Get to Know 'Haunting in the Heartland' Host Steve Shippy
Plus, find out the most haunted town he’s ever visited. (Hint: It's not your typical paranormal hotspot like New Orleans or Savannah.)
There are stories told in the heartland of America, stories of chilling hauntings, vengeful poltergeists and spirits stuck in their centuries-old homes. This type of folklore has been passed down through generations of families living in small towns across the United States. Could there be truth behind these long-told tales? What if there’s something truly evil happening in the heartland?
Paranormal investigator and documentarian Steve Shippy, who witnessed a haunting in his own childhood home, is on a mission to shed light on the darkness facing small towns across the country. With the help of local eyewitness accounts, historical records and his own investigations, Shippy hopes to bring peace to the living and a final “resolution” to these stories.
We caught up with Shippy ahead of the premiere to talk all about the first season, his investigation tactics and why his hometown is the most haunted town he’s ever visited. (Intrigued? You should be.) Haunting in the Heartland premieres Friday, Feb. 21 at 10|9c.
Your experience with the paranormal started at a young age. Could you talk a little bit about your childhood and the haunting you experienced?
My childhood home was inhabited by an angry, and, at times, malevolent spirit. There was a lot of rumor and folklore about the cause of the haunting, however, its existence was very real and very frightening. My earliest memories of life included the bizarre and strange occurrences that forever changed my perception of life, death and the laws of the universe. This began my journey into the paranormal.
Haunting in the Heartland focuses on smaller towns and the lore surrounding them. What is it about smaller towns that makes them a hot bed for paranormal lore or hauntings?
The heartland region is just that: the heartland. It’s the center of our country, the grey zone, populated by the honest and hardworking folks galvanized by struggle. The spirits of the heartland are powerful and resilient, just like the living that inhabit that part of the country. Plagued by economic hardship, failed settlements and lost opportunities, those powerful emotions seem to saturate the actual soil itself, like a conductive and ominous residue.
What draws you to take on a particular case?
There are many factors, however, the most important element for me is helping families who are living in fear and feeling unsafe in their own homes. Nothing is worse than feeling terrified and vulnerable in the one place you are supposed to feel safest. Having grown up in a haunted house, I can completely identify with their terror all too well.
What’s your personal goal for each investigation?
Bringing knowledge and information to those who are living in fear and dealing with things [the clients] cannot comprehend. I find that providing these families with knowledge of the paranormal — in a sense — empowers them and somewhat reduces their fear. Of course, the absolute motivation is discovery and resolve — pinpointing the source of the activity and, when possible, bringing resolve to the situation.
What case surprised you the most from this season?
I would have to say episode 3 (“I Am Red Death”). I traveled to the small mountainous town of Greenville, Tennessee to help a family struggling with nefarious activity taking place in their home. The malevolent force was said to be so powerful the family believed it was responsible for taking the life of one of their own. Further investigation led us to what we believed to be the catalyst of the attachment, a revelation shrouded by occult practice and murder.
Describe your investigative tactics. What’s the most important part of an investigation to you?
When starting off a paranormal investigation, I'm mindful to strategize my tactics based on everything I know about the case, such as focusing on specific areas of the home and/or property. The methods and equipment I deploy will be a derivative of the eyewitness claims and first-hand experiences of those closest to the activity. For example, if the phenomenon takes place on a certain day or time, that is great intel as it narrows down the best opportunity to catch evidence.
The gear I select will also mirror the events witnessed before my arrival. For instance, if the activity is audio-based, I will focus on using a digital recorder, ITC devices, parabolic microphone and/or other advanced audio equipment. Naturally, if the occurrences are mainly visual-based (apparitions, shadow figures or spirit orbs), I will focus on using an array of video equipment like thermal imaging, infrared, full spectrum camera and SLS.
I try to cast the widest net possible with every case. It all starts with very intimate and lengthy interviews with those closest to the haunting. After gaining all of the details of the case from those most affected, I try to formulate a theory as to what type of haunting we're contending with — inhuman, demonic, intelligent, poltergeist, residual and so on. From that point, I widen the data collecting by canvassing the entire community, speaking to the locals, historians, and sometimes law enforcement. The more information I’m able to obtain the sooner I’m able to recognize patterns, and, often times, these emerging patterns will reveal vital insight, which can blow a case wide-open.
What do you think is the most haunted town you’ve visited? Why?
Without a doubt: Saginaw, Michigan. The amount of hauntings per capita is unusually high compared to other cities around the United States. What’s more fascinating is the fact that Saginaw only has a population of around 40,000 people. The history of Saginaw is riddled with tragedy and triumph, from a boomtown to a ghost town. [The town’s] extreme highs and lows seem to have created a perfect paranormal storm.
What are you most excited for fans to see this season?
There are so many factors and so many ways I could answer this, but beyond the shocking evidence that was captured, I look forward to presenting the harrowing stories and folklore of the heartland told directly by those who live there.