Killer Contact is an American paranormal television series on SyFy that premiered on December 4, 2013. A new breed of investigators lead by Austin Cook went on a mission to solve the world’s most infamous crimes and shed light on the world’s most notorious madmen, using paranormal investigations to solve these crimes.
When paranormal activity flares up at these locations, the team responds quickly to get answers using unconventional methods. Austin Cook, Lead Investigator of the show, took time to talk to me about his experiences while filming Killer Contact.
Russell Dickson: What got you interested in the paranormal?
Austin Cook: I grew up in Franklin Tennessee, 15 minutes south of Nashville, listening to stories about paranormal and ghostly happenings around. I think it was a hot topic because we had this civil war battle happen right in downtown Franklin called the “Battle of Franklin,” on November 30th, 150 years ago, this year. There were just fewer than 9000 casualities in the battle that only lasted for about a 5 hour span of time. Because of this battle, there has always been a lot of media attention on the region. A lot of the houses here are from that time period, and were used as civil war hospitals. There was just death strewn about Franklin, for weeks and weeks after that, even from the injured people passing away in all these homes.
RD: So you must have a lot of paranormal experiences to talk about?
AC: I lived here all my life and never experienced anything, so I didn’t believe in anything. Just because I should have been one of the people most likely to see something, and because my grandfather has one of those houses that was a civil war hospital. I grew up there and I had horses out at his property. We would even stay out there during the holidays, year after year, and nothing ever happened. So I grew up with the understanding that it was cool to talk about, and everyone loves a ghost story, but ghosts aren’t real.
RD: You must have had one experience happened prior to Killer Contact?
AC: So anyway, that all changed when I bought a house in Franklin and finally experienced something. So I was 20 at the time that this happened. A couple of months into living in the house. One night I was laying in the bed about 11pm. I wasn’t tired at all, and I felt the edge of my bed shake, as if something bumped into it and I looked to my right and I saw a transparent figure of little boy, maybe 5 years old, I would say. I was frozen in fear for the first few minutes. I’m sure it only felt like a couple of seconds.
I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. I didn’t have the whole Hollywood sound effects going in the background experience, and all that crap. So I wasn’t nearly as scared as I thought I would be in that situation and so after a few seconds I reached out and said, “Can you see me?” and as soon as I reached for it, the thing disappeared. I saw this little boy numerous times in that house. Same facial expression every time, in different rooms, and that is what changed my opinion on the paranormal, and got me asking questions.
RD: When did you go out on your first investigation?
AC: I am a member of the heritage foundation here in Franklin County, and we would have people come in to meetings and mention weird things that were happening in their homes. I would tell them that I experienced the same thing, and ask if I could visit their homes and just hang out. I wouldn’t even call it an investigation. I like to just see if anything happens. I am not hunting per se, I am just hanging out and more times than not, with that and provoking, I get more answers than asking “Hey is anyone there.”
RD: Are you more into the history of the locations or the paranormal parts?
AC: History, I realize this is weird of me to say but, ghosts are the closest thing to living history we have.
RD: What do you like to take with you on investigations?
AC: I don’t put much stock into a lot of equipment other than just EVP and film, anything to do with film, whether it is cameras or video. I need hard evidence. Rem-pods and all that are fun to have and are great for TV but they are loud and obnoxious, but they do make you feel like something is happening.
RD: How is your show different from a lot of the other shows out there?
AC: Our show is different than a lot of the other shows because it is very high energy. That energy goes into everything we are doing at these historic sites, the energy even goes into the final edit. We watched the show for the first time when it aired on TV and were excited to see how fast paced it was.
RD: Was there any part of the show that didn’t go over well with fans?
AC: A lot of people don’t like that Molly was the role player, the first time that we sort of flirted with the notion was when we were in London the first episode. We knew that Jack the Ripper only went after prostitutes and so my idea was dress her up like a prostitute. Of course, she didn’t have the right clothing, but we didn’t have a lot of time on site to get it fashionably correct. We worked with what we had.
RD: So do you feel trigger items and provoking are the best way to get reactions?
