Beyond the pale: Curiosity drives search

By Dave Olson,

10/31/07 - The Forum

In the film classic “Blithe Spirit,” a medium hosts a séance and entreats a spectral entity to confirm its presence by knocking: “Once for yes, twice for no.”

In 14 years of chasing everything from ghosts to unidentified flying objects, Chad Lewis has heard nary a peep from his intended quarry.

“I have traveled to some of the most paranormal places in the world and I have yet to have a personal experience,” said Lewis, who is from Wisconsin when he’s not traveling here and there lecturing on, or looking for, the strange and unusual.

The closest he’s come to confirming a paranormal encounter was in a graveyard in Wisconsin.

“The psychics we brought along did not want to go in, which for us made it a lot more interesting,” Lewis recalled.

“Crew members reported somebody grabbing their equipment. When the photographs were developed, we got strange mists or fogs that were not there when the photographs were taken,” he said.

Lewis gets 200 e-mails a week from people purporting to have had an experience from beyond the pale.

He said he encounters people who want to believe something strange is happening to them and “those who really do experience something and can’t explain it.”

Lewis said ghost stories far outnumber UFO accounts.

“That doesn’t mean people aren’t seeing UFOs, they just aren’t reporting them as easily,” he said.

A talk Lewis plans to give Nov. 7 at Minnesota State University Moorhead will include a ghostly tale about Moorhead High School and a spooky story about MSUM’s Weld Hall, the setting for the lecture.

“It seems you can’t throw a rock in the United States without hitting a haunted university,” he said. “Every university has at least one or two ghost stories.”

Fairy tales

Fantastical tales permeate all cultures and sometimes what is considered hooey today was accepted, once upon a time, as true, or at least not that outlandish, said John Sherman, a retired MSUM English professor and an expert on folklore.

“Fairy lore was apparently taken very seriously for several centuries as something strange but still within the realm of human experience, with all sorts of sightings and stories and so on,” Sherman said.

Sometimes, he said, far-fetched claims cannot easily be dismissed.

“Flying saucers are a pretty good example,” he said. “In some cases, you’ve got multiple credible witnesses, including things like radar.

“So there’s a phenomenon, you just don’t know what the phenomenon is. You don’t necessarily have to believe it came from (the star system) Alpha Centuri.”

On the other hand, he hinted, you don’t have to believe it didn’t.

“I think the world is a little weirder than it appears to be,” Sherman said. “I have no trouble with believing the current state of human knowledge is not complete and there is probably a good deal more to be discovered than has been discovered to date.”

Lewis agreed.

“What happens when we die? I certainly don’t know. Are we alone in the universe? That curiosity of wanting to know these answers keep me moving,” he said.

If you go

- What: Chad Lewis,co-author of “The Minnesota Road Guide to Haunted Locations

- Where: Glasrud Auditorium, Weld Hall, Minnesota State University Moorhead.

- When: 8 p.m. Nov. 7.

- Cost: free.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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