IS IT A GHOST
YOUR GHOST STORIES
(Jeffrey) Allan Danelek is a Denver artist and
author who has been writing on Fortean topics such as
Atlantis, Bigfoot, and ghosts for several years, as well as
exploring theories having to do with religion and
spirituality. Not a ghost hunter himself, Jeff considers
himself instead a paranormal researcher who enjoys bringing
other people’s ideas together into a single, easy-to-read
format designed to get people asking questions. He has been
on numerous radio shows, most prominently among them
Canada’s X-Zone with Rob McConnell, Erskine on the Radio,
the Hilly Rose Show, and Coast-to-Coast with George Noury,
as well as has spoken at seminars and conventions on the
subject of ghosts and reincarnation. He has also written for
FATE magazine and has two books out besides The Case for
Ghosts, Reconsidering Atlantis: A Modern Look at a
Prehistoric Civilization (Galde Press, 2003, soon to be
re-released by Llewellyn) and Mystery of Reincarnation
(Llewellyn, 2005). Jeff currently resides in Lakewood,
Colorado with his wife, Carol, and two sons, and can be
reached through his website at www.ourcuriousworld.com.
ie. Like any researcher, I’ve been studying the paranormal for several years now, talking to real ghost hunters, and considering the issue from various perspectives in an effort to make sense of it all. Whether that “qualifies” me in any way to write on it I leave for my readers to decide for themselves.
Q: You have spoken fairly extensively on ghosts and ghost hunting in interviews and at conferences. How can you speak knowledgably on a subject if you are so separate from it?
A: By paying attention to those who are doing the real work in the field as well as talking with those who are considered experts on the subject whenever possible. In that way I can access and consider the best and brightest of what’s out there and put it into a format accessible to the general public. My “outsider” status also keeps me from getting too technical when explaining my theories, which is something I notice real ghost hunters frequently have trouble getting around. Sometimes you can just know too darned much!
Q. So you believe that not being more closely involved in ghost hunting makes it easier for you to present theories about it to the general public? That seems to run contrary to common sense.
A. I suppose to some degree, but I don’t see how I could be truly objective if I were more deeply involved in the process. It’s my distance from the subject that allows me to maintain a degree of objectivity that is often difficult to achieve for those too heavily invested in the subject. I don’t know if I could do that if I were a “real” ghost hunter.
Q: So you don’t consider yourself an expert on ghosts, then?
A: Not at all! In fact, I’m always learning new things even two years after having written my book and freely admit that I still have lots of questions myself. However, I’m pretty clear on what it is I think I do understand, and people seem to identify with that. After all, most people who are interested in this field are not experts themselves, and so who better to talk to laymen about ghosts than another layman?
Q: How is your book different from other ghost books out there?
A: Most ghost books on the shelves nowadays tend to be either collections of anecdotal stories, a single case study, or ghost hunting books. Mine, in contrast, is a book that looks at the various theories about what ghosts are and how they manifest themselves in the physical realm. In other words, I’m an “idea guy” who likes to play with theories rather than a “hands-on” guy who goes looking for the things. I’m not really interested in convincing people to believe as I do, but in getting them to ask questions and make of their minds for themselves. I think there’s a real need for books like that, especially now that the subject seems to be gaining in popularity.
Q. You call your book an “objective look” at the paranormal. Does that mean you’re a skeptic at heart?
A. I don’t think being objective and skeptical are the same thing. To me a skeptic is predisposed to not believing something. An objective person, on the other hand, neither rejects nor accepts anything, but tries to look at the merits and flaws in every story or theory. In effect, I try to keep some distance between myself and my subject so I don’t get too closely invested in the final outcome.
Q: Do you believe in ghosts yourself? Have you ever seen one?
A: Yes and maybe. I’ve always believed that the human personality survives the death of the brain that houses it, so I’ve never held any serious objections to the idea of ghosts. As for whether I’ve seen one myself, however, while I haven’t had any visual or auditory encounters with a spirit, I have had a couple of run-ins with “presences” that I consider very interesting.
Q: Have you ever gone on a “ghost hunt”?
A: Actually, I’ve had the privilege of going on a couple of them, though I go more in the guise of a journalist than a “hunter.” I figure if one is going to write on ghost hunting, they should at least participate in a couple to see exactly what is going on, at least if they want to speak somewhat knowledgably on the subject. I also found both of them lots of fun as well, and a treasure trove of information.
