On July 15, the controversial women-led remake of Ghostbusters will hit the silver screen. And while the reboot has already received a storm of attacks on social media that director Paul Feig described as “vile” and “misogynistic,” real-life female paranormal investigators are hoping the movie, starring Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig, will encourage more young girls to join the movement of female ghost hunters that has grown in recent years.
Irish American Morgan Maquire, from Hanover, Pennsylvania, is part of a group that claims to be one of the country’s first ever all-female team of ghost hunters, who search for evidence of spirits and help people respond to ghosts haunting their homes.
“I’ve been fascinated with the paranormal, God, probably since birth,” Maguire, 24, told The Guardian. “When I was little, I didn’t have any female ghost hunters to look up to.”
Maguire now lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, one of the most haunted cities in the United States, and is a member of a paranormal group called the Gettysburg Ghost Gals. She works at the historic Farnsworth House Inn, marketed as one of the most haunted places in the world.
Maguire is looking forward to the reboot of the 1984 film, which starred Bill Murray as one of four parapsychologists chasing ghosts in New York City.
“I am so ungodly excited for the new movie, it’s not even funny,” she said.
“The original Ghostbusters, as amazing and awesome as it is, is four dudes … Now, girls of any age can realize, ‘Hey, I can do that!’”
While the new film has been part of the current debate about sexism in comedy and the overall lack of female representation in Hollywood, there has also been discussions among real-life ghostbuster about the lack of women in the paranormal world.
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“Every team back in the 90s was male-dominated. You didn’t find any teams that were female-run,” said Brigid Goode, who has been doing paranormal investigations for decades and founded the Gettysburg Ghost Gals in 2012.
Paranormal investigators, who have no doubts that spirits are real, take their work seriously and believe that they provide an important service. They respond to inquiries from people concerned about spirits lurking in their homes, conduct lengthy investigations, and sometimes help families cleanse their home of unwelcome ghostly intruders.
The Guardian reports that there are thousands of paranormal societies across the U.S. and an increasing number of women are joining teams and organizations.
Samantha Hawes, a paranormal researcher and cast member of Ghost Hunters, a Syfy reality series, said that while she has always felt welcome in her profession, she knows other women in the field who have faced sexism from men who believe females will be frightened when confronted with spirits.
“Most people don’t imagine women crawling through old dilapidated buildings and tunnels and talking to things that could possibly hurt them if not handled the right way,” Hawes said.
She hopes the new Ghostbusters film will help shift people’s perceptions. “I want people to see the movie and stop for two minutes and think, ‘Hey, maybe a woman’s not going to be scared if she comes with us.’”
The TV show Ghost Hunters itself has faced criticism for only featuring two women in the cast.
“In the paranormal world itself, there are a lot of women … but as far as TV, we are sorely underrepresented,” said Jenny Thomas, a psychic medium in the Gettysburg Ghost Gals. She said the original Ghostbusters film was a major source of inspiration.
“I do hope [the reboot] helps propel women in the paranormal field on TV and propels us in the public eye.”
Female ghost hunters say that when men dominate the paranormal field, everyone loses out.
“I think we get better results because we’re women,” Goode said. “Women are much more sensitive … we’re not a dominating force.”
Female paranormal investigators say they can connect better with scared families seeking help with a haunted home, and that they are more successful at communicating with child spirits.
“We are a very nurturing group of women,” said Thomas. “We care very much about the people we’re helping.”