Like Kevin, the hapless protagonist on Hulu's new ghost-hunting show Deadbeat, Marti Haines sees dead people. And, like Kevin, she has made it her life's work to help them communicate with their loved ones. However, Marti isn't a character on a show — she's a real live medium and ghost hunter, who works and lives in South Jersey.
I spoke with Haines, who is the manager of The Ghost Hunter Store, over the phone, just before she headed out to Phenomacon, one of the largest paranormal conferences in the country. She has been a practicing medium and ghost hunter for eight years, using all kinds of techniques to contact the other side — from tech tools like electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recorders to more spiritual practices like reiki — although sometimes spirits just find her, popping up beside her in the car or at the grocery store. I spoke with her about her journey to from being a scared little kid seeing dead people, to being a bona fide ghost hunter.
Q: How did you get into ghost hunting?
Marti Haines: I've been seeing the deceased all my life. Becoming a professional was just one of those things — I saw the TV shows and I realized there was a way to go out there and do this, so I decided to get out there and try and help people.
Q: Can you tell me about some of your early experiences seeing the deceased?
M.H.: When I was little I used to have spirits visit me in my bedroom all the time — [they'd] move my bed, I would see their faces, see them standing in front of me, walking down the stairs, in the middle of crowds.
Q: Did you know who they were? Or were they strangers?
M.H.: They were people I didn't know, and it scared me.
Q: Did they communicate with you or did you just see them?
M.H.: They tried, but since I was young, I didn't really know what was going on — so I just kind of covered my head and hoped they went away.
Q: Did you tell your parents?
M.H.: Yes, yes, I did. They didn't believe me. I spent most of my childhood trying to figure it out on my own.
Q: How old were you when you figured out that you could do this as a job?
M.H.: When I was in college, I met somebody who was also a medium, and they started helping me — giving me me books to read and places to go to figure out what it was that I was doing.
Q: What are some of the tools you use and things you do when working with the deceased?
M.H.: I use oracle cards, I channel angels, talk to the deceased, I'm a reiki master —which means I channel universal life-force energy.
Q: Can you tell me about a particularly profound experience you've had in your work?
M.H.: I actually have a friend that's a spirit, at one of the local libraries here in town. I teach classes there and do psychic fairs there to raise funds, and we've actually become pretty close. His name is Charlie.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about him or is that private?
M.H.: No that's okay. Charlie was the maintenance man of the library and he died in an accident when they were adding onto the library; he's been there ever since — he watches over. He's very protective of the library and the people that come into it.
Q: Do you feel like the spirits have things they want you to help them with? Do they want you to help them get closure on unfinished business?
M.H.: Most of the time they're just spirits who want to speak to their loved ones who are missing them. They just want to let them know that they're okay, that everything is fine, and that they're happy and healthy and still around.
Q: Do use any tech equipment when you're communicating with spirits?
M.H.: I'm a total techie. I love EVPs — I love making recordings and hearing [the spirits] voices. I get a lot of communication with spirits that way. I also use some of the trigger props (they detect energy and let you know a spirit is in the room) that we sell in the store to get in contact with the spirits, and find out if they're still around talking to me — and to get evidence for clients so they have something to see and hear.
Q: Do you find that people really need proof when you're working with them?
M.H.: Absolutely. They like to hear their voices, they like to see the pictures if we get them; they like to see that [the spirits interacted with pieces of equipment as we work with it. We'll videotape the whole session so we can show them that we've had interaction with them.
Q: Do you feel the ghost hunting shows are an accurate portrayal of your practice?
M.H.: Some of the shows are good shows. They're out there telling you how to use the equipment and how to do what we do. But some of the shows are trying to provoke — and get reactions from — spirits and I find that appalling, actually. These are human spirits, you know? You don't know if it's a grandmother or a soldier. And if you go out and provoke them it's like walking up to somebody on the street and provoking them. I think it's disrespectful. Some people try to go out there and prove spirits exist any way they can, and I don't think we'll ever be able to prove that — unless they get 'em in a jar.
Q: Is anyone trying to come up with a technology that could contain spirits?
M.H.: I don't think anyone is out there actually trying to contain them. I think people are just out there trying to show people that the theories that we have are very strong theories — because basically that's all it is. I mean you figure the spirit is the ultimate ninja: you can't always see them. So I don't think you'll ever convince everyone that there's another side of this life.
Maud Deitch is a senior content producer at Studio@Gawker. She has written for Spin, The Fader, MTV.com and other publications.