Ghostvillage.com author interview
D. P. Roseberry is a respected writer and researcher, and in her new book, Ghosts of Valley Forge and Phoenixville she has written an excellent analysis of paranormal activity. It is a pleasure to interview you, Dinah, and let me start by asking, what are your earliest recollections or memories of hauntings and the paranormal?
D. P. Roseberry: As far as actual hauntings, as I mention in my book, my earliest experience occurred when I was a teen and was exposed to a friend’s haunted home during a pajama party. I’d already been a believer, but that incident sealed it.
At a much younger age (about ten), I got a crash course in loving anything paranormal when my father decided that I was plenty old enough to stay up until midnight on Saturday nights to watch “Chiller” with him. And believe it or not, never once did I have a nightmare because of it! I was a natural. We’d watch everything from giant tarantulas to crawling eyes (my personal favorite), to ghosts and werewolves, and on and on and on. (Does anyone remember that flying brain with a tail?)
Of course, as I got older, that love for televised scares led to literature, and I read everything I could get my hands on that talked of paranormal things-my English teachers considered me….bizarre for my beliefs; but at least I was reading. In adult years, I decided that it was time to write about these cool creatures that I’d come to love, and I published (I’m most proud of this fiction piece) Rodenticider (it’s a police detective who hunts rats-you have to read it to “get” it).
More recently, I was lucky enough to interview for an editor’s position at Schiffer Books. Oddly (though I didn’t know it at the time), they were interested in me because I loved the paranormal and ghosts in particular-I lit up when I talked about my writing and editing pursuits in these areas. It seemed that they had a small line of paranormal books, but no one really liked working with it! (What?! You’re kidding?) (Oh, and please hire me!)
Once hired, I delved into their ghost line, seeing what had been done, noting the process, and seeing the business side of writing a ghost book. In my mind, though I loved ghosts and every other thing that went bump in the night, I felt that I couldn’t very well hire writers to do what I’d not done myself-write a nonfiction ghost book. So, living in the Phoenixville/Valley Forge area, I chose to write about my towns.
The rest is ghostly history.
Could you share with the readers how much research was involved with your book, and how much time went into putting it together in book form?
Anyone who has researched a book like this knows that it takes a great deal of time. It pays to work smart in this kind of endeavor. Search for the experts. Seek out the movers and shakers of a community. Then begin by immersing yourself in ghosts. I started with the Chamber of Commerce. Chamber groups (across the country) have their fingers on the pulse of the businesses within any given community, they hear stories, they know people. (In my case, it turned out that they were haunted, too!) I was immediately introduced to a ghost enthusiast who gave me lots of stories and places to start my research. Then I contacted a local ghost group-The Chester County Paranormal Research Society-and asked for help. They educated me regarding the means and methods of ghost research and offered to take me along on an investigation. (One investigation led to many and now I happily belong to the group!) From there, I visited every bartender in my area who would talk with me-bartenders are the eyes and ears of the world! That’s not to say that I missed the historical societies, the libraries, the economic development people, etc. Everyone was very helpful.
To get the book in good enough shape to submit took roughly six months. Then it had to go through the publisher process which took another six months. It felt like a very long time to wait, and now that it’s out, it feels as though someone else must have written it! I almost feel a step removed from it as I’ve moved on with my experiences and ghostly life! It’s funny to see how much I’ve learned since that first visit to the Chamber.
Do you see this book as the first of many dealing with the paranormal and supernatural topics?
Absolutely. I’ve just turned in another ghost book and I’m working on still another (I’ll need stories from York, Pennsylvania if you hear of any). Of course, my fiction is taking off as well with the recent release of my young adult book, Haunted Elevator. It’s a quick and snappy story that will entertain all ages. And I’m working on an adult paranormal mystery entitled, Tarot Tonight. (Unfortunately, Schiffer doesn’t publish fiction, so I am in the author trenches searching for a home.)
Please tell us something about the book itself. What were some of the most interesting facts you discovered and what were your scariest?
I was so wound up researching this book, that nothing ever really scared me. Instead, I was always in a state of amazement, with wide eyes and “can-you-believe-that?” sentiments constantly on the lips. I saw my first orb show at the Chamber of Commerce and that excited me so much, I could barely sleep for three nights. If ever there was a doubt of the supernatural-and there wasn’t, but just in case-after seeing those tailed orbs flying around on the downstairs monitor from the camera feed upstairs, I’ll believe almost anything is possible. That was a super moment for me.
