FAIRFIELD, Pa. — A documentary focusing on fascination with the paranormal slated for release Tuesday has a Sikeston, Mo., connection.
“The Other Side: Giving Up the Ghost” was made as a result of Gettysburg’s ghost stories but really isn’t about ghosts, according to Tonya Keyser, a former Sikeston resident who produced the DVD along with her husband, Andy.
“It’s more about the paranormal community and the culture of ghosts — why they are interested in it and why they investigate it and how they go about it,” she explained.
Keyser said not long after she and her husband moved to the Gettysburg area, they were amazed by the growth of a peculiar tourism industry there: ghost tours. At times she has seen 10 different tours going on all at once with each tour guide leading 50-60 people around Gettysburg.
“There are many, many people who come to Gettysburg just because of its reputation for being haunted and its ghost tours,” Keyser said. “There are ghost bus tours, ghost train tours, walking tours, tours that take you into places that are supposed to be haunted, carriage tours. It’s a huge draw. We wanted to tell the story and felt that film was the best way to do that.”
At just over 80 minutes, the film explores what drives the interest in the paranormal and how the media and popular culture fuel the fascination with ghosts as well as making an attempt to demystify the mystical.
While a lot of the footage is of Gettysburg, parts of the film were also shot in St. Louis; Amherst, N.Y.; Philadelphia and other places as the Keysers visited and interviewed nearly 30 people for the project, not all of whom appear in the film.
In addition to interviews with ghost tour guides and paranormal investigators, “we also wanted to include information about skeptics,” Keyser said. “We wanted to make it as balanced as possible so we interviewed the editor of ‘Skeptical Inquirer’ magazine.”
The project also took them to Allentown, Pa., where they interviewed the author of “How to Think About Weird Things,” a book about critical thinking; and Richmond, Va., where they interviewed members of the Center for Paranormal Research and Investigation.
“I think it turned out really well, especially for a first effort,” Keyser said. “Neither of us knew anything about making a film before this — we had to start out from scratch.”
The Keysers also recently completed their first book, “In the Shadow of Science: Illuminating Ghost Research,” as a companion piece to the film, all but two chapter of which were written by Keyser.
Keyser said she personally doesn’t believe in ghosts: “I believe there are strange things that happen that we don’t necessarily have an explanation for, but I don’t believe that is what it is.”
The Keysers have formed a production company, Exspiro Productions, and are now working on a series of DVDs that discuss the history of various locations, ghost stories associated with those locations, and groups of investigators who delve into the stories.
“It’s more for entertainment,” Keyser said. “Our current project we just finished is more for education.”
A 1987 graduate of New Madrid County (Mo.) Central High School, Keyser said she ended up in Pennsylvania when she moved to Villanova, Pa., for graduate studies at Villanova University after receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Missouri. She then finished her master’s in education at Drexel University in Philadelphia. “I just kind of stayed in the area,” she said.
As her parents, Jim and Candy Lane, currently live in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Keyser returns to this area “a couple times a year — usually once in the summer and then at Christmas time.”