It’s comforting to know that in the Age of Reality Television, where the bitter indigestion of ignominy lingers long after the sweet taste of instant fame has vanished, there are some elected leaders who choose to look very carefully and, in the case of Salem County, NJ, refuse to leap into a tempting pool of publicity at any cost.
Not everyone is ghost-crazy these days:
A decision by county officials to pull the plug on a possible television episode about paranormal activity in Salem County has prompted frustration from a local ghost expert, who saw the airtime as a chance for some national exposure for county tourism efforts.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Doug Hogate Jr., founder of the local Jersey Unique Minds Paranormal Society (JUMPS), said he was recently contacted by producers from the Biography Channel, a channel under A&E Network.The filming was to be done in Johnson Hall, a historic 19th century brick mansion built by prominent Salem citizen Col. Robert Gibbon Johnson. The mansion on Market Street in downtown Salem, owned by Salem County, has been used over the years for county offices. It now is home to the Salem County Chamber of Commerce.
Hogate said producers of the show “My Ghost Stories” took an interest in some of the work compiled by JUMPS over the last few years, and they asked him if there were any locations in the county that would be interesting for the show.
“One place I’ve investigated a few times is Johnson Hall, so I forwarded some of that information to the producers,” said Hogate.
JUMPS has documented evidence in a few separate instances which they believe suggests a female presence exists on the third floor of Johnson Hall.
“They thought it was great,” said Hogate.
Of course they thought it was great. These folks represent the Hollywood mindset that inflicted “Jersey Shore” on the civilized world.
From there, Hogate said he contacted the Salem County Chamber of Commerce, which is housed in Johnson Hall, for permission to have the building filmed for the show. Since Johnson Hall is owned by the county, the chamber then contacted the freeholder board.
Hogate said the initial response from freeholders was positive, and he made arrangements with the producers of “My Ghost Stories” to fly out to Los Angeles to film commentary for the show. Hogate said he was all set to fly out this Wednesday, but plans suddenly fell through the day before.
I have a feeling that Hogate most likely jumped the gun, figuring they’d happily allow a piece of Salem County history to be exploited for the sake of cheap entertainment. Fortunately, he was mistaken.
“I was told that Freeholder Director Julie Acton sent the information about the show out to the other freeholders, and some of them didn’t want to move forward,” said Hogate.
According to County Administrator Evern Ford, permission was initially given for the show by the county, but a lack of consensus among the freeholders caused the project to be pulled back.
If it required the attention and permission of the freeholders, then who green-lighted the project?
He explained that some freeholders had questions on what would be involved with the filming, and that the show could be a form of negative publicity for the county.
“Concerns were raised of: Is this something we want to be known for? Does Salem County want to be known for having ghosts?” said Ford. “There was some uneasiness and discomfort, so the decision was made to put it on hold.” [emphasis added]
Deputy Freeholder Director Ben Laury said he was “on the fence” about the idea, and said that he wanted more information before giving his support.
“I didn’t say no to the idea, I just needed more information. I had a lot of questions and I didn’t want to just jump into something,” said Laury. “I needed more information on how this was going to be portrayed, and what it was going to look like.”
Ford said other freeholders echoed similar concerns, and the lack of overwhelming support caused the county to pull the plug on filming the episode.
I can supply the information Mr. Laury needs: a passing nod to the history of the place will be eclipsed by breathless, hyped-up, over-played sound and video footage of indeterminate origin that have ZERO value in any empirical investigation but worth their weight in platinum for generating ratings – not to mention some sweet exposure for Hogate and his fellow ghost chasers. If the freeholders have any sense, they’ll avoid this harebrained scheme like the plague.
How unfortunate that neither the freeholders of Middlesex County nor the mayor and council of Perth Amboy have any control over the Proprietary House Association Executive Board which, under the incompetent and possibly corrupt rule of Jeff Huber and his ghost-gaga cronies, seems hell-bent on transforming the mansion where the last Royal Governor of New Jersey once resided into the House on Haunted Hill.
Hat tip to Kurt Epps who provided the link to the story and wryly observed, “The most frightening thing happening at that revered old mansion involves the quick–not the dead.“