Depending how you feel about a good night’s sleep, you might or might not want Katrina Weidman to plan your next vacation.
In Friday’s premiere of the Doylestown native’s Travel Channel show, Portals to Hell, she and cohost Jack Osbourne check in to the Alaskan Hotel in Juneau to investigate reports ranging from possible demon sightings to women guests occasionally being groped by what some believe to be a man who drowned in a hot tub there.
Whether this a “portal to Hell” or not, the century-old hotel — which was also featured, with a different slant, on the channel’s Hotel Impossible several years ago — sounds like Weidman’s kind of place.
The Central Bucks West High School and Pennsylvania State University grad got her start in television as an investigator on A&E’s Paranormal State, which focused on the work of the university’s Paranormal Research Society, and went on to star in Destination America’s Paranormal Lockdown. But her interest in things that go bump in the night (and sometimes the day) began much earlier, while living in what was considered a haunted house.
“Two houses, actually,” Weidman said in an interview in February after a Travel Channel news conference. Her family moved from the first house when she was 5 or 6. The second is the one in which her mother still lives.
“Both of those houses, we had a lot of experiences in. The first house, I think me and my sister had more experiences in. The second house, my mom had a lot of experiences,” Weidman said, including in recent years what they call "the refrigerator ghost.”
She’s never mounted a full investigation, because “I don’t want to bring my work home too much,” but she said “multiple people" have witnessed it.
”You hear somebody come into her back door — she has wind chimes on her back door so you hear the door open, the wind chimes go — you hear somebody open the refrigerator, close the refrigerator and then walk into the dining room. And you’re like, ‘Who’s there?’ And when you go to look, nobody is there, the door is locked, there’s no car in the driveway.”
Nothing seemingly so benign appears to be at work when Weidman and her reality-star cohost (The Osbournes, Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour) take their cameras, recorders, and other instruments into Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary in the May 17 episode. They’re there to investigate parts of the reputedly haunted prison they’ve been told haven’t already been the subjects of ghost-hunters’ explorations. (The Fairmount Avenue historic site is a regular stop on the scary-show circuit.)
Both Weidman and Osbourne are billed as “paranormal investigators,” though Osbourne, who says his interest in the occult also dates to childhood, told reporters Weidman is “our token expert.”
Still, she hasn’t put “paranormal investigator” on a business card.
“Sometimes I lie about what I do,” she said, laughing. "I volunteer at a crisis center. So sometimes I’ll go with that. ‘Oh, I work in crisis.’ ”
Which, in a sense, she does.
“I’ve actually had a lot of clients in the past who [are] so traumatized and upset by the things that are happening to them. And you have to remember they’re so isolated, because nobody believes them,” she said.
What Weidman herself believes is that it’s her job to check assumptions at the door.
“The problem … in our field is there’s a lot of assumptions. We make those assumptions based off of religious texts, or spiritual texts, I guess I should say. And movies we’ve seen and books we’ve read. And that might not be how it all works. It might not be the afterlife. We just don’t know,” she said of the phenomena she investigates.
“When I first started, you know, I think I had the same belief that everybody had — that a ghost is somebody who died, and now they’re back, and they have some sort of unresolved business to do here on earth," Weidman had told reporters earlier.
“Where I’m at right now is I just think there’s a lot in this world that we don’t have answers for,” she said. "Maybe all of it is psychological. Maybe it’s all neurological. Maybe it’s the environment. The thing is we just don’t know, but we do know that people have these experiences. And even if you take 90 percent of the experiences and say they’re explainable, maybe it doesn’t explain that 10 percent. There are still weird things that happen [for which] we’re searching for answers.”
Portals to Hell. 10 p.m. Friday, April 26, Travel Channel.