Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, along with other team members who belong to the group they founded, The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), investigate locations of interest by using various electronic equipment, which they believe is capable of detecting paranormal activity.
When investigating a location, TAPS team members first visit and survey the property with its owners, who describe their experiences at the site. Next, the team sets up electronic equipment in the apparent paranormal hotspots. The TAPS team then spends several hours taking electromagnetic field and temperature readings, recording audio for EVPs, and filming with digital video cameras. Many times, they will even try to verbally coax the ghosts into responding, while recording. Afterwards, the team spends several days analyzing all of the data for evidence of possible paranormal activity.
A few days after reviewing the information, Hawes and Wilson discuss their findings with the location site owners, offer suggestions for dealing with any apparent activity, and answer any questions the owners may have.
The TAPS members state that they do not believe that every phenomenon captured is evidence of the paranormal and sometimes provide reasonable explanations such as cold spots which may be drafty windows, strange noises that may be a thumping branch or vermin in the walls, moving objects which may have been accidentally bumped or tugged, or phantom lights which can be reflections of light from a passing vehicle.
Since the series began airing, TAPS has recorded thousands of hours of audio and video data. Most investigations, according to TAPS, turn up cold with very little, if any, paranormal activity occurring; however, the ghost hunters claim to have several decent recordings of moving objects, mysterious lights, strange mists, and shadowy figures that manifest before the camera and are highlighted at the end of the show.
Syfy categorizes the program as a docu-soap. In addition to the investigative aspect, the show has also presented personal conflicts and relationships among members of the TAPS team. Portions of some episodes portray Hawes and Wilson involved with their plumbing job or personal lives, but this varies by episode and is not always included. As the series progressed, however, the "behind-the-scenes" and "docu-soap" aspects have been reduced, and the fifth season has so far focused primarily on the investigations, with virtually none of the docu-soap material that characterized earlier episodes.
During investigations, the TAPS ghost hunters team use various equipment, including digital thermometers, EMF meters, thermographic and night vision cameras, handheld and static digital video cameras, digital audio recorders, and laptop computers.
The team has also experimented, in at least one episode, with a geiger counter during their investigation to see if it would register any anomalous readings.
Starting around the third season, the team has used the K-2 (or K-II) meter, a type of EMF meter that uses a series of LEDs to measure the strength of an energy field instead of a numerical LCD screen. During the Manson murders investigation in particular, the team used a K-2 meter in an attempt to get "yes" and "no" responses to verbal questions posed to a supposed entity in a room.
In the fifth season's "Edith Wharton Estate" case, the team introduced two new pieces of equipment. One is a custom-made geophone, which detects vibrations and flashes a series of LEDs that measure the intensity of the vibration. The second is a new EMF detector that makes a buzzing sound when in the presence of an electromagnetic field, and the stronger the field, the louder it buzzes. In the episode, the geophones were recorded on video flashing to the vibrations of what sound like footsteps across a floor even though no one was supposedly in the room.
Other gear not typically shown on screen are an ion generator, a device that charges the air with electricity and is theorized to help spirits manifest, and the white noise generator, an audio device that makes a static background noise and is theorized to act as a catalyst for assisting entities in making EVPs.
Ghost Hunters has garnered some of the highest ratings of any Syfy reality programming. From the start, the show has found an audience for its mix of paranormal investigation and interpersonal drama. It has since been syndicated on NBC Universal sister cable channel Oxygen and also airs on the Canadian cable network, OLN.
In the early shows, TAPS was headquartered in a trailer located behind Jason Hawes' house, and they drove one white van to investigations. Within one season, they had moved the entire operation to a storefront in Warwick, Rhode Island, and acquired several new TAPS vehicles.
In addition to their successful television venture, TAPS operates a website where they share their stories, photographs, and ghost hunting videos with an ever-growing membership list. Because of the popularity of the show, TAPS cast members have signed contracts with at least two talent agencies, Escape Artistry and GP Entertainment, to manage their appearances at lectures, conferences and public events.
In addition to the success of the series, TAPS has ventured into the venue of radio broadcast, hosting a three-hour weekly show called Beyond Reality. New episodes are broadcast every Saturday from 7 pm to 10 pm Eastern Time, though sometimes may skip a week due to the possibility of the hosts being busy with other ventures. The radio show covers topics in a vast array of areas such as cryptozoology, spiritualism, ufology, and ghosts. The show is hosted by Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes, and includes guest appearances from other TAPS members and special guests such as John Zaffis, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Chris Fleming, and others who specialize in certain fields. Noted paranormal author Jeff Belanger and "Spooky Southcoast" radio host and author Tim Weisberg served as fill-in hosts for Jason and Grant. The show also once simulcasted on "Spooky Southcoast," airing from the Mt. Washington Hotel in New Hampshire.
