When the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters came out in 2016, certain, overwhelmingly male parts of the internet weren't happy about it. Not only did the movie brush up against a cherished piece of pop culture, it also challenged mainstream ideas of who, exactly, "ain't afraid of no ghost."
From the original Ghostbusters film to Supernatural to Ghost Adventures, pop culture would have us believe that paranormal investigators are always and only men. But a real-life team of women ghost hunters has been working steadily in the American South for years — way before Kristen Wiig even touched a proton pack. One member of that team spoke with Refinery29 about her experiences with the paranormal.
Margaret "Maggs" Williams grew up visiting cemeteries, taking rubbings of tombstones, and having minor brushes with ghosts — "thinking you hear something or see something," she says. It wasn't until 2009, when she and her sister took a ghost tour of the Old South Pittsburgh Hospital in Pittsburgh, Tennessee, that she decided to make the paranormal part of her everyday life.
They were sitting on a long bench with the rest of the tour group when the guide pointed out a few odd specks of dust in the air right by Williams. "As soon as he said that, the bench made this horrible cracking sound," she says. It broke. Everyone screamed. Williams and her sister met fellow paranormal enthusiast Sue Olsen on that tour and decided to start a ghost hunting team with her. Their name? The Bench Breaking Broads.
Since their inception, the Broads have added two more core members to the team — both of them women. All five work day-jobs and have families ("none of our husbands want any part of it," Williams says). Ghost hunting is a passion they share and, if they had the time and means, they'd make it their full-time pursuit. "If we don’t do at least one a month, we all kind of get bitchy about it," she says with a laugh.
The Bench Breaking Broads are available to investigate historical sites and private homes in southern Kentucky, Tennessee, northern Alabama, and northern Mississippi. Read on to learn more about what makes their team work.