March 8, 2010
Women in the Paranormal 2010: Beth BrownInterview by Jeff Belanger
Beth Brown has been actively investigating the paranormal since 1989 when she was send to interview the owners of a 250-year-old haunted home. Since then she's become an author, lectures, a talk show host of the popular "The Paranormal View," radio show.
How did you first get interested in the paranormal?
Beth Brown: I had a few unexplained encounters as a very young child that led me to begin reading about the history of paranormal research around the age of ten. When I was a young teen, I unexpectedly caught some EVPs while interviewing someone for a school project who lived in a home used during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. After hearing that eerie voice interspersed throughout the interview tape, I was hooked!
Do you feel that because you're a woman you have had to overcome some hurdles in your pursuit of the paranormal? If so, what were they?
The most prominent hurdle I've encountered is having to take time away from family obligations for field work. Our society still views women as the primary caregivers of the family. This notion creates a lot of unnecessary guilt when a woman decides to pursue any interest outside the home -- especially one as "fringe" as paranormal research. It has taken me several years to shake that guilt and feel okay with booking a babysitter so that I'm able to spend enough time at an investigation site to get a decent sampling of its paranormal activity.
Have you encountered certain instances during your work where you feel that being a woman has helped you in your research?
Definitely! Interviewing witnesses of paranormal encounters is much easier when they consider you more approachable and less "threatening." The same seems to hold true when investigating young spirits or those with a shy temperament.
My study of haunted battlefields has probably benefited the most from my being a woman. I spend a considerable amount of time talking with historical interpreters, park rangers, and scholars about both the documented history and the unexplained phenomena at these locations. Nearly everyone I've met during this process has been excited to welcome a female into their male-dominated field, so much so that it often seems they go out of their way to help.
How do you balance being a mom, writer, and paranormal investigator?
Very carefully! I'm a mother and teacher first, but I've been known to operate on as little rest as possible to still maintain a clear head when I need to fit in paranormal investigations. My husband (a steadfast skeptic, by the way) is especially helpful in balancing the parenting load so I can get time in the field on a regular basis. The writing part of the triangle almost always results from my excitement of studying a site in-depth and the drive to share what I've learned. When you're passionate about something, you can always find time to get it done -- even if it's only in small chunks.
You've also written about magick and Witchy things. Is it more difficult to be a Witch or a woman in the paranormal?
I don't consider myself to be especially witchy, really. Appalachian Folk Conjure and Hoodoo are still fairly prevalent in this part of the South, so most people refer to me as "superstitious" when compared to those schools of magick. I guess that leaves being a woman in the paranormal more challenging by process of elimination.
How cool is that song "Witchy Woman" by The Eagles?
I personally prefer "Black Magic Woman" by Santana, but the Eagles score a few points just because they're smooth.
What is the biggest misconception about women who are interested in paranormal research?
I feel the biggest (and ugliest) misconception is that women who are interested in the paranormal only investigate to meet men or to land a spot on television. That's a view that women should definitely work to squash! The strongest weapons against this stereotype are knowledge and experience -- and women shouldn't be afraid to gain it, use it, or share it.
If you were in charge of a television network, how would you portray your own vision of the perfect paranormal television show?
You mean besides giving a look at how boring and uneventful investigations can sometimes be? In all seriousness, I think viewers could benefit from a lot less fear-mongering. Showing people how to understand the reasons for a paranormal disturbance, how to try and eliminate or cope with regular activity, and the ways they can try and study the phenomena themselves (observing patterns, log-keeping, recording, etc.) can help ease fear and dispel myths about hauntings. Sharing these simple research skills with a broad audience also opens the door to greater possibility for advancement in paranormal study -- a move that could help answer questions that humans have had for thousands of years.
What new projects are you working on?
I'm wrapping up a book now called Wicked Richmond. It's all about the shady side of my hometown and it will be available from The History Press later this summer. I am also very excited to be back in the field researching nearly two dozen sites for the upcoming Civil War Ghosts of Virginia from Schiffer Publishing. And, as if those weren't enough to keep me busy, I've just signed on as the US on-air representative for the international paranormal radio program, "Rusty O'Nhiall's Mysterious and Unexplained."
Beth Brown's Web site: http://www.beth-brown.com
Her Radio show Web site: http://www.theparanormalview.com