You’re never alone when you grow up in a haunted house. This could lead to embarrassment as you hit adolescence, but unless there’s serious poltergeist activity, the experience is usually fairly mundane. However, when the spooks get nasty and the next Ghostbusters sequel means Venkman and his crew are otherwise preoccupied, you’d be well advised to seek out Kindred Spirits. Season 3 is coming to Travel Channel and paranormal investigators Amy Bruni and Adam Berry have been known to cross the country when haunts get too familiar.
Bruni and Berry haunt the ghosts on Kindred Spirits, which premieres season 3 on Thursday, January 24 at 10 p.m. They materialize at “evil and historic locations” throughout America to scare negative manifestations away with positive vibes. The season debuts at a compound that housed an orphanage, but the duo also delve deep into asylums, homes inhabited by aggressive entities and the battlefields of the Civil War this season. With special guests like psychic medium Chip Coffey and paranormal researcher John Tenney, Kindred Spirits reconstructs the faded stories of the dead.
Amy Bruni has been doing this since she was a kid and went out on paranormal excursions with her dad. She’s traveled the country to visit its most haunted places, researching the group dynamics of ghost-hunting teams and lecturing on the history of paranormal investigation. Bruni met Adam Berry when she was the historical researcher for seven seasons on Syfy’s Ghost Hunters. Berry’s paranormal interest was sparked by an experience he had in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He founded his own investigation team in 2007, to document cases of strange activity.
Kindred Spirits season three opens with a one-hour episode exploring restless spirits at the site of the Odd Fellows Compound in Liberty, Missouri. The Odd Fellows Home is well known in the area. The District includes a home for the elderly, a hospital, a school and a cemetery where 600 people are buried. It is also the home of The Belvoir Winery, which throws wine tastings, weddings, and other events. Visitors have spotted ghosts of an old woman singing and a mischievous man on the property. They sometimes hear the sounds of children playing. More than 10,000 people died on the property. Now their pain has fostered a malevolent entity which sets off low-level demonic frequency registers in the experts’ arsenal of paranormal detectors.
Amy and Adam spoke with Den of Geek about ghosts and spirits, including the exquisite wine at The Belvoir Winery, which they assured us isn’t haunted with anything but a delicious aftertaste, before giving up the ghosts.
Den of Geek: How prevalent was the mythology of the Odd Fellows home and compound in the town when you first started doing the investigations?
Amy Bruni: Oh, that place has been rumored to be haunted for years. Even before Jesse and his family purchased it. I have some friends that grew up in the area, and they remember being in High School and breaking into that place and looking for ghosts. I think it’s long been rumored to be haunted. Especially, if you just look at it, it’s a very foreboding set of buildings. Once you get inside, especially now the renovated building is just gorgeous, but the other ones, that’s one of those places we call “It ought to be haunted.” You see it and you’re like, “That ought to be haunted.”
Adam Berry: Yeah. Also, we met a lot of people that were connected to that building before Jesse and his family took it over. We spoke to one woman specifically, who was a kid in a classroom in the orphanage part, and everything else was run down and a bit dingy, but there was one room upstairs that they still used as a classroom, and she was a student there. And they all said that they had weird experiences going to school there and it’s interesting to see, how many “lives” this building has had, so that energy sticks around a little and stories accumulate.
You’ve also explored killings and sites of murders over the past few seasons, so I’m wondering what it is that actually scares you?
Amy: For us, I think the one time I was actually nervous, even this season. We were assisting a family where the woman felt she was cursed. Twice actually, there were two cases like this. Where the people felt that the people around them, were being affected and dying and getting in accidents and things. And I remember looking at Adam once, going, “should we be worried?” That was a moment where I definitely felt a little nervous. It was one of those things where we didn’t necessarily believe that this was the case, but there was this “what if?”
