THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Paranormal Investigator Steven Shippy Steps to a Higher Level Marking the 10th Anniversary of His ‘Haunted Saginaw’ Series
10th October, 2019 0
For documentary filmmaker Steven Shippy 2019 has been a breakthrough year.
The Saginaw native is burning the midnight oil putting the finishing touches on his latest opus, A Haunting on Brockway Street, which is the tenth film in his Haunted Saginaw series that will have its world premiere on November 15 & 16th at Saginaw’s Temple Theatre. Additionally, as he celebrates the 10th Anniversary of his popular series, he has also managed to secure a new national television series titled Haunting in the Heartland, which will make its debut in January, 2020 on The Travel Channel.
For his latest installment, the focus is turned towards the Abel Brockway House, which is a mix of an original two-story Greek Revival home with Colonial Revival wings and a front portico. The columns on the portico are from Dr. Florentine’s Hospital for Women, which is one of Saginaw’s earliest medical facilities. While it is a symmetrical house with a gable roof and clapboard siding, replete with balanced window placements; the activities captured by Shippy and his crew over a five-month period of research and filming are anything but symmetrical.
Abel Brockway was born in 1818, and arrived in Saginaw in 1856. A shrewd businessman, he invested in a number of early ventures in Saginaw, including lumbering, railroads, banking, and other industries.
In 1859, he purchased a plot of farmland (now bounded by Wells, Thurman, Gratiot, and Brockway Streets) from Benjamin Cushway. In 1864 he built a house, which is the center section of what now is known as the Brockway House.
Brockway lived in the house until his death in 1886, after which it passed to his daughter Mary. Mary, however, had a wealthy husband and no need for the house or land, so donated some of the land to the city and platted the rest, selling off lots. Around 1920, Harker Jackson purchased the house and the surrounding land. Jackson designed and constructed additions to the house.
For this tenth & latest investigation into the historic Saginaw Brockway home, which is currently the residence of Tom & Stephanie Braley, also owners of the newly renovated Court Theatre, Shippy says he initially approached the couple to inquire about renting their theatre for some upcoming events and while there the employees kept urging the Braleys to tell him about their house.
“This entire area was Brockway’s property and he owned this farmland, which spread all the way to Center Street and Brockway,” relates Stephanie. “We purchased the property in early 2007, so have owned it for almost 13 years now.”
“Nine years ago when my youngest daughter was around the age of four, she was upstairs getting ready to leave somewhere with us and suddenly started screaming and ran downstairs, saying a little boy was in her bedroom and that he didn’t have any feet and when she looked at him he disappeared,” recounts Stephanie when asked when she first experienced any sensations of her property being haunted.
“How can you make something like that up?” she continues.
“I put it to the back of my mind, but then several months later a friend brought her granddaughter over and the same thing happened - she said a little boy was upstairs and both children described him the same way, so we had a feeling something was going on.”
While Stephanie says she has personally never seen any apparitions, she claims to have witnessed strange shadows, heard noises, and seen doors open and close on their own at the residence.
“We started looking into it and Stephanie also made some inquiries with the Genealogy Department at Hoyt Library and through this we confirmed it was a child spirit we were dealing with that did exist in the home,” relates Steven. “In doing our research, at one point we discovered somebody had used a Ouija board in the home once that spelled out the word ‘VIC’; and later our research at Hoyt Library confirmed what VIC was.”
“One very interesting thing about this latest investigation is that not very often will homeowners have paranormal evidence for us when we start our inquiries,” explains Steve. “But when we started talking to Stephanie, she showed me a video that she captured on her cellphone camera that intrigued me because you keep hearing strange sounds, and then you see how something is turning on and off the bathroom light under the door; and then suddenly the door opens and you hear footsteps going to the daughter’s room, and then the door opens to the bedroom. She caught this on one clip that she shot off her cellphone which is absolutely fascinating.”
