Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Most ghost hunting shows are pretty formulaic. They give you a brief background, with the most popular version of the story, a quick tour of the location, and then spend the rest of the episode chasing bumps and shadows. Occasionally they will debunk something, for credibility’s sake. So that you believe all the bumps and shadows and whispery EVPs are real.
That’s not what you get with Small Town Monsters’ newest release, On the Trail of Hauntings. The latest in their On the Trail of… series, Hauntings first episode takes the crew to Hanoverton, Ohio where they explore legends and supposed hauntings surrounding the Grove Hill Cemetery. They discuss a few, but the main focus is the story of the “Witch of Hanoverton” Christina Sloan. Instead of the brief version of her legend, they give you three, starting with the “my friend told me about” version with confused details, an amateur ghost hunter and historian’s standard version of the legend, and a ghost tour guide’s more complex version, complete with alternate endings and sources of possible confusion and contradiction.
After spending 15 minutes of the half-hour show hearing the stories, they spend the second half debunking, discussing and investigating the claims. Some of that time is dedicated to a review of video footage; a trope we’ve gotten used to in paranormal shows. But instead of claiming they’ve captured irrefutable evidence of a ghost, the STM investigators essentially say, “oh, that’s interesting,” and wrap up the show.
The interesting thing they’ve captured – a light that doesn’t seem to correspond to any vehicles or reflections, which is what they’ve suggested to debunk other reported ghost lights seen in the cemetery – is left to stand on it’s own.
Likewise, the crew doesn’t deconstruct and pick apart the sometimes contradictory stories of Christina Sloan – the apparently shared name of George Sloan’s legitimate and illegitimate daughters. Was she accused or witchcraft and hanged after spurning the romantic advances of an overzealous clergyman? Accidentally, or intentionally, killed by men her biological father hired to intimidate her into silence after she approached him for assistance? Or did her own father accuse and have her hanged for witchcraft to keep word of his infidelity quiet?
They aren’t making any claims of secret, psychic knowledge and leave it all there for the viewers to weigh for themselves.
It’s a refreshing trend, and one I hope they stick with as they continue On the Trail of Hauntings, the first series to be introduced through their Small Town Monsters Squad subscription service. In addition to giving members access to new On the Trail of… series first, before they are released through streaming services and on physical media, it also gives them sneak previews and development diaries on other STM projects as they are in progress. Producer Seth Breedlove said there are already “dozens of hours” of content for Squad members.
And what about the fabled medallions? One version of the story says the grave of the Hanoverton Witch was surrounded by protective medallions, and that when the last one fell she would return to exact her revenge. Chains and medallions actually encircled the entire Sloan family plot, where Christina may or may not be buried. (While a tombstone shows that legitimate Christina died at the age of 22 and 2 months, illegitimate Christina is also said to have been buried in an unmarked grave within the family plot.) The last of those reportedly fell in September of 2019.
Hanover Township, so far, hasn’t been overrun by paranormal activity.
If it happens, though, I’m counting on the Small Town Monsters crew to pay another visit.
For more information about On the Trail of Hauntings, the Small Town Monsters Squad subscription service, and all STM productions, check out smalltownmonsters.com.
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