AC: I think they are, sometimes. You know we’re not going to get answers by being nice to Vlad the Impaler, or Jack the Ripper, that is why we provoke during our interrogations. You can’t go into an interrogation and say listen, will you please give us your answers. It doesn’t work like that, I have no problem provoking and I encourage Greg in those situations, but we are not there to provoke the victims. Truth be told, some of the best evidence we have ever gotten is from provoking. There is something about manipulating the energy or something. I don’t want to sound like a nut.
RD: Do you remember ever getting frightened during your investigations?
AC: We would get creeped out when we got back to the hotel after the investigations. We have our own rooms, we are all alone, and so, we don’t have each other during these moments. Molly would sometimes be in the lobby from the time we quit our investigations until the time we woke up, which was 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon. She needed to be around people rather than her own room. For me it was Hell Fire that freaked me out. I felt like I was hearing voices throughout the duration of our stay. I felt like something was with me. I could just hear voices and stuff. It just freaked me out, yeah.
RD: Do you ever think that sometimes Greg is pushing too far; a few times there I thought he was going to blow a blood vessel.
AC: There are a lot of reasons for that sometimes, a good leader lets everyone do their thing, until it gets out of hand, but I don’t think Greg gets out of hand. Sometimes when he yells and screams it is simply from aggravation of nothing happening.
RD: What was the toughest part of working in some of these locations?
AC: South America was tough, and it was more the terrain and the wildlife than anything else. There were these snakes around that were deadly, and so we had to wear these special boots that went up to your hips when we were walking around. There are these particular vipers that deliberately strike up above your knee and because we’re so far away, especially in Belize, from any sort of hospital, that they told us “if you get bitten you are going to die.” There isn’t any anti venom around.
RD: It must have been tough just to get on location.
AC: In Belize, we had to take a 2 hour boat ride, it was just us and the captain. Five of us on a stinking boat, and they told us just wear these boots or you are going to die. We trekked through this jungle at night wearing these things and it was hard to walk, hard to see. We took an hour hike to get to where we need to be and then we had to start filming. We were just exhausted the entire time, and we had to stay in these tents, oh my god. I don’t mean to sound like a diva. (laughs)
RD: I guess the viewers don’t realize what you guys go through to produce the show.
AC: Oh yeah, we got lost a couple of times; it was a lot of navy seal action going on.
RD: What no air conditioned tents with Craft Services there waiting for you?
No, no, no. It was nothing like that. I grew up in and around the industry, especially in Nashville – music, TV and film – so I was naive enough to think we would have hair and make-up people waiting for us. When we got to the airport and were getting ready to ship out to Europe last year, I asked if we were going to meet the hair and make-up people now or if they were going to meet us on site, and they said no we don’t have that, you are on your own, this is it. I don’t think you can get what it is like from the other side of the camera. The audience thinks we are living the high life, getting paid. Reality TV is so different from scripted, and I learned that first hand.
RD: Are there any other locations out there that you would love to check out?
AC: I would love to investigate a concentration camp like the one you mentioned when we spoke earlier, Terezin. Something with the Nazis, or Hitler
RD: Terezin is a dark place filled with so much sadness and dark energy. There is a Holocaust memorial and a museum there now. I was depressed for weeks after I left it. It was a place where the Nazis sent all the Jewish people to be sorted and sent out to concentration camps. It was also a former military fortress and adjacent is a walled garrison town in the Usti nad Labem Region of the Czech Republic. They also used the city in Nazi propaganda films.
AC: Think about all the shows that go to jails and hospitals, imagine a show that is devoted to that stuff? I would love to do something like that. I like to investigate the dark history.
RD: Will there be a second season?
AC: I have no idea. That is all up in the air, it is up to the producers and everyone. SYFY does a great job of filtering and making sure the best of the best shows are still playing. Sometimes if a show doesn’t get renewed, it doesn’t mean it was bad. It just means the network wanted to try something new.
RD: What do you think of your cast mates and fans?
My cast mates are great, and we get along really well. We still talk on a weekly basis. If not daily texting each other, to see what is up. The fans are incredible, the most loyal, encouraging people that you could hang out with. I don’t even classify them as fans; they are more friends than anything.