JOLIET – During their live, casual, two-hour, no intermission show scheduled for April 11 at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Jason Hawes and Steve Gonsalves of the Syfy reality show “Ghost Hunters” will play behind-the-scenes clips, examine paranormal evidence from the show and banter back and forth.
Expect, Gonsalves said, to laugh. A lot.
“People don’t really expect it,” Gonsalves said. “Jason comes off on the show as a pretty gruff guy; I’m more the practical joker. But when he gets onstage with me, we have a bit of a comedy routine.”
Already leading his own ghost hunting team by age 20, Gonsalves’ fascination with ghosts began in early childhood, when he peeked at a horror movie he wasn’t supposed to watch. At 10, Gonsalves was scouring his local library for books on ghost sightings. He became a big fan of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and attended their seminars.
“I spent more time in graveyards than in playgrounds,” Gonsalves said.
Once Gonsalves received his driver’s license, he could bring the following with him: a camcorder, a Polaroid camera and a lawn chair. Once, “something” grabbed Gonsalves’ ankle and tripped him.
“I was on flat ground,” Gonsalves said. “I can’t say for sure that it was a paranormal experience, but it was the first time something weird happened and I could not explain it.”
In fact, most reputable ghost hunters do try to explain away the unusual behavior, Gonsalves said. Suspicious activity might be wind whistling through a back door or a faulty electrical box.
Even when a ghost is present, whether it’s residual haunting or an intelligent interaction, Gonsalves feels safe.
“Some people claim that ghosts have grabbed, scratched or smacked them but we don’t really know the intention behind it,” Gonsalves said. “They could be just trying to get their attention.”
Sometimes, he said, people do get hurt during investigations but not because of ghosts. They may become frightened and have a heart attack or fall down stairs. Gonsalves agreed hanging around cemeteries is potentially hazardous – but not because of the possibility of seeing ghosts.
“It’s incredibly dangerous because of the living, not the dead,” Gonsalves said. “The only negative I came across was unsavory characters making their way in and out. That happened a couple of times when I was 16 and in a graveyard at 12 o’clock at night.”
Much has changed for paranormal investigations since “Ghost Hunters” debuted a decade ago, he said. Accessibility to areas with possible paranormal activity has increased; equipment is both sophisticated and less expensive – phone apps are even available – and people, overall, are more open-minded, Gonsalves said.
“People don’t make fun of us or look at us like we’re crazy anymore,” Gonsalves said.
For Gonsalves, the best part of working as a “Ghost Hunter” is touching viewers’ lives in significant ways, such as hearing how entire families come together to watch the show or the encounter he had with a mother and her young son while he was walking across a beach.
The mother recognized Gonsalves with a, “Oh, my gosh! It’s that guy from ‘Ghost Hunters! We love your show so much!’” The boy merely “cracked a little bit of a smile” as he unenthusiastically shook Gonsalves’ hand.
“The mother whispered in my ear, ‘His father just passed away a month ago. This is the first time I’ve seen him smile,’ ” Gonsalves said. “That meant a lot.”
Toward the end of the live shows, Gonsalves moves about the audience answering questions: “What’s the biggest spider you’ve ever seen?” “Who’s most likely to get fired by Jason?” “How to explain the paranormal world to children?”
Generally, when responding to children, Gonsalves “candy coats” his answers. He doesn’t wish to scare them, Gonsalves said.
“I remember recently a 7-year-old asked me, ‘If there’s a demonic entity in your house, what might be the first signs and what steps do you take to alleviate it?’ ” Gonsalves said. “I thought, ‘Wow, how does that question come out of a 7-year-old?’ ”
And if you still have questions, Gonsalves said contact him through Twitter: @SteveGonsalves1.
If You Go
What: “Ghosthunters – Live!”
When: 8 p.m. April 11
Where: Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet
Tickets: $79 (includes Meet & Greet. Purchase only through the Rialto box office), $56, $29, 21
Purchase: At the Rialto box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.rialtosquare.com Ticketmaster.com, or charge at 800-982-2787 or 815-726-6600.