With their own sophisticated cameras containing infrared night vision lenses, Steve says his crew was able to capture considerably more evidence and was surprised at the level of activity documented in the home. “We camped out at the house for five weeks and also do a lot of preliminary research and interviews, but were surprised at how many pieces of evidence we captured during our stay. It’s been a challenge condensing down all the footage that we shot to select and include the strongest pieces of evidence in the film.”
With ten years of ten different hauntings documented throughout Saginaw, did Steve ever think his series would evolve the way it has from when he first started?
“Definitely not,” he responds. “I felt confident people would want to see what type of activity was going on in these old buildings, especially given the interest in rumors that Old Town was haunted. But it’s funny, because even at that time 10 years ago, the Temple Theatre was trying to tell me their venue was way too big for our purposes, yet we decided to rent it for two performances. It was a pretty absurd gamble and we only had 2 weeks to promote from scratch, yet we sold out both nights - as he have with every premier we’ve staged at The Temple over the past ten years.”
Asked which film of the entire Haunting Series has been most successful and which film he’s most pleased with, Steve references the two films about Dice Road - Haunting on Dice Road: the Hell House and the follow-up Town of the Dead as the most successful.
“When you look at the numbers of views on Amazon and other streaming services, The Dice Road films have traveled the furthest,” notes Steve. “That area is so infamously ingrained in this area; and in fact we revisited both locations and stories in this new series that I will have coming up on the Travel Channel. The first episode of the series we shot here and went out to Dice Road and it was a cool experience coming back to the area on a different platform.”
Similarly, when asked what was the most unsettling location he has investigated over the past decade, Steve again points to Dice Road. “You have the cemetery on one end and the old Pomeraning farm house on the other, and when you go through 200 police reports and all the dispatches from numerous and varied police agencies involved and the number of stake outs, coupled with how many universities and polygraphs were involved, it’s hard to fathom the level of what happened at that house. So many people became suspects and could never prove nor understand what happened and so many people kept repeatedly asking, ‘What could it be that is causing this?’”
Equally exciting and significant is the fact last August, Shippy says he was contacted by a production company out of Los Angeles telling him the Travel Channel expressed major interest in his work and wanted to develop a television series about his investigations.
“I’ve received many offers over the years, but this one seemed different,” notes Steve. “I had Skype meeting with the staff and producers and they told me the network had an eye on me and that I didn’t need a pilot show or a sizzle reel and that they were ready to go if I wanted to do it. We talked about what the structure of the joint venture would be liked and because they liked my investigation style, they wanted me to go into rural communities, work with law enforcement, and conduct investigations on a national scale, focusing on the heartland region on the United States. The name of the series is Haunting in the Heartland and it will make its debut in January, 2020. We’ve shot six episodes so far.”
With this being Steve’s tenth film in the Haunting series, does he find it unusual for a town such as Saginaw to have so many hauntings?
“People often ask me how many places can be haunted in Saginaw,” admits Steve. “But if you go to any middle or large size community you will find hundreds of reports of hauntings and incidents that are inexplicable; so I think a good way to look at that is to ask yourself how many people have lived here on the earth? How many have lived in these houses and what happened on the land before the houses were built? Given the number of people that have lived and died on this earth up until today, I’m frankly surprised there aren’t more hauntings documented.”
Given his decade of research into the paranormal, has Steve developed or solidified any of his thoughts about the source and origin of these ‘spirits’?
“One school of thought says that hauntings stem from people with unresolved issues, which is definitely a part of it; but the biggest difference is between ‘intelligent’ and ‘residual’ hauntings. A residual haunting is somebody that inhabited a certain structure and over their expanse of time living there did so many repetitive routines that they left an imprint. ‘Intelligent’ hauntings involve paranormal activity that interacts with living people. The thought behind this is that the ghost or spirit is aware of your presence.”
“One thing I’ve discovered that’s really changed for me over the past ten years is that the level of Intelligent hauntings seems to be really high,” he continues. “The question is what are these things? Religious sectors will say anything one communicates with is not a ghost but a demon - an inhuman spirit that never lived on the earth. But having direct interaction with these things leads me to believe there is definite intelligence there.”
