Kay Rothman is a veteran television producer whose credits range from the Food Network’s “Food Detectives” to the History Channel’s “History’s Greatest Mysteries” to the National Geographic Channel’s “Explorer.” Last year she was working on an episode of “A Haunting” for Discovery Plus and enlisted the help of Scott Davis, a paranormal investigator who lives in Middletown.
During the filming, Davis told Rothman he was having a vision of a woman on fire. His description was a spot-on match of a murder victim from another project Rothman had been working on — something, she said, he could not have known about.
“Blonde hair, but she dyes her hair because I can see the roots,” Rothman recalls Davis saying. “He knew what she was wearing, too.”
Rothman was so impressed by Davis that she’s giving him central role in a new project in his backyard — a TV series exploring potential paranormal occurrences in people’s homes. The pilot episode, and ideally many more after that, will take place along Monmouth County’s Bayshore.
Davis recently put out a call on social media seeking haunted-home candidates. Rothman and co-producer Sara Nichols are reviewing applications.
“Right now we’re trying to mine out a couple of good stories,” Davis said. “We’re going to shoot one location first, bring it to a couple of networks and hopefully get the green light to do a series of shows just like it.”
The Bayshore is a fascinating locale because it’s one of the oldest, most history-rich places in the Northeast. Henry Hudson sailed there in 1609 to trade with the Leni Lenape Indians. European settlers arrived in 1665. The region was a hub of Revolutionary War activity, with British soldiers occupying Sandy Hook and skirmishes flaring up in the streets.
“It’s a fertile place to find these stories,” Davis said.
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‘Not your stereotypical ‘woo-woo’ guy’
Davis cuts quite a profile. A Middletown High School North grad, he served in the Marines and then became a Bayshore-area police officer. The 41-year-old father of three moonlights as a paranormal investigator.
“I’ve been a little bit extra sensitive to the paranormal my entire life,” he said.
Davis said his investigations aim to help affected families regardless of whether their paranormal claim checks out. Sometimes the root cause is a construction or environmental issue, or a mental-health problem, or addiction.
“If we find other things happening, we will lead them in a direction where they can get help,” he said. “We try to find a logical explanation. But there are also spooky aspects of it, which makes for good television programming.”
A few weeks back, while scouting a potential location for the new project, Davis said he connected with the spirit of an older man. As he described the man to his co-producers, Nichols was in disbelief.
“My God, that’s my grandfather,” she said.
Rothman said she’s most impressed by Davis’ attitude. She’s convinced he won’t ham it up for the cameras, an all-too-common pitfall in the haunted-doc field.
“He has enormous integrity, he’s very centered, he’s very intelligent,” she said. “Not your stereotypical ‘woo-woo’ guy.”
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Two promising candidates
The pandemic slowed paranormal reports to a trickle at the Bayshore, Davis said.
“We’ve had a huge turnover in population; a lot of people who lived here forever got really good prices for their homes (from fleeing New York City residents) and left,” Davis said. “Then new folks moved in. Before COVID I would get two or three emails per day from people about paranormal activities in their homes. With all the new folks, they haven’t talked about it or haven’t discovered it yet.”
The application process for the TV series project, which is untitled as of now, has yielded some promising candidates. One is in the Cliffwood Beach section of Aberdeen — a house Davis has checked out before.
“There are children who are reporting much of the activity there,” he said, which adds to the plausibility. “That, plus I know the credibility of the people and they really want to get it resolved.”
In Keansburg, he said, “There have been quite a few interesting stories of people talking about similar haunted happenings — very specifically about black mists.”
The heart of Keansburg is undergoing a massive redevelopment project.
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“It could very well be the construction,” Davis said. “These towns being so old, they didn’t always remove people who were buried there respectfully — the ritual grounds left by the Leni Lenape. It seems to stir things up when big things like that (redevelopment) happen.”
The show won’t be visiting some of the Bayshore’s most well-known haunts — the Spy House in Middletown, the Strauss Mansion Museum in Atlantic Highlands and the Burrowes Mansion Museum in Matawan. Nobody lives in those places.
“We want to tell the human aspect of it,” Davis said, “and really help people.”
Bayshore residents interested in having their home investigated for the show should email Scott Davis at email@example.com.
Jerry Carino is community columnist for the Asbury Park Press, focusing on the Jersey Shore’s interesting people, inspiring stories and pressing issues. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.