For rapper and filmmaker Steve Shippy (also known as Prozak) 2012 has been a whirlwind year. The Saginaw based national recording artist dropped his new music CD Paranormal back in April, which managed to hit the Billboard 100 and land in the Top 3 on I-tunes. This in turn was followed by a 158-day tour with Tech 9 and Machine Gun Kelly called The Hostile Takeover Tour, with one week of vacation. And then Prozak was back on the road with The Cottonmouth Kings, just returning in September to prepare for the world premier of his latest documentary in the notorious 'Seekers' series. “This whole year has been a definite blur,” confesses Prozak.
As he burns the midnight oil putting the finishing touches on his latest opus, A Haunting on Potter Street: The Potter Street Station, this latest installment will indeed have its worldwide premier on November 2-3-4 at Saginaw's Temple Theatre. Showtimes are 9 PM on Friday & Saturday and 7 PM Sunday and tickets are only $17.00 and include entry to the Red Carpet Premier, a free DVD copy of the film, and a meet & greet with autograph signing with The Seekers Paranormal Investigation Team, including Brian Harnois fro the hit television series Ghost Hunters.
His first two films explored Hauntings on Hamilton Street at the legendary Schuch Hotel and Stable sports outfitters. But for this third installment Prozak and crew frequented the majestic yet faded and decaying splendor of Saginaw's legendary Potter Street Station, only opted to take a different approach with chronicling the investigation. “We spent several days at Potter Street,” recalls Prozak, “but I like to make each documentary a little different from the other, so with this one we basically locked ourselves inside for one night and then filmed what happened over that one specific block of time,” he explains.
“When you conduct an investigation over several days it can make it harder for the audience to follow, so we spent several nights investigating Potter Street Station first without filming, so we could learn where the activity is. Basically we were doing reconnaissance and testing different things to see if we could get a reaction and make sure that activity existed in the building. After we had a chance to go through all the information given us by the Potter St. Preservation Society, and we thought we were ready, we then brought Brian Harnois up from Ghosthunters and went into the building to film the full fledged investigation, coming out at dawn.”
For those unfamiliar with the Potter Street Station, back in 1857 a railroad company was formed in Saginaw with the objective of building a rail line from Pere Marquette to Flint. It took nearly 2 years for the first rail of the new Flint line to be laid near Washington & Potter streets in Saginaw, and from that point an additional 3 years were needed for the new line to become operational.
When it made its inaugural trip on the new line in January, 1862, 100 residents took a 26.2 mile journey from Saginaw to Mount Morris and after 20 years of service, a new station was designed by New York Architect Bradford Lee Gilbert. Known as the Potter Street Station, the Saginaw Depot was constructed and opened in 1881 during the peak of railway passenger service. But during the early 1900s, the automobile gave way to a new form of transportation and in 1962 the last passenger train departed the Potter Street station. The rail line was continued for freight use until the station closed in 1986.
Following its closure, city officials ordered then parent company CSC Transportation to demolish the station by the fall of 1988. Upon hearing this news, area residents & history enthusiasts began developing plans to rescue the location. The Saginaw Depot Preservation Corporation was formed and they purchased the building in 1988, with title transferred in January 1990. The following year, however, a fire severely damaged the station. But today the Saginaw Depot Preservation Corporation continues to work to restore this piece of Saginaw's rich history, meeting the second Monday of each month at 6 PM at the Savoy Grill in Downtown Saginaw.
As for thoughts about what distinguished Potter Street from previous investigations at the Schuch Hotel & The Stable on Hamilton Street, Prozak points to a number of differences. “Potter Station is not open to the public like the Stable & The Schuch and its been abandoned for a long time,” he notes. “Given its history I compare Potter Station to the Titanic. It's a massive, very grand structure, with immaculate architecture, and both Potter & the Titanic had an untimely demise.”
“When you walk inside of Potter Station you see these extravagant cast iron columns and amazing architecture and ask how something this big and grand can be like it is now, in such a state of decay,” he continues. “You can't help but ask what the real story is beyond the activity. And what's crazy to me is that a lot of people that live in Saginaw have no clue this massive building exists because its hidden away on a dead end street surrounded by industrial sites. If you aren't big into the history of Saginaw, you wouldn't know it was there.”
“I think this documentary will shed light on the history of the building and why its important to Saginaw and Michigan,” states Prozak. “When we went into claims of haunting at the Station and started interviewing people living around Potter Street, everybody we talked with unanimously was afraid of that building. Many were afraid to even talk about it & all had similar stories. One of the most common centers around seeing the figure of a man always on the other side of the fence of the property walking up and down the structure until he simply vanishes and disappears into thin air. Many people describe this and it happens mainly at dusk.”
“Another tale involves the 'Woman in White' that volunteers from the Preservation Society especially have seen passing the doorways,” continues Prozak. “They'll be working and turn to grab a tool and all of a sudden this woman is standing there and before they can react she's gone. So we went into the station with all this information to see if we could document and prove there are shadowy figures inside Potter Station; and people that are no longer living.”
Did Prozak feel more or less activity existed at Potter Street than on the Hamilton Street excursions? “That's a hard to question to answer,” he admits. “The building is over 30,000 square feet and the areas that have the most reported activity are the ones we investigated. The Woman's waiting room and the Men's waiting room, along with the boiler room & back office all were extremely active areas. And the most notorious is where Richard Fobear had his casket company, which was one of the largest areas in the station and still had old funeral boxes and invitations laying around. We explore a lot of different rooms and many things do happen in the film.”
