It seems like famous people never become ghosts. Why?
There are quite a few actually. The ghost of
is thought to haunt the White House to this very day. He's been seen on a number of
occasions in the Lincoln Room, by people ranging from White House staff
to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. He's been seen as a tall figure
wearing a stovepipe hat, standing in the doorway. According to some
reports he's been picked up by presidential dogs, including Nixon's dog. And
I believe Reagan had a dog who did not like that area.
But what about show business celebrities, whom you'd expect to crave
attention? Even at the Dakota apartment building there's a ghost, but instead
of John Lennon, it's some creepy little girl.
I've heard about that vaguely. But in fact some people claim to have seen Lennon's
ghost, near the spot where Mark David Chapman killed him. It's not something
that's reported on a regular basis, but there have been reports of that.
I don't know what you'd consider famous, but if you go to England and Wales
there are a lot of famous names from the past. Henry VIII has been seen in
the Tower of London and at Hampton Court Palace, as have several of his
wives. Sir Walter Raleigh has been seen on the battlements of the Tower of
That's going back quite a few years. Don't ghosts usually fade
away after a few centuries?
That hasn't always been the case. There have been ghosts that have lasted some centuries.
Ghosts are usually not seen but are often heard. There are records that go back centuries.
The United States is not that old a country. We only have a few hundred years of
history here, which is probably why we don't have as many cases as they would
What about American Indians?
Reports are pretty vague. American Indians believe that's very sacred, so you
don't get too much reporting from that avenue. But you do get reports, for example
of the Custer mass massacre at Little Big Horn. There's almost a reenactment of
Does that happen around the Fourth of July season, when the battle happened?
It's not really tied to an anniversary. It's been seen throughout the year.
Usually ghosts don't have to keep to a schedule. Here in Chicago we
have events that happened on specific days, such as the Saint Valentine's
Day massacre. There have been reports of figures seen there, most often
heard sounds of gunfire, automatic gunfire, sobbing and moaning
sounds coming from that site. And animals pulling their handlers away
from that area. It doesn't have to be right on the anniversary date, but it
does happen in that area.
Have you been to that site?
Yes I have. I've done a lot of research into that site. I've talked to people
who had experiences there, including members of the Chicago police
department who have been called there to investigate the sounds of gunfire.
Sometimes a K-9 unit, these highly trained animals, will bark or snarl at
something their handlers can't see but that they're picking up. There has
been an interesting recent photograph from that site that shows some
orbs of light in the area.
Is the original building still there?
No, the old garage was torn down in the 1950s, but there are stories
about the bricks from that garage, and the people who collected them.
Some of those bricks had bullet holes, as you can imagine, and some
were spattered with blood. And some of the people who collected those
bricks were plagued by bad luck, sickness, injury, divorce, and all kinds
of bad omens and bad luck.
Does tearing down the building ever have any effect on a haunting?
Usually when we say a place is haunted we don't mean a building
so much as a property. Whatever happened on that location can be
impressed forever on the fabric of time and space and replayed like
a residual haunting like playing back a videotape over and over.
It may not be associated at all with the structure, but with the property,
the ground where the event took place. So if the building is torn down,
that area can still remain inhabited by spirits.
Does a change of ownership have any effect on haunting patterns?
Not so much change of ownership; but if there is a structural change to a
building as a result of change in ownership, that may have an effect.
We have several examples in Chicago where a Victorian restaurant
has been changed to a Mexican restaurant, so the whole atmosphere is
somewhat different, and because of those changes, sometimes the
ghost is stirred up. Sometimes if a building is completely renovated
at least this is what I've been able to determine
through research the spirit wants the area to remain as he or
she knew it when they were alive. So alterations confuse spirits, and
as a result they become more active.
Is there really such a thing as
and if so is it the same ectoplasm that's found on the outer portion of the cytoplasm of a cell?
Ectoplasm got its beginnings back in the time of spiritualism, in the 1870s.
Many so-called mediums were able to produce a filmy white substance,
sometimes from the fingertips, sometimes from the mouth or the ears or nose.
This material would transform into a spirit. So this was thought to be a
living, organic substance that could be used by the spirits to materialize.
However, many mediums were exposed as frauds. But to this day there are
still some reports of ectoplasm seen by people, or appearing on film. It
doesn't have to be found by a person to be filmed. It's quite different from cell
structure, and it's thought to be organic material.
Have you ever examined any?