Adam: Right. And I think we also get a little nervous if something is messing with you or playing with you, or not giving you answers. Just poking you and poking the beast, as it were, I feel like that’s a little unnerving because you don’t really know what you’re dealing with, because a) you’re not getting solid answers, and b) you have to figure out what it is. You have to continue to prod and continue to look. And if it’s just messing with you, it can be a little bit intense.
You’ve done these explorations so many times, do you think you might go into these spaces, expecting to be scared and push different energies?
Amy: Adam and I have long speculated that there’s something about our energy, in general, that brings things out. I don’t know if it’s because we have done it so much, that we approach it differently or there’s a comfort level when we walk in, that some people don’t have. But that whatever is there feels more like they can interact with us. I think there is something to that. We never expect anything to happen. If anything, we expect things not to happen. Most of the time we find other reasons for activity or we find explanations, and, so we go in with the opposite idea.
Adam: Yeah. For sure. I think when you go in with expectations, you get it wrong. I think you get it wrong if you go with expectations. Because something will happen, you automatically assume that it’s a ghost or it’s negative or it’s bad. And if you go in expecting nothing and you get something, then that’s more concrete I think, than going in and thinking, “Oh, this place is already haunted. Let’s go in.” Of course, the people that we’re going in to help, they have had experiences and so it’s our job to wade through that and be like, “Okay. What experiences can we explain away and what are things that we really need to focus on, to figure out what is this haunting.”
One episode I watched for fun was “The Legacy of Lizzie Borden.” What did you find there we hadn’t seen before?
Amy: Well, I think it was a non-popular notion, something people hadn’t really thought about, that sometimes when we investigate these places so much, other things start arriving. Other ghosts, other activity, and we were at the Lizzie Borden house, but we weren’t looking for Lizzie, or the Bordens, we were looking to help one of the employees there. She felt as though her family was visiting her there, whilst she was at the house. And so, that was a unique perspective on it. And the interesting thing is, we go back to another Lizzie Borden residence this season. We go to her house, where she moved and bought after she was acquitted. And, again, it’s a very interesting take on the whole thing. So, we like to look at things outside the box. We like to do things a little differently. We don’t like to reinvestigate the same old places in the same way.
The Lizzie Borden house is in New England, the place you were just at, is in Liberty, Missouri, you’ve investigated hauntings all over the country. Are there regional differences in the actual paranormal experience? Is there a different flavor to a New England haunting, to say, one in the South?
Adam: I love New England, obviously. We live here, it’s spooky, and when we get into the Fall, there’s a whole spookiness to it, you can’t get until the leaves turn. But other than that, I feel like every haunting is different. I think the biggest thing for us is, regionally, it’s how you speak to an individual based on where they are, what your location is, whether it be the South or the Midwest or the Northeast, and what time period. I think those three factors come into play when we speak to an entity, because you don’t want to say something that’s off-color to them, especially if they were someone who works on a plantation. You have to know how to talk to them. And I think we get through that by researching history and knowing our background and knowing our historical accurate information, to be able to speak to these individuals.
So, I think each haunting has a similar thing, meaning that it’s an unknown, it’s something that we’re trying to figure out. But I think each different investigation, it’s how we talk to them. It’s regionally. If that makes sense? I’m trying to make sense of that.
Amy: I think too, along those lines. Sometimes we go into places where it seems so clear what a haunting would be regionally, based on what’s happened there. So, when we go to Gettysburg for example, you think it would be associated with the Battle of Gettysburg. Or, New England would have something involving the Revolutionary War. So, it’s easy to get caught up in that and start directing questions with that assumption. I feel that’s one of the things we try to break away from. But I think that, regionally, it can definitely affect people’s investigations. They can veer towards what’s known most, historically, in an area.
Adam: Yeah. And you know, if you think about it, I think we bring it up in one case. The Civil War happened 100 and something years ago, and a lot has happened since then. It’s not necessarily gonna be connected to it, but it could be.
