Ghost Adventures: Serial Killer Spirits - H. H. Holmes Murder House [Episode 1 Review]
'Ghost Adventures: Serial Killer Spirits' is the latest offering from Zak Bagans and the 'Ghost Adventures' crew. The four-part miniseries is a spinoff from the long-running ghost hunting show.
'Serial Killer Spirits' first aired in the US over Halloween last year, but now British viewers can see the show on the Really channel as part of their weekly #Freakend scheduled.
In the first episode, which aired on Friday April 24th, Zak, Aaron Goodwin, Billy Tolley and Jay Wasley try to uncover the lingering evil left behind by one of America's most infamous serial killers, as they embark on what Zak describes as a "historic" investigation of H. H. Holmes' murder house.
Zak tells us that H. H. Holmes is considered to be America's first serial killer. He says "in 1882 his taste for blood was cultivated in medical school where he gained access to cadavers for dissection. His indifference to life lead him to build an apartment building just outside of Chicago, designed specifically to conceal the murders of countless victims."
But the house that Zak and the team are investigating comes later in the Holmes story. Zak welcomes us to the home in Irvington, Indiana, "we're here to investigate a very haunted cottage. Why is it haunted? Because a little boy was murdered by a serial killer by the name of H. H. Holmes."
Samantha StarBrite is the current owner, who Zak describes as someone who takes comfort in living a "child-like lifestyle". She says something very dark and very evil is lurking inside her home, "I definitely think there is some kind of activity here, something is going on."
The negativity said to be lurking in the home remains as a result of one of Holmes' last crimes, the murder of eight-year-old Howard Pitezel, who Holmes poisoned there in 1894, before cutting the body into pieces, burning them and burying the remains around the property.
Samantha tells Zak that her late mother, who died in the house, claimed that she was once possessed by the malevolent spirit of H. H. Holmes. Samantha has even tried to contact the serial killer's spirit using a Ouija board. She said, "I felt like there was a dark presence that was just making itself home here."
Zak tells us that after opening herself up to the spirits with the board, the activity started to increase and Samantha found unexplained marks on her body that appeared when she slept. She explains, "I got a couple of marks on my arm, like red marks. I went to sleep and when I woke up there were there."
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As night falls outside, the team get stuck into their investigation after what they feel is a promising start. Aaron and Billy took psychic medium Cindy Adkins down to the basement. They pulled out a device called the SB7 Spirit Box, which rapidly scans through radio frequencies. It's believed that spirits can manipulate the white noise and static to form meaningful responses. As Cindy called out to the spirit of Howard, who she believed had followed them down, an unexplained voice said "the haunting" through the spirit box.
Upon reviewing this later with Zak, they decided it was actually saying "you hunt me" and also caught a male voice saying what sounded like "I hate."
By this point, you'd have expected Zak's narration to have explained a little more about the house. Was it Howard Pitezel's family home or did H. H. Holmes actually live there? This was never made clear in the episode, so we turned to Google for the answer.
As the police started closing in on Holmes in Chicago, he fled to Irvington and briefly rented the home for two or three days. Howard is actually the son of his partner-in-crime, Benjamin Pitezel, who Holmes had also previously killed.
The team were joined by Jeff Mudgett, the great-great-grandson of H. H. Holmes. He became greatly effected in the upstairs of the house. He said, "I'm having trouble breathing already, it's really heavy right at my oesophagus. This is the second time I've been here and I'm feeling exactly the same way I did before." Last time, Jeff had to be carried out of the house when things got too much for him.
Zak pulled out his Panasonic RR-DR60 digital audio recorder in the hopes of capturing spirit voices in the form of EVPs, or electronic voice phenomenon. They begin to call out to the spirit of H. H. Holmes, but were soon interrupted by what sounded like a door moving coming from the empty floor below them.
As the crew begin their lockdown, Zak reminds his team what a rare opportunity this is, "not many paranormal investigators will ever get the opportunity that we're having right now, to investigate one of the most notorious serial killers in American history's murder house."
Immediately upon entering the house, the team got very excited by a cold spot, something which is reportedly very common in hauntings. Zak could feel the temperature drop on his hand, which resulted in him suddenly and unpredictably snapping and shouting "it's giving me rage." He later said, "I wasn't expecting something to affect me the minute I walked through the door. My whole body has gone cold as ice."
Zak then captured a "compelling" voice on his digital audio recorder, but while the noise sounded like multiple words, none could be distinguished and the meaning of the sentence was lost.
The team continued their investigation upstairs, where Billy was using a device known as a Paranormal Puck. The device connects to a smartphone and supposedly lets spirits communicate by manipulating the atmospheric conditions around the puck.
