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The Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales From Around the WorldThe Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales From Around the World
By the World’s Leading Paranormal Investigators – Edited and Compiled by Jeff Belanger
Publisher: New Page Books (August 2005)
Pages: 360 – Price: $19.99 review

I have read through the Encyclopedia of Haunted Places. Reading it has been an educational and enjoyable experience. I wish this book had been around when I was a child because it would have been great reading at a campfire setting in the woods at night! How did you come up with the idea for the book?

My publisher, New Page Books, came to me with the idea to put a big directory of haunted places together, and they asked me what I thought about writing it. My first thought was actually, no way! I know directories like these have been attempted by other authors and they often get filled with a lot of errors and hearsay simply because it’s impossible for an author to traverse the world and really understand each haunting and write about so many locations well. Then I thought about the possibility of time travel and warp speed in order to be able to tackle a book like this alone and get it done in less than a century or so, but both time travel and warp speed are only theories right now. Plus, I have enough speeding tickets, thankyouverymuch.

To do a book about haunted locations from all over the world, you need to get local. So I came up with the idea of asking paranormal investigators from all over the world to write about the locations they know best. I started with some of the many groups I’ve had the pleasure of working with or corresponding with over the years and then networked quickly from there. It was exciting to see this huge project start to come together and realize that nothing like this had been done before – so many investigators coming together under one roof (or book cover, if you will).

Do you see a wide range of readers for the book? Who do you think this book will appeal to the most?

I worked with each contributor to make sure that each of the haunted location entries covers some of the history and provides some details about the active hauntings going on at the locations. This book is for people who love to read about haunted locations, people who like to incorporate a haunted stop into their travels, and for paranormal investigators who want to see how their colleagues conduct investigations. 

I read your personal experiences in this book and found each one fine reading. Is there a possible sequel to this book, with further personal experiences from you and others?

I’m hoping to do more volumes of this book. I have no doubt that we could put together several more books without ever repeating a single location twice. Every town, every city, every village has a ghost story and a local haunt. And thankfully there are people everywhere whose passion is to study these phenomena.

The reception to the book is already solid, and good. What do your peers think of it, have they sent congratulations on a job well-done?

The contributors have been thrilled to be a part of this book. The Encyclopedia of Haunted Places is going to help raise the profiles of the people actively doing this work and help further spurn on the supernatural discussion. I know I’m proud to have been a part of this book and I’ve received a lot of notes from other contributors who said the same.

Your interview with Hans Holzer was a gem! He comes across as a wise, humorous man with keen insights into the paranormal. What was he like to interview?

Dr. Holzer is quite a legend in this field. He’s published over 130 books, hosted television shows, and conducted countless lectures. He’s charming and smart, and has a very matter-of-fact air about him when discussing this subject. In speaking with him, it also becomes obvious that he cares about this field of study and is very encouraging of others who are delving into the subject.

Your introduction to the book was concise, and to the point. Do you see a time when more people will become more open to ghosts, in the sense that they truly admit the possibility such things do exist? Do you feel the stigma of being a sensitive, a psychic, or attuned to the ghost world and the paranormal came to an end during the 1980s, completely? It seems that before the 1980s people either openly jeered at people who claimed such contact, or shunned them as weird people to avoid. 

I still get condescending smiles from some people when I tell them what I do. Others may laugh, but many times those same people will pull me aside later on and say, “You know, something weird did happen to me once…” Everyone has either had a brush with the supernatural, or has someone very close to them who has. As the idea of paranormal investigators becomes more mainstream as movies and television start to portray them, the concept of talking about ghosts just leaks into the mainstream. People are talking about it by the water cooler at the office and at the dinner table. This discussion is leading to less ridicule for those of us in this field and an even wider understanding of the phenomena. So we’re moving in the right direction.

Do you recall the fine film, The Legend of Hell House, where the paranormal investigators spent time in a haunted mansion to verify the existence of ghosts? Do you see more such places being examined and publicized today? Most people are unaware of the tremendous amount of labor put in by paranormal investigators to document their findings.

It’s been quite a while since a haunting case has really made it to the mainstream media. The Amityville house is really the last one I can think of that caught a lot of attention and that was back in the 1970s. We hear little mentions here and there when someone claims a surveillance camera caught a ghost on tape, but for the most part hauntings only get covered in local media and usually only around Halloween. Hopefully that will continue to change as television shows and movies start to cover this topic year-round. 

What are your thoughts on the new wave of paranormal movies and television shows coming out now, such as “The Ghost Whisperer”?

While we can debate how accurately some of the TV shows and movies are portraying the paranormal, I’m all for anything that promotes the discussion on a wider scale. I welcome ghosts to the mainstream. 

There are many sites reported to be haunted. Among them are such places as haunted battlefields and haunted cemeteries of the war dead. Is there just as positive a chance of documenting ghostly activity there as there would be in a house or building?

From what I’ve found so far, ghosts are everywhere. And if there are rules to hauntings, no one has told me about them yet. This phenomenon, by its very nature, defies most of our basic human understanding to begin with. People have reported ghosts in every conceivable setting. But I do believe that in certain hallowed grounds such as battlefields or cemeteries, we’re naturally more in tune with ghosts because of the natural frame of mind that occurs when one visits a place of the dead.

What would you personally advise to a person wanting to become a ghost hunter?

I’ve heard people call “ghost hunting” North America’s fastest-growing hobby. While I don’t know what numbers would quantify that statement, I have personally seen more investigative groups form in recent years than in the past. One great aspect to this field of study is that you can start in your own backyard. There are historic locations everywhere, and if you ask around a little, you’ll start to hear about allegedly haunted locations. The next step is to go there and investigate. The best advice I can give is to remember that this is a human experience. It’s a human experience for the witness or witnesses of the phenomena, and potentially it’s a human experience for the ghosts or spirits if that’s what is indeed happening at the allegedly haunted location. Having respect for all involved will take you far. Not having any respect for the land, the witnesses, and the “ghosts,” and you’re finished.

Jeff, it has been a pleasure interviewing you. I wish you great success with the new book.

Thanks, Lee! And thank you for also being a part of the Encyclopedia of Haunted Places!

Click here to buy this book now.

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