The Phoenixville Public Library was probably the most sensational story I worked on-we actually caught a book flying on camera which brought national attention to the Chester County Paranormal Research Society and my (upcoming at that time) book. And seeing the spinning rose in the vase at the Mansion House was spectacular, too. Valley Forge was more of a … somber kind of experience. There was so much sadness aligned with the hauntings there… Well, except for the soldiers marching toward the hot tub…
I suppose the scariest thing that happened to me was having my glasses scratched at the Charlestown Cemetery. It was a physical manifestation that actually harmed my personal property. (Yeah, but it was cool!)
You list many incidents….do you have favorites, if so, which ones and why?
Anyone who has ever been to or lived near Phoenixville, Pennsylvania would be appalled if I didn’t say that my favorite time was spent at the infamous Colonial Theater’s Blob Festival held in July. This was fun because everyone there had a love for the paranormal-and each of those people had been called weird at some point in their lives for feeling that way! I was at home! I collected lots of stories for the book (with the help of the Chester County Paranormal Research Society) during this fun-packed weekend and met some wonderful people.
My personal favorite incident was ghostly Jeffrey’s spinning rose at the Mansion House. From the Valley Forge stories, I found that the Yellow Springs General Hospital left me feeling strangely peaceful, though many soldiers died there. The ruins, sitting within a picturesque setting, held stories that I suspect no one will ever know. Still, I liked being there.
Your section, “Just Plain Creepy” had a sense of dark humor at times. Did this just come with the territory, or something you felt intuitively?
I’m not sure if it was dark or intuitive on my part! It was a strange section of the book really. When I was pulling all my stories together, I was finding a lot of mini-tales and statements where people would say something like, “Hey, have you heard about this ghost who murdered that person?” My answer would be, “No, do tell.” And they would say, “Well, that’s all I know!” I’d do some research, and sometimes several people would say they’d heard something but not very much. And, then there was always someone who would tell me that if this particular place wasn’t haunted, it was missing a good chance! (I’ve been to places like that, too.) Still others stories or incidents were right outside the towns I was writing about-a bit too far to really include, but close enough for someone to drive on a day out. At any rate, I had a jumbled collage of miniature “stories.” I asked myself, “If I were reading a book and looking to visit an area to see the ghosts, would I want to know about these tiny tidbits?” My answer was yes. So I included them.
Let me ask you, after your writing this fine nonfiction book, how do you feel about ghosts?
I love them even more than before, but there is a dark/strange side to this. Because I am now more open to ghostly possibilities, more things are happening to me that affect my daily life. I now see things from time to time. I have strange unexplained things happening to me. Things, too, happen to people close to me. It’s bizarre. The people at Schiffer consider my office to be haunted. I know they are joking, but I also know they believe a little of it. (The overhead lights are blinking as I type this; but I’m used to it now.)
Any additional comments you could share about Valley Forge National Park and “The People Who See”?
First regarding the Valley Forge National Park-it’s a beautiful place, a strangely compelling place, an important place. Everyone should see it at least once, not only for the historic value and beauty, but for the ghosts of the past.
In my book, I felt it was important to emphasis a chapter about “People Who See” because there are similarities between them that are striking, incidents that seem to overlap, and feelings that rally those prone to ghostly phenomena. The people are as much a part of the stories as the ghosts themselves.
What advice would you suggest to those investigating places that are haunted, or have a history of paranormal activity?
Although ghost hunting is fun, remember that it is a serious endeavor. I’m here to tell you that if you think there are no such things as ghosts, you’re dead wrong. So far, I’ve been lucky and have had the opportunity to interact with some very nice ghosts. But that’s not always the case. Therefore:
Never go to a haunted place alone. Always announce out loud what you are feeling, thinking and experiencing to those with you-it puts it on record and keeps you from dismissing it as imagination later. Respect those you’ve come to research. Read a lot-everything you can on the paranormal; you’ll want to know and understand it. After all, the paranormal is the next stop-for all of us.
Did you ever have a feeling of needing an exit strategy if a ghostly situation became too creepy?
Because I did all my investigating with a professional group, I was supervised and taught exit strategies. Interviews that I conducted without that supervision were all done under benign circumstances. (In reality, I would chose not to investigate a negative haunting or demon situation. As a novice, I’m just not ready for all that it might entail.)
Were people open with you on the subject of ghosts during your investigations?