On March 3, 2010, Ghost Hunters' 100th episode aired featuring their investigation of Alcatraz Prison. The two-hour special featured a live studio audience with question and answer segments, hosted by Josh Gates of Destination Truth. The special also featured the GHI crew, the winning contestants of Ghost Hunters Academy, and Craig Piligian, the creator and executive producer of Ghost Hunters.
On June 2, 2011, Syfy announced renewing Ghost Hunters for an eighth season making the series the longest running reality series on Syfy.
On June 7, 2016, Jason Hawes announced that Ghost Hunters will be concluding on Syfy with season 11 being the last season to be produced. The new network hasn't been announced.
Ghost Hunters has attracted various critics and skeptics, such as Joe Nickell of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Skeptical Inquirer author Lynne Kelly, James Randi, and Benjamin Radford. The Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society (SAPS) was founded with the intent to recreate and debunk segments of the show.
In June 2008, Ghost Hunters was awarded The Truly Terrible Television (TTTV) Award by Independent Investigations Group for peddling pseudoscience and superstition to its audience.
According to investigator Benjamin Radford, most ghost hunting groups including TAPS make many methodological mistakes. "After watching episodes of Ghost Hunters and other similar programs, it quickly becomes clear to anyone with a background in science that the methods used are both illogical and unscientific". Anyone can be a ghost investigator, "failing to consider alternative explanations for anomalous ... phenomena", considering emotions and feelings as "evidence of ghostly encounters." "Improper and unscientific investigation methods", for example, "using unproven tools and equipment", "sampling errors", "ineffectively using recording devices" and "focusing on the history of the location...and not the phenomena." In an article for Skeptical Inquirer, Radford concludes that ghost hunters should care about doing a truly scientific investigation: "I believe that if ghosts exist, they are important and deserve to be taken seriously. Most of the efforts to investigate ghosts so far have been badly flawed and unscientific — and not surprisingly, fruitless." In a New York Times article about Ghost Hunters and TAPS, Radford contended that "the group and others like it lack scientific rigor and mislead people into thinking that their homes are haunted."
The show's editing has been questioned, such as activity that is not captured on tape and findings that are unsupported by evidence in the show specifically. Tools are used in ways that are not proven effective, or in ways in which they have been proven ineffective, such as infrared thermometers that are claimed to detect cold spots in the middle of rooms when such tools are able only to measure the surface temperature of objects unless equipped with a probe accessory. However, the show has been seen using a probe attached to the infrared thermometer that would then give the temperature of both the surface it is pointed at and the area around the probe.
Techniques with thermal imaging cameras, Geiger counters, electronic voice phenomenon, and EMF detectors are used with little or no explanation as to how the techniques have proven to provide evidence of ghosts or other entities. There are concerns that the devices are misused, such as the noting of Benjamin Radford's article for Skeptical Inquirer: "you may own the world's most sophisticated thermometer, but if you are using it as a barometer, your measurements are worthless. Just as using a calculator doesn't make you a mathematician, using a scientific instrument doesn't make you a scientist."
During the seven-hour-long, live Halloween show on October 31, 2008, at least two events took place that critics have scrutinized: One occurs when lead investigator Grant Wilson has his jacket collar pulled down by an unseen force three times; all the while one of his hands remained at his side, which led detractors to claim he was pulling a hidden string. This happens again at one point where Hawes touches Wilson's back and his collar moves down again. Another occurs when a supposed disembodied voice tells the hunters, "You're not supposed to be here." Critics have claimed the voice sounded like it was piped in from an external audio source. Video of the incidents has been meticulously scrutinized on various websites. In regard to the scrutiny, Wilson and Hawes defended themselves, stating that everything in the show is real. In a 2013 interview on The Reveal, Wilson stated that their television contracts forbade them from faking evidence on the show.
A spin-off series which premiered Wednesday, January 9, 2008 and has featured investigators Robb Demarest, Brian Harnois, Donna LaCroix, Andy Andrews, Shannon Sylvia, and Barry Fitzgerald (who appeared in the summer 2007 Ireland episodes of Ghost Hunters) since the onset along with other rotating members from the TAPS family. The format is similar to Ghost Hunters but features investigations in various locations around the world.
Ghost Hunters producers Craig Pilligan and Tom Thayer released another paranormal investigation "special" titled UFO Hunters, (not to be confused with the show of the same name which aired on the History Channel), which first aired on January 30, 2008, however the show only aired one episode. The episode followed New York Strange Phenomena Investigators (NY-SPI) co-founders Oliver Kemenczky and Ted Davis, along with paranormal researcher Dennis Anderson, as they investigated an alleged alien abduction case in Carteret, New Jersey and a strange fireball sighting in Normandy Beach, New Jersey. The format was similar to a typical Ghost Hunters episode with most of the program dedicated to the investigation and wrapped up with a review of findings and evidence that was gathered. The pilot episode was reformatted and returned on December 13, 2008 as a special called Ny-Spi Investigates on Investigation Discovery, but was not picked up as a continuing series.
