August 24, 2004
The World's Most Haunted Places: From the Secret Files of Ghostvillage.com
By Jeff Belanger
Publisher: New Page Books (August 2004)
Pages: 256 - Price: $15.99
Interview by Lee Prosser - firstname.lastname@example.org
Ghostvillage.com Author Interview
Lee Prosser: Ghostvillage.com is the most respected and well-researched paranormal Web site in existence. You created this as a repository for your writings. Tell us how you got started with the concept and what inspired you to create it.
Jeff Belanger: Back in 1998, I had conducted a lot of research and interviews regarding Dudleytown, Connecticut—an abandoned settlement located in the mountains of Cornwall, Connecticut. The research was for a documentary film that, sadly, never got funding so it was dropped. I wanted a place to be able to publish my work, and at the same time I was learning a lot about building Web pages. I had always been interested in ghosts and the supernatural, so it was a logical next step for me to put up a Web site.
LP: What is your background as to ghosts? What influenced you as a child?
JB: I grew up in Newtown, Connecticut—a very historic and lively town as far ghost legends go. Many of the houses in Newtown are centuries old, and some of these house seem to have ghosts. I had a few friends growing up who lived in homes they believed were haunted. We’d have sleepovers and conduct séances with Ouija boards, trying to make contact. I’m not positive if we actually did make a connection, but that’s when my interest was sparked.
LP: Did your religious upbringing have some influence on your supernatural and paranormal interests?
JB: I was raised Roman Catholic, and to be any religion you need to accept the supernatural. You can’t have religion without the supernatural because you must have faith in a higher power beyond your human comprehension. But, you can have supernatural without religion.
In college, I pretty much abandoned Catholicism—the belief system wasn’t working for me personally anymore. College was more or less a spiritual vacuum for me—and I don’t regret that because I learned a lot about writing, about people, and about the human reaction to religious forces. Because I was religionless, I could objectively look at the subject.
LP: Has working with the paranormal made your quest for spiritual answers about the afterlife more personal?
JB: Definitely. In the beginning of my research, I was probably like a lot of other people who got a thrill out of ghost stories. They certainly can be scary and profound! But the more I learned about the people who witness these events and the nature of ghost encounters, I came to realize that I’m on my own spiritual journey. Ghosts allow me to be hands-on with the subject. I can visit the locations where these sightings took place, I can talk to witnesses who experienced the ghost or spirit, and by learning the history of the place, I can get a handle on why the area may be haunted. It’s hands-on spirituality.
LP: What was your initial reaction from others when you first said you wanted to write a book about haunted places?
JB: Ha! No seriously, that was the reaction: “Ha!” This was years ago, when I admit I was even a little embarrassed by what I was doing. But the more people found out about Ghostvillage.com, and the more those same people who laughed began to quietly pull me aside and say, “Hey, actually I had a ghost experience and I’d like to tell you about it,” I realized this subject is not as off-center as people may think.
LP: How did you go about researching your material before writing?
JB: I’m really blessed to be a Ghostvillager. We have such a diverse and extensive community that I mainly picked areas of the world I was interested in and then asked the question, “Does anyone know any haunted places in…” Sometimes I’d get many replies with suggestions of places to research. After that, I’d contact the location and ask if anyone had any ghost experiences there. Sometimes I couldn’t get people to stop talking about the many ghost encounters they’d had—which was actually great. Other times, someone would say, “Yeah, we’ve heard a few strange knocks, but that’s about it.” Those I didn’t pursue. For a place to be haunted, I believe the phenomena needs to be experienced by multiple people at many different times, preferably over the course of many years.
LP: How much travel to actual sites was involved? Did you have a feeling of paranormal influences at these sites?
JB: Whenever I travel for business or for pleasure, I always find a haunted location to stop at. These places are everywhere—there are rich stories, legends, and history waiting to be explored in just about every town in the world. Though I’ve been to many of the places I’ve written about, I haven’t been to all of them. If I didn’t actually visit one of the locations, I did conduct many telephone interviews and I also devoured many books and television programs about some of these places.
LP: Which site fascinated you the most?
JB: Definitely the Catacombs of Paris, France. It was such a profound experience to walk into these dim, dank limestone tunnels deep under the streets of Paris and encounter the intricate, beautiful, and completely macabre designs of human bones. More than six million people are down there. At first it’s overwhelming and shocking, but eventually I realized that these were all people at one point—people who sacrificed their eternal resting place for the good of the city of Paris.
LP: Does the area you live in have an abundance of hauntings?
JB: Like I said before, haunted places are everywhere. Because I live in New England, we have a lot more American history here compared with other parts of the country that developed later. I’ve found time and again that the more history, the more ghost legends. So yes, there are hauntings all around where I live—I’ll never run out of local spots to investigate.
LP: What do you see as the future for research into hauntings, ghosts, and the afterlife?
JB: I think the subject continues to gain ground. There are more Web sites, television shows, and magazines that are coming out to discuss the topic further. This is really the big question: Is there life after death? By pursuing this subject, each of us is trying to answer that question for ourselves. It’s a spiritual question that should be pondered because it explores the nature of who we are and where we may be going.
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