I've never actually had a chance to. I have spoken to other parapsychologists
who say that if you try to collect this substance it evaporates very quickly, and it's very
hard to collect. A lot of this goes back to a time before we had good forensic
and investigative techniques. There has been no more recent attempt to
analyze this stuff. It's quite rare to come across this substance.
Do you perform exorcisms or is your work strictly research?
I basically stay on the scientific end of the spectrum, using high tech
gear and gizmos to find out if there's something in the
environment causing the ghost. As far as getting a spirit out of a home,
we don't really get involved in that, mainly because we're rarely called
for that purpose. Most often, people are curious about what's going on
and they want reassurance from somebody outside their family that they're
not crazy, that there really is something going on.
On the flipside we do occasionally get people who are so terrified by what's
going on that they want the spirit removed. In that case we do work with
professional psychics, who don't perform exorcisms but basically through
trance-like states or their own clairvoyance communicate with the ghost
and convince the ghost to move on. Because the most often repeated
scenario is that the ghosts don't know they've died because of the way
they've died very suddenly, unexpectedly and violently.
Was Ghostbusters an accurate representation of your line of work?
Up to the point of trying to store ghosts and catch ghosts, pretty much
everything else was fairly accurate. I mean the fact that they were using high tech
gear to gather evidence and photograph ghosts and gather some physical
proof. But something as ethereal as a spirit, at least to my knowledge, can not
be captured or contained in the way they were doing in the movie.
Would it ever be possible to build ghost-capturing tools or weapons?
If I did I'd be a millionaire. Even just coming across the spirit is just one thing.
Just trying to find something that's in that ethereal form, out of body, in some
other plane, that's the main stumbling block. So to develop equipment, we have
to first come across something we can study in some kind of controlled
How about if you go to a plane crash site or a train wreck wouldn't
you get enough spirit activity to test out the weapons?
Most often when we do get involved in locations where there's been massive
death, there is energy there, but the energy is very random, displaced, and
free-flowing, rather than in some collective form. There are many theories
about what a ghost is. The first of those, and the one we've most often
encountered, is the residual haunting, like a playback loop.
The other, much more rare type is an apparition, where there's an intelligence
behind the spirit, and that spirit or soul can interact with the living.
On the topic of inventions: How about better communications devices,
either wireless or cable?
Even Thomas Edison had plans, just before he died, for a device to be
used in spirit communication. Those plans were somehow lost or
misplaced. We know that Edison was a genius, and invented the
and so many other things. To this day, people record spirit voices all the
time using tape recorders or other devices. That's known as EVP, or
Electronic Voice Phenomenon. But there's not much actual two-way
communication. There are communications through séances or Ouija boards
or mediums. But those are very transitory. That doesn't provide much
Do you avoid Ouija boards and other Psychic Friends type stuff?
Yes. We don't get involved with Ouija boards, séances, or black magic.
On our site we discourage people from using these sorts of techniques.
Anything like that is opening the door to something you don't know is
there. Using a Ouija board is like picking up your phone and dialing a
random number. So it's an unpatrolled type of communication. There's
no doubt that séances and Ouija boards can work, but we prefer
using a trans-medium who can contact the spirit him- or herself without
having to use spooky Ouija boards and so on.
Have ghosts started using the internet?
Not to my way of thinking, so far. There have been reports, some 10 or
15 years ago, that ghosts had been seen on computer screens, that there
were some messages typed electronically. A Canadian group tried
to create a ghost back in the seventies; that was covered in a book called
Conjuring Up Philip, which was a bestseller in the 1970s. They created their
own ghost using their own abilities, and were communicating with it.
There have been experiments by other groups with turning the TV
to a white noise channel, and picking up some evidence that was more
than just bleed-through from other channels.
What kind of equipment do you bring on a Haunted House Investigation?
We bring an entire arsenal. We have several suitcases full of equipment. From Geiger counters to negative ion detectors, magnetometers, infrared cameras, other devices
that pick up different forms of anomalous and electrical energy.
What piece of equipment do you never leave home without?
The trifield meter.
It picks up electromagnetic disturbances
in homes that are most often thought to be caused by spirit activity, because of a
change in electromagnetic energy.
In cases where you investigate restaurants, are people looking
to get rid of the ghost, because it's bad for business?
Actually, here in Chicago there are about half a dozen restaurants that
have activity going on, but they don't want to get rid of it, because
people are curious, especially around this time of year. One in
particular was called That Steak Joynt, which closed a few years ago.
