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The Intelligencer 06/15/2009 by Luke Hendry
They say some of the skulls aren’t the Mayan artifacts they’re claimed to be, but others aren’t so easily explained.
Belleville,Ontario,Canada – Combine Indiana Jones with The X-Files and you have Belleville’s Gray brothers. Adam, 36, and Andrew Gray, 33, are Belleville natives and filmmakers who have begun to specialize in television programs exploring the unexplained.
Their newest, Supernatural Investigators: Crystal Skulls, is set to air on VisionTV.
It’s one of four documentaries created by the Belleville brothers who last year had their television debut with The Nightmare, also on VisionTV. The hour-long program on the mysterious condition of sleep paralysis was picked up by VisionTV.
The four shows are among 17 to be aired on the channel’s new Supernatural Investigators program. Award-winning science-fiction author Robert J. Sawyer serves as host.
Building on The Nightmare’s success, the brothers pitched three new documentaries to the channel, all of which were approved. Crystal Skulls is the first to air.
“It was a pretty cool adventure,” said Adam Gray who, late last year, traveled with his brother-in-law, cameraman Rob Spence, to film in Mexico and Belize.
Life-size crystal skulls began appearing in Mayan archeological sites in Central America during the 1800s. Mayan legends say they were used by priests to heal, kill and communicate with the spirit world.
But some of the skulls are crafted so perfectly that experts say it would’ve take the Mayans centuries to make them.
The documentary features interviews with experts and tracks archeologist Joel Palka in his search to uncover the truth about the skulls.
One skull, discovered by Anna Mitchell-Hedges during an expedition with her father Mitchell Hedges, remains among the most mysterious of the 10 skulls found to date.
“I actually started off quite skeptical. I liked the story of Mitchell Hedges but thought it was probably a fake,” Adam said, but noted he was forced to reconsider based on information revealed during filming.
Crystal Skulls and the Grays’ other three programs for the series were created under a tight deadline of just a few months.
For the skull shoot, Drew remained in Belleville to continue editing shows while Adam and Spence headed south for a hectic 10-day shoot. “It was an insanely tense and fast-moving trip,” Adam said.
The trip from Mexico to Belize was a 16-hour drive “deeper and deeper into the jungle in a country that doesn’t seem to have any police force,” Adam said.
“I was a little frightened in Belize,” he said.
He recalled arriving at a hotel of sorts deep in the jungle and being chased by a Rottweiler dog. His guide wasn’t of any comfort.
“He said, ‘You know, they could kill us out here and no one would ever know,’” said Adam in a Latin-American accent, chuckling.
That night, he said, “There was about an eight-inch tarantula crawling along the floor beside my bed. Sleeping became very difficult after that.”
He joked that for future films, “We’re not going past Trenton from now on.”
Drew said editing the films was tough because of the deadline and the limit to how much footage could be used.
“You can’t go more than a minute and a half, two minutes with anything,” Drew said. “It doesn’t matter how much you spent to get the footage or how important you thought it was going to be.”
Advance research was key, but the final script can’t be written until the field interviews are complete, he said.
“You try to become an expert before you start shooting, but if you get too cocky you end up writing a bad essay trying to prove your own points,” said Drew.
The Grays’ program on remote viewing airs March 17 and is nearly complete. Editing is underway for White Mountain Abduction, an investigation into the classic alien encounter of Betty and Barney Hill. It airs April 7.
A retooled version of The Nightmare has been delivered to VisionTV and will be broadcast April 14.
Each has music by Belleville’s Sean Fritz, the Grays’ cousin.
The brothers said they’re now discussing unexplained topics for future films, and have created ParaDocs, a production company and joint venture with producer Paul Stephens.
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It may be the first time that a UFO has been captured on video during the making of a UFO documentary. Airing next week on VisionTV’s documentary anthology series “Supernatural Investigator” is the Gray brothers’ latest film, “The White Mountain Abduction”. The subject of the film is Betty & Barney Hill, the first couple to publicly disclose that they were abducted by aliens. While filming at the abduction site in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, on the 47th anniversary of the event, the Gray Brothers caught a real UFO on tape.
The documentary follows Kathleen Marden (the niece of the Hills) and Stanton T. Friedman (Ufologist) as they retrace the route the Hills took that fateful night in 1961. While Marden and Friedman, authors of “Captured: The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience” were being interviewed in the woods a series of strange moving lights appeared in the sky behind them. Cameraman and documentary filmmaker Rob Spence (Eyeborg) was on his game that night and managed to perfectly capture the bizarre event on high definition video.
Experts who have analyzed the video have ruled out any known conventional aircraft or natural astrological phenomena. To the Gray brothers what was really amazing was not the UFO itself but the timing “I have never seen anything that I would have called a UFO before, and the first time I do - we are at an abduction site filming our first UFO documentary, and we have Betty Hill’s niece and the world’s most famous Ufologist in the frame watching it! I mean it is just so perfect! We couldn’t believe it. But it happened”, laughed co-director Adam Gray. “I remember the next morning when Stanton showed up for filming and he noticed that his watch had stopped, and for a moment I thought, that’s what happened to the Hills after their encounter!” What the lights were remains a mystery.
