Destination America Ignores, Rewrites History with Helltown

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Note: This piece originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of The Ghosts Of Ohio Newsletter (subscribe here to start receiving your very own free issues). But as someone who has been wearing the moniker “The Man Who Debunked Hell Town” since the early 2000s, I have been bombarded with questions about the validity of Destination America’s recent program, Helltown. So much so that I felt the article needed to be reposted here. For it is my firm belief that if anyone expects to be taken seriously in the field of paranormal research, they must be willing to openly admit instances of BS when they come floating across our airwaves.

Helltown cover

When I first learned that Destination America was going to be running a 2-hour program on the truth about Hell Town, I immediately began planning to do a review of it for an upcoming newsletter. For the premiere, I even made sure that I had a notepad and laptop within reach so I could take notes, including references and different aspects of the legend that I needed to dig deeper into. I had snacks and beverages and had even turned the cell phone off. This was going to be fantastic: 2 hours of in-depth history on the legend of Hell Town. And then the show started.

For the next two hours, I sat there in stunned silence. Twenty minutes in, it began to dawn on me that the huge review article I had been planning could be boiled down to two simply words:

It’s fake.

That’s the short version, anyway. The full thought would be that Helltown was the most ridiculous piece of garbage that I have ever seen on the Destination America channel. And let’s be honest here: that’s saying a lot! In fact, the idea that Destination America would willingly put out this piece of work speaks volumes as to how low this channel has sunk. Yeah, I get it, they called it Helltown instead of using the more popular two-word title that most have come to know the area as. But this was 2 hours of the most bizarre and outlandish claims I have ever heard, which is again saying a lot. I could take up pages of this newsletter going scene by scene, pointing out the various inaccuracies, but since I found roughly 95% of what I saw to not only be inaccurate, but total fabrications, that would take forever. Plus, I’ll be honest with you: I don’t want to devote any more of my time and effort to this steaming pile than is absolutely necessary. So, let’s just get right at it and rip it apart as quickly as possible.

Let’s start with this: ALL of the people shown in Helltown are actors and actresses. Canadian ones, no less. I’m not going to list their real names because they are just trying to make a living here. But if you want to find their names, just wait until the end of the credits for Helltown and you’ll see them all there, right along with a good 3-4 screens’ worth of disclaimers about the so-called “facts” of the case and one screen, which flies by, that all but admits it’s all made up and that, among other things, actors were used as opposed to “actual persons”:

End Credits

Wait a second. Is this saying that every single person in Helltown is an actor and/or otherwise pretending to be someone they are not? Yes, that’s exactly what it’s saying.

What, you mean this guy, too? The one who was from the area and knew all about the local history, especially all about the reports of human sacrifices and cults in the area?

Paul Wyndham

It even says he’s a Professor of Folklore and Mythology at Cuyahoga Community College, so he has to be real, right? Nope, another Canadian actor. And one who couldn’t even pronounce “Cuyahoga” correctly, which is a little weird since, you know, it’s part of the name of the place where he works and all.

OK, but this guy, Conor Dwyer, has to be real.

Older Conor Dwyer

He’s even shown as a young man in that television special that ran back in the 1980s. He’s sitting with his grandfather on their front porch and the grandfather mentions that he doesn’t want to move his family out of the area because Conor is deaf and would have trouble in a new location.

Dwyers on porchHe’s fake, too. Plus, he’s a great example of how far Destination America was willing to go to mess with its audience. You see, For The Good Of All was indeed a special about the Boston Township area that ran in the 1980s. In Helltown, they make it appear as though they are playing a clip from that 80s special and are interviewing a local resident, who is not named. He talks about not wanting to move, especially because his grandson, Conor, is deaf and there are concerns about how he will be able to function outside of the only home he’s ever known.

The problem is that in For The Good Of All, the comments Helltown attributes (and shows) as belonging to Conor Dwyer’s grandfather were actually said by someone else: a man named Burrell Tonkin. And in the original, Tonkin is not talking about concerns over relocating his grandson, but rather his elderly mother.