“Our first experience in the building we were standing in the woman's waiting area near this grand fireplace listening to one of the building curators explain the history to us when all of our walkie-talkies started going off,” notes Prozak. “We thought it would be a cool place to interview him, but suddenly all the walkie-talkies in our area and the connecting rooms were going off and we heard what sounded like a woman screaming to the point we couldn't finish the interview. It freaked us out so badly we stopped filming and walked around the building to see if somebody was messing with us.”
An interesting sidebar embedded within the film centers upon the arson that hit the building back in the 1980s. “During our interviews with random people in the neighborhood many believe that certain people wanted the Potter Station gone because they thought the land could be used for something more productive,” explains Prozak.
“When that fire was set a lot of speculation circulated regarding who would set it on fire and why anybody would want it removed, which has never been found out and is also a big part of the film. We hope this documentary brings a lot of things to light, but my main hope is that it brings attention to the building and its history. Hopefully more people will get involved to save it by becoming Preservation volunteers.”
Locked in time for a specific use as a train station, only to become a fossil as the boom of the automobile exploded in the early 20th century, the million-dollar question has always centered around what could the Potter Station conceivable be used for?
“Not looking at it from a commercial standpoint, I think it could be used as a historical landmark,” reflects Prozak. “For that matter, why do we need a local library such as The Hoyt lodged inside this big extravagant castle? It's part of our history. Other towns all refurbish their old buildings and take a lot of pride in their history and the past. And one thing I have proven with these films is that regardless of what outsiders may think of it, Saginaw has pride. The fact they supported our first two film premiers with sell-out crowds of 4000 people each year demonstrates a sense of pride in the community. They know these are locally produced films and come to support it for that reason. I believe people would be willing to do more to save it if they knew more about it, so hopefully this film will achieve that goal. We can tear down all the things we want and at the end of the day, where is our link to the past?”
Prozak says the most interesting thing he discovered while making the film personally centered on the other side of the coin that comes with transportation. “It's not just setting people off to go visit their relatives and traveling to work,” he explains. “People were leaving that station to travel off to war and bodies from the war were returned to the train station to be transported to the homes of the victims, so to me that's a strong sense of our past right there.”
“The one thing about Potter Street Station is that the place virtually does come to life at night,” states Prozak. “A lot of unexplained things are happening in the building and we caught a lot of voices on digital recorders. Plus the building is surrounded by multiple cameras and the inside is surrounded by infrared cameras that are constantly recording, so there is no explainable way to be catching voices when nobody has been entering the building. Plus we caught a lot of shadowy figures on video, so you have to seriously ask what is going on with the building.”
With this third film now under his belt have Prozak's thoughts about the source and origin of these 'spirits' evolved over the years? “One school of thought says that haunting stems from people with unresolved issues, which is definitely a part of it; but the biggest difference is between 'intelligent' and 'residual' haunting. A residual haunting is somebody that inhabited a certain building and did so many routines so many times that they leave an imprint, which is a possibility at Potter Station.”
“The 'intelligent' hauntings involve paranormal activity that interacts with living people,” continues Prozak. “The thought is that the ghost or spirit is aware of your presence. I do believe that both types exist at Potter Station. When we were walking around in the dark in the middle of the night and asking the name of a spirit we were hearing, you can hear a response that answers a question, which is an intelligent haunting. They are aware of your presence and responding to what you are asking. One of the EVP's we heard very clearly utters the words 'Bring 'em up'.”
“One of the most disturbing things we recorded from an 'intelligent' haunting aspect is when we ask 'Is there anything I can do to help you? And then you hear a response that says 'Pray for me' very clearly in direct response to the question. A lot of people came and went fro that building and its definitely shrouded in different factions.”
“Potter Street was a pretty rough area back when the Station was thriving,” notes Prozak. “It had saloons all around it and you can imagine how many people lost their lives in bar brawls. It was a main hub for all these lumber barons and a very rough place. A few of the sensitives & psychics that toured the site with us all describe being overcome with sadness. Some feel that kind of energy can draw spirits as well.”
“The infamous question is what happens after death. Everybody really wants to know that, including me; because the one guarantee we have is that we're all going to die and it's the one thing nobody knows anything about. So what are we capturing on film and recorder? Are we capturing imprints of energy? We've only been on earth a blink of an eye in the big scheme of things, so maybe a thousand years from now we'll have a clear answer to these questions. Some from a religious viewpoint refer to what we capture as evil, or demons that we are messing with. But these are all opinions. I'm not here to enforce any opinion; my goal is to simply document.”
With the Potter Street Premier happening in a few short weeks, Prozak is still busily editing and pulling together the final cut of the film. “I'm just grateful to be able to do this,” concludes Prozak. “Making these films is a passion for me and October is my favorite time of the year.
“This is a big responsibility for me. Saginaw wants us to do this every year and I'm confident we'll never run out of places to film. It's amazing how many people are having problems or activity. Put it this way, if everybody that you knew posted a question on their facebook page asking if anybody they knew in Saginaw had experienced a haunting, you would be blown away by how many people would respond. We have a phenomenon on a mass scale happening in this city.”
“I remember back in 2010 CBS did a national poll asking how many people believed in the paranormal and 51 percent said they did, which is astounding to me. What is this? Mass hysteria? What do you call it?”
“This is a responsibility for me now. The public wants us and my goal is to deliver the best documentary that I am capable of without pulling any stops.”
Tickets for 'A Haunting on Potter Street: The Potter Street Station' are now on sale for only $17.00 by going online to templetheatre.com. A free copy of the DVD is included with admission.