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The New (Para) Normal

Lori Gum sure knows how to put the perfect pitch on a project.

After a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, she and her cohorts now have a pile of cash ($35K-plus!) to produce a web docuseries, that even in the wild world of crowdfunding stands alone as novel:

They’re gonna hunt some queer ghosts.

Gum and friend Shane McClelland have been used to paranormal skeptics, but after handful of trips last year with predominantly straight ghost hunters, they were unable to suspend disbelief that every spirit on the other side was reaching out to their straight spouse.

“If we contacted an entity that we thought was male—immediately it would be followed up with questions such as…. “What was your wife’s name… and did you have children?” Gum said. “I mean c’mon…. the LGBTQ (Queer) community through the centuries has been disproportionately incarcerated, disproportionately committed to insane asylums and disproportionately worked in theaters and opera houses…. all of the places where ghosts are found by traditional ghost hunters! And you mean to tell me that on all of these shows and hunts…. No one has found a queer ghost?!”

Then and there they hatched the plan for Queer Ghost Hunters, which started as a Stonewall Columbus project before it was determined as the next project of LGBT filmmaker Stu Maddox (of Reel in the Closet fame). The project, to their knowledge, is the first of its kind in the world.

“No one is asking and no one is creating a safe space where these entities can tell their stories and be their authentic selves,” Gum said.

The results have been revelatory. Gum says that in reaching out to spirits no one had bothered to contact before, they’re unlocking not just a supernatural pathway, but potentially ending the suffering of a spirit—long a staple of paranormal investigation.

“I truly believe that the afterlife is rampant with the oppression that occurred during their real lives,” she said. “That is why we are doing this—and to tell their stories … of how they had to deal with this persecution during their lives. Many of [their] stories were never heard because their sexuality and gender expression were criminalized and their stories buried and snuffed out of the history books.”

“Our mission is to unbury those lives and bring them to public knowledge and literally re-write the history of our community—a history of the forgotten and lost.”

The group that the show will follow now consists of six members, including Katy Detrow, the series’ queer historian. She does a complete history of each venue from a queer perspective, and alerts the group all “queer red flags,” as Gum puts it. “Spinsters, unmarried men and women… sodomy convictions, etc.,” she said.

Despite many of the existing television shows surrounding the practice being rife with “straight, white-male machismo,” Gum says that the paranormal community has not only been accepting of their mission, but have been thrilled to hear of their findings.

“By the end of the night they are always compelled at what we have found and usually ask us to send them our queer history,” Gum said. “Most of these guys have spent 20-30 years ghost hunting and they are just excited to get any new research or connection to all entities that might have not been otherwise contacted. And on a few visits… by the end of the night…. They have confided that their son is gay… or their niece is transgender. It is all pretty freakin’ amazing to us.”

Which, is part of the undertaking for the QGH—retroactively creating a safe path for those who have come before us.

“Most of the entities have tried to pass during their material life as heterosexual—which was expected and the safer route. But what we’re finding is spirits will open up to us, and share these secrets. Through our research we typically select a location where we believe the entities that we are searching for may have been closeted in life,” he said.

It’s a series that isn’t just expanding the LGBT landscape, but adding new depth to the field of ghost hunting as well, since previous hetero-paranormal methodology, “excludes a part of the population and doesn’t lead to new discoveries,” according to McClelland.

“We [have an] opportunity to really restore a page to the history books,” he said.

Gum recognizes that there can be some novelty in breaking down a sub-demographic of a practice that already has it’s detractors, but she thinks the mix of serious soul-searching and campiness is the genius of the series.

“We have a very fun time … queer people are very funny—and I think our queer ghost entities respond to that,” she said. “How nice to laugh at oneself not only now, but 100 years ago.  And I think our community is happy to come along with us and have fun—and learn about our bold, fearless LGBTQ ancestors.”

Now, you can come along with the QGH team, motoring their sedan emblazoned with a ghost flying a rainbow flag, in search of the Lesbian Nun Ghosts of rural Ohio and all other forgotten souls. For more, visit queerghosthunters.com.

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.