Q: Find any ghosts?
A: Not that I noticed. A few curious EM meter readings and some “feelings” once in a while, but that was about it. I would love to go to a place that has a proven history of extensive paranormal activity, however. That would be real fun.
Q: What do you think of ghost hunters in general? And what about the ones on TV?
A: I’ve worked with Bryan Bonner at the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Society and always found him very thorough and professional in his pursuit of evidence for the paranormal. In fact, most of the people I’ve dealt with have struck me as being very down-to-earth and rational, and I admire the amount of work—and patience—ghost hunting can be. It’s hard work looking for ghosts.
Of course, I imagine there’s probably no shortage of screwballs out there as well—it is inevitable that the subject of ghosts should attract all kinds—but I’ve not so far encountered anyone I thought was over the top. So far most of the people I’ve encountered in this business have been very sincere and rationale (if occasionally a bit eccentric) but then again I haven’t worked with a lot of groups, so I have a very small sampling from which to base my opinion.
Q: What about the “real” ghost hunters on TV? Any opinion on the TAPS crew?
A: I actually had the opportunity to meet Jason and Grant at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park last November and found them to be extremely nice guys and, of course, I’ve been a big fan of the show for years. I just hope they don’t burn out on this stuff or that the people who direct the show don’t start interfering in their investigations in an effort to improve ratings. A single staged event done under pressure could ruin a lifetime of work and hard-earned credibility, but neither Jason nor Grant strike me as the type who are likely to fall for something like that. All-in-all a great show that I predict will one day find something that will leave even the gang over at Skeptical Enquirer scratching their collective heads.
Q: What do you think of their techniques?
A: As far as I can tell, they seem to know what they’re doing and have been doing it for a long time, so I don’t see anything I would consider “wrong” in their approach. My only complaint is that some of the younger members of the cast seem to get overly excited pretty easily which, for me, lessens the credibility of what they’re trying to do (though it does make more a more entertaining show.) The only real problem I have with the program is why they feel the need to turn all the lights out when they do their investigations. It strikes me as being more for theatrics than science, though, of course, I could be wrong about that.
Q: You mean that you don’t think TAPS should do their investigations in the dark? Why not?
A: A couple of reasons. First, it is so much easier to let one’s imagination run wild in a pitch black room than it is in a lit one, making it more likely to attribute every stray noise and shadow to a “ghost” (Ghost Hunter’s British counterpart Most Haunted is famous for this.) Second, it’s patently dangerous to walk around in the dark, even with a flashlight. It’s only a matter of time until somebody hurts themselves in one of those old buildings because they didn’t notice a hole in the floor or a low beam in the dark. Third, it’s a matter of looking at the anecdotal evidence and logic: if ghosts are the manifestation of ambient energy, it follows that they should reflect light if they achieve sufficient mass, which is something that’s almost impossible to see in the dark. Additionally, if they do manifest by accumulating energy from the environment, doesn’t turning off all potential power sources effectively deprive them of the very energy they require to manifest? (Maybe that’s why batteries are so commonly drained at a haunting; the entities are “strarved” for the energy they require to “do their thing.”) Finally, I have a collection of what I consider to be the best ghost pictures around and almost every one of them were taken in broad daylight. In fact, most people I’ve talked to who have seen a ghost saw them in a reasonably well-lit room or even outdoors. That tells me ghosts are just as likely to manifest in the light as they are in the dark, except that they may be easier to see in the light.
Q: You’re saying, then, that investigations should always be done during the day or with the lights on?
A: If possible, yes, or, at a minimum, under low light conditions. Of course, all electrical appliances (especially computers and televisions) should be turned off to reduce electromagnetic signatures, but I’d still leave the lights on in the hallway. Just like looking for your lost car keys, it’s much easier to find what you’re looking for in the light than it is in the dark.
Whether there is a preference for night versus day investigations, I honestly don’t think it matters. The only real advantages of doing an investigation at night is the reduction in background noise (traffic, television, etc.) and fewer potential curiosity seekers who could contaminate a location. Those advantages are offset, however, by the fatigue factor: by four a.m. one is so punchy that just about everything looks and sounds like a ghost. I really think the best approach would be to set up in the morning (when the owners are most likely to be away in any case) and break it all down that night and get a good night’s sleep. Just an opinion, of course.
