Ghostvillage.com Author Interview
Kimberly Molto is a person of science, she has a PhD in cognitive neurobiology, but she’s also had her own personal encounters with the paranormal. Molto’s experiences have lead her to write two books exploring not only her experiences, but those of other witnesses. Her latest book, More True Tales of the Paranormal, looks at ghostly phenomena all over from phantom hitchhikers to strange knocks to full-bided apparitions. Ghostvillage.com caught up with Kim to discuss her own path into the paranormal and her new book.
You have a PhD in cognitive neurobiology, but you’ve also had your own experiences with the supernatural. Can you explain how your paranormal experience affected your academic life, and how your clinical background helps you investigate alleged paranormal accounts?
Kimberly Molto: The personal experiences and I had (and still occasionally have) with the “paranormal” caused me to enter academia with a different perspective on the nature of reality. It also enhanced my curiosity. I was not satisfied with surface answers though they met the requirements for my assignments. I wanted to delve beneath the surface. In addition, although it is vital for students and researches to have an open mind, that is not always the case, but as a result of my experiences, my mind was wide open with a healthy dose of skepticism. I knew very well that things are not always what they appear. In my research of anomalous events I have brought the mental discipline and structured thinking with me that I acquired in University. I approach cases without any preconceptions and analyze each case on its own merit keeping the human dynamics in mind while remembering that the observer has an effect on that which is being observed. Cases must be approached in a professional, scientific manner, or the field will be contaminated by individual desires. (The way the brain is structured, if I really want to hear the voice of a dead loved one or see their “ghost,” that is what I am likely to get.) This also applies to those persons we are called into investigate. What are their desires and motivations, if any? Having had to write up so many research reports in University, my experience in summarizing research results is a very big help as well. I could elaborate but that would turn this answer into an essay so I hope this gives you an idea of how my background assists me in my work with the paranormal.
Considering the popularity of the paranormal today, do you think the myriad of content available to the public has helped promote serious research and discussion, or is the water getting muddy now?
The paranormal (occult studies) has always been popular to one degree or another. It has gone by different names and the areas of interest change. In the scientific community, the research has been going on for over a century and will continue to do so. I have not observed that the explosion of interest in the paranormal has muddied those waters. It is a double-edged sword. The interest has always been there but it is at such great heights right now that it has helped support research projects but only some (i.e., that which is popular)! Parapsychology is not pop-culture, but has evolved into just that in some areas. I am concerned about the number of so called non-fiction shows about “ghost busters.” They may have an entertainment value but they do not accurately show the true work of parapsychological research both in the lab and field. The use of EMF detectors and other such equipment may add an appearance of legitimacy to it, but such equipment is of limited, if any value. The reaction of the researchers is not always helpful either. This may ultimately serve to confuse the public and have a negative backlash, albeit small for those applying for research grants. Meanwhile, institutions like the International Association for Near Death Studies, PEAR, Koestler Parapsychology Unit, Division of Personality Studies at the U. of V., and many other such places are struggling for funds as their work is so important but does not make for good TV or Hollywood movies. Still, one must not underestimate the intelligence of those who have a genuine need to understand these things and are capable of seeking the serious information out from the hyped. My other concern though is that the Internet is bulging with sites that are less than reputable. That is why I always consult with others and include the reputable sites that have a wide range of information and links to other trusted sites. (I have included Ghostvillage in the reference sections of my books.) Once again, it is a complicated and convoluted area so I only offer up a brief synopsis as an answer to your question and hope it suffices. I would add and stress that in my considerable experience as well as that of others that people have had a long interest in the deeper meaning and purpose of our existence, the meaning of life and why we are here if you will as well as what happens to us when we die. The pop culture aspect of this waxes and wanes but people’s individual, existential search that will never go away.
Of the cases and accounts you’ve explored, how many do you think are potentially dangerous to the living witnesses?
