We believe what we want to believe, especially in the world of the paranormal. Some will argue that something that goes bump in the night is a restless spirit. Others, like your carpenter, insist you need home improvements.
Both conclusions are levied by businessmen with similar motivations. A paranormal investigator comes in with all kinds of gear and finds ghosts. A carpenter does the same and finds dry rot. Both want your money. And in both fields, there are honest practitioners and there are scammers.
Portland paranormal investigator Patrick Doyle seems honest about convening with spirits—at least as honest as anyone with homemade equipment and a stoic stare can seem. The 32-year-old Illinois transplant with tatted arms and a ginger padlock goatee seems genuinely to believe in what he does, and he isn't obsessed with changing minds.
"You really can't change a person's beliefs," Doyle says. "I've learned that. But you kind of sway them to start to think about it differently. Changing someone's beliefs isn't possible unless you take them out, have an investigation with them."
On SyFy Channel's new Ghost Mine, he does just that. Doyle and co-investigator Kristen Luman follow a group of miners in Sumpter, Ore.'s Crescent Mine as they search for gold in a supposedly haunted hole. These roughneck miners ignore the warnings as long as they can. But they can't ignore Doyle and Luman as they get all kinds of pseudoscientific and extremely serious.
Doyle says the miners were blindsided by their presence, and a preview of the first episode seems to confirm it. We see big, burly dudes totally sidetracked—and slightly annoyed—by the investigators, who spent the full mining season with them.
"When we were first introduced, you could tell in their eyes they were like, 'What the hell are they doing here?'" Doyle says. "I think it was a big surprise that we were invited to be there."
Doyle says none of the show—including the appearance of a shadow figure walking past a light grid—is scripted, but there's definite influence from the network: An attractive red-haired female investigator tags along because superstitions mark red-haired women in a mine as bad luck. Production value is high, yet Travel Channel this ain't, and there's a dubious air of exploitation that can be hard to overcome.
Doyle helps diffuse that. He's a dude who produced a Web series in which he turned the camera on other investigators and equated their desire to see spirits with addiction. Sometimes people see what they want to see, and Doyle's quick to call bullshit. He's not a showman like John Edward, who exploited family misery on Crossing Over. He's more akin to TC's Ghost Adventures host Zak Bagans, who has a faux-hawk and a penchant for insisting that ghosts want to fuck him. Though not as showy as Bagans—or as obsessed with awakening undead wood—Doyle's boyish enthusiasm lends Ghost Mine some credibility. He loves his gadgets, and his stone-faced seriousness when presenting findings belies genuine giddiness.
"I have to say, the mine environment, and the evidence I collected, it's all in the top five of stuff I've seen and heard," he says. "I don't want to give it away, but I have a device that I built for going into dangerous environments.… I took that and modified it to work in the mine. It worked beautifully."
Into the darkness Ghost Mine leads us, asking us to trust in the assessments of grim-talking ghostbusters whose equipment works because they say it works, despite being impossible to test scientifically. In a world of smoke and mirrors, the most interesting magicians are sometimes the ones who don't think they're magicians at all.
SEE IT: Ghost Mine premieres Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 10 pm on SyFy.