Finding Queer Ghosts
Director Stu Maddux, creator of independent LGBTQIA+ movies like Gen Silent and Reel in the Closet, is bringing his new team of queer ghost hunters and their findings to YouTube just in time for both Halloween and LGBTQIA+ History Month. Whether you do or you don’t believe in ghosts, the new docu-series Queer Ghost Hunters is a fantastic show to watch to get in October’s super spooky and super gay mood. What is particularly compelling about the show is that even if these ghosts don’t turn out to be real, the show still takes an intriguing, in-depth look at queer history through their exploration of purportedly ghostly haunts.
The ghost hunting team is called the Stonewall Columbus Queer Ghost Hunters. They use their kind-of-campy, kind-of-classic version of a paranormal series to explore “hidden stories of lost LGBTQ lives.” I think it’s a lovely and timely way to put queer history in a modern, accessible light, but the team also has a strong point about their investigations.
“We decided that it was weird that we always assumed that ghosts are heterosexual… We had the realization that a lot of our community was put in asylums, institutions, or jails,” said co-leader Shane McClelland.
“We were the people in those places,” added co-leader Lori Gum.
These ghost hunters are not wrong–– many of the places that are supposed to be haunted are places that members of the LGBTQIA+ community were sequestered to, both willingly and unwillingly. It is very likely that if there are ghosts, some of them are queer. This is something I don’t think I’ve ever considered.
The first episode examines a convent near Toledo in search of lesbian ghost nuns. The team researcher, Katy Detrow, explained that she found a “long tradition of lesbianism in the convents.”
“For women who didn’t feel comfortable getting married… becoming a nun was the only way out,” she said.
The episode explains that there is a ton of evidence that lesbians found solace at nunneries starting from the 15th century onward. These queer women could live and find love within the sisterhood, calling their lovers or girlfriends “particular friends.” I was surprised to learn that this term is used in convents even today, in a time of wider acceptance.
In a particularly touching moment, Detrow and Gum pondered over the origins of the queer community while exploring the convent’s nearby cemetery.
“They had families of origin, but they chose [to be buried] here,” Detrow remarked, looking out over all of the neat rows of graves.
“Chosen family, 101, right here… Powerful stuff,” replied Gum.
Though nothing particularly spooky happens in this first installment, it’s a great intro into what I think will be a great series. Some campy moments, some emotional moments, and some scary moments all bundled up into queer history is exactly what I can see myself watching this month. If you are interested in watching, make sure you catch new episodes when they air on Fridays at 7 pm Eastern Standard Time!
Amelia Henry is a Guest Contributor at InQueery.