Does it matter if the experience happens in a place where these things are believed by the population as opposed to where the majority is skeptical? How does that feed into it, the belief of the community culturally?
Amy: Well, it makes our job either easier, or harder. If we’re dealing with maybe a family, or… for us, we’re definitely past the phase of trying to convince other people that ghosts exist. We’re like, “If you don’t believe, that’s totally fine.” But if we’re trying to help a family, or a business, and some people are believers and others are non-believers, that can make our investigation tough. But, it is a cultural thing, and I also think you’d be surprised, I would say the majority of people believe in ghosts in the United States, as opposed to being skeptical. I think they believe there’s something else out there per se, and maybe aren’t ready to put, necessarily, a paranormal or ghost spin on it. But, overall, I would say most people are cooperative and easy as far as when we’re investigating and trying to help.
Adam: Yeah. I would say that what becomes difficult is getting into a region where they may be more religious, or Christian-based, or something, whatever it is. You reach out to a museum, or a historical society, or someone who has information potentially to help us solve this case, and they refuse to talk to you, because they don’t believe in what you’re doing. They think what you’re doing is false, or it’s dealing with the Devil, and then they do not entertain the notion of you coming and accessing the information that you need for the case. That’s where it interferes in our work.
Amy: Yeah. That’s a really good point. And that can be really frustrating too, because we want to get it right for TV, not just for the case. And just sometimes, we’re like, “Well, we tried. We did our best. We did our due diligence.”
Let me get into the Devil for a little bit, because you have a satanic panic story. When you encounter what you call demons, why do they always have to be banished or taken away? Why can’t we actually study what they are? They might just be bullies. They may just be the spiritual equivalent of a lion. We don’t know. Why do we automatically have to push them away?
Amy: We don’t call anything demons. We definitely believe in more of like, hauntings can be darker or more aggressive. Just like a person when they were alive, just because they died, doesn’t mean they stopped being a jerk. If they were a jerk when they were alive… and that’s just it. Usually there’s a reason, and you have a really valid point. I think the only time we want to get rid of something like that, or try to move it along, is if it’s interfering with day to day life with people. Without giving too much away, in the case of the Odd Fellows compound, there were people staying there. There are kids there all the time. You don’t want some sort of aggressive entity walking around, scratching and shoving people, when you’re trying to run a business.
But, I’m sure researchers would love to know something like that was there, and continually study it. I think there’s something to what you’re saying for sure. It’s like keeping a pet lion, isn’t really reasonable for some of us.
Adam: Right. And everyone always asks us all the time, “Why don’t you cross things over? Why don’t you sage? Why don’t you do x, y, and z?” And we don’t believe in it really. We’ve gone to places where they’re like, “Oh, yeah. They crossed this ghost over. They’re no longer here.” But then we show up and there they are, because they’re not heard. And we find that when we are able to give answers to people. When we are able to solve the problem and give a solution, then they will move on, on their own. It’s not about that. I think demons are very rare. They’re very, very, rare. I believe that they exist, but I think anyone encountering them, is extremely slim to none.
I think what we encountered at the Odd Fellows hall, was a negative dark something and I think there was a thing that we felt that we could do, in order to combat that kind of thing. And some things aren’t fixed in a day. Some things aren’t fixed right then and there. Some things you have to continue to work on, on a daily basis. Jesse’s our friend, and we still talk to him. And things are going well, so far, at the compound and at the winery, and I think we made the right decision.
You mentioned the sage and things like that. So, do you do any sort of grounding or anything to protect yourself against unseen forces? Like Holy metals, Holy water, mirrors, candles or salt? Anything like that?
