Derek Grannes and Alex Donahou were tossing back a few drinks at The Floatation Device Pub & Grill near the Purdy Spit last December. Nothing strange about friends of nearly 20 years getting together for some beer and tequila to celebrate the holidays.
But then from out of nowhere, Donahou asked Grannes a pretty strange question: “Have you ever wanted to go ghost hunting?”
Even stranger: Grannes was about to ask him the same thing.
Earlier that month Grannes had a vivid dream about his dad playing with Grannes’ three kids. Grannes, who had a contentious relationship with his dad, hadn’t talked to him for five years.
“He told me (in the dream), ‘I just want to apologize to you for everything I’ve done, and I want you to know that I love you,’ ” Grannes said. “I just felt so relieved.” His wife, Brittani, woke him up soon after to tell him that she got a phone call that his dad just passed away.
“That was very powerful to me, so I asked God for a path,” said Grannes.
That path, along with Donahou’s lifelong belief in the paranormal, led to The Ghost Riders — a YouTube channel (@The_Ghost_Riders) featuring two heavily tattooed, Harley-Davidson-riding paranormal investigators traveling around to some of Puget Sound’s most haunted locales. Grannes rides his 2007 Heritage Softail Classic, while Donahou takes his 2011 Fat Boy Lo.
The Ghost Riders is a family affair, of sorts. Donahou says he and Grannes are like brothers, and Grannes recruited his brother-in-law Brandon Miller to shoot and edit the video.
The premise is simple: go to some of the scariest places they can think of and try to communicate with the ghosts that inhabit them.
Miller is the more skeptical team member, although during filming he’s heard unexplained scratching noises in the walls at Manresa Castle in Port Townsend, eerie screams at starvation heights cemetery in Olalla and toilets flushing spontaneously at Hotel Andra in Seattle.
“I need to see (a ghost). I need physical proof and then I’d be 100% in,” he said.
To help with that proof, the three Peninsula High School graduates have invested thousands of dollars in equipment used to search for the paranormal. They have two REM pods, three electromagnetic field meters and a music box motion sensor to detect the presence of spirits. There’s also a Spirit Talker app where spirits can manipulate a vocabulary of words to convey messages and a Spirit Box where spirits scan different radio frequencies to find certain words or form a sentence to communicate. There are also simple tools like cat toys, flashlights, and even keys the spirits could interact with.
“We’re here to give you evidence, but whether you believe it or not is up to you,” Grannes said.
Miller understands why people can be skeptical of what they do.
“I could easily edit this to make it even more exciting, but we don’t fake anything and don’t need to fake anything,” Miller said. “We’ve had activity at every location we’ve been to.” All videos are edited down to around 30 minutes long and are filmed mostly at night, usually between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. That’s when The Ghost Riders say the veil between this world and the spiritual world is at its thinnest.
“We’re open-minded and we capture raw, real footage,” Donahou added. “Sometimes (viewers) catch things we don’t even notice.”
Grannes and Donahou are faithful Christians and there are some religious undertones in their videos. They say that’s more to protect them than to preach to viewers. Off camera, the three pray together before and after they try communicating with spirits.
“We don’t have the gifts that mediums have to help spirits move on, but we can help guide them,” said Donahou, who occasionally tells spirits in the videos that they will be safe if they accept Jesus as their lord and savior.
Besides an occasional curse word stemming from the excitement of the hunt, the videos are relatively family-friendly, and more intriguing and skeptic-defying than drop-dead scary. While they take their roles as paranormal investigators seriously, they try not to take themselves that way. They add entertainment, history and humor throughout. The running joke is offering up Miller for the ghosts to harm in amusing ways. They also understand how a couple of burly guys with tattoos and leather vests must look to spirits from the 1800s and early 1900s. “I think they more see our souls, rather than our appearance,” Donahou said.
The three amateurs continue to hone their skills while growing their audience. The Ghost Riders plan to keep filming locally, and the more viewers and subscribers they get to their YouTube channel the more they will invest in equipment and going to different locations.
Next month the team will ghost hunt out of state for the first time when they visit the allegedly and notoriously haunted Conjuring House in Rhode Island. The home inspired a 2013 movie called, appropriately, “The Conjuring.”
“How cool would it be … well, not cool, but how terrifying would it be to capture something on camera in a place like that?” Grannes said.
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