Background: I’ve known Jamie for many years and respect his enthusiasm for ghost hunting, as well as his integrity as a researcher with a solid background in science. When we decided to add an interview section to this website, he was a logical choice for my first (2006) interview.
His popular Chicagoland Ghosts website is in transition. Originally, it was hosted at GeoCities, http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Shadowlands/2007/
How long have you been ghost hunting, and how do you describe what you do?
I’ve been involved with ghost hunting for about eight years now, and my specialty is the midwest, especially around Illinois. Mostly, I say that I’m a ghost hunter or paranormal researcher.
What’s your background for ghost hunting, and did you study to research this field, or did you fall into it naturally?
I have an AAS degree in E.E. (electrical/electronic engineering technology), but I just sort of fell into ghost hunting, or rather it found me.
What techniques and tools do you use the most? And, do you have tips for other researchers?
Mostly, I use cameras, and I measure EMF (electromagnetic fields). For photos, I mostly use digital cameras now. I have enough film photos but I did use 400 speed color film before I switched to digital. And, I get the best results with a flash.
Lately, I use digital despite the fact that it has no negative; if people aren’t going to believe it they aren’t going to believe it, regardless. Why should anyone waste countless rolls of film? Like most ghost hunters, I don’t have a lot of money to throw around, and digital works fine.
Wayne Dyer jokes that, in the old days if you asked a scientist if he believed in Deity, he’d say, “Of course not, I’m a scientist!” but today if you ask that same question, you’ll hear, “Of course, I’m a scientist!”
Similarly, many of us who begin as skeptics in this field, become believers. But, the question is… what are ghosts? What’s your opinion?
I have seen black things that walk at night. I have seen full apparitions, transparent and glowing. I’ve heard and felt many more things that science can’t explain yet.
I think they are probably spirits. Some seem to be lost, but others are able to travel at will between the planes of existence.
They are here for as many reasons as we are here: Some because they choose to be, others because they are lost or confused, and others are just visiting.
How do you select places to ghost hunt… what cues tell you that it’s a good place, or just an urban legend?
First, I check the history of a place. Then, sometimes it’s just a feeling, but many times my guesses are right. When I get to a good site, I usually get a feeling of heaviness, like the air is really thick. Cemeteries seem to be the best for my research right now. I’d really like a chance to investigate the catacombs under Paris.
Some locations get better the more you visit them, and others seem to deteriorate. It varies.
Have you ever felt a personal connection with a ghost?
Yes, when one called my name and nobody was around. I’ve posted a few of my favorite ghost stories at my Chicagoland Ghosts website.
Most of us remember at least one ghost hunt that was genuinely frightening. Have you ever been scared on a ghost hunt?
Yes, at a person’s home, in the basement. I was going to spend the night but I kept feeling like something was crawling all over me. I had to get out of there. It had me freaked out.
What do you like best about ghost hunting? Least?
The best is that it is a lot of fun. You get to see and experience things nobody else does.
Least favorite? Having to deal with rude skeptics and unbelievers. They can have a dampening effect. Sometimes, if you actually experience something, the skeptic automatically tries to rule out your experience without even considering the facts. People should use common courtesy, but some skeptics don’t.
How do you deal with skeptics?
I ignore them. They won’t last long, and they probably won’t come back.
Do you get better results at certain times of day or night? Is there more activity around certain times of year, such as Halloween?
It depends on the ghost. Generally, I can get results whether it is day or night.
Also, some show up at certain times of the year. Other hauntings seem to be random.
Describe your typical — or best — ghost hunts.
I like a small number of people. More than half a dozen is too many. I’m likely to stay anywhere from half an hour to an hour for an informal visit. Mostly I stay however long it takes to cover the area thourougly. I can keep researching for three or four hours on a more formal investigation. If I go back to a site–and I do revisit them, usually–I’ll usually stay just as long as I did the first time.
What would you tell someone who is interested in ghost hunting but doesn’t know where to start?
First, check the web sites and check my links. Read as much as you can, and dont expect anything to jump out at you. In fact, don’t expect to see anything at all. Stay away from “demonologists” or people that charge for investigations.
What else would you tell a beginner? What about websites, books, and other resources when you’re getting started in ghost hunting?
For reading, I like theShadowlands.net‘s Ghost Hunting 101, Troy Taylor’s The Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook, and whatever you can find on the web. The more sources the better. To find haunted places, check out the history of the area. See if there are any sources on the web for haunted locations. Check the historical society and newspaper archives, too.
Beginners can start with just a camera and a basic no-frills EMF meter, and maybe a tape recorder for EVP.
Can anyone/everyone be a successful ghost hunter?
No, most can but a lot of people lack the patience and open mindedness to actually succeed… It takes a certain individual. Some people get into ghost hunting for the wrong reasons. This includes anyone who is insincere, or thinks they can make a lot of money from it. Or, if you expect to see things jumping out at you, then you probably should just stay home and watch it on TV.
What precautions should people take before ghost hunting at a new location?
If you visit a site in the daytime, it could help you see more clearly what the area is like and eliminate a few obvious things. Don’t trespass; always get permission. Don’t smoke at a location. Pick up your trash. Use comon sense. Above all, don’t panic and run and hurt yourself, if you hear a noise.
Never go ghost hunting alone; let people know where you are.
You mentioned demonologists, but what about demons? Many of us have encountered things that aren’t ghosts, but we aren’t sure what they are. What’s your opinion?
I believe there are negative entities that feed on our fears and emotions but I do not believe in demons. There are certainly types of spirits that were never human; I call them elementals. They can be brought about by disturbing the land, or messing with forces that you shouldn’t mess with.
Negative entities are a hot subject in ghost hunting. How do you feel about people using Ouija boards while ghost hunting?
As with loaded guns, don’t mess with them unless you know what you are doing. Ouija boards are a tool and if you don’t respect a tool, you can get hurt. It’s not the tool’s fault, it’s your fault for not understanding what you are doing. Mostly, don’t use a Ouija board unless you intend to actually communicate with something, and don’t freak out and get all scared if it actually works.
Do you personally use ESP for ghost hunting? How do you feel about a psychic using his or her abilities on a ghost hunt?
I do use my intuition, but I don’t consider myself a psychic. They can be valuable but take it with a grain of salt. You don’t know how accurate a psychic is until you have some way to verify what they say.
Every community is different, but many of us get great support from the police when we’re ghost hunting. Is that true for you, too?
Yes, the police can be a great help if you cooperate with them and don’t disrespect the law. They might even be ghost hunters themselves.
Do you work with the press at Halloween?
No, I prefer to quietly do my own thing and not be bothered.
Do you accept clients? If so, do you charge for your time and expenses?
Occasionally I accept clients, but not lately. My work is always free but I will accept gas money. Generally, the site has to be nearby.
How can people get in touch with you, and stay current on ghost hunting in your area?
Visit my Yahoo!Group, Chicagoland Ghost Club.