The Deep South Paranormal team uses gadgetry, including electromagnetic field measuring devices such as K2 Meters and REM Pods, on their ghost-hunting investigations. They also use Lynyrd Skynyrd covers, down-home conversations and a mystical heirloom called a gris-gris stick.
A new Syfy reality TV show, “Deep South Paranormal,” depicting the team’s adventures debuts 9 p.m. CST April 10. The seven-person DSP unit includes three with Huntsville-area roots: Keith Ramsey, Jonathan Hodges and Benny Reed. The cast also features Hart Fortenbery, Randy Hardy, Kevin Betzer and Kali Hardy.
The premiere finds DSP investigating the Southern Forest Heritage Museum in Long Leaf, La., said to be haunted by dead sawmill workers whose dismembered bodies were dropped off there. Upcoming episodes see DSP venturing to the Old Cahaba ghost town and St. James Hotel in Alabama, the Mount Helena Plantation House in Mississippi and the site of Florida’s largest Civil War battle, Olustee Battlefield. The six-episode season’s finale is set for May 15.
Get to know the Huntsville-area “Deep South Paranormal” cast members below. Ramsey and Hodges call from Burbank, Calif., where they’re working on “Deep South Paranormal” post-production and press, while Reed phones from the offices of his employer, a Madison government contractor.
Keith Ramsey, 38
Day job: landscaper
Keith, I read your experience with the paranormal began at age 5 with visions. What sort of visions?
My first visions, come to find out years later, had to do with Biblical prophecy. Visions of the end of time. It didn’t really start affecting me until my early teen years, when I really started questioning it as it started building more. Went to my folks with it and that’s when I discovered that both of my grandmothers had the gift of visions.
Were the visions a dreamlike state, a psychedelic experience or …?
Dream state, yep. And if you’ve ever had a case of déjà vu, I had that very heavily growing up through my school years. I’d find myself in a place and time I’d already dreamt, and I would know what someone would say next or do next.
You saw your first apparition when you were 9. What did that apparition look like?
It was a child around the age of 2 in the bedroom of a home I had moved to in Tennessee, a little town called Elora. Moved into a mobile home that was next door to the gas station my dad had there. Once things started happening in that mobile home – like seeing the child, having things move, things come off the wall, hearing my voice called – months later, we discovered the owner of the mobile home had a child die in the mobile home.
You use music as way to engage spirits. Are any musical styles or artists’ songs particularly effective for that?
No not any style particularly. Most of the time, I’m doing stuff I’ve written myself, and other times I might do a little Lynyrd Skynyrd or some Allman Brothers covers or some children’s songs, if there are apparitions of children seen. “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” Even some Christmas-y songs, “Jingle Bells.”
What Skynyrd song works best for engaging spirits?
One in particular is called “Comin’ Home,” it was one of my favorite songs do with a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band I was in for years. And that was one of the first songs I experimented with on a ghost hunting. And we had nothing going on until I started playing that song, and then we started getting all kinds of hits, picking up energy, picking up EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon). The first place that worked was in an abandon hospital in South Pittsburg, Tenn.
Ever investigated the Skynyrd plane crash site or the intersection where Duane Allman had his fatal motorcycle crash?
No, I haven’t done that yet, and have given it some thought. I would love to do that. Any place where any of my musical heroes have passed, I would love to go investigate or even the family homes they grew up in.
Outside the paranormal, what scares you the most?
I guess my biggest fear is water. [Laughs.] I don’t swim.
You were born in Huntsville. Where here do you pick up paranormal vibes or would like to investigate?
The old mill buildings … would like to even check out some of the cave systems. Maybe some of the old Burritt Museum. I’m hearing more and more stories of the Five Points area, and already seen quite a few things in the Five Points area in family members’ homes.
Jonathan Hodges, 39
Day job: human resources
Jonathan, what’s the most frightened you’ve been on a paranormal investigation?
Honestly, on investigations I’m more scared of the living than of the dead. Walking down the hallway in that abandon building … I’m not worried about the ghost in there, I’m worried there’s somebody up to no good in there or trespassing. Probably the most scared I’ve been on an investigation is when you realize there’s something with you there tha’s probably not friendly. It might make you sick at your stomach or your head hurt, when you think you’re dealing with something more negative than just your standard spirit.
How often would you say the spirits DSP encounters are negative?
I’ve been doing this pretty strong for about six or seven years now. A lot of times if people were mean in their life, it’s going to be a mean spirit, but I’m talking about the next step on and maybe something demonic. Honestly, I’ve only came across that really once I know of. You might come across something that’s mischievous or just trying to get your attention.
Where did the demonic occurrence occur?
Actually went to an old insane asylum up there in Illinois, and it was one of those things you go in and, man, something’s just not right. It’s hard to explain. The biggest thing is, once you leave a place like that it seems like it stays with you, like it follows you. You may have bad thoughts. Bad dreams about that place. It stayed with me for about a month, and actually had a lady that worked with me come up to me, and ask, “Are you OK?” When family and friends notice something different about you, it gets a little more real at that point.
You work in human resources. What’s scarier: encountering the paranormal or firing somebody?
Oh, firing somebody … much, much more. They tend to be scarier than a ghost. Both can be unpredictable to say the least.
Benny Reed, 39
Day job: electronics technician
Benny, what event caused you to believe fully in paranormal activity?
Well, I’ve actually experienced all kinds of paranormal during my life. Some of them, you sit there and go, “Is this real?” But when it actually turned on and said, “This is real stuff” was when we started doing our first investigation, this old hospital in South Pittsburg, Tenn., and I actually ran into a full-bodied apparition that night. And seen it with my own eyes. That’s when it was no more skeptic, game on.
What would you compare the sensation of running into an apparition to?
It was about the same build as Jonathan. I was like, “Oh man, I’m sorry Jonathan” because it was so dark. And Jonathan was actually behind me on the other side of the room. But I’ve had numerous experiences where I’ve been touched and it’s like a cold, tingly feeling. And it’s one of those feelings you’ve never felt before. Me, I enjoy it but I guess I’m pretty weird.
Have your paranormal investigations affected your sleep?
No, I’m actually former military and that stuff bothers me more than this. Paranormal stuff, you’ve got to know when to let it go. When you leave, you go back to your life, and we try not to let that stuff bother us, because if you do, it can open up other stuff.
What can you tell me about the gris-gris stick Hart Fortenbery, of Deep South Paranormal, uses to connect with spirits?
This stick has been handed down through his family. It’s one of these voodoo things. That man Hart, he’s something else. He actually uses a bell he’s got attach to a gris-gris stick and he’s always saying “Come to the bell.” And he believes the spirits will come to the ringing of the bell, the vibrations. And he’s had excellent luck with that.
How did the DSP team first get together?
Well, I’ve got a local group here in Huntsville, with me, Jon and Keith, and we had an incident down in New Orleans we were going to investigate, and we contacted some local paranormal group, and it ended up being Randy and Kevin and them. Paranormal groups, we usually look out for each other. And they stepped up and showed us the ropes a little bit down there in New Orleans and we actually became good friends and now you see us as Deep South Paranormal.
For you, what’s the greatest unanswered question of the paranormal?
One would be, why are you still hanging around? I got into this to help someone, help them get answers and stuff and it would be a great thing for me to contact the spirits and find out why they’re still around. It’s something they need to tell a family member or something like that. That would make my day.
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