“The White Mountain Abduction” is the 4th documentary by filmmakers Adam and Andrew Gray on the paranormal. Their company ParaDocs Productions is the joint effort of the Gray brothers and award-winning producers Paul Stephens and Eric Jordan (Beowulf & Grendel). The team takes an adventurous approach to documentary, traveling the globe exploring mysteries and unexplained phenomena.
Scheduled to air June 2nd at 10:30PM on Vision TV.
Two years ago in the middle of the night, Adam Gray saw a figure in a white shroud at the foot of his bed. "I was quite terrified and I was trying to scream or move," said the Belleville resident, now 35. "I was completely paralyzed, except for my eyes."
The figure raised a hand, and Gray said he felt as though his soul was being pulled out of his body. Gray's wife, Jacqui, was alerted by muffled noise coming from her husband. She saw nothing unusual in the room, and shook him.
"As she shook me, it vanished," said Gray, who added the experience was so frightening he could not believe it had been a nightmare, as Jacqui had suggested.
But it became a recurring scare, and Gray was so shaken that he began researching its symptoms. He learned about sleep paralysis, a condition experienced by an estimated 20 percent of the world's population. One scientific theory says the mind and eyes wake up before the sleeping body, leaving the limbs still immobilized from sleep. In some cases, scientists say, the victim's mind may produce some sort of ghost or creature as a way of explaining the paralysis. Some people feel as though they're being suffocated; others have many more symptoms. Gray wanted to learn more, and since he was already in partnership with his brother Andrew in Graymatters Video Productions, a documentary seemed the best route.
When Andrew Gray first heard his brother's story, he had a typical brotherly reaction: "that he was nuts. "It took some convincing," Andrew, 32, said this week.
But in time, the pair developed a solid proposal for The Nightmare, a film exploring the subject. They recruited Canadian producer Paul Stephens, whose work includes Beowulf & Grendel, Ordinary Magic, and TV's Torso: The Evelyn Dick Story. They'd met earlier when Stephens, a frequent visitor to the Quinte region, wandered into their former Pinnacle Street office out of curiosity.
The Grays made their pitch to VisionTV at Toronto's Hot Docs film festival. "From the first few words of their pitch, it was exactly what we were looking for," said Joan Jenkinson, VisionTV's director of independent productions and The Nightmare's executive producer. "It was a fresh perspective," she said. "Their vision was also big. "I took a chance with them because I didn't really know anything about them," she told The Intelligencer.
Jenkinson said once work was underway, however, "They blew me away." Together, VisionTV and Space: The
Imagination Station gave The Nightmare the green light.
"In order to pull off such an ambitious project on the budget we had, we really had to get our hands dirty," Adam said. For the next two years, the Grays travelled from Japan to the African island of Zanzibar, filming interviews with
people who'd had sleep paralysis and scientists who have studied it.
"I'd never left the continent before, so it was all new and strange," said Andrew. Every culture they visited had a different name for the nightmarish experience. But in each, a strange creature visited victims in the night, terrorizing the person and sometimes creating the sensations of being choked or, in Zanzibar, physical signs of rape.
Newfoundlanders spoke of "the hag," a witch who attacked sleepers. In Japan, one woman said the face of her father on the figure choking her. And in Zanzibar, a witch doctor told Gray he had been possessed by evil spirits, then performed an exorcism on him. In California, a Hmong shaman from southeast Asia performed another ceremony on him, ending his recurring experiences.
Scientists, meanwhile, offered theories on whether or not the experience was a hallucination or something else entirely. Some of the evidence seen in The Nightmare seems to indicate it may be much more than a bad dream, at least in some instances.
The brothers' roughly 43-minute film aired on VisionTV's Enigma March 5. It's expected to repeat and air on Space as well, though no dates have been set. The brothers are hoping it could lead to much more, and that may be happening. The Nightmare was the first broadcast project written and directed by the Grays. VisionTV's Jenkinson liked what she saw.
"They are my best find of the year," Jenkinson said without hesitation. "Throughout the whole process they were very, very professional and very creative, and the product we got at the end was fantastic. The writing was also very dramatic; they told a very good story."
Jenkinson has already agreed to use a new half-hour cut of The Nightmare in her new series, "Supernatural Investigator" It's a rebranding of Enigma, and aims to explain paranormal and supernatural phenomena. The brothers from Belleville have a place in the new brand, she said.
"We have full intention on moving forward with them on at least a couple of projects."
The Grays have pitched her ideas for four new documentaries covering everything from clairvoyance to black magic. If they're accepted, Andrew said dryly, "We're going to be quite busy this year talking to a lot of strange people in foreign countries," Andrew said dryly.
"It feels great," he said of the prospect of more work. "It feels like everything I've been working for is starting to take off and I'll be able to explore the kinds of topics I want to in film."
They said they're mindful of the possibility of being labelled as makers of only spooky projects, but aren't yet
concerned by it. "I don't think that's our lifelong goal - to make supernatural films - but it's a fun place to start," Adam said.
He added regardless of whether the strange phenomena are real or imagined doesn't matter: people are
experiencing them, and whatever the cause, it's worth investigating.
"We'd like to make films that open people's minds to the possibility that it's a genuine experience - this is
something that's real and happening, and people should think about it."
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