March 4, 2007
A Paranormal Casebook: Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium
By Loyd Auerbach
Publisher: Atriad Press (September 2005)
Pages: 255 - Price: $18.95
Interview by Jeff Belanger - firstname.lastname@example.org
Ghostvillage.com author interview
In the fall of 2005, renowned research and parapsychologist, Loyd Auerbach released A Paranormal Casebook highlighting some of the most profound and fascinating cases of his more than a quarter of a century of work in this field. The book is truly a best-of Auerbach and is a must-read for investigators who want to go a little deeper than just running through graveyards. Ghostvillage.com caught up with Loyd to ask him about the book, his work, and where the field of paranormal research is going.
For more than 25 years you've been investigating poltergeists, hauntings, and other mysterious phenomena. What was the first case you worked on that really drew you in to this line of work?
Loyd Auerbach: There was no one case that drew me into investigations. It was a realization as I was going through the JFKU Graduate Parapsychology Program that laboratory research, while interesting, was too rigid and statistics-filled for my tastes for me to make that a career. I found that working with people outside the lab, whether dealing with real-life psychic experiences or the more "ghostly" phenomena, was much more interesting.
In actuality, it was a slew of cases I investigated once out of grad school and while working at the American Society for Psychical Research that really cemented my interest in investigations. Working with the late Dr. Karlis Osis and the ASPR's research psychic (the late Alex Tanous) was an amazing learning experience.
But still, my primary focus was not apparitions, hauntings, and poltergeists - until Ghostbusters came out (I was back at JFKU on the faculty of the Parapsychology Department), and we got so much media attention that cases just came pouring in. Then I truly joined the ranks of the "real-life ghostbusters."
What is the difference between a parapsychologist and "ghost hunter"?
A parapsychologist studies psychic phenomena, experiences, and abilities. These include the informational (ESP), interactive (PsychoKinesis) and Survival of Bodily Death (apparitions, NDEs, reincarnation, etc.) psi phenomena.
Even when specializing in a particular form of phenomena/experience, a parapsychologist considers all the ways psi is involved in those phenomena/experiences.
A ghost hunter typically limits his/her focus to what may be apparitions, hauntings, and poltergeists. While professionals are at least aware of the research and findings of parapsychology, too many who call themselves ghost hunters seem ignorant that such phenomena are even part of what parapsychologists look at.
Parapsychologists do understand the scientific method, and how it is (and is not) applied in the laboratory vs. the field.
Ghost hunting for the masses is to parapsychology sort of like bird watching is to ornithology.
How has the field of parapsychology evolved over the last three decades?
Over the last 30 years, there has been a greater understanding of environmental influences on human beings, some of which seem connected to psychic performance (such as highs/lows in the geomagnetic field, as well as correlations to local sidereal time). There has been a greater understanding of how the body - not just the conscious mind - reacts to psychically driven information.
There has also been a greater understanding of how some environmental conditions can "fool" the brain/mind into believing it has perceived something paranormal (such as the effects of high magnetic fields on the brain, and low frequency sound on the eyeballs and rest of the body).
In general, the availability of environmental and biometric sensors are enabling parapsychologists to look for more correlations to all sorts of psychic experience, in and out of the lab.
Are there certain types of cases you won't get involved with?
I won't do cases that are "cold" - meaning there might be a story or legend around a location that is actually true, but the last time anyone had an experience was at least a couple of years before. We need currently witnessed phenomena to really investigate.
This means I don't investigate a place simply because it looks spooky, or because there was a murder or violence there, unless there are witnesses to paranormal phenomena.
I also don't do cases where there is no permission from the owner/resident.
Finally, I have had to turn away cases because the people reporting the phenomena are already convinced that they know (for sure!) what is happening. Most often these are people who have decided (or been told) they are victims of something evil. Any discussion of alternative explanations are dismissed by such people, even non-paranormal ones, which MUST always be considered for each event reported, since some real cases have non-paranormally caused events.