Amy: We don’t. We go into a place with sound mind, strong heart. If you maybe want to say a pray before entering, you do want to carry a religious metal, that’s great if that works for people to make them feel stronger. But to us, if we forgot that, or we forgot to say that prayer, then if we held too much stock in it, we’d feel weaker if we forgot. So, for us, we just believe that we, ourselves, are strong enough to see these types of hauntings. And that has worked for us. But also, we’re the happiest ghost hunters you’ll ever meet. We’re very positive and we laugh a lot. And so I think that has something to do with it too, just being a positive person really affects that. But we understand some people when they come on investigations with us, they really do want to say a prayer, or bring crystals. But, whatever makes you feel better is totally fine. But for us, we just don’t want something that can be taken away, and make us feel weaker.
Adam: Right. And also, I will just add on top of that, we don’t ever pretend to know everything. So, we know a lot of stuff based on our experiences. But we’re not experts. I don’t think there are any experts in the field. So, we call on our friends who may have other information or advice for us, which may help us along in the case, and you see that a lot in Season 2. We have friends in this paranormal field that we work with. So, a lot of our friends in the field, they know information that we don’t. And so, we call upon that. And I think that gives us more confidence, I think, in terms of going into a place and tackling something, and going down a dark hallway when we know that something could be weird down in there, or may want to be mean to us. And I think we rely on our strengths, which is what we know and the resources that we have, I think. And that helps us a lot.
Each of you had very different paranormal experiences growing up, with this. Amy, the man who was dressed in green you saw as a child, do you think he presented himself to you when you were young, or were you just open to it?
Amy: I feel like it could’ve really been either, because it wasn’t just me who saw him. So, over the years multiple people saw him- adults and children. And I think I could have been more open to it, because my family- they were very new-agey and metaphysical and talked about ghosts and spirits a lot, especially once we moved into that house. And so I could have been opening myself up to it or looking for it more. Because at that point, I started having a really intense interest. I was only eight or nine, and I was checking out books by Hans Holzer at the local library. So, I could have been open to it, but who knows?
Were either of you doing anything actively, like meditations or anything like that, to contact spirits?
Amy: I wasn’t then, no. Over the years, I’ve tried it all. Especially in High School and stuff, I tried seances, I tied Ouija boards, I tried levitating, I tried astral projection. I definitely have dabbled in everything.
Adam: Also, in this new season we test our own intuition, if that makes any sense? There are a couple of times where we put our own intuition to test. There’s something to be said for just your gut. What does your gut say? And what are you feeling at this moment? Obviously, don’t base an entire investigation on that, but we were able to test that a little bit this season, which I find interesting, because we all have some sort of connection to the other side.
And then you also have the sensitives that you work with, like Chip Coffey.
Adam: Oh God yeah. He just blows my freaking mind. I can’t… oh my God. The things that he says. I’ve never met anyone more in-tune with whatever that is than him. It’s insane. It’s absolutely insane and I’m not even joking. We talk about it all the time. It’s like, Chip, you are just really insane, Dude. I don’t know how he does it.
If we can feed into the energies, can we create our own ghosts?
Adam: Oh yeah.
Amy: I would never say that was absolute, but I theorize, yes we could. Because, I know people have projected themselves elsewhere. Sometimes people will report seeing the entity of someone else, a thousand miles away from where that person actually is. Or they might see themselves. Later in the Season, we do a lot of experiments with energy and locations, and making things happen elsewhere. And I think the results will surprise most people.
Adam: Yeah. And we were able to do a lot of different experiments this Season, because we visit a lot of different places. Yes, we have these big locations that we have a connection to personally, or seem to have crazy activity, but we also have a lot of families. Amy said it earlier, we had about a year downtime, and so we had tons and tons of cases. So, all these cases are really intense, especially the family cases. And we were able to try lots of different things, to get answers. We had a lot of time to think about it, that’s for sure.
Okay, on Allen Street in the Lower East Side, at dusk you can see old men playing bocce ball who disappear if you get too close. So, if I want to leave my ghost somewhere, say when I die I want to hang about on 26th Street, how do I do it?
