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    Hulu’s new LGBTQ+ ghost-hunting show investigates haunted US landmarks
    • October 18, 2023

    Abigail Gruskin | Baltimore Sun (TNS)

    When Baltimore native Juju Bae finally submitted an application to star in a new ghost-hunting docuseries on Hulu, after weeks of mulling over the casting call, she took an extra step: She consulted her dead relatives.

    “I was like, ‘Ancestors’ — because I talk to my ancestors all the time, I talk to dead people all the time — I was like, ‘Ancestors, if this is for me, make it easy,’” said Bae, a 31-year-old spiritualist born in Beechfield, who now lives near Patterson Park and works as a psychic.

    A few minutes after her plea to those who have crossed over into a different realm, someone from the show’s casting team called Bae to express interest in having her audition, she said.

    “Living for the Dead,” Hulu’s new series narrated by actor Kristen Stewart, who also served as an executive producer of the show, puts an LGBTQ+ spin on the supernatural and follows five queer ghost hunters as they investigate haunted landmarks across the country. Bae joined the cast as the team’s resident “witch” and spiritual healer, leading seances and communicating with the deceased in the eight-episode show premiering Wednesday.

    “It started as a bit of a hypothetical silly pipe dream and now I am so proud to have shepherded something that is as moving and meaningful as it is truly a gay old time,” Stewart said in a statement announcing the docuseries. “Our cast makes me laugh and cry and they had the courage and heart to take us places I wouldn’t go by myself.”

    Traveling together in an RV, Bae, ghost hunter Alex LeMay, tarot card reader Ken Boggle, psychic Logan Taylor and paranormal researcher Roz Hernandez visit attractions, including a clown-themed motel in Nevada, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky and a former funeral home in Ohio.

    During overnight stays in the spooky destinations, taped on hand-held video cameras and by a professional film crew, there’s plenty of supposedly paranormal activity. People representing the haunted locales report being grabbed and scratched by ghosts, in addition to experiencing other eerie sensations.

    There’s also no shortage of screaming — and laughing — from the show’s living personalities, as they use ghost-detecting technology and spiritual intuition to communicate with the dead.

    “We all were able to play on each other’s strengths,” Bae said, noting that the team approached ghost-hunting “with a more open heart … not trying to bother or pester the spirits, or irritate the spirits.”

    Stewart, who teamed up with the creators of “Queer Eye” to craft the show, checked in frequently via FaceTime and text when she wasn’t on set and helped the cast feel more comfortable in front of the camera during their two months of filming earlier this year, Bae said.

    Bae was a naturally inclined singer, dancer and performer growing up, said her mother, Liz Mack, who lives in Baltimore County. “She was quiet, but she was adventurous.”

    Bae attended Catholic schools, graduating from the now-closed Seton Keough High School in 2010, and though she had “a belief in God, in higher power,” Mack, 58, said of her daughter, “there were things that she questioned” about the way organized religion operated.

    Over the past three or four years, Bae leaned deeper into her spirituality and began identifying as a witch, she said, after talking with others who claimed the identity.

    Those suspected of being witches have historically been persecuted and misunderstood — and it’s a term that still carries a lot of baggage, Bae said — but for her, “being a witch … is just being connected to what is happening around you, and realizing and owning the power that you have within your circumstances, and the power to manipulate some of those circumstances around you.”

    From Baltimore, she meets with clients virtually to offer psychic readings, during which she delivers messages from the dead “for clarity and often peace and healing.” Her practice is “rooted in Black American and also African spirituality,” Bae said, and nearly all of her clients are Black.

    Doing readings at local events, Bae is “very compassionate and really genuine with people, and really just trying to connect with them,” Mack said.

    But it’s not easy work.

    “As a queer person and also as, like, a self-proclaimed witch, you constantly are coming out,” Bae, who is bisexual, says in the third episode of “Living for the Dead,” seated with her castmates around a table as she leads a seance in a haunted Arizona mansion.

    The Hulu show brings a bigger spotlight to LGBTQ+ ghost hunters — and emphasizes the compassion that they bring to the job.

    “The dead, just like queer folks, just like a lot of different communities, can easily be cast away or disregarded,” Bae said. “We have a certain outlook on what it means to be ostracized, but also what it means to be celebrated.”

    With the show’s premiere, she wants to inspire others — especially those who look like her — to get in touch with their spiritual side.

    For supernatural enthusiasts looking to try their own hand at ghost-hunting in Baltimore, Bae recommended paying serious attention to the stories told about spooky places.

    “There’s so much spiritual activity, especially in Baltimore, this is such a haunted place,” in part because the city is so old and has such a rich history, she said.

    “Baltimore has a very intimate relationship with death, and when you grow up in a place that has that kind of intimacy, you start to think about and are often in communication with what it means to die.”

    Bae encourages skepticism, but said it’s not a reason to skip the new Hulu show.

    “It’s funny, it’s filled with heart and it’s about so much more,” she said, than ghost-sensing gadgets and creepy encounters with the dead.

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