Jeff Belanger is one of the most gifted writers of the paranormal and supernatural to come along in a long, long time. His prose sparkles, the material is always interesting, and it is always an educational and fun adventure reading his books. Our Haunted Lives is another fine book from Jeff, and one you will enjoy. Jeff, it is a pleasure to visit with you, and let me first ask, what inspired you to write Our Haunted Lives for the readers?
Jeff Belanger: Since I started writing about the supernatural and ghost encounters almost ten years ago, I’ve had many people call me, email me, and pull me aside in social situations to tell me of their own ghost encounters. The most compelling evidence of ghosts (short of experiencing one for yourself) is to talk to someone who has had an encounter. You hear the conviction in their voice. You know they believe what they saw. It’s extremely compelling.
In previous books I focused on ghost encounters that happen at famous historical sites. In Our Haunted Lives, I focus on the actual experience — the seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling of the supernatural. A location doesn’t necessarily have to be centuries-old or historic in order to have a ghost — this experience transcends locale and rules. Ghosts are everywhere and the experience is profound.
Did you find the research difficult?
The challenge in this book was to get people comfortable enough to really open up about the details of their brush with the supernatural. In several of the chapters, I spoke with witnesses who saw the ghost of a relative who had passed on. Grief is our most difficult emotion, and retelling an encounter often brought that grief back to the surface. I’m thankful that so many people understood what I was trying to accomplish: that discussing this topic will help others to share their own experiences and pretty soon we’re going to collectively learn that ghosts aren’t as unique as many once thought.
In putting the book together, what was your main goal to share with the readers?
I wanted to show the diversity and true nature of the ghost experience. I want readers to see that this happens to children, to the elderly, to white collar, to blue collar, to Ph.D.s, to the religious, and even to the atheists. Ghosts and spirits make themselves known from phenomena as subtle as a cold spot or familiar smell to as significant as a solid being able to manipulate the environment. Some experiences are funny, others are touching, but they are all life-altering for the witness.
The extensive interview with George Lutz was educational, and it showed the actual effect upon the man. Lutz seemed intent on bringing out the true facts concerning what happened, and succeeded. In retrospect, what are your feelings now concerning the strange happenings in Lutz’s life?
The Amityville haunting is one of the most well-known ghost legends in the world—it’s been picked apart by believers and skeptics alike. The events that happened (or didn’t happen, depending on one’s perspective) to George Lutz and his family sparked many books and movies. I knew if I was going to tackle Amityville, I needed to bring something different to the table. I wanted to ask George Lutz what happened on Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York back in 1975, and I wanted to ask him the kinds of questions that many of us likely have: Why did he go public with the story? How did it affect his faith? Did he get rich off this thing? How accurately did the books and movies portray his experiences?
We spoke for hours. Now, I didn’t have him hooked up to a lie detector, so I can’t promise you he’s telling the truth, but part of the reason for the interview format of Our Haunted Lives was so readers could read (and hopefully hear) the subtle nuances of the language used. I found George Lutz’s story very compelling and not nearly as over-the-top as even the first book portrayed. Considering George Lutz passed away in May of this year, this interview is one of the last testimonies of the man and the events that took place in Amityville. I’m glad I could give Mr. Lutz the opportunity to go on the record one last time.
Were you surprised at the many different perspectives given on life and death in the interviews?
No. We’re all products of both nature and nurture. We have our religious and familial upbringings that affect our perceptions of what ghosts are and what the afterlife may hold. And we all deal with mortality in different ways. So one person’s ghost is another person’s coincidence or thought projection. But the part of the experience that is indisputable is that it is life-altering for the witness.
Define “paranormal” and “supernatural” from a personal perspective to share with your many readers.
“Paranormal” and “supernatural” are terms that the mainstream uses to describe phenomena that fall outside of our traditional scientific understanding of the world around us. In reality, ghosts are both normal and natural—we just don’t fully understand them yet. Some skeptics have suggested that ghosts defy the laws of physics. I don’t agree with that. Ghosts defy our current understanding of the laws of physics—but that doesn’t mean we won’t one day be able to explain exactly how this phenomenon works. We need to learn how to ask the right questions and not limit our minds to current scientific understanding.
Are you ready to meet a family ghost and engage it in conversation, if the opportunity came up, and if so, what would you ask?
I would love the opportunity to speak with the ghost of a dead relative. An event that profound would probably be worth its own book! There are so many questions I’d want to ask, but some of the biggest would be: What was the transition from life to their new state of being like? Can they visit us anytime they wish? Why come back?
This has been an enjoyable interview, and I thank you for the opportunity and honor to visit with you about your new book. I hope your Our Haunted Lives does well, and I am sure it will! Is there anything else you wish to say to the readers?
Thanks for the great questions! I’d just like to add that Our Haunted Lives wouldn’t have been possible without all of the people who have trusted me to tell their stories. I labor very hard to never undermine that trust because this is important work. Though I’ve heard literally thousands of accounts of ghost encounters, I’m still in awe at how this very human experience shapes our lives.
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