Adam: How do you do it? I don’t know. If we knew that, the ghosts would be so much easier to find, I think. If we knew how to make it happen, it’d be so much easier.
Amy: But somehow, I think it happens. People don’t necessarily haunt the spot where they died. Sometimes it’s the spot where they were happiest. Where they appear as themselves in a different time period. We have a lot of people whose ghost appears when they were kids, because that’s when they were happiest. So, that stands to say that maybe we do have some sort of choice in the afterlife.
Adam: We have this theory that they can speak to each other, which is kind of strange. If they’re in the same town or in the same building, they can talk to each other and give us information, based on that. What is that? What does that mean, a ghost community? Is it like the Beetlejuice movie? The afterlife, where everyone’s chatting with each other? That’s so bizarre to me. Especially when they know information that we haven’t even said out loud in the space, it’s crazy.
When you die, do you think you’d prefer to move on, or do you think you’d rather leave a ghost?
Amy: I don’t know. I feel like every ghost we’ve encountered, as we’ve dug into it, there’s usually a reason they’re here. There’s usually some sort of message. We’ve theorized that the whole unfinished business, is very real. And so, I don’t know, it would depend on what my situation is when I die.
Adam: Yeah, I would say, if we got to choose, I’m gonna choose some place really fun like Disneyworld. Some place where I know my family’s gonna be a lot: the beach. I’m definitely not gonna pick an old, rundown, abandoned, complex. I’m gonna pick a spa… maybe a cruise ship. I’m going all out.
Amy: I’d definitely pick a spa, for sure.
Adam: Yeah, I’m gonna post up somewhere fun, that’s for sure. If you can choose.
I’m gonna hang at the haunted mansion at Disneyland, so no one will notice me.
Adam: Exactly. I think people see ghosts all the time there, and they don’t even know it. In New York… when I used to live in New York, you’d see somebody weird and crazy looking on the subway in a 1970’s outfit, I’m like, “That’s probably a ghost.” Because, you would not know the difference.
Let me ask you about the machinery. This is Den of Geek, we like gadgets. What’s the difference really, between the new technology and the Ouija boards, black mirrors, or other divining tools of the past, and what gadgets do you like?
Amy: Probably the human element. Anytime you’re using something that relies on a person to make something happen, there’s always that room for some sort of psychological effect. Like Ouija boards, the second you put a blindfold on someone, the Ouija board stops working. Because it’s the whole ideomotor effect. So, we eliminate those kinds of things, but I think when we’re using gadgets, it’s just one part of the investigation. But yeah, we do enjoy some good technology.
Adam: I think our favorite piece of equipment, is a recorder, the SLS camera, which stands for Structured Light Sensor. Basically, takes connect video game technology and turns it on to an empty space. And so, instead of mapping a human being, it maps something we can’t see. I think that’s an interesting thing that we use. We use electro-magnetic field detectors. We use motion sensors. We use a teddy bear that talks to children. We have equipment and all of these things add up. We don’t just take one piece of equipment, and it goes off, and it’s “Oh, there’s a ghost.” So, we take all of these elements, including things that aren’t so technologically driven. Things that were used 100 years ago- bells and candles and things like that, that they used to communicate with spirits back then. If it worked back then, why wouldn’t it work now? So we take all of this equipment, and then we weigh the pros and cons, and see what we’ve come up with, based on history, research, evidence. It’s a lot. We try to cover our bases as much as we can, before giving a solution.
Madame Blavatsky, the theosophist, started in mid-town, do you study the works of the early 20th Century, the first wave that really started to push this as a science?
Amy: Yeah. For us, the whole spiritualist movement and everything, is so interesting. There’s so many crazy stories around, I think… then it was really at the forefront. It was front page news. Mediums were celebrities. And, yeah, I think it’s interesting to see the difference to how it was received then versus now. But yeah, I do a whole lecture on the history of ghost hunting, and how it all started. That was really what I grew up reading and looking at, were those pictures of Mumler photos. And pictures of mediums with crazy, fake, ectoplasms coming out of their rear.
