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Travel Channel Photo / Paranormal pioneers Steve Gonsalves, Jason Hawes and Dave Tango star in the new series "Ghost Nation."

Paranormal researchers are on the prowl in Tennessee as a new season of spine-tingling programming debuts on the Travel Channel. The premiere of the new series "Ghost Nation" accompanies the East Tennessee Paranormal Project to an 1800s farmhouse, and an episode of "Destination Fear" investigates the Old South Pittsburg Hospital. Later, Georgia reportedly moves into the spotlight for the story of a brutal double murder at Trion's Corpsewood Manor.

 

some text Jessica Clevinger will be featured in the series premiere of "Ghost Nation" on Travel Channel, bringing a case initially worked by the East Tennessee Paranormal Project to the attention of the United Paranormal Research Organization.

'GHOST NATION'

Premiering Friday night, "Ghost Nation" calls on the Morristown- based ETPP, headed by Mac McHone, born and raised in Whitwell, Tennessee, and former member of the Chattanooga-based South Eastern Paranormal Society. The case centers on a family in White Pine, Tennessee, just south of Morristown.

According to producers, single mom Brittany Totherow moved into the historic farmhouse thinking it was the perfect place to raise her young son. But soon after moving in, she experienced unnerving phenomena and witnessed a female apparition. Her future husband, Cory, eventually moved into the house with his own children and soon began experiencing events himself. Within days, he started hearing unexplained footsteps and captured video of an apparition standing behind Brittany. Then their children began having strange encounters.

McHone says the ETPP team's initial investigation turned up "a tremendous amount of [paranormal] activity," including toys that moved by themselves and a voice saying "hey" or "hello," heard by three of the members.

"It was unnerving," he says. "I'd never heard a disembodied voice in my life until being in that home.

"This is an old home, and there was so much going on and so much history, and we weren't sure if the evidence that they gave us or what happened to us really happened or if we were being manipulated by the family," he explains. "We wanted a second opinion basically."

Enter the "Ghost Nation" crew. The new series reunites three investigators from the original "Ghost Hunters," which pioneered paranormal reality television. "Ghost Hunters" ran for 11 seasons, 2004-2016, on Syfy, including a "Flooded Souls" episode filmed at Hales Bar Dam in Haletown, Tennessee, in season eight.

A rebooted "Ghost Hunters" re-emerged this season on A&E, while three of the show's best-known investigators — Jason Hawes, Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango — moved on to "Ghost Nation," developed by the Travel Channel. Spooky programming is front and center for the network this month, with a creepy mix of new series, specials and returning favorites conjuring up a nightly treat every day of October.

"Halloween is Travel Channel's Super Bowl," says General Manager Matthew Butler. "We're pulling out all the stops for 'Ghostober' this year — from a live ghost hunt in Salem, Massachusetts, and an iconic investigation of the house that inspired 'The Conjuring,' to reopening the case files of America's first ghost hunter, Hans Holzer. And we have the biggest stars and experts in the field to take us to every haunted, cobweb-covered corner in America "

Those stars include Hawes, Gonsalves and Tango, who worked primarily with ETPP member Jessica Clevinger on the farmhouse case.

McHone says the five-member team takes pride that "our story was strong enough to make the premiere episode. It's a pretty big deal considering that 'Ghost Nation' is an all-new show with the pioneers of paranormal programming that started it all almost 15 years ago."

The hour-long premiere of "Ghost Nation" will air at 9 p.m. ET Friday, Oct. 11.

 

some text Travel Channel Photo / Dakota Laden, Chelsea Laden and Tanner Wiseman, from left, film an episode of "Destination Fear" in the Old South Pittsburg Hospital.

'DESTINATION FEAR'

Also new to the Travel Channel lineup is "Destination Fear," which follows paranormal explorer Dakota Laden, previously part of the crew on "Ghost Adventures," now in its 16th season on Travel Channel. In the new series, he teams up with his sister, Chelsea Laden, and best friend, Tanner Wiseman, to travel the country in an RV in what producers say may be "the most terrifying road trip ever attempted." Their first two stops are in Tennessee.

To build suspense, locations remain a surprise to all but Dakota. Upon arrival, the three zone in on areas of reported paranormal activity and use scientific equipment to try to capture evidence. Then the luck of the draw determines where each one will sleep overnight, separated and alone.