Q: You write about “demons” and “demon possession” in your book. Care to talk about that?
A: First, I want people to know I don’t believe in “demons” in the biblical sense (as fallen angels cast from Heaven who have come here to do Satan’s bidding.) I do, however, believe in what I call “malevolent entities,” which are simply human (or, sometimes, nonhuman) personalities which are encased in negative energy and are attracted to the same.
As far as possession goes, I talk at some length in my book about the power of the mind to manifest (or, perhaps, attract) those elements into your life that can genuinely oppress a person. I also believe that if one is absolutely convinced that they are possessed by a demon, they will create the manifestations of it, not because there is a real demon, but because their belief that they are possessed is so strong.
Q: So you’re saying there is no such thing as demon possession?
A: I think that spiritual entities can “oppress” a person and feed off (and thereby enhance) the negative energy they’re already putting out into the universe, but I don’t believe they have the capacity to override our freewill as per the traditional possession scenario. People who believe they’re possessed will act it out (great strength, foul language, facial contortions, etc.) the evidences of possession simply because they imagine that’s what a demon would do. Consider that as far as I can tell, no one who has ever professed to having been possessed by a demon did not hold to a belief in them beforehand. In other words, I’ve never seen a case of possession occurring in an atheist or agnostic, nor is it hardly ever reported among liberal Christians who don’t believe in demons. I find that intriguing evidence that suggests belief alone may be among the most powerful forces in the universe (next to love).
Q: How do you believe people become ghosts?
A: In my book I list nearly a dozen reasons why people end up delaying making their transition into the spiritual realm, most having to do with possessiveness, jealousy, rage, and confusion. Of course, not all ghosts stay behind for negative reasons; some may remain behind out of curiosity, mischievousness, or because they feel they have some mission to accomplish before they can move on. In the end, though, all ghosts eventually move on as they are supposed to, though occasionally they may need a little “nudge” to get going.
Q: That seems to suggest that all ghosts are human. Are they?
A: Yes. I define a ghost as the disembodied conscious energy of a once-living human being that is “stuck” in the transitional zone that exists between the physical and spiritual realms. That’s not to say there may not be other non-human spiritual entities out there; all I’m saying is that if there are, they aren’t technically “ghosts” but are something else. I call such entities “extra-celestrials” in my book, and use them to define such things as angels, demons, and spirit guides. It’s a pretty crowded universe we live in.
Q: What’s this “transitional zone” you’re talking about?
A: Just a theory of mine, but one that makes sense to me. It’s a “no-man’s land” which exists between the physical and spiritual realms that’s designed to permit conscious energy a place to “acclimate” itself to its new realm of existence. For example, a soul coming into the physical realm needs time to adjust to a world of time and space (things which do not exist in the world from which it just came) which it does through the birth process. Souls moving from physicality to the realm of pure, timeless spirit need to go through the same process, which we do through the dying process. Ghosts, then, are simply those personalities which refuse to shed the physical environment entirely and so remain in a sort of limbo state between the two worlds: a disembodied consciousness still subject to the laws of time and space to some degree (which is why hauntings are localized and timely events) yet lack the capacity to fully interact with that world. In effect, they are people with one foot in the physical realm and one in the spiritual realm, and yet are citizens of neither.
Q: So what’s next for you? Are you working on anything else?
A: I’m currently doing research on ufos, alien abductions, and government cover-ups which I hope to bring together into another book for Llewellyn next year. Like my reincarnation and ghost book, it too will be more theory heavy than anecdotal, with a special emphasis on trying to look at these things from an extraterrestrial’s perspective, which is something I don’t think has been tried before. Should give my reader’s plenty to think about and hopefully open a few minds that need to be opened and bring some objectivity to a few people who see aliens and conspiracies behind every bush. Should be great fun.
Q: You keep using the word “fun” when describing your experiences. Don’t you take these things seriously?
A: Exploring the unknown should be fun or you shouldn’t be doing it. I always find learning new things and expanding my knowledge to be a joyful experience, which is what I try to infuse into my readers. What’s the point of life otherwise if not to look upon each day as a new adventure?