Of the many cases we have investigated, the only true potential danger to the living that is evident pertains to the reaction of the living. As a personal example, in my first book, I wrote about an incident that happened to me when I was in the shower. If I had panicked and bolted from the shower, I would likely have caused myself serious physical harm. (Even in poltergeist cases, physical contact is seemingly deliberately avoided for what I believe are psychological reasons but that is anther subject.) These are the injuries we generally see. With that being said, I have reviewed and personally investigated cases where an individual is shoved and even slapped, but these are very rare. The only other potential injury would be of a psycho-social nature. Are the individuals being ostracized by friends, family, or their church should they belong to one? Is their own reaction causing them harm in the form of extreme anxiety, etc.? In such cases the damage can be dealt with. (I have read of some cases such as the Cox family where an adolescent girl was attacked and spontaneous fires were breaking out. That family was certainly ostracized but as it was a long time ago, I can only go by what was written about it.) But in general, the harm is caused by the reaction of those involved. Much of this harm can be avoided with education! And not from Hollywood or self proclaimed demonologists/ exorcists. Ignorance is a very harmful thing.
Why do you think we hold on to specific ghostly legends, like Resurrection Mary in Chicago for so long? Why do some hang around while others just fade away?
I think we hold onto to certain legends while others seem to fade away because they hold meaning to us, personally and culturally. Others remain very much alive because they are still occurring. I am referring specifically to the case of Resurrection Mary who is still seen to this day. Many of these legends have their origin in an actual event and they grow from there, changing form to suit the location or times. Humans have always been storytellers and these stories, not just ghost stories, are of great value too. Some stories/legends seem to die out and resurface when we need them. Others never go away because, as I stated, the activity is still occurring. There have been some interesting papers written on this subject (including urban legends) by sociologists and anthropologists. Quite fascinating but I am not an expert in the field.
Since publishing your first book, True Tales of the Paranormal, have you found yourself becoming more open to encountering supernatural phenomena?
I cannot say that I am any more or less open to the paranormal. I have been quite open to it since I was very young because of the personal experiences I had and continue to have on occasion. I am just much more knowledgeable about them compared to when I was twelve, or at least I certainly hope so! One of the great benefits of the books being published though, is that people around the world have shared their experiences with me, and that I truly appreciate.
What pushed you to write your new, follow-up book, More True Tales of the Paranormal?
The book did. It honestly was not a conscious decision. For that matter, neither was the first book. There was more than one occasion when I wanted to pack it in, but there was a powerful, inner compulsion. I also felt as did those who shared their experiences that doing so would be of benefit. These were stories that had to be told whether to provide comfort, enhancement of our knowledge, or even to let people know that they are not alone or crazy, the books, including the third one, had to be written
Do you see a difference in the way Canadians treat the subject of the paranormal compared with Americans?
Some Canadians are more open to the subject than others. In parts of Canada, it’s just a matter of fact. I can say the same thing about Americans, maybe the only difference being is that Americans are much more vocal. If they believe, you better listen, and if they don’t, you’re crazy if you think you’ve seen a ghost. But it depends on what part of the US just like in Canada.
What’s one of the funnier experiences you’ve had doing your research?
I cannot say as I have had a lot of funny experiences while doing research. I guess this one time, and we don’t spend a lot of time in cemeteries as there are not a lot of spirits there, but during one field investigation of a very old cemetery, it was quite dark. Naturally the batteries to our flashlights were being drained as per usual and there are not a lot of lights in old cemeteries. What there is, though, are a lot of gopher holes. I managed to get my foot in one, fell forward on to a tombstone (I knew enough to brace myself for protection) but nevertheless, the team though it best that I get my ankle and head checked. I knew my head was fine. I just had a slight bruise. Well, you can imagine the reaction to the ER staff when this small group of people came in with infrared cameras and other equipment and I have to explain what happened. There is now a running joke about looking out for gopher holes along with ghosts. And as it turns out, I was contacted by some hospital staff with their own stories (including from an out of town hospital) and one of the nurses is now on our team! I don’t know if that’s funny, but it took awhile for me to shake off the nickname “gopher buster.”
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on my third book and am still investigating the paranormal. I am also writing a book on living or trying to live with migraines. I am also still in touch with my more conventional research on the brain and consciousness.
If you could only have one junk-food treat the rest of your life, what would it be?
Only one junk food for the rest of my life? Gopher muffins. Seriously, I guess cheese popcorn.
Click here to buy this book now.