by Ken Szymanski
Photos by Ken Szymanski, Nick Meyer & Dale Karls
#5 October 2002
ghost investigator Chad Lewis sleeps with the
lights on. "Not just a bedside lamp, a full
light, " he said. "I need all the
doors closed and locked--closet doors closed, too.
I don't even like a window open." Even
more, the TV must remain on all night and a cordless
phone waits bedside. After years of
investigating the paranormal, he's understandable
to make him sound like a strung-out cult
fanatic--rather, Lewis is a serious-minded scientist
with a master's degree in psychology who happens to do
his research in the area of the supernatural.
Still, it's an odd sleeping ritual for someone who
spends nighttime hours at haunted houses and
cemeteries armed only with data collecting equipment,
the most important of which is his camera.
camera is my security blanket because I can go into a
haunted house, haunted graveyard, or anyplace that is
supposedly haunted and think, 'I have a camera, I'm
going to catch you if you're here,'" he said.
"And I've never heard of a case where an
investigator has been harmed by spirits."
to say he believes in ghosts, he takes the deductive
logic approach; he only believes what he can prove
through investigations. Mysterious lights or
mists that appear in photos, for example, are first
looked at to be camera straps, reflections, or
developing errors. Even after all possibilities
seem to be account for, he can only say that it can't
be explained by any of those things. That
doesn't necessarily make it a ghost or spirit.
met Lewis through a mutual friend, but I didn't
know him that well when I first shadowed him on a
ghost expedition to some area cemeteries. I
wasn't sure what I had gotten myself into.
"I don't tell anyone where we're going, " he
said as we pulled of Eau Claire on our first
excursion. "It may interfere with the
investigation. If other people find out where
we're going, they might go there to play pranks on us.
I also won't tell you anything about why we're going
to this place until afterwards because I don't want
you to have any preconceived notions."
was beginning to question the wisdom of going out to a
haunted area at night, in the middle of nowhere, with
someone I barely knew, without anyone knowing where
of the cliches were in place: it was a dark,
misty night after an overcast day of autumn drizzle.
Of course, it was Friday the 13th. Driving down
a foggy old country winding road, Lewis commented,
"Hey this has the makings of a classic horror
flick." Inside I smiled. I wanted
something to happen. I told people at work that
I was going ghost-busting, and I hoped for a good
story to take back on Monday. What I found out,
though, was that Lewis' work involves far more tedious
data collection than horror film material. His
ghost seeking expeditions are all about notes,
photographs, videotapes, laser-temperature readings,
and endless hours of observation.
takes up to four rolls of film at at sight, most of
which show nothing unusual. occasionally, one
will show mysterious mists or flashes of light--which
is usually explainable by another factor. He'll
videotape a haunted sight for hours, then sift through
the footage to see if anything appears. Often a
night of investigation goes without reward. So
even though Lewis has some gadgets that would make
even James Bond jealous, much of the work done during
a typical investigation is actually quite boring.
like fishing; it could be hours of sitting and waiting
for the big strike. Sometimes it never comes.
But the more time you spend in haunted areas, the
better your chances are of experiencing something
unusual. As Lewis says, "When you go
looking for the weird, the weird comes looking for
was on an investigation of an abandoned haunted house
with a woman, and she said that her right hand was
freezing," Lewis said, recalling some of his most
memorable outings. "I was across the room
and I was able to get a reading with a thermoscan.
Her one hand was 40 degrees cooler than the
in a cemetery, Lewis put his hand back and thought he
bumped into a tombstone or another person.
Turning around, there was nothing behind him anywhere.
While that is simply anecdotal evidence, other
experiences have been more concrete. Lewis and a
group of investigators heard a knocking coming from a
tombstone with no one around it. They all
gathered around it to make sure it wasn't an animal or
a person, and they all heard the knocking again.
Lewis took a photo, which showed a streak of light by
heard these stories, but nothing in my adventures came
close. We went to three supposedly haunted
graveyards, all of which seemed peaceful and serene,
and even at night. Just a lot of mosquitoes (and
not bug spray). A fourth graveyard brought a
significant temperature drop, but that's about it.
wondered if he got tired of dragging along rookies
like myself, who amounted to ghost tourists, but he
saw it as essential. "I like taking new
people out, " he said. "They have a
fresh set of eyes, and they may have the missing piece
of the puzzle. Also some people have something
about them that draws out spirits. Things seem
to happen when they're around."
don't think I'm one of those people," I said,
thinking of the uneventful trips we had since I'd been
don't thing so either," Chad said, making me feel
like a cop at a house party.
stop: a haunted forest outside of Augusta.
At about 10 o'clock, we met a local guy out there with
a wealth of information on the history of hauntings in
the area. He took us across an old bridge in the
woods now used only by ATV riders. Many have
reported seeing mysterious green eyes at the far end
of the bridge. In a previous investigation,
Lewis had already found glowworms to be a likely
source of this, but there were many more happenings
which remained unexplained. There have
allegedly been sightings of apparitions on the bridge,
around campfires, and along the roadside, some so
terrifying that the witnesses refused to return to the
on the bridge that night, I listened to this stranger
as he told us the legend that some believe is the
source of these apparitions: a gruesome series
of murders in the early 1900's.
man's voice quivered slightly as he told us this tale
in eerie detail, taking about 10 minutes to spill the
story, always using full names of victims and
suspects. My senses were tuned in to every
snapping branch in the woods, every splash in the
river below us. even before the story, I had a
terrible premonition about the place. Lewis
later told me that he had been to this location with
psychics who, without being told anything about the
area, had such terrible apprehensions about the
location that they insisted on going home.
conclusion, the guy took a deep breath and said,
"If there's a place that's haunted in Wisconsin,
I'm convinced that this is it." Standing in
the middle of this place I had one thought:
"I hope nothing happens..."
there is nothing scientific about an "eerie
feeling," Lewis said he felt it was well.
It was getting quite late, and he'd be back at a later
date to set up a more extensive investigation. I
admit, I was relieved when it was time to go.
Back in the car, he talked about needing to research
town records to see if these people actually existed,
and to see if their death records match those of the
folklore. This was just one case out of hundreds
he's been digging into for the past ten years.
the ride home, I asked him about the creepiest,
scariest moments he's had. In those times, did
he still hope to see something terrifying?
"That's what I'm looking for," he said.
"Not something to scar me for life, but my goal
is to see something, get video and audio evidence if
possible, to say, 'Look, here's proof. Here is
admitted how I wanted the big scare to happen when we
were on the way into the woods, but in the thick of
it, in a place that made psychics want to go home with
their tails between their legs, I changed my mind.
Chad said to me with half a laugh, staring at the road
ahead. "A couple more outings like this and
you'll be sleeping with your lights on, too."