Ghosts of Shepherdstown
Town Council heard public comment regarding the return of film crews to Shepherdstown to begin filming for a potential season two of Ghosts of Shepherdstown.
Filming is scheduled to take place the last week of Jan, through mid April. Even though the show is called Ghosts of Shepherdstown, only two of the potential series’ shows would be filmed in Shepherdstown, with the bulk of the show taking place in surrounding areas.
The show’s producers have asked to use Shepherdstown as their base of operations, however, along with the ability to shoot any headquarters scenes in a Corporation of Shepherdstown building. At this time, use of the Town Hall meeting room is being discussed as a likely location. Representatives say they will stay out of the way of day to day operations at Town Hall. Additionally, they would like to work with Chief King and police department in a similar manner to last season, limiting filming work around department office hours and only when officers not on duty.
Producers say they plan to hire locally once again and leave a small (ecological) footprint.
Mayor Jim Auxer stated that he thought having the crew headquartered in town would bring needed revenue.
“All of the shows would not be centered around Shepherdstown,” said Auxer, “but the money we would glean possibly from this would be from them using Town Hall.”
However, not all residents were happy with the possibility of another series featuring Shepherdstown.
One resident, who did not wish to be named said, “I don’t know how you can give approval without asking the people who live here and pay for the upkeep of their historic homes without public money.”
The resident continued by outlining several reasons town council should not approve the show. “Number one: there’s a thing, a legal thing, called ‘stigmatization of real estate’. If you go to New England and you go to Maryland, and you try to sell your house, you have to put a disclaimer if somebody committed suicide or died, or if somebody asks you about a poltergeist-you have to disclose that, whether you believe it or not. When you try to sell your house, it’s an extra legal burden and the town opens itself up to lawsuits and liability. I never had anybody ask me about ghosts until this happened. I was selling my house, but now I’m not [due other factors].”
The second reason this resident gave was that the show does not attract the kind of high-spending clientele that produces a lot of money for the town, rather, millenials who, according to this resident, don’t have much money to spend.
“Thirdly, it makes you a laughing stock,” said the resident. “People are laughing hysterically at Shepherdstown because this whole thing is a hoax. If it were a horror film, everybody would know it’s not to be taken seriously, and that would be fine. But this presents itself as a semi-documentary presented by a public official, who will now be presenting in a public place. (Town Hall) Do you want Shepherdstown to be known as a hoax?”
However, not all who were present agreed. One business owner, Lillian Potter-Saum, owner of The Local Source rebutted saying, “Yes, the show is a little bit hokey, but it’s also fun and light-hearted. As a business owner, I can tell you that people have come into my shop because of the show. A lot of them are millenials and millenials do have money. There are also musicians who are making money on this because they’re writing songs about it, and that’s part of our musical culture. I do sell a lot of things. I may not be a high-end, fine dining establishment, but I have things in my store that people can afford and they buy them. I cater to those tourists. I figured about 25 percent of my customers are ones that have come here due to the show. They ask if this is really the most haunted town in America, and I smile and say, ‘that’s what they tell us’. Then I talk about it and give them a history of this town.”
Potter-Saum continued by saying the show’s tourists do shop and dine in town and she felt that if residents and business owners had a real problem with the show, they would have come to air their views.
Two Shepherd students were also present at Town Council. Senior class president, Keira Cale, and Hannah Brumbaugh, Resident Assistant and Program Board Planner.
“The general atmosphere on campus it that this is t.v.,” said Cale. “No one is watching it thinking that this is 100 percent, to-the-tee exactly what happened. It’s more that people are excited to see places they know on t.v., like the Sweet Shop. Then we start to talk about our own ghost stories on our campus. We see media and news with a grain of salt.”
“It’s been really positive,” said Brumbaugh. “When I go home, people are like, ‘Oh you go to Shepherd, what’s it like in the town’? A lot of people from where I’m from in Washington County (Maryland) have come here now. I know that (the show) has brought people over. There’s been a lot of excitement.”
“On campus, we’ve used it as a tool for engagement,” said Cale. “One of the big things I try to work on is the relationship between the students and the town. We’ve really been able to turn it into an educational thing to let students know about Shepherdstown.”
Both students feel the show has garnered interest in people attending Shepherd University and they stated that there is now a one-credit class called, “Paranormal U”, which is a part of the “First Year Experience class that introduces new students to the different buildings on campus, by talking about the history-and the ghost stories behind them.
Town resident, Elise Baach said that she does not believe the show has affected her property values, however, she said she would like town officials to be more careful about how they represent the town and what is portrayed as truth.
“I do have one concern,” said Baach, “and that is that it’s important to distinguish what is official comment from the town itself, and what are personal opinions. If it is true that the police department is getting more calls because of an increase in paranormal activity, that’s fine. But if you guys do not believe that is a true statement and would not be willing to put that in writing, then it should not be said.”
After deliberation on that point, council members agreed to see if adjustments could be made to certain language in the show, although conceding that they don’t have much control over what the show will ultimately do if another season is aired.