Mustafa Gatollari is the paranormal historian and site analyst on the Ghost Hunters reboot, and he will be blogging about the show's paranormal investigations each week, exclusively for Distractify! Follow Mustafa on Instagram at @mgatollari.
Full disclosure: Although I'm a member of the Ghost Hunters team, all thoughts, conclusions, and commentaries on the cases are entirely my own, and don't necessarily represent the views of my fellow team members, the GH production crew, or A&E.
OK, now that we got that out of the way, in case you didn't hear, I'm a paranormal investigator, and the first episode of the all-new Ghost Hunters focuses on a high school in Pocatello, Idaho.
The whole premise of the show is to help people, so naturally if you're a high school student fretting about your awful new haircut, the misfortunes of puberty, and maybe your grades, you shouldn't need to worry about whether or not there's a ghost that'll scare the living daylights out of you as you make your transition into adulthood.
That's where we come in, and since Pokey High is a place with a ton of history, this means there are also a lot of paranormal claims. I couldn't list them all in this article, but here are some of the main ones.
A breakdown of the supernatural claims in Pocatello High School:
The first thing we always try to do when we go into an investigation is to try and debunk or naturally explain any of the phenomenon in a case, so when I saw the first bit of video evidence of paranormal activity in Pokey High School on a security camera, I immediately thought of my experience working in a restaurant.
In the video, it appears that there's a figure walking out of the bathroom as the lights flicker on and off.
My mind immediately went to a balloon string that was stuck in a drop-ceiling in front of a security camera at a previous job. As for the lights giving out, Grant [Wilson] made sure to call in an electrician to try and explain that phenomenon.
For the other claims, it was typical high school urban legend fare. There was supposedly the spirit of someone who died in the theater. There was also a "wet boy" students claimed to see outside of the school and around the halls. (Legend has it that the boy drowned in the pool that was in the basement of the school before it was renovated.)
Then there was the figure of a woman seen in the window of the library — she was reportedly an employee of the school who was left at the altar on her wedding day and was so distraught that she hung herself from the chandelier.
Two students also claimed that while playing basketball in the gymnasium, a man standing on top of the rafters told them to keep it down. When they looked again, he was gone.
A maintenance worker also swore that he saw someone he used to worked with after they passed away at the top of the auditorium/theater area, which is understandably shocking because, you know, they're supposed to be dead. There were other claims of a "perfume smell" coming from a locker — legend has it someone committed suicide in that area as a result of a pact.
So, were any of the claims surrounding Pocatello High School true?
Right off the bat we were able to debunk some of these claims. As it turns out, the "ghost" video that befuddled some paranormal enthusiasts was immediately disproved — a cobweb was hanging in front of the security camera.
As for the deaths on the school grounds... they just didn't happen. I met with a local historian who actually worked in the school and we talked at length about all of the urban legends. For one, there never was a pool in the school.
And the chandelier that a librarian or teacher hung themselves from? Well that wasn't installed until much later in Pokey High's timeline. To top it all off, there wasn't a single reported death that ever occurred in Pokey High.
Is Pocatello High School haunted?
Here's where things get interesting. Both Richel [Stratton] and I investigated the gymnasium, and, without speaking to one another, we had the same exact experience in the same exact spot. It bears repeating that we didn't tell one another about our respective experiences: we were both overcome with emotion and felt an electric tingling that shot up from our legs into our backs and felt like we were hugged by someone who was happy to see us.
Speaking of electricity, Grant, Brandon [Alvis], and I all experienced some interesting electric phenomenon at the top of the auditorium. We used a mini Tesla coil to pump out some energy into the air, and whipped out a bunch of flashlights. Standard protocol before every investigation is to test the flashlights and put new batteries in.
Well, we had multiple electronic devices, included our audio recorder, and flashlights, crap out on us during our session.
But then they would turn right back on. Something or someone was drawing energy from these devices, it was absolutely insane! Not included in the episode — because we didn't get a clean enough shot of it to establish it was real — was that a hanging light fixture started swinging by itself in that very same room, out of nowhere.
I still don't know why that happened and after trying to re-create the swing, we were left scratching out heads.
Off-camera, I spoke with the town's historian and told him of my experience in the gymnasium, and described the sensation that both Richel and I had. He paused for a bit and told me about a young man he knew who attended Pocatello High School.
That young man loved watching the basketball games and was a very kind person. He loved Pokey high, and went to college not too far from there and would greet his friends with a warm hug. He was tall and his head would usually rest on people's shoulders when he'd do so, similar to the sensation that both Richel and I received.
Sadly, that young man took his own life in college. While there's no way to know for sure what's going on in that school, I'd like to think that if there is an entity walking around, that they'd want to go back to a place that made them happy. Couple that with the electrical phenomenon that our experts couldn't really explain, along with the well-documented energy draw, and our personal experiences in Pocatello High School, I'd say that the school is indeed haunted.
But "haunted" doesn't necessarily mean something negative, especially in the case of Pokey High. While many people might look back at their formative years and cringe, it seems like the students here were proud of where they came from and the friendships that they forged. And that's pretty darn cool.
Watch new episodes of Ghost Hunters on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST on A&E.