But the owners were very open about the activity and appeared on
local television documentaries with me, because it was good for business.
How about Chicago Flat Sammy's? Any ghosts there?
Not that I know of.
Hamlet's father is forbid to tell the secrets of his prison house; why are
ghosts never allowed to talk about the next place?
Usually there's not much verbal communication at all with the spirits. Usually
it's just one or two words, not a full sentence. When people are doing EVPs,
the usual process is to ask a question, then leave two or three minutes of
blank space. When they play the tape back sometimes they get answers, but
usually there are just random voices. In some cases, the spirit is cognizant of
what's going on, but usually it's oblivious.
Any type of voice you usually get on an EVP?
There have been all types of voices recorded. People have picked up
voices from children to females to older people. Sometimes there are
even mechanical-sounding or computer-sounding voices.
Does that make you suspicious, when you hear a mechanical-sounding
I'm always suspicious of EVPs, because it's much harder to fake something
on film than on an audio tape. So unless I'm there at the time of recording, and I can
work the controls, I'm very suspicious of somebody just sending me a tape
and saying "Here is a spirit voice."
Why is it that your organization
does not allow for a Board Of Directors nor will it ever?
We've seen how other organizations have worked once they put a board
in place and board members began to argue among themselves. It's easier
just to have a basic set of guidelines, and not have any squabbling in the
ranks. I don't want to give out any names, but two very good, successful
organizations in the United States have fallen by the wayside because of
squabbling among the boards of directors.
How many people do you have in organization?
We have about 168 members. It fluctuates from subscription to subscription. But in the Chicago area we have a good core group of about 20-some members, who go with
us on investigations. And there are a number of people from France, England and Japan
who have been members for a long time.
What's the most difficult Investigation you've done?
I don't really consider any investigation difficult. We don't change our MO on
any of our investigations. We go into an investigation with a set of guidelines
how we get set up, who does what.
There are some cases that are more difficult because of
the size of the area we're monitoring, the number of rooms, the lack of
electronics in the buildings we're investigating, or other factors that might
make it difficult to do our jobs.
Ever been on any dangerous jobs?
Not particularly. There have been a few that spooked my researchers, because
something unexpected happened. We try to prepare, but you never know when
something might happen. You might hear a sound or catch something on tape
that you weren't expecting to happen.
We have a case we're still working on in the North Side of Chicago, which
is going to be featured on the Discovery Channel on Halloween night, on a
special called Real Ghost Hunters. We were in that home on a number
of occasions. We had never, ever heard or recorded any type of sound or EVP
there, ever. When we were there with the Discovery Channel people, after
sitting quietly for about 50 minutes, sounds began being picked up by oscilloscopes,
wireless FM transmitters and wireless mikes that were upstairs in closed-off,
sealed hallways and bedrooms. These areas were being monitored at the same
time by night vision cameras, in darkened environments. Nothing was
being moved. Nothing was being displaced. There was nobody upstairs. You
could clearly hear shuffling of feet, as if somebody was taking a step and
dragging a foot behind him. We heard metallic objects suddenly being dropped,
things being moved. We weren't expecting that because we'd never heard
anything like that in this location.
Were you scared?
No. The people from the Discovery Channel, however, weren't particularly pleased.
How could they not be pleased? Isn't that what they wanted?
That's what they wanted for TV, but the people they sent were not hard,
steel-nerved people. So they weren't thrilled with what they were hearing.
But it made for a good show, anyway.
Do any spirits have the ability to move objects?
Most often poltergeist phenomena or movements of objects are not caused
by spirits. Those are simply caused by psychokinetic ability in people.
There are very rare cases where there are slight movement of objects that
can be attributed to ghosts. Usually displaced objects are thought to be
caused by ghosts. For example, a keychain that has disappeared, you
look everywhere, and a couple weeks later you find it in the middle of
the kitchen floor in a place you've looked dozens of time. That would be
accountable to, perhaps, a mischievous spirit or ghost.
What was a particular successful investigation?
North Side was very successful. We were able to gather quite a bit of video and
You got pictures?
Yes we did. We have videotape of a ghost as well.
What did it look like?
Energy balls. Balls of light floating around in a totally dark environment
that have no natural explanation. Even after researchers were sent up into
the room to look for possible explanations, they could not see what was
being seen on the monitors downstairs.
Do things pick up at Halloween time?
For whatever reason we do get more reports this time of day. I think that's
because people are more interested in ghosts around this time of year, so
there are more eyes and ears looking for this kind of evidence.