On October 23, 2008, TV Guide reported that Syfy would launch a spin-off of the show called Ghost Hunters: College Edition, which would feature "co-eds" in the ghost hunter roles. The show was later named Ghost Hunters Academy and began airing November 11, 2009. The series features Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango leading a group of amateur ghost hunters through various investigations.Jason Hawes – lead investigator/producer/TAPS Founder
Steve Gonsalves – co-lead investigator
Dave Tango – tech manager/investigator
K.J. McCormick – investigator
Dustin Pari – investigator
Samantha Hawes – investigator
Shari Marie (Ventura) DeBenedetti - investigator
Traci Boiselle - Case Manager
Adam Berry – investigator (2010-2014)
Amy Bruni – investigator (2008-2014)
Andy Andrews – investigator (2004-2007)
Ashley Troub – investigator (2012)
Barry Fitzgerald – investigator/GHI lead investigator (2006-2010)
Brian Harnois – tech manager/investigator (2004-2007)
Britt Griffith – investigator (2008-2014)
Carl Johnson – demonologist (2004-2006)
Donna LaCroix – case manager/investigator (2004-2007)
Grant Wilson – lead investigator/producer/TAPS co-founder (2004-2012, 2014)
Haily Hawes – investigator (2011-2014)
Joshua Ovenshire - Tech manager
Kris Williams – case manager/investigator/moved to GHI (2007-2011)
Lisa Dowaliby – investigator (2006-2007)
Michelle Tate – investigator (2013-2014)
Mike Dion – investigator (2004-2007)
Mike Rowe – narrator (2004-2010)
Paula Donovan – investigator (2005-2006)
Kristyn Gartland – investigator
Joseph "Joe" Chin - investigator
Ghost Hunters — Season 1 (The Complete) - (3 DVD set) - (October 18, 2005)
Ghost Hunters — Season 2 Part 1 - (4 DVD set) - (September 19, 2006)
Ghost Hunters — Season 2 Part 2 - (4 DVD set) - (September 19, 2006)
Ghost Hunters — Season 3 Part 1 - (3 DVD set) - (10/09/2007)
Ghost Hunters — Season 3 Part 2 - (3 DVD set) - (February 26, 2008)
Ghost Hunters — Season 4 Part 1 - (4 DVD set) - (10/07/2008)
Ghost Hunters — Season 4 Part 2 - (4 DVD set) - (March 17, 2009)
Ghost Hunters — Season 5 Part 1 - (3 DVD set) - (February 23, 2010)
Ghost Hunters — Season 5 Part 2 - (3 DVD set) - (April 27, 2010)
Ghost Hunters — Season 6 Part 1 - (3 DVD set, 3 Blu-ray set) - (September 13, 2011)
Ghost Hunters — Season 6 Part 2 - (3 DVD set, 3 Blu-ray set) - (10/11/2011)
Ghost Hunters — Season 7 Part 1 - (4 DVD set) - (August 14, 2012)
Ghost Hunters — Season 7 Part 2 - (4 DVD set) - (10/02/2012)
Ghost Hunters — Season 8 Part 1 - (4 DVD set) - (March 19, 2013)
Ghost Hunters — Season 8 Part 2 - (4 DVD set) - (06/11/2013)
Ghost Hunters — Season 9 Part 1 - (4 DVD set) - (August 12, 2014)
Ghost Hunters — Season 9 Part 2 - (2 DVD set) - (October 21, 2014)
The Very Best of Ghost Hunters Vol 1 (October 18, 2005)
The Very Best of Ghost Hunters Vol 2/Season 2 (September 19, 2006 & August 14, 2008)
Ghost Hunters — Live From The Shining Hotel- 2006 Halloween Special - (10/09/2007)
Ghost Hunters — Stanley Hotel - 2006 Halloween Special UNCUT' - (2 DVD set) - (2007)
Ghost Hunters — Live From The Waverly Hills Sanatorium - 2007 Halloween Special - (09/02/2008)
Ghost Hunters — Scary Pack (The Very Best of Ghost Hunters Vol 1/Vol 2) - (2 DVD set) - (September 16, 2008)
Ghost Hunters - The Absolute Best of Ghost Hunters - (Blu-ray includes Vol 1/Vol 2 + never before seen "Ghost Hunters Revelations")- (2009)
Ghost Hunters - The Best of Ghost Hunters - (01/05/2010)
Ghost Hunters - Military Investigations - (May 18, 2010)