People were very open and cooperative for the most part. There are always those who don’t want to talk with you for fear of ruining their businesses; but these days, ghosts are good for business-they promote economic development. Most people who have had experiences jump at the chance to talk with someone who will not only believe them, but who will not think them crazy! I had very good experiences with the folks I talked with.
What are your thoughts on “orbs”?
I know that there are suspecting groups of people who think that orbs are only dust particles, rain/humidity, or a kind of light phenomenon; but I know, personally, that once you eliminate those possibilities by research and environment, orbs are there-and real. I’ve seen them and photographed them. In my opinion, orbs are balls of paranormal energy drawn from available worldly electrical sources by a ghostly entity in an effort to manifest. I like ’em!
Did you have encounters with the legendary Shadow People during your research, or do you think they are a mythic urban legend?
Not a myth. Not an urban legend. I personally did not see one while I was in a place, but have seen one after-the-fact on video we’d taken-capturing the phenomenon at the Phoenixville Library. It was very creepy. And the people I’ve talked with who have seen such things, are people whom I trust and believe-very reputable people.
What do you see as the future for paranormal research?
I say it’s about time people finally have the interest and believe enough to make this research mainstream! For many, many years, I’ve seen both groups and people who’ve researched these kinds of things become victims of chagrin and ridicule. But now, all of a sudden it seems, it’s chic to research the paranormal, to write about, to read about it and to watch it on television. I think more and more people are grasping to find out what happens after we die-what is that next realm?-and they know they better start “listening” now.
What are your paranormal writing plans for the near future?
As I mentioned, I will be writing more ghost books and some fiction (if I have time-ghost books take an inordinate amount of time to write). Additionally, I’m still looking for people to write nonfiction ghost books along with me across the nation in varied regional areas. (Feel free to email me at Dinah@schifferbooks.com if you have an idea for a ghost book.)
What are your other writing plans?
Schiffer has me writing some very beautiful historic books relating to postcard history of towns and cities across the nation (you may see some of these postcards in my ghost books!). They are very popular and tell the colorful story of a town through vintage postcards. I’ve coauthored (with Mary L Martin who has the postcard collections): Greetings from Cincinnati, Ohio; Greetings From Burlington, Vermont; Greetings From Houston, Texas; and I’m working on Greetings from Dallas, Texas.
From a personal perspective, what would you list as your favorite ghost story novels and films? Why?
This is a difficult question because I love so many books and films. With books, this is an especially interesting question because when you read, you get a snippet of what the author probably believes in-in a very basic way, because, of course, it’s fiction. But the foundation usually provides some measure of truth; with a good writer, you can feel the pain and see the same visions. I love a lot of the mass market stuff out there, but I have a special place in my heart for new and upcoming authors-those who have to beat down the doors of publishers for a reading (without getting themselves beat up in the process).
Two paranormal books I really like are Seven Days in Benevolence by Steven E. Wedel and Beyond the Twilight by Craig A. Gooding. Seven Days is traditional haunted tale and has character development that puts you right there next to the “victims.” In Beyond the Twilight, the author takes you out of the here-and-now and puts you in that place right after death-and to tell you the truth, he may be onto something!
Favorite movies is a harder question still, since some of my favorites go WAY back. I have to say that the first Ghostbusters movie is a classic-I laugh my way through it, every time I watch it. Another fun classic is the first Poltergeist movie-again fun to watch. Not so fun, but very scary to me is a movie that didn’t do as well as those two at the box office: The Grudge. The scene where the shadow comes from a wall into a hallway that is being watched on a surveillance camera is frightening. I can see, as I think of it now, that jerky shadow turning into a fully-manifested ghostly creature that moves, eventually, right up to that security camera. (I have chills.) An interesting psychological flick (something like The Sixth Sense, which was also well done) that a viewer probably only watches once (because once you know the answers, the mystery is gone) is The Others.
(Oh, and I almost never miss the new flick on every Saturday night at 9 on the Sci Fi channel-no matter how good or bad it is. I know, I have no life, it would seem! But that’s what VCRs are for.)
What do you see as your greatest strengths as a writer?
My greatest strength-and weakness-is discipline. When I have it (and I do), it’s fantastic; when I don’t (and that happens, too-sigh-just shoot me). Next to that, I’ve been told that I do fiction dialog very well and my work moves quickly along.
Dinah, it has been a pleasure to interview you for Ghostvillage.com. Thank you. Are there any other comments you wish to share with the readers in closing?
Don’t think “they” are not there. Don’t be unbelieving-proof or not. Trust me on this. They’re there, every minute, right beside you. And that’s a good thing.
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