This is the cover of a book written by an upcoming speaker at the Reddick Library.
Chad Lewis

Ghostbuster? -- Paranormal investigator to share tales of haunted locations with library patrons

By Melissa Garzanelli 815-431-4049

09/26/08 - The Times

Are there really things that go bump in the night?

Chad Lewis thinks so, and he's dedicated much of his life to investigating it. Lewis and fellow paranormal investigator Terry Fisk, who together have formed Unexplained Research, penned a series of books documenting the weird and chilling tales from different regions of the country, including Illinois. "The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations" bills itself as a guide to finding spooks in a variety of places, from cemeteries to schools.

Lewis will visit Robert W. Rowe Public Library, 120 E. Si Johnson Ave., Sheridan, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, just in time to kick off the Halloween season. To reserve a spot, call the library at 815-496-2031.

For more information about Lewis, visit his Web site at www.unexplainedresearch.com.

Lewis took some time to chat with The Times via e-mail about his unusual profession and how he handles the sometimes chilling situations he finds himself in.


Q. I'm sure you take some flak for your credentials. But what is involved in earning a degree in this field? What kind of courses did you take? How did you get into this field?

A. Actually both my bachelor's and master's degrees are in traditional psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. None of my course work focused on the paranormal.

I grew up near a famous UFO sighting in Wisconsin, so when I was in high school I visited the town and started talking with the witnesses and this hooked me. When I went to college I was studying psychology and I was interested in human perception and human beliefs systems and what makes people believe in odd things. I was presenting my research at symposiums and people would approach me and say, "I know this is not what you are really doing, but I think I saw something in the sky. Can you help me?" From there my research really branched out in all areas of the paranormal.


Q. I've seen a lot of television shows dedicated to serious pursuits of the unknown and unexplained (as opposed to fictionalized programs). I'm thinking along the lines of "Monsterquest" on the History Channel or "A Haunting" on the Discovery Channel. Why do you think people are so interested in these subjects? Are people more or less skeptical today than they were in the past? Why do you think so?

A. I think people have always been interested in the strange, but the recent overflow of TV shows has just brought it to the mainstream. Overall, I feel people are just as skeptical today as they were 100 years ago but they are more open about their beliefs.


Q. What is a typical day like for you? What about a typical week or month? What exactly do you spend your time doing? Can you really make a living at it?

A. On an average day I receive about 40 to 50 e-mails filled with paranormal stories and cases. On my nontraveling days I spend most of the day doing research, writing and doing media interviews. On my traveling days I am actually visiting these paranormal places and doing investigations and, of course, doing lectures.

Most researchers do have outside jobs. However, about two years ago the travel, investigations and speaking engagements became too much to do with a 9-to-5 job as well, so I picked the paranormal.


Q. How often do you encounter hoaxes? What are some red flags that someone is pulling your leg?

A. It is very rare that I encounter a person who is deliberately trying to pull a hoax. It is more common that people unwittingly believe something normal has a paranormal experience. Most of the people I encounter are normal, rational and intelligent people who have had an abnormal experience.

Of course, having a background in psychology, I try to watch for signs of people being deceitful but usually people are pretty sincere.


Q. Frankly, I'd be terrified doing what you do. How often do you get scared while working? How do you handle fear?

A. I think it is common for investigators to get a bit spooked at some of these places. Over time your mind and body becomes accustomed to the adrenaline caused by fear and you can start to use the fear for energy. A lot of the fear comes from the living rather than the supernatural.


Q. What event in your career scared you the most?

A. I was on an investigation in Belize and I was searching for the La Lorona and in order to get to the rural river banks I needed to take the nighttime crocodile canoe tour. Imagine the darkest county road you know of and that is how dark the river was. We were in a small, barely usable canoe paddling down the river looking for the lady of the night surrounded by crocodiles and snakes and every sudden move could tip our unstable canoe. I wasn't sure if I was more afraid of the crocodiles or the lady of the light.


Q. You recently collected stories to create a book on haunted locations in Illinois. Where did you get your stories from? How did you research them?

A. We received our stories from a variety of sources. Of course, some people e-mailed or called us with cases. Others we dug up from the historical society or old newspapers. We also talked with numerous seniors and adolescents in the community we visited.

We make sure to visit each location we write about and we usually bring in a lot of scientific equipment, but we also try to use mediums or those who believe they are psychic. However, it should be noted that a lot of our research takes places outside of the paranormal location. We spend a lot of time digging through old death and birth records, newspaper archives and county records trying to sort fact from fiction.


Q. Any advice for other seekers of the unexplained?

A. To me this job is 50 percent adventure and 50 percent research. I always recommend people go out to these legends with an open mind and enjoy the adventure that comes along with the work.

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