If they're not going to consider my expertise and opinions, if they're not even going to entertain alternatives to even specific events, there's no point for me to investigate. It becomes a waste of my (and their) time.
Oh, and I don't do "demons" unless the family is willing to consider a non-religious/non-demonic explanation. Again, a waste of everybody's time.
What is one of your funnier moments during an investigation?
It's always about timing….
Years ago when I was in the thick of conducting investigations at the Banta Inn, a restaurant/bar in Tracy, California, haunted by the bartender/owner who died in 1968 (lots of physical phenomena), we were conducting an overnight investigation. It was a Saturday night, and we were there well before closing to interview a number of the locals who'd had experiences there. We were scheduled to stay until 5 AM, with the owner present.
Shortly before 9 PM, the owner (knowing I was also a magician) asked me to do a little entertaining of the crowd from behind the bar. I performed for a bit, then answered questions about the investigation. Someone asked if Tony (the ghost) had done anything yet that night.
"Nothing yet, but it's pretty crowded," I replied.
"Hey, ask Tony to do something to show he's there," came a voice from the crowd. I smiled at Joan and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, raised my arms and said loudly
"Tony, if you're here, give us a sign!"
The electricity went out, and we were plunged into near darkness (there were some candles lit). "That's some sign," came another voice from the crowd (followed by lots of laughter). We all stood there for a few moments.
Okay, I have to admit I was mystified at such a "sign" from a ghost. I'd never heard of something like that happening - the power going out.
But then, as if to rescue me from having to even speculate out loud whether the ghost had killed the electricity, the front door opened and someone popped in with a flashlight and an explanation. Someone had hit a power pole with his car just down the street. It was already called in, and the local utilities folks said power would be restored quickly.
We laughed, especially about the timing. The power came back on about a half hour later.
By the way, later that night, well after hours, the jukebox began playing on its own - without being plugged in. The song? "Spirits in the Material World" by the Police. That Tony... Heckuva sense of humor.
Where do you see the field of paranormal research going in the near future?
I see a greater focus on two areas: how the environment interacts with consciousness (and the brain/body) and what's happening in the brain when folks have psychic experiences. While there's been research in those areas before, the technology keeps improving to allow for finer detail and for a greater range of environmental factors to be considered.
In addition, there will be more close connections between research in quantum entanglement, consciousness research, and psi research.
Finally, in the area of field investigation/research, I believe that as long as actual research is conducted (rather than simply running around with tech to see if we can "get something") to correlate the experiences people have with apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists, and as long as we continue to expand the tools to find environmental anomalies to do such correlations, and as long as people begin to talk to each other, to speculate and work the data to understand it, we will have a better handle on what these experiences represent and what they mean to us as human beings.
Do you have a favorite case that you come back to again and again?
That would be the Blue Lady at the Moss Beach Distillery Restaurant, Moss Beach, California. This particular case is the one I've done (and continue to do) the most with, partly because of continuing experiences being reported and partly because of a friendly ghost who participates in much of our investigation.
The longest write-up of that particular case is in my book A Paranormal Casebook: Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. In that section of the book (almost a sixth of the book), I discuss my own experiences with the ghost (including being walked through multiple times - a very pleasant experience) and those of the mediums I've worked with there over the years, as well as what kinds of correlations we've gotten with the technology we've played with.
Do you have any future paranormal book projects in the works?
Nothing in the works specifically at the moment, though I plan to have a couple of my out of print books made available again very soon.
My next book takes me into another world, that of Chocolate (see my new website www.hauntedbychocolate.com for that story). The research has been tough, but somebody needed to do it!
What's your favorite type of chocolate bar?
My current favorite is the Recchiuti Bittersweet Bar (85% cacao, and not bitter at all), from Recchiuti Confections, San Francisco (www.recchiuti.com), but there are sooooo many others….so much chocolate, so little time!