The hosts of “Resident Undead,” YouTube’s most viewed paranormal series, visited campus on Friday the 13th for their presentation, “The Best Evidence So Far.”
For two of the hosts, it was a homecoming haunted with fond memories of their alma mater. Daniel Hooven and Adam Kimmell are both SRU graduates who first met as fraternity brothers in Alpha Sigma Phi.
Kimmell, who was a political science major, is the founding member of “Resident Undead.” He said that he became interested in the paranormal while watching ghost hunting shows and did his first filming at Snyder Cemetery.
“I turned down an internship, though that might be the last thing I should say to students,” Kimmell said with a laugh. “The way I look at it, you only get one shot in life. You may as well go out having fun and doing what you want to do.”
Kimmell mentioned that he agrees with much of the criticism that skeptics make of popular ghost-hunting shows.
“Anyone can pick up a camera and say ‘I’m a ghost hunter,’” he said. “It’s like having a kid. You don’t need a license. But then again, who would be the one with the authority to hand out licenses?”
Daniel Hooven, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations, said that working on “Resident Undead” has provided a fun and interesting way of putting his skills to work.
“I asked [Kimmell] if he needed a hand with Facebook or websites or anything, so I offered to help him out with the media stuff,” Hooven said. “Then we went to Villisca, Iowa. That’s where the axe murder house is. In 1912, a family of six was killed, four children, two adults, unsolved. All they found, evidence-wise, was the bloody axe and a slab of bacon in the backyard.”
Hooven said that he went into the experience as a skeptic, but hearing ghostly laughter in the Villisca house changed his mind.
“Resident Undead” launched in November of 2010, and within one year, became the most viewed show of its kind on YouTube, with over 100,000 hits. The group’s breakthrough to television occurred in June 2011, when they appeared on the Travel Channel’s “Paranormal Challenge.”
“They said we brought what they wanted,” Hooven said. “It was an all boy team versus an all girl team, and they were really playing up the battle of the sexes. They hinted that they would like some more drama. I remember I said that if I wanted to watch three girls play with the paranormal, I’d watch ‘Charmed.’”
Hooven mentioned that while having a show on YouTube doesn’t make any money, it is a valuable resource that can lead to greater opportunities. He said that during a Skype call with producers, one of the producers immediately recognized them as “the YouTube ghost hunters.”
“That’s how people get noticed,” he said. “We realize that right now we don’t have a commitment from a production company, but we have a lot of interest. They’re coming to us. We’re not handing in production sheets. In one year we’ve got a lot of attention for what we do.”
One aspect of the show that has gained attention is the technique that the hosts call “A Ripple In Time.”
“We suppose that you can literally revisit history by reenacting it,” Hooven said. “I’ve been dressed as a POW on a battleship. We reenacted a mob lynching at Prospect Place, Ohio. It’s a very sensitive thing, because the last thing we want to do is mock it. We want to basically go undercover with the other side and get them to speak to us thinking that we’re in their time.”
Jordan Murphy, a graduate of West Virginia University, is the production coordinator and historian for the group. Murphy joined the team in February after communicating with Hooven and Kimmell on Twitter.
“I was trying to get four teams together to do a location,” Murphy said.
The location was the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV, a place that Kimmell said is full of paranormal activity both day and night.
“It’s awesome,” Murphy said. “I haven’t met any two people nearly as hard working as those two. They joke around asking me what it’s like to go to a big school and what it’s like to have a real football team.”
Murphy said that she began taking a greater interest in what happens after death when her brother committed suicide in October 2009.
“I’ve learned that there is something out there,” she said. “I’ve experienced too much stuff to say that there isn’t. People would say that I’m weird and wonder why I’m doing this. At least I’m doing what I love and meeting some great people.”