It's not clear how the device transmits messages, but it claims to allow two-way communication. Billy used this featured and typed "hi Howard", a response from the device said "beside", which Billy took to mean that Howard was beside him. Billy then asked "where is HH?" and the device replied with "past manor".
The device's app then spewed out the phrase "7 girl". Although this seems unclear at first, Zak mentions that this tallies with the number of Holmes' victims who were female. Although the exact numbers are unknown, Zak raises the question "is this H. H. Holmes confessing to all of these murders?"
Billy then starts coughing and feeling as if he was being choked. Zak, who was now in control of the puck, typed "what is happening to Billy?" and a confusing response said "killed". Billy has been killed? Clearly Billy hadn't been killed, but it sounded like something was trying to kill him, so Zak asked "how are you killing Billy?" The response on the device came through as "cough".
Zak, becoming uncontrollably excited, shouted to his fellow investigators, "do you understand what this just ****ing said?!" Aaron replied, "yeah, exactly what's going on."
All of a sudden the team start hearing what sounded like the crackling of a fire in the corner near a plated-over hole in the floor through which the flume from the stove that H. H. used to burn Howard's body once passed through. Zak continues with the Paranormal Puck, this time asking "what is killing Billy?" but it seems the intelligent and meaningful responses have come to an end as it answers nonsensically with the word "they".
Zak then turns to another piece of ghost hunting equipment. He says "our geophone starts to detect a rapid increase in temperature." It's not clear exactly what Zak means as a geophone doesn't detect temperature, as the name suggests it's to do with geological movement and it actually detects vibration.
We then see the device in question, it is in fact an EDI meter which has a geophone and thermometer function built in. This explains Zak's confusion. It is the digital thermometer part of the device that is causing the gadget's lights to flash to indicate a sudden rise in temperature, not the geophone. The digital readout on the device shows that the temperature jumped up 4°F.
After Aaron hears a strange hiss in part of the room, Zak and Billy join Jay in the base room and leave Aaron to investigate alone. He started using his spirit box and captured a sound that he thought was a voice saying "we're they," which the team thought was relevant to an earlier response. The muffled voice was followed by what sounded like a child's scream.
The EDI meter then started flashing again, this time blue lights to indicate the detection of electromagnetic fluctuations. Zak says, "the geophone has actually detecting a strong presence of electromagnetic energy." Again, this is very confusing. A geophone is a device that converts ground movement into voltage, it detects vibration, not electromagnetic energy or temperature as Zak previously said. Despite the confusion, the device did register a spike in EM and another temperature increase.
After several more garbled responses on the spirit box, Aaron falls to the floor and says he's blacking out and moments later he ran from the property, falling down the stairs as he went.
Once safely outside the house, he explains that the reason he ran was that he saw a figure stood over him wearing a hat, only half of its face was visible to him, the other half was transparent. Zak thinks that this incident could have been foreshadowed by a Polaroid photo that Aaron took of Zak earlier in the investigation in which only half of Zak's face is visible due to what appears to be an unexplained photographic fault.
Zak and Billy enter the upstairs of the house one last time, this time armed with an SLS camera or structured light sensor camera, a device which tries to find human-like shapes in the darkness. The camera shows three twitching and dancing stick figures on its screen, suggesting there could be three spirits present with them in the attic.
The show was very well-paced. About half of the episode was genuinely interesting as we learned about the dark past of H. H. Holmes. This included some well made reconstructions of the Holmes and his victims and some beautifully cinematic shots of the house.
The rest of the episode was a pretty fast-moving paranormal investigation which relied heavily on ghost hunting gadgets. Some of which produced better evidence than others.
However, it was a shame to see someone of Zak's caliber lacking the basic understanding of some very common ghost hunting devices, including what they are called and what they do. After all, it was just last year that Zak wrote the book 'Ghost Hunting For Dummies' which has a section on ghost hunting gadgets. So, it's hard to understand why Zak wouldn't know what a geophone is or what it measures.
Other than that, the show was a solid ghost hunting adventure. It was watchable, interesting and had some good evidence. Nothing mind blowing, but enough to make you think something odd is going on in the house.
'Ghost Adventures: Serial Killer Spirits' continues next week on Really as part of the channel's #Freakend event, bringing viewers two nights of paranormal entertainment every Thursday and Friday.
You can watch in the United Kingdom and Ireland as part of the Discovery family of channels. You can watch Really on Freeview (17), Sky (142), Virgin Media (129) and Freesat (160), plus YouView, BT TV and TalkTalk TV. Or watch previous episodes on demand on dplay.
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