The Damned Story: The Atlantic Paranormal Society — better known as TAPS, best known as SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” — came to Hartford in the fall of 2009 to investigate alleged hauntings at the Mark Twain House in Hartford. The episode premiered on December 2, 2009, with repeat broadcasts since then.
For those unfamiliar with the history of the Mark Twain House, it’s where the renowned author — Samuel Clemens in real life — lived with his wife and three daughters from 1874 to 1891. While living there, Twain wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, in addition to other classic works. The Clemens family lived there for 17 years, until they left for Europe as a temporary recourse from serious financial problems. Following the death of daughter Suzy at age 24 from meningitis in 1896, the family was too heartbroken to continue living in the home, and sold it. It subsequently was a boarding school and library before becoming a museum dedicated to the life and career of Samuel Clemens that is open to the public year-round.
Recently, there have been reports of employees and visitors seeing the apparition of a young woman in a long white dress roaming the halls and ghostly faces in the windows; other have had their clothes tugged by unseen forces and heard the laughter of children, whispers and other unexplained noises. And it’s such claims that have brought Jason Hawes, Grant Wilson and the TAPS team out to investigate.
The episode follows the “Ghost Hunters” standard formula, beginning with case manager Kris Williams contacting Grant and Jason (who just happen to be on their day jobs as plumbers, conveniently unstopping a toilet with a camera crew in tow) to tell them about the investigation and give them an overview of what paranormal activity has been reported. The two plumbers, apparently big fans of classic American literature, are more excited than Calaveras County jumping frogs and leap in their van with the team and head over to Hartford.
Once on site, Grant and Jason meet up with Rebecca Floyd, the manager of visitor services for the Mark Twain House museum, who tells them about the history of the house, then takes them on a tour of the residence, pointing out the various “hot spots” where events have alleged to occur — the drawing room, library, Suzy’s bedroom, the master bedroom and nursery. The team then sets up their equipment in the appropriate locations, turns out the lights and begin the investigation.
Three separate teams explore the darkened house with the night-vision cameras in tow: Kris and Amy Bruni, Dustin Pari and Britt Griffith, and of course, Jason and Grant. Each group goes through the three main floors, and it seems as though each group has an odd experience or two. Not to give too much about the episode away, but various sounds are heard, a few odd shadows spotted and unusual readings are recorded on EMS meters and thermal imaging cameras. After spending the night in the house, they turn the lights on, pack up and head back to Rhode Island for the analysis.
Unfortunately, they quickly discover that the main DVR has crashed, taking a lot of their footage with it. Still, they have captured some interesting evidence. Jason and Grant are able to debunk one eyewitness claim — about fluttering curtains (a panel is loose) — and as the house is located on a busy street, it’s not a surprise that some of the moving shadows can be attributed to lights passing by outside.
During “the reveal” portion of the program, what personal experiences and evidence they haven’t lost is shared with Rebecca Floyd, who seems pleased with the findings.
Our Damned Experience: We have been to the Mark Twain House in Hartford numerous times, and aside from enjoying the architecture and history of the house, have never experienced anything otherworldly, nor seen anything unusual. Actually, we also never heard anything about the house being haunted until recently, which seems a bit convenient in light of how many local historic groups seem to be benefiting from the “our old site is haunted = increased visitor traffic” bandwagon.
Or as Sam Clemens himself said: “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with it — we enjoy both history and the unusual, so if they legitimately cross paths, we’re all for it. And paranormal activity or not, the Mark Twain House is still a highly recommended place to visit. The house itself is an architectural joy, and obviously, the personal history of such an iconic American personality as Samuel Clemens is exceptionally compelling.
If You Watch: If you’re already a fan of “Ghost Hunters,” there’s no reason why you won’t enjoy this episode, aside from the absence of Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango, whose continual banter and needling usually make investigations more entertaining. (Apparently, SyFy thinks so to, and have spun the duo off on their own show, “Ghost Hunters Academy.”)
Still, it’s fun to see the TAPS team covering some renowned local ground.