Steven ‘Prozak’ Shippy and his team of ghost sleuths investigate The Potter Street Station, also known as the East Saginaw station. Built in 1881 and officially closed in 1986, the old Potter Street Station claim to fame was that it was once the largest railway passenger depot in the state. Five years after an arson fire destroyed much of the building’s interior, the station was added to the National Register of Historic Places. But long before it’s registration, the building had a mysterious reputation for strange occurrences, including odd noises, moved items and shadowy apparitions. With the permission of the owner, Shippy and company lug in their equipment and spend the night in the dilapidated depot.
A Haunting on Potter Street: The Potter Street Station is an American supernatural investigative documentary from 2012, and is part of a larger series of ten (yes, ten), very similar, ‘investigation’ documentaries, headed by director Steven ‘Prozak’ Shippy that were created over the span of a decade. It isn’t part of a genre I typically watch, but the damn things keep popping up all over Amazon, so I figured I’d give one of them a go. I gotta say, making a bunch of ghost documentaries about supposed hauntings happening in and around Saginaw Michigan seems like a very niche shtick, but it seems to have worked out for him, as it landed Shippy his own TV show on the Travel Channel called Haunting in the Heartland. I can’t comment on the quality of the show, as I haven’t seen it and there are only five episodes, with the last new episode having aired in March of 2020 (likely due to Covid), and because I don’t typically watch shows about real-life people wandering around dark buildings looking for ghosts. But I can comment on the quality of this earlier film (it’s the third in the ‘series’), and while I won’t necessarily call it ‘bad’, I will say that I hope he’s polished up his act in the last eight years.
For starters, the sound editing in this thing is annoying as hell. They might as well have called this Tension Sting: The Movie. I don’t know who put this soundtrack together, but they must be related to the guy who kept putting all those obnoxious lens flares in that new Star Trek film. Every time someone turns a corner — BAM! — there’s a tension sting. Hear an innocuous noise? BAM! There’s another one. One of the investigators turns to the camera guy and predictably asks “Did you hear that?” BAM! — another one. You get the idea. I get that they’re trying to add suspense and junk, but when you get to the point where you overuse it, it just feels campy. They even did it when they were recapping images they caught on camera. Which actually would have been fine, except they decided that replaying footage and audio for you once wasn’t enough, so they repeat it a second, and then a THIRD time, and tension sting you during each recap….in a row…. every time they do it. It gets used so much it just feels like something you’d expect someone like your uncle to do because he was just really excited to get to use all the snazzy audio effects that came with his new video editing software.
“Did you hear that?” Dude, I couldn’t NOT hear that. Turn down the damn volume.
Of course, the audio issues end up compounded by the ‘story’ (or lack thereof) and the visuals. Really, if you’ve seen one of these ‘investigative’ type shows/movies you should know what to expect. The film consists almost entirely of a handful of investigators wandering around at night with their cameramen, in a supposedly haunted location, occasionally shooting in night vision, and calling out to ghosts who never manage to materialize. The only deviation from this is when we watch the historian at the beginning of the film, as he walks around and talks about the building’s history. If you like stuff like that, then that part of the film may be interesting. Other than that, it’s pretty mundane.
“But wait!” — I hear you rhetorically ask — “This is an investigative documentary about ghosts, right? What about the ghost footage? And the audio? Did they share any of that?” Well…. they tried. Bless them. But don’t expect to see or hear too much. They replay audio clips, but half the time you can’t actually hear what it is they’re claiming it’s saying. Odds are it’s just picking up the wind outside that they tell you right from the beginning that they can hear. The video fares a bit better, but is still a bit of a crap-shoot. There are a couple of creepy moments, but most of it is shadows, or items moving that could possibly be explained away by the simple fact that the damn building is falling apart. But there’s also stuff that made me roll my eyes, like the claim of a ghostly ball of light flying through a couple camera frames, completely being missed by investigators. Anyone who’s spent any amount of time outside can tell by the movement that it’s not a damn ghost, but a rogue moth fluttering through the room. Of course the investigators didn’t notice them in the dark. Most of us are conditioned to ignore bugs.
“It’s not a ghost! It’s just a bug attracted to your damn flashlight, damn it!”
I will say one nice thing about the documentary, it does have some very good atmosphere. Personally, I’m a fan of historic and dilapidated buildings, so the setting at least was right up my alley. It helps that the station itself was built in the old Victorian style. As of 2012, it doesn’t look like much has been done in the way of restoration since the fire in 1991, so much of the interior is still burnt to a crisp and looks thoroughly neglected. There are cobwebs everywhere, the walls, floor and ceiling are cracked and falling apart, and it looks like the simple act of taking a breath would mean that you’d easily be inhaling 140+ years of historic dust. In short, it certainly LOOKS like the stereotypical kind of place where a ghost might hang out…too bad we never actually see any except for that one shot that was probably a crew member, even though the movie swears no one else was in the area at the time.
Yeah, sure. Whatever you say, Jan.
If you’re a fan of anything involving paranormal investigations, then A Haunting on Potter Street isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. You’ve got a group of people at a creepy location, walking around in poor lighting, constantly calling out to ghosts and reminding the cameramen to watch their step. There are long, pronounced pauses, overly loud sound effects, and voice-overs by the ‘host’ that sound like he’s trying to alter his voice in an effort to sound more “dramatic”. I guess I should expect that from a guy who calls himself ‘Prozak’ and who claims to be a rapper, but looks like an out of work DJ with nothing better to do with his time. Whatever. I at least hope he and his friends had fun with this, because for the most part I found it rather boring. The film is only 76 minutes long, but it’s so uneventful that when I paused it to refresh my drink, I thought I had to be close to the end, only to find that I was barely halfway through. So no, exciting, this movie is not. If you like these kinds of things, then you might find something to enjoy. But if you’re looking for something more compelling, then this probably isn’t the entry to check out first. Me? I guess give another one of these films a shot. Surely at least one of them doesn’t suck….
A Haunting on Potter Street: The Potter Street Station is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
As far as I can tell, it doesn’t have any kind of physical release.