Madison Ghost Walks, which eventually became American Ghost Walks, and now Hilo Ghost Walks, is considered by many in the paranormal sector as the parasite of paranormal tourism. With little background research into actual myths and culture of a given area, and no actual presence in many of the cities they exploit, owner Mike Huberty and his faithful sidekick Allison Jornlin set up a satellite 'ghost walks' in culturally sensitive areas for nothing but pure profit as their motive.
Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is the latest example and location of this blatant act of disrespect. Labeled as the 'Tour Developer', Jornlin begins her quest by searching for new or up-and-coming ghost tours across the country. Once a target has been acquired, they book a tour to spy on the route, often times using a different name (most likely a sibling or significant other) and proceed to record, photograph and copy every detail about a tour, especially what makes it unique and original. Then they start offering a similar experience in as little as two weeks or as soon as they can find a guide. This is the only way they can make money off of their tour, which is not only a rip-off to those who pay for it but also a complete disrespect of the city and its history. Many of the companies they have disrespected, like Big Island Ghost Tours, employ residents who are either paranormal investigators by trade or historians with many decades of knowledge.
American Ghost Walks are known for many things: copyright infringement, false advertising, overpriced tickets, bad attitude towards customers and blatant theft of content from other ghost tours in different cities. After hearing about Hilo's newest victim, we decided that something had to be done. Journalists who have been following their action for years reached out to AA after contacting the Better Business Bureau and we offered our blog for help in exposing this fraud. We will use his business as an example of what not to do when creating a ghost tour.
AGW's website was a perfect example of how not to create a ghost tour. It contained no information about the city, its history or even any myths, just copy/pasted blurbs from the internet. The only thing that it did have was various pictures taken from other sites without permission and a few names of victims who had died in Hilo. This is clearly false advertising as there are many better ghost stories than those found on this site. After some investigation into Allison Jornlin's personal Facebook page, we discovered that she has not been in Hilo at all. This is evident by the fact that she posted pictures of Pearl Harbor, which is located on Oahu and over 200 miles away from Hilo. She also claimed to have taken photos at a local cemetery but when we checked, no such photos existed there either.
The website was created just two weeks before Halloween for the sole purpose of making money off unsuspecting customers who may be looking for something new and exciting during their trip to Hawaii. By using this website as a "template" for their ghost tour, Allison and Mike can easily offer a similar experience at half the price. That's right, you'll pay almost twice as much for this tour than it should cost because they are ripping off not only Hilo but also other cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Milwaukee.
We encourage anyone who is interested in taking a ghost tour in Hilo or any of the cities they currently exploit to do your research before purchasing one of their tickets. Check for other businesses who offer similar activities.
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