I could continue, but let’s leave it with this guy—Terry Greenbaum, the big conspiracy theory guy who ran a website and posted conspiracy videos about Helltown and other locales. He’s the one who teams up with some weird video guy and they go off in search of those hidden tunnels under Helltown.

Terry GreenbaumYeah, he’s a Canadian actor, too. Don’t believe me? Just fast forward to the point where Greenbaum and his buddy are in the tunnels and they get scared—they both totally lose their fake accents and start sounding like a bad SCTV skit. Oh yeah, and none of his websites or videos exist, either.

As I’ve thoroughly documented, beginning as far back as 2001, the legends surrounding the area that would become known as Hell Town sprung up as a result of the US Government declaring eminent domain and pushing residents out in order to create and extend what is now known as Cuyahoga National Park. That’s it. It’s a sad, tragic story, but one that does not involve government conspiracies, satanic cults, slaughterhouses, or secret tunnels. And for God’s sake, please don’t go out there looking for any wendigo, either. I know, I know, it’s incredibly tempting because who wouldn’t want to meet a creature that Helltown depicts as being something straight off the back cover of a King Crimson album (BTW, I feel old just typing those three words):

Wendigo

To sum everything up, Destination America’s Helltown is about as truthful as Animal Planet’s Mermaids: The Body Found. Still, the most appalling thing about the presentation is how gullible Destination America must think their audience is. I’d like to give them credit and say that perhaps they were trying to create a thrilling mockumentary, but I can’t even do that. The acting is horrible, the plotline is incomprehensible, and it appears as though they went the “found footage/home movie” route to cover up the fact that no one on the crew appears capable of successfully framing a single shot. For these reasons, I would suggest you not walk, but run from your TV should this monstrosity appear on the screen. And if someone suggests that you watch it yourself, immediately make a mental note to remove said person from your holiday gift exchange list. For clearly, anyone who suggests Helltown to you is not a friend.

For more information about what really happened in the area known as Hell Town, please visit The Ghosts Of Ohio’s original 2001 article on the history of Hell Town.

 

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Ticketing Information For My Presentation At Farnam Manor

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OK, here’s some exciting news for you: I’ll not only be doing a special presentation at Farnam Manor, one of the locations featured in my upcoming book, Ohio’s Historic Haunts, but you’ll also have the opportunity to ghost hunt with me and members of The Ghosts of Ohio!

Farnam Manor Exterior

It all begins at 7:00 pm on Saturday, September 26th. I will be giving a special talk at Farnam Manor that will showcase some of the strangest and spookiest places I’ve visited in my 30+ years investigating the paranormal. A large portion of the presentation will focus on what happened the night I visited Farnam Manor for my book. Members of The Ghosts of Ohio who accompanied me that night will also be on hand to share their personal stories.

Then, after a tour of Farnam Manor, a very lucky few will have the opportunity to conduct a mini-ghost hunt at Farnam Manor with myself and The Ghosts of Ohio.

Tickets are available for the presentation, the ghost hunt, or both. But they won’t last, so grab yours today by clicking here now.

I’ll Be Tweeting Live From Inside Twin City Opera House This Friday Night

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People really seemed to enjoy this when I did it in the past, so here we go again!

This Friday night, April 17th, I will be taking part in a ghost hunt at the Twin City Opera House in McConnelsville, Ohio, with my organization, The Ghosts Of Ohio. The plan is for me to tweet out live updates, photos, and videos all night long. Depending on how the night progresses, I would like to field questions from my Followers, especially since, in the past, I got good results when I asked my psychic friends to tweet me where they felt I should go in the building in order to encounter a ghost. Fun stuff!

The hunt officially begins at 10:00 pm, but I plan on giving you updates from the minute Ol’ Blue’s packed and ready to roll Friday afternoon until my tired a** pulls back into the driveway somewhere around 6:00 am Saturday morning.

