With the world grappling with life and death questions due to the pandemic, the creators of “Haunted Hospitals” are hoping to illustrate that something really does happen after we die.
Premiering March 10 at 8 p.m. on T+E, season 3 promises plenty of Canadian and American stories from first responders, doctors, nurses and other professionals that reside in hospitals, long-term care facilities and support homes.
Edmonton-based paranormal researcher Morgan Knudsen returns to the show as a subject matter expert and underscored the importance of our senses during times of crisis during an early March phone conversation.
“There have been heightened reports of paranormal activity; more people are coming forward,” she said, of eyewitness accounts of the preternatural. “I had to really go back and dive into the psychology behind previous pandemics and mental health.
“I had to get up to speed with what was going on and I came to a couple of conclusions about it,” Knudsen added. “One being because so many individuals are sitting at home in a fear state … we’re starting to notice stuff that might not be paranormal, but we’re willing to attribute it to being paranormal, and you do have people picking up things they normally wouldn’t and are paranormal.”
The natural fight or flight response has been closer to the surface because of the pandemic-triggered anxiety. Critical thinking in a fear state, Knudsen said, stops and people are more susceptible to negative paranormal activity.
Knudsen said she has seen a rise in her own casework with negative entitles, which allowed her to deconstruct the events at hospitals.
Series producer Robin Bicknell, who just delivered the last rough cut of the show to the broadcasters, worked with the casting team to sift through many people to find authentic stories during the pandemic.
“Filming this year was different,” she said, in an early March phone conversation. “All the interviews that we used to do in-person, I had to do remotely. So, we had crews all over the U.S. and Canada in hubs.”
Bicknell was piped in through a teleprompter, to talk with witnesses. When it came to the dramatic scenes all safety measures were enacted to ensure the safety of the actors and crew.
Pictou, Nova Scotia resident Emily Walsh was one of the experiencers who opened up about her experience at a Halifax hospital in episode 1. She was rushed to the ER with abdominal pain the summer before the pandemic broke, the anesthesiologist inserted a tube into the wrong vein, severing Walsh’s carotid artery.
She survived the potentially fatal mistake, but her next few days in the hospital would include witnessing the spirit of a leather-jacket-clad man, whose face had been severely burned, as well as a malevolent entity, which she witnessed sitting on her mother’s chest.
“It had grayish, darkish skin that was all cracked; like how, when the sun cakes mud, and you see all those cracks,” the 35-year-old recalled. “It had a bald humanoid head. And when I let out a noise in surprise, it turned its head and looked at me. Its eyes were hollow, like empty sockets.”
Its mouth was full of teeth and when it made a noise, it sounded like dry bones grinding together.
Walsh did learn that the hospital she was treated at did have a burn unit on the same floor, and when she was released from care, she asked a nurse if the hospital was haunted.
“She had looked at me and said, ‘If you’re asking if this floor is haunted, yes, it is,’” Walsh recalled. “She wouldn’t really go into any more detail about it. But she did make it seem like activity is very normal and something they deal with frequently.”
D’Arcy Whetham, who grew up in Waverly, Ont., worked at a 1980s era support home in Midland and witnessed a dark entity that would take the form of others.
His story is highlighted in episode 6, where a menacing figure stalked him throughout the facility.
In one instance, he was alone, mopping the floor of the basement when the shower in the other room came on. Then the pot lights went out one-by-one.
“At that moment, I ran out (of the room) and as soon as ran through the doorway, the lights were all turned on and the shower turned off,” he said.
Negative experiences aside, both Knudsen and Bicknell were optimistic about the stories shared by those who appear on “Haunted Hospitals.”
The crucial role of a supportive family and a community during times of crisis is important, Knudsen said, and that we don’t lose someone.
“My favourite part was to really push on those stories; (that) there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
The life and death themes, whether it be in a hospital or around the world, are what piqued Bicknell’s curiosity.
“That sort of idea of what happens is right in the forefront of everyone’s mind,” Bicknell said. “There’s no way that all of these doctors, nurses, chefs, cleaners and technicians all have experiences in hospitals, and they’re making it up. It’s not possible.”