Silver screen ghost stories

  • Hosts, mediums and camera crews film at an area of the haunted property. (From left) Jeremy Austin, Nash Hightower, Lisa Perella, Eileen Marques, Jon Tee and Joe Provenzano. JULIA STINNEFORD / Ledger-Transcript staff

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/19/2021 4:04:10 PM

In a field behind an allegedly haunted farmhouse, a group of filmmakers gathered on a hot day in early August to start their own ghost-hunting show. Roosters crowed in between and during takes while two mediums and a pair of hosts wandered the grounds, setting the scene for their upcoming night of filming.

This project was started by Janelle Morrissey of Greenville, who has been working toward starting a show like this for two years.

“Basically, I’ve always been into the paranormal,” Morrissey said. And her experience with film has been centered mostly on horror movies – after getting involved in the film industry due to her son being an actor, one thing led to another, and now she owns her own production company, Honor the Promise Productions.

“I just figured that if I’m going to make any money doing this, better start my own company,” Morrissey said.

Morrissey became familiar with the ghost show’s first filming location, a privately owned farm in Ashby, Mass., after filming a horror movie there.

Nash Hightower, one of the hosts for the show, was involved in that project.

“I loved working with Janelle,” Hightower said. “When she asked me, ‘Hey, do you want to do another project?’ I was like, ‘Well, absolutely.’ ”

Hightower said that he became interested in the paranormal at a military hospital where he saw strange happenings.

“Weird stuff happened, frequently. Sometimes very weird stuff, like having a whole family get nosebleeds at the same time,” he said. And now, he added, this show would be the perfect vehicle to explore the supernatural further.

“And I’ve got my Scully right here,” he said, referring to his co-host Jeremy Austin in his X-Files reference. “I’m Mulder,” he clarified.

Austin was brought onto the production by Hightower after Morrissey asked him if he knew more people who would be interested. Austin, unlike Hightower, doesn’t believe in ghosts as a rule.

“I’m a skeptic, but I’d like to have my mind changed,” Austin said. “I’m not closed off to it by any means – I’d like to see things I couldn’t explain or don’t make sense, that would be wonderful.”

But until he sees something with his own eyes, his mind won’t be changed, he said.

This skeptic-believer dynamic is popular in media that focuses on the paranormal, such as the referenced X-Files, and Morrissey said that it was an important part of her vision for the show.

“That’s what I like,” she said. “I think that’s going to be good. I think they can feed off each other.”

Along with Hightower and Austin are two self-proclaimed mediums, Lisa Perella and Eileen Marques. Both said that they could sense spirits in and around the property, and had had such gifts for most of their lives.

“There a lot of skeptics in the world,” Perella said. Both women said that they didn’t often share with people about being mediums due to skepticism, but were excited to participate in a show like this, partially to change people’s minds about the supernatural and partially with the hope to help people living in haunted areas.

“If you have a gift like this, you can maybe explain or help,” said Marques.

When filming, Perella and Marques led Hightower and Austin around the property with the cameras rolling, detailing what they were sensing and prompting reactions from the two hosts.

Other members of the crew included interviewers Barry Leger and Josh Hamilton, producer Jane McCarthy, and cameramen Joe Provenzano and Jon Tee. All expressed their excitement over the show, and their hopes for the future of the project.

With the two mediums acting as what Hightower called their “compass,” the team will go next to the Bridgewater Triangle in Massachusetts, an area of about 200-square-miles in the state reported to be a site of many paranormal phenomena. The goal with that location is to film a three-part mini-series, said Morrissey. The group will go there in November.

In the intervening time, Morrissey will offer the pilot to Discovery+, and the team will wait to see if the show gets picked up.

“This is why we have to make this awesome,” Morrissey said, “so they won’t deny it and turn us down.”

If the show gets picked up, the current plan would be to dedicate the show to New England hauntings, which the crew agreed would have many options for expansion due to New England’s history with strange phenomena.

“That’s my whole goal with this,” Morrissey said. “And that’s what I have for a vision, that we go further with this, a lot of seasons, and just keep going with it.”

Until they get an answer from Discovery, it’s a waiting game, said Morrissey. But she has a good feeling about it, she said – or maybe a sixth sense – that the project will succeed.




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