Ghost Hunters’, ‘Ghost Hunters International’ and as of November 2009, ‘Ghost Hunters Academy’. Hosting ‘Ghost Hunters Academy’ are Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango, two paranormal investigators and prominent members of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS).
The ‘Ghost Hunters Academy’ series features the TAPS guys leading five college-aged “recruits” on their mission to investigate paranormal activity at several creepy locations, including the Essex County Hospital, a troubled, late nineteenth-century mental hospital at the outskirts of Newark, New Jersey. The star pupil would ultimately be rewarded, while the others would be dismissed in turn, as the typical, twenty-first century reality formula goes.
Among the ‘Ghost Hunters Academy’ recruits was Jane Riley, a New Jersey-based paranormal researcher and photographer. Jennifer Waite spoke with Jane for this in-depth interview, exploring the realities of reality TV, Jane’s interest in the paranormal, and the spookiest thing she’s ever seen!
Jane Riley: Season One of “Ghost Hunters Academy”
Jennifer Waite: Hi Jane! Can you explain to fans of ‘Ghost Hunters Academy’ what the casting process entailed as a recruit? How long was the process, and when did you find out you would be appearing on the show?
Jane Riley: I have been a huge fan of Ghost Hunters since they began! I even went on some of their first field trips, during which you were able to investigate with them at different locations around the United States. I was hooked. I felt as though I had finally found my passion!
I spent the last four years or so doing research on how to get involved with Ghost Hunters and one day, I finally found a notice about it on the Internet. I immediately sent in an email explaining how badly I wanted the chance to investigate with TAPS. I was sent a reply and told to submit a 5 minute video talking about my experiences with the paranormal and so on. After several back and forth phone calls, I finally got the verdict.
They said no. I was devastated! But, I mean, at least I tried and I was happy to be a part of my paranormal group in Jersey called NJPR, which I’ve been a part of for the last two years. Then one day a couple months later I got a random phone call asking to be on the show and had only one week to pack and leave! I don’t know about the other guys, but my audition process seemed pretty darn long.
Jennifer Waite: What excites you most about the study of paranormal activity? When did you first become interested in the paranormal?
Jane Riley: I think what excites me the most about the paranormal is that you never know what you are going to experience on an investigation. You never know what you are walking into, and you have no idea who or what exactly is causing this phenomena (if anything). It is such a young and undefined field and its thrilling to be an active part of it.
I’ve always been attracted to dark and mysterious things. I started out photographing cemeteries because I loved the shape and beauty of the head stones and most of all, loved the peaceful, kind of serene atmosphere you’d get being alone there. Some people go to the beach to relax and reflect on life…..I go to cemeteries! I think the exposure to these places allowed my mind to wander and I increasingly became more and more curious about death and the afterlife.
JW: I completely know what you mean about that calming feeling of being alone in a cemetery, strange as it sounds! However, investigations aren’t always relaxing, I imagine, especially not on national TV. ‘Ghost Hunters Academy’ was a reality show, and obviously a competition above all else. How did you feel about that; did it feel natural or did it feel overly-produced? Was there any tension between the recruits off screen?
JR: Well, hahaha! I didn’t even know it was a competition until I arrived for filming. It was upsetting for me to hear this. I thought I was just going to learn new things about the paranormal and investigating, not competing with others.
I felt as though the cast disliked me from the second I walked into the scene at Eastern State. It was awkward as hell, and very uncomfortable because I didn’t know anyone, and they were already given me the evil eye!
JW: You poor thing! Reality television reminds me of high school. What about the reaction to the show? What do you think about the negative comments some viewers have left about you on Internet forums after watching “Ghost Hunter’s Academy”? Do you take it personally?
JR: I did at first. I was surprised to see how I was portrayed after seeing the first episode I appeared in. I stopped watching after awhile because it was ridiculous. I’ve never been on TV before, and had no idea of the process. I know I did so many awesome things, but they just chose not to air it. I was pretty amazed how highly creative the editing was. You can’t take peoples comments personally when they don’t even know you, and when they have absolutely no idea what it was like to be there. Reality TV is not exactly reality.
JW: I am so glad to hear you say that outright! People have to understand how audio and video get edited and synched together with creative license, and how scenes are ‘set-up’ on these so-called reality shows. Glad you’re not taking it too seriously!
What is the strangest paranormal experience you have ever had personally? Did you really feel any supernatural activity at the locations you visited while filming Ghost Hunters Academy?
JR: I’ve experienced the strangest activity at Rolling Hills Asylum when I was there investigating with my group from Jersey, NJPR. My first time at Rolling Hills was actually with TAPS when they held one of there events there. I had some personal experiences there, as well as some very interesting and haunting EVPS captured in the morgue. My favorite location while filming “Ghost Hunters Academy” was probably Essex Hospital. Although I didn’t experience anything significant, it was by far one of the creepiest locations I’ve ever been to, hands down.
JW: What’s next for Jane Riley? Do you have future plans for ghost hunting, paranormal investigation, reality TV, or any combination thereof?
JR: Well, I have plans to get my masters degree and am currently singing and writing music. I will always be involved in paranormal research and investigations; that will never change. I love it!! And I’d love to do more reality TV if it means going to cool locations that no one else can get access to. A passion is a passion, and it doesn’t end here for me…
JW: Sounds exciting! Good luck, and thanks for the inside look at Ghost Hunter’s Academy!
Get More ‘GSA’
You can find more information on season one, and upcoming seasons, of the SyFy channel’s original, paranormal reality series, “Ghost Hunter’s Academy”, on the show’s website.
For more on Jane, head over to her member profile on NJPResearch.com!