We all know how Sam and Dean became hunters. It was tragic and it was scary. Luckily, this is not the case for Bob Magill. Bob set out to make a real ghost hunting show but with a touch of humor and he succeeded. Ghost Bait started as a web-series and gave us a different take on the standard ghost hunter show. Instead of the brave, fearless hunter charging into the spooky house, they sent in a terrified man named Billiam. That’s how the show got it’s name! Billiam was essentially the ghost bait. If you haven’t seen the series, check it out. It is great and has some notable nods to our near and dear, Supernatural.
Ghost Bait was picked up by the Biography channel and the format shifted to a more serious tone, but this was still so different than any other show in it’s genre. The production quality and high tech equipment made the televised Ghost Bait feel more like a real ghost hunting experience than a reality show.
I had the chance to chat with Bob Magill, a real-life ghost hunter, about his ghostly encounters, his projects and his take on rock salt. I also gave Bob a Supernatural themed monster quiz!
Meg Bonney: Hi Bob, thank you so much for taking the time, I know you are busy. Let’s talk about your show. I am a great big Supernatural nerd but I had such a hard time with the first season because I was so scared! I would watch the first thirty minutes with my hands over my eyes because I am a great big chicken, but strangely, I love ghost shows! I watched the Ghost Bait web-series and it was so funny! It reminded me of Supernatural. Terror but with a good dose of humor.
Bob Magill: Exactly, you nailed it! And we did have to change some of that when we started doing it for TV. People were afraid of a funny ghost show, at the network level. The influence from Supernatural and what you saw with the sense of humor was not an accident.
MB: Do you believe in ghosts?
BM: I do.
MB: Did you believe in ghosts before you did the web-series or did it all sort of evolve together?
BM: You know, I always wanted there to be ghosts, if that makes sense. That sense of the unknown and the excitement. It’s like when you are a little kid and you are at a sleepover, telling stories and all of a sudden everyone thinks there is a ghost in the house. That excitement, I was always drawn to that. So it more so started as a curiosity, in hopes of finding the supernatural. I was always skeptical, as well, because I didn’t have any real experiences. You hear a lot of the other people on ghost shows do it because of past experiences. For me, it was a curiosity. And when we started doing the web-series, we got access to some of the coolest locations, with some parts being off limits to the public and that’s when it went from a curiosity to starting to really see things. Some things that could be explained and others couldn’t.
MB: That’s really cool that you get to see these places with all of that history!
It’s one of my favorite parts, to be honest! Some of these places, I just think, man, what would Sam and Dean do? That really came into play with our show. One of the things you always see on these ghost shows, is these big, brave people who aren’t scared, they talk tough with the ghosts and they want to be there. But some of our humor came from the idea of putting someone in there that would rather be at the dentist than at that house. That’s what you see with Billiam. A lot of the time you will see, on these ghost shows, a person who has seen something or the manager of the building and instead of sending the group of brave ghost hunters in there, we sent the person who experienced it or even Billiam. We outfit them with the rig that you will see Billiam wear and that is when we got some of the best stuff.
MB: Aww, poor Billiam!
BM: Yeah, everyone thinks I torture him, but he’s a good sport.
MB: What is the craziest thing you have seen while filming one of the Ghost Bait episodes?
BM: That’s easy! I built a tesla coil and basically the theory is that when people say, “Oh, the flashlight went out” or “The lights just flickered,” well this would catch that. The tesla coil puts out 500 volts of electricity, so I built one of those thinking, okay, let’s go with a Red Bull version of energy and see what happens. We did that at the West Virginia State Penitentiary. Shortly after we did that, we were filming an interview and talking about it and someone was reviewing the footage, right there at the prison and we saw a figure. The clear shape of a shadow, it stepped out from the end of where the prison cells were, as though it were watching us and then slipped back into a wall. That was the most, on camera, craziest thing we have ever seen.
MB: Creepy! On Supernatural, they use different methods for detecting a ghost. You said you built the tesla coil to detect ghosts, but is the EMF detector something you would use in the field?
BM: You know what, we used it early on. That was something we used mostly because the fans sort of expected it, but there were other methods we moved towards that we felt were more effective, but yeah, that certainly did work.
MB: What other gadgets did you build?
BM: There were things we had to build because they just simply didn’t exist. The coolest thing we did was the rig with the two camera on it that are modified infra-red Go-Pros. One of the things I wanted to do, as a producer of the show, was that I didn’t want there to be nine people in the room with our ghost bait. Bill wouldn’t be as scared if I put him down there with a sound guy, a camera guy, a producer, so I built that. He was walking around with these two cameras. One was was Bill’s view, so that the viewer could see what Bill was seeing and the other was on Bill, getting his reactions. What we found was that when someone was alone and scared, they talk. A LOT.
MB: That’s so true! I didn’t even think about that! Speaking of being scared, on Supernatural, they use salt rings to protect themselves from ghost and even shoot rock salt out of sawed off shotguns. This is because they are generally threatened by these ghosts. Have you ever been threatened by a ghost or felt unsafe when you were shooting Ghost Bait? What did you do?
BM: Not me personally, but it has happened to other cast members. There was a female cast member, when we were at a Bordello and you can imagine the horrible things that happened in those rooms. She started to feel a pressure on her chest and felt physically ill. And she wasn’t usually like that, so we knew something was up. And as far as rock salt, it’s funny you mention that. One time, with our brand new production van, while I was off exploring a different part of the house, Billiam had the crew get some rock salt. He then proceeded to pour it on the bumper, the hood and all over my brand new van. Rock salt, as you can imagine, isn’t the best thing for a new van. And then he got in and had the crew pour it outside of the door. I don’t know if it made him feel safe, but he certainly enjoyed dumping salt on my brand new van!
MB: Oh, Billiam. Ok, now I am going to give you monster quiz. We know you can investigate ghosts but I want to see how well you would do if you were dropped in the world and mythology of Supernatural. I will name a monster and you are going to tell me how to kill it.
MB: I will give you half a point for that one but they say fire is the best way.
BM: I know this one! A gold weapon? A gold knife?
MB: Ding, ding, ding! Correct!
BM: Hmmm, I am thinking metal? I will go with silver.
MB: Half point! It was a silver metal knife dipped in lamb’s blood, because who doesn’t have that laying around?
BM: On this show, I believe it’s an “off with the head thing,” right?
MB: You got it!
BM: Take them out on a horrible date? I have no idea!
MB: That was strange one! It’s a bronze dagger coated in the blood of one it’s victims.
BM: I got this! If the bones are available, salt and torch the bones! And for extra credit, if the bones are already gone, it is bound to an object! You have to burn the object.
MB: YES! And I will totally give you that extra point!
BM: Silver bullets!
MB: Yes! You got it. You did really good on that! Good job!
MB: Last question. It’s the big one. Are you a Sam or are you a Dean? And why?
BM: Ok, I’d say, I am a Dean! It’s his smart-ass sense of humor. I prefer sarcasm type of humor to any other and the hair. I sort of have his hair. So, yeah, I would say between the hair and the attitude, I am a Dean.
MB: LOVE IT! Bob, thank you so much for taking the time to chat! I know you are super busy with your film project, your books and everything. I really appreciate you taking the time!
BM: Of course! Thanks for having me!
Thanks for reading our chat with a real ghost hunter! You can find out more about Bob’s projects by clicking the links below:
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/bobmagill
Want more Supernatural? Check out the Supernatural Fandom Section of PureFandom.com!
Supernatural airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on The CW.