I was just thinking that too. Madame Blavatsky was able to conjure ectoplasmic residue from her nether regions, apparently.
Amy: Yes. Exactly. That’s where it comes form. There’s so much that’s very disturbing.
Why isn’t that on cable TV?
Adam: It’s so funny. You have to look at the past, to move onto the future. And I think it’s really hard these days, for someone to believe a video. People send us videos all the time, like, “Oh, what do you think of this?” And it’s so hard to look at it and be like, “Oh, that’s a ghost.” Because we’re so skeptical. We see so much on the internet and we have so much media surrounding us, and I think back then it was much easier to see a drawing of someone or a photograph, and be like, “Oh, my God. That’s a ghost.” We’re not in the business of proving ghosts exist any more, we’re past that. We don’t have to do that anymore. We’ve caught it on camera, we’ve caught EDPs, we know they exist, and if you don’t believe it, that’s totally fine. We’re now in the business of finding out who, what, why, and how. I think being very skeptical, and having all this technology and media, is a good thing, because it makes everybody work harder to find a solution, and find an answer, rather than just taking a couple of light lips on a device, as the end all be all, solution.
What is the most dramatic experience you’ve encountered, either on or off camera?
Amy: Yeah, this season I had my most compelling experience to date, for sure. I won’t say where it was, but I saw a man appear before me, and disappear. I saw the whole thing happen and then it was a whole sequence of events. And then, a couple minutes later, I was violently grabbed on the arm by, I assume, the same person. He was really unhappy with us. The weird thing is, when I saw him, I was staring straight at him when I saw him. Adam saw him out of the corner of his eyes, so Adam was able to… we both reacted, but I think because I was staring right at him, it was a lot crazier for me. Where Adam saw something out of the corner of his eye. But just the fact that Adam did see something at the same moment, was able to confirm that something appeared in that spot. I covered my eyes and I made Adam lead me out. I was like, “I don’t want to see any more. I just don’t want to see that ever again.” It was really scary. When you’re faced with that, that’s undeniable. You can’t deny that. I saw that. And it will stay with me forever.
Adam: Yeah, and I think the more we do this, the less we know. You keep going, and you keep pushing, and then something else happens, and you’re like, “I’ve never seen that before. That makes no sense. Why does that occur?” And I think that is uneasy. That is the thing that it’s necessary to do what we do in the field, and I think we are surprised, especially this Season. There are a lot of times that we are definitely surprised, like, that makes no sense but it just happened, and I don’t know. And also, things messing with you. Things pretending… I don’t know, just not giving you any answers, but just messing with you the whole time. You have to grab yourself and be level headed about it, and keep trudging through, because eventually you’re gonna find an answer. You’re eventually gonna crack that egg and get to the yolk, as it were.
Amy: When I saw that figure, because I’ve seen things before. I’ve seen partial apparitions. I saw an apparition as a child. But for me, that particular one… it was the series of events, and he was so angry. And the way he was looking and the way he was standing, he was sending a very clear message. And so that, for me, that was a really crazy moment.
How many times have you seen Ghostbusters?
Amy: We’ve seen it way too many times to be honest. It’s one of my favorite movies. I’m so excited that they’ve just announced that there is another Ghostbusters movie coming out. What I adore about that movie, is it does stick to so many of the spiritualist movement type notions, because Dan Aykroyd’s father was such a huge proponent of that and wrote books on it and everything. So, Dan Aykroyd was raised around that. And so a lot of it, is kind of true to life, even though it’s comedic. It’s really funny, and I adore that movie. I’ve shown it to my six year old, and she’s not interested yet. I’m like, “Okay, one day you’re gonna love this movie.” It has to happen, right?
Kindred Spirits season 3 premieres on Thursday, January 24 at 10 p.m. on Travel Channel.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.