"My sister Chelsea and I grew up in a house with paranormal activity, and it's gripped us, and my best friend, Tanner, ever since," says Dakota. "The three of us have always loved exploring haunted locations but began to realize how much our fears of the unknown affected us and held us back from getting answers. So we're hitting the road in a terrifying attempt to confront and overcome these fears head-on, night after night, as we sleep inside America's scariest abandoned buildings."

The series premiere, at 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, takes the threesome to the now-closed Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, about 20 minutes northwest of Oak Ridge. Known as the "Alcatraz of the South," the prison bore witness to more than 10,000 deaths and once housed James Earl Ray, assassin of Martin Luther King Jr. An episode guide says Chelsea "has a shocking confrontation with an entity inside Ray's cell, and Tanner is threatened by something unknown."

Less is known about the second episode, airing Nov. 2. This leg of the road trip brings them to Marion County to explore the Old South Pittsburg Hospital, which has a growing reputation as one of the most haunted locations in America.

Built in 1959, the Holly Avenue facility, originally known as the South Pittsburg Municipal Hospital, was a full-service hospital with two emergency rooms, a day surgery wing, X-ray and observation rooms and a full dental suite, says the new owner of site, who will identify himself only as Ronnie D. A 1979 expansion added three operating rooms, delivery and labor room, maternity ward and "way, way more beds," he says. It closed in 1998 when Grandview Hospital, now Parkridge West Hospital, opened in Jasper.

In the years since, the site had become popular with local and regional paranormal investigators and ghost hunters. It gained national attention after it was featured on Discovery Channel's "Ghost Asylum," which focused on the exploits of a paranormal team known as the Tennessee Wraith Chasers.

Ronnie D., who has pursued paranormal investigation going on 16 years, says he had previously toured the site and "had an awesome paranormal adventure there." When he learned it was being sold in a tax auction, he jumped at the opportunity to buy it. Previous visitors had complained of mold and other hazards under the previous ownership. Ronnie D. says he has "cleaned it up, fixed it up" and is ready for business. He offers daytime and overnight investigations.

Although the "Destination Fear" producers are teasing that Chelsea might be forced to confront "a specter on the third floor that is said to attack only women," Ronnie D. says most visitors find the building to be serene, with sightings of medical personnel going about the business of running a hospital.

"It's not really frightening," he says. "They don't seem to be very nasty or mean. Most of the people who come to the hospital for paranormal investigations say it's a very calming building, very relaxing."

He says most visitors report seeing shadow figures or full-body apparitions. He says he personally has had "all sorts of paranormal experiences" on-site.

"One of the biggest actually was on the third floor in front of the [former] nursery, where I and a colleague of mine actually both saw a nurse walk past us," he says. "It was really, really cool. We watched her walk into the maternity ward and just disappear."

 

some text Photo from Mac McHone / Members of the East Tennessee Paranormal Project are, from left, Jessica Clevinger, Stephanie Cothran, Mac McHone, Cody Clevinger and Steven Cothran. The Clevingers are married. The Cothrans are siblings.

ET TU, 'CORPSEWOOD'?

McHone says he and fellow ghost hunter Lee Brown also have provided information on Corpsewood Manor to Discovery producers, though he doesn't know which of the entertainment company's platforms will produce the show. Discovery owns the Travel Channel, which airs "These Woods Are Haunted," and Destination America, which airs "Terror in the Woods."

Both shows are based on true accounts, and McHone says actors portray characters in reenactments.

The show would focus on the two men who were murdered at Corpsewood Manor in December 1982 and the rumors of evil that have swirled since. One of the victims, an accomplished scientist and university professor, was believed to experiment in the occult.

Paul Cagle of the South Eastern Paranormal Society believes Corpsewood's fright factor owes much to its remote location. The last time he was there, he says, the woods had reclaimed the little that remained of what was once known as "the castle in the woods."

The sense of isolation was profound.

"It was like you felt cut off from everyone else and so alone," he says. "It felt so eerie."

Tune in

The Travel Channel is on channel 66 on Comcast Xfinity and EPB-Fi.

* “Ghost Nation” premieres Friday, Oct. 11.

* “Destination Fear” premieres Saturday, Oct. 26. The episode featuring Old South Pittsburg Hospital will air Saturday, Nov. 2.

Contact Lisa Denton at ldenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6281.

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