Here’s a link to my twitter account so you can give me a Follow and get locked in for all the strange and spooky fun! Who knows, we might even get this hashtag to trend!  #GOOtwincityoperahouse

Live Updates from a Haunted House this Saturday!

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This went over so well last time that I’ve decided to give it another whirl!

This Saturday, September 15th, I will be conducting a ghost hunt inside a haunted location in Ohio. Since this location will be featured in an upcoming book of mine, I can’t tell you exactly where I’ll be. But what I can do is give you live updates via Twitter and Facebook so you can get a glimpse inside my strange and spooky world!

For my live Facebook updates, “like” my author page by clicking here.

You can also follow my tweets on Twitter by clicking here.

Better yet, why don’t you like me on Facebook AND follow me on Twitter! That way, you won’t miss any of the action!

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Field Trip #2 Recap: The First of a Double Shot O’ Museums

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I knew from the start that this road trip was going to be different. For one, I was planning on driving to the Friday investigation, driving back home in the wee hours of Saturday morning, sleeping a couple of hours, then heading back out for Saturday’s investigation. The reason for my returning home, and the other reason why this would be a unique road trip, was because this would be the first investigation for my daughter, Courtney. Yup, that’s right! I was dragging my daughter along for an investigation! She’d survived the Ohio Paranormal Convention, so I felt the time was right. How’d it turn out? Well, before we get to that, there’s the Friday investigation to get to.

CD selection–Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here, Cracker: Kerosene Hat, Warren Zevon: Mutineer, Queensryche: The Warning, Metallica: Master Of Puppets

As usual, the Friday investigation began late Thursday night with my jamming all the equipment into Ol’ Blue. After a somewhat hectic day at work, I drove directly up to the investigation. Thankfully, this particular location was not too far away and I was able to make it up there by 4:00 pm. The building itself has a rather interesting history. It was once a private home but has since been turned into a museum. After interviewing some of the employees, it seemed as though most people who had experienced possible paranormal activity believed a former resident of the house was causing it and it was not tied to any specific items that might have been brought into the museum. For that, I was thankful! Having conducted many “haunted object” investigations over the years, I find them to be the most frustrating, especially when you don’t know which object is supposed to be the haunted one. It’s like looking for a ghostly needle in a spectral haystack.

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Road Trip #1 Recap

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Since this is the very first trip recap, I thought I would spend a little time explaining some of the recurring things I will be including:

  • Visit Recap–This will be where I throw some numbers related to the visit/investigation at you: hours spent at location, video and audio stats, etc. Keep in mind that in most cases, I will be running multiple video cameras at the same time, so a 4-hour investigation with 2 cameras makes for 8 hours of total video.
  • Roadside Oddities–A list of anything weird I encounter while traveling to and from the locations.
  • Great Radio Nuggets–Once in a while, I need to take a break from my CDs (usually when my GPS starts whining that its battery is getting low). If it’s the middle of the night, I’ll try to find a station that’s broadcasting Coast to Coast AM. When that fails, I’ll scan the stations to see if I can find anything worth listening to. For the most part, it’s an exercise in futility. But every once in a while, I come across a great tune that I hadn’t heard in a while on the radio.
  • BBBJ (Busted By Bon Jovi)–I try to avoid Bon Jovi like the plague. But try as I might, whenever I’m scanning radio stations, that damn band finds a way to penetrate my ear hole! So I decided to keep track of every time I hear a Bon Jovi song on a trip, including a running tally of how many times a song has “busted” me. Why? No reason.

OK, so now that we’ve got all the formalities out of the way, let’s get on with the road trip, shall we?

DAY ONE

The very first road trip for my book began around noon on Friday the 13th. After jamming a ridiculous amount of equipment into Ol’ Blue, I was off and heading up I-71. The trip to the first location was going to take about 2.5 hours and since I wasn’t scheduled to arrive until 4:00 pm, I was able to engage in one of my favorite pastimes; spooky detours!

Ol' Blue's back seat, jammed packed and ready to go.

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