“For instance, one of the investigations we did for The Travel Channel uses a Geo Box, which is also known as a ‘Spirit Box’,” he continues. “The theory is that these spirits can manipulate the device and speak through it. Once I was asking specific questions to test if the spirit had the intelligence the home’s owners claimed it did, and after asking five questions the responses given were all accurate, which was very surprising. I don’t think anyone has the answers to what these entities truly are. Personally, I believe it is both. I believe there are demonic forces out there and I also believe there are human spirits out there who don’t know how to, or are afraid to cross over, for whatever reason.”
“We’re in these houses for weeks conducting our investigations and have to condense thousands of hours of footage down into 70 or 80 minutes,” notes Steve. “I don’t know anybody that does that and it’s gotten harder, as our production standards have evolved. We shoot re-creations now more than we did when we started and the production value of our gear is significantly better. What’s interesting about our series - for lack of a better word - is that I don’t know of any franchise where the 7th, 8th, and 9th films are better than the first. Usually, a series will start out good and become caricatures of themselves as they move further down the road.”
Steve says one question he is asked a million times is whether anybody outside of Saginaw harbors any interest in these films; and the answer is definitely and resoundingly clear. “People from around the world now are fans of this series, especially in countries like Australia and Germany. With the new Haunting in the Heartland series we investigated cases in Kansas and Mississippi that are quite amazing and not your run-of-the-mill investigations involving a homeowner hearing a couple of noises. Some of these are very treacherous and scary instances; and the vetting process we’re using now is bigger than the one we’ve used for the Saginaw series. The producers come through stories and then I have preliminary conversations with the owners that are quite involved.”
For his 10th Anniversary showing at The Temple Theatre, investigator Steve Gonsalves will also be in attendance. Gonsalves has conducted 14 seasons of the ‘Ghost Hunters’ series, which is the biggest paranormal investigation series in history, which currently airs on the A&E channel “He has a new series coming out called Ghost Nation,” notes Shippy. “He enjoys Saginaw quite a bit so we’re glad he will be coming out here to attend the premier.”
“Over the last two years 1000 tickets have been sold to these premier showings the first eight hours after the box office opens,” adds Shippy. “At the After Party this year people can go up to the ballroom for a Meet & Greet with key members of our investigative team and also take tours of the Temple Theatre. We’re also bringing on board a ‘Haunted Saginaw’ museum where we’ll showcase items from our 10-series run and place them on display for viewing.”
Finally, does Steven have any thoughts about the way his own focus has evolved in order to make his work continuously fresh and engaging, so he doesn’t become repetitive or tiring as so many series franchise seem fated to become?
“When somebody passes away or gets a divorce people usually will seek counseling because it’s such a traumatic event,” he reflects. “But if you’re living in a house where these types of incidents occurring, this becomes a reality that is affects your health and stress levels because it Is something that you live with every day. How is that not a traumatic situation?”
“I think now more than merely capturing evidence, we are focusing more on the human elements involved with these hauntings. If anything has changed over the past 10 years that would be it. It’s one thing to capture or obtain evidence, but now my focus is shifting more towards showing what people are going through living with these spirits and the affect and toll it has upon them.”
The 10th installment in the ‘Haunted Saginaw’ series, ‘A Haunting On Brockway Street’ will be premiered on November 15 & 16th at Saginaw’s historic Temple Theatre, 203 N. Washington, in Downtown Saginaw. Showtime is 9 PM and tickets are $27.00, which includes entry to the red carpet event, a free DVD copy of the new film, a meet & greet with the director and entire investigation team. VIP/After Party tickets are also available in a limited quantity. All previous premiers have completely sold out, so get your tickets now! Tickets can be purchased online at templetheatre.com or by phoning 989.754.SHOW. All previous films on the Haunted Saginaw series can be screened on amazonprime.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)