February 24, 2012
Farewell, Grant Wilson
By Deonna Kelli Sayed
The midseason finale of Ghost Hunters ended with a tear-filled shocker when Grant Wilson announced his departure.
For viewers, this was a sad surprise. Grant has functioned as Jason Hawes's softly demeanored sidekick since the show debuted in 2004.
Grant summed up his relationship with Jason in the very first episode when he announced that he was like water while Jason was like fire. He jokingly referred to their relationship as a type of marriage. It was always a pleasure to see the two of them interact, both on and off camera.
Viewers often fail to appreciate that TAPS, cofounded by Jason and Grant, goes back almost twenty years -- way before paranormal reality TV existed as a concept. There was no moment in those early days that either of them envisioned the cultural force that would erupt from their weekend hobby.
Paranormal reality TV is defined by this powerful duo, and Grant Wilson's departure marks an end of an era even as the show continues.
The JourneyGrant started the show as an affable, shy, almost nerdy guy with quiet intelligence that countered Jason's quick, boisterous wit. Eight seasons later, Grant had morphed into something of a wise, artistic sage. He had become an individual willing to recognize that his life journey demanded a detour, and, more importantly, he was brave enough to insist upon the road less traveled by.
Many viewers are not aware that Grant is a gifted artist, a writer (he has authored an unpublished fantasy novel) and a musician. He has a burgeoning band, CarpetShark, with his wife and childhood friends. Grant is a cultural creative, and those who know him personally have always stated that he would literally blossom once the show ended.
Or, as the case turned out, once he decided to leave.
I had a conversation with Grant about two years ago where he confided that he was once too self-conscious to share his music, but his life journey transformed his creativity. "Music is my passion," he told me. "I mean, I love ghost hunting, too, but music is my real passion." We spoke about the connection between music, creativity and spirituality. (I play piano and secretly compose music.) He was so intelligent and engaging -- far better expressed than the already articulate Grant we saw on the show.
I cannot profess to know him well, but each time I encountered him face-to-face always left me impressed. His Kindle carried Orson Scott Card's books, an author who happens to be my neighbor, and we spoke of his work. We talked about the songwriting process, and Grant willingly gave me advice on how to use Garage Band to record my own music. He was kind enough to sit with me and explain the process, step by step.
Into Unchartered TerritoryGrant was approachable, but he understood the importance of setting boundaries as his personality became an objectified commodity. I do believe he struggled with many aspects of public life while grateful for the opportunities provided by the show. If anything, I think gratitude and compassion summed up Grant's personality.
I found him to be one of the most authentic personalities in the community.
There was never a time that he projected any pretentions. If anything, he often seemed to dislike confrontation and always tried to find the good in any situation.
He once told me that the best advice against those who spoke against you was to just leave them alone. Responding gave distractors more power and perpetuated a cycle. Wise words -- almost Buddhist in nature -- to counteract the often pretentious and drama filled dynamics of the paranormal community. He said this after he offered me a candy bar. Grant was a man defined by sweetness.
Many of us, if we are honest, have used paranormal reality TV as type of spiritual quest. There is no shame in this admission, nor is there any grievance in acknowledging that Ghost Hunters broke the mold as the first in the genre. These two TAPS founders were almost messianic for so many, and their names were uttered as if one word: JasonandGrant. You could not have one without the other, as they were the leaders of a rapidly growing congregation of worldwide devotees.
Grant appreciated how many found spiritual solace through paranormal investigation and respected what the show offered in this regard. Yet, he knew the show's place and never appeared to take fame too seriously nor did he allow himself to be completely defined by it.
Once, while at the Spalding Inn during a private weekend with TAPS families, we spoke about the "show's place."
I admitted that I no longer watched Ghost Hunters, even as a TAPS family member and as someone who wrote a book about the show's impact on American society.
Grant replied that he rarely watched TV at all.
I suggested, quite pompously, that many people took the show too seriously. "It is just a TV show. It should be enjoyed for what it is - as entertainment," I said, bracing for his response.
He looked straight at me as he softly replied, "You're absolutely right. It is just a TV show. I wish more people understood that." The night before, Grant and Jason had lip sung "Baby Got Back," and Grant had serenaded us with "Total Eclipse of the Heart." He was a man who did not take himself too seriously yet valued the serious side of life.
He certainly understood that the show had opened unprecedented doors for public paranormal acceptance. Grant was eloquent regarding his role: he thought of himself as an ambassador for the field, even if the show did not adequately depict off-camera investigative realities (something he freely addressed when asked). Privately, Grant also continued to conduct his own research around his personal paranormal experiences while choosing not to share this with the public.
Grant was also a deeply committed father (and I'm sure he remains so). He protected his children's privacy, and once left an event early because it was Father's Day. Grant stated that he desired to be home "with his progeny."
In short, he was the real deal.
On To The Next...Grant will be around for a few more cases when Season 8 completes later in the year. We haven't seen the last of him. Yet, he will be greatly missed once his onscreen presence subsides.
I applaud him for his time served and for his bravery in making such a life jump. And what a journey it has been -- from a Rhode Island Roto-Rooter plumber to a groundbreaking reality TV star. It was a passage colored with struggles that few of us will truly understand, yet it was an expedition uniquely and proudly American in nature.
Grant, I give you that celebratory fist bump that often occurred between you and Jason at each episode's end--
Now, on to YOUR next!
Deonna Kelli Sayed is Ghostvillage.com editor and author of Paranormal Obsession: America's Fascination with Ghosts, Hauntings, Spooks & Spirits (Llewellyn) and So You Want To Hunt Ghosts: A Down-To-Earth Guide (Llewellyn, October 2012).