How about All Souls Day?
Wouldn't the spirits want to make their presence known so we can pray for them?
It doesn't have to be any specific time of year. We're getting calls all year long.
Not just around Halloween or any pagan holiday.
Generally we think of ghosts as unhappy. Are there any happy ghosts out there?
The ones we've been involved in are more mischievous or playful, rather than
malevolent. I've never came across any dangerous or negative ghosts in
my work. It's very rare to come across those kinds of spirits. Most people
report more playful or prankish phenomena.
Why would a happy person continue to haunt the earth?
There are many possible reasons why people come back, from not knowing
they're dead to not wanting to move on. Not wanting to die, not wanting
to let go of physical life. Or wanting to see their family grow up, or to
come back and deliver a message or inform somebody that there's something
they need to know, or some money left behind or a will. There have been any
number of reasons.
Any helpful ones? Has a ghost ever saved a family from a burning building?
There are what's called crisis apparitions, that sometimes come back in moments of
crisis, when people are in danger of being hit by a car or run over by something.
There was even a book called
Voice From the Grave, in which a woman had been murdered, and the spirit came back to
a close friend of the murdered woman, and provided her the information that led
to the arrest.
If a ghost appeared to warn you that your building was burning down,
how would you know that the ghost didn't set the fire?
Again, I've never come across any harmful spirits. I would say most likely
it wasn't caused by the ghost but by some carelessness or something in the home.
I've never come across a ghost that actually set a fire. Again, that would be
delegated, if anything, to the kind of poltergeist phenomenon I described.
How many ghosts have you met in your career?
I've been involved in 800 or 900 cases. I can't say how many of those were
actually spirits but there were a number that were simply left as being unknown
or paranormal. In many cases we might find evidence that something is wrong,
but that science can not explain it, so we leave that as paranormal.
Ever met any devils?
No. As I said, I've never met anything harmful.
Do you ever get any overlap, where people report a ghost but it turns
out to be the Virgin Mary or an angel or something?
There have been cases in Chicago where the miraculous occurred in
cemeteries or churches.
Ever looked into any of those?
On occasion, yes. My next book, the followup to Windy City Ghosts,
will have some of those cases.
Out of the 800 or 900 cases you've been on, how many times have
you made contact?
In the vast majority of cases we don't get a definitive answer for a spirit. It's
most often something we can't explain through technology today. It may
point to a spirit. But we've never gotten a definitive answer in terms of
being able to name the spirit. Sometimes, even using psychics we don't
get those answers.
Could you kick
Hans Holzer's ass in a full-contact ghost battle?
Well, I don't like to compare myself to other researchers, basically. I go out and
do what I have to do to get the job done. Other people have their own techniques,
their own theories, and their own ways of doing things. We're one of the
few groups in the Midwest who actually get involved with high tech equipment
to go out and search for ghosts. I don't know how some of the older or more
well known researchers such as Holzer and others investigate their sites.
When you do get a request to remove a ghost from a location, do
you have any ethical concerns?
After all, the poor ghost is already doing the most boring job you
can imagine haunting a house. And then somebody comes in
from the living just to chase him out. Shouldn't you get some slack
in the afterlife?
First of all, ghosts don't haunt a house. They're there to let people know
they're there, and sometimes reaching out for help through the noises, sounds,
smells or cold spots that they're creating. If you ever saw the movie Ghost
with Patrick Swayze you know what I'm talking about. That was a very
untimely death, he did not know he had died, and had no idea how to get where
he belonged. That's very close to what we've picked up in our work. We don't
chase the ghost out, we're just pointing it to where it needs to go in the first
Bob Weir's sister Wendy says Jerry Garcia is already on a higher
plane, but that
she can talk to him. Is it possible to communicate across the ethereal horizon like that?
Again, I don't doubt that it might be possible. But I haven't done much research
on that, because we don't get into the more New Age type of communications
you'd see on the Psychic Friends Network. We try to stay more scientifically
inclined in our work. That lends itself to less skepticism and debunking by
people who want to say that's all tabloid trash.
How can our readers in the Chicago area come along on a Field Excursion?
You'd have to become a member, and we're not accepting any new memberships
at the present time. We have about 20 people in our core group, and delegating
responsibilities among those people is keeping my hands full at this point. Besides,
the learning process isn't something that most people would be willing to do
doing all the research on a site, to find out about past owners and previous events, is
something most people wouldn't find that tasteful.