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20 QUESTIONS Alyne Pustanio

GHOST HUNTING

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ALYNE PUSTANIO

As a writer, historian and folklorist, and one of the founding Head Staff members of Haunted America Tours, Alyne Pustanio has contributed many of the true tales of terror and fascination that have been featured on its pages over the past several years.

A New Orleans native, her roots go deep into the local culture: a descendant of Portuguese and Italian immigrants who can trace their ancestors to European gypsies, she was exposed to the mysteries of the occult at an early age. Two great-grandmothers were gifted and sought-out mediums and readers; one other relative is a verified psychic; and her mother, an avid spiritualist for most of her life, led forays into the world of the paranormal and unexplained when Alyne was still a schoolgirl. It was at her mother's side that Alyne met some of the early paranormal greats such as Hans Holzer, Lori Poe and Jeanne Dixon.

First-hand experiences with the denizens of the unseen (she has lived in haunted houses and around haunted people all her life) and her own intuitive-psychic nature caused her fascination with the paranormal to grow; her avocations in folklore and history only complimented this interest and have produced a passion that is immediately obvious in all her writings. She has contributed studies that have spanned many traditions -- from Marie Laveau, voodoo and the culture of New Orleans to essays in the magical traditions of Europe to real-life accounts of harrowing hauntings, and beyond.

Recently, her interest and dedication to all things paranormal has produced a collaboration between Haunted America Tours and one of the newest and fastest growing science/paranormal/fantasy conventions in the region, BabelCon. Under her direction Haunted America Tours will anchor the paranormal track for this convention in July of 2008 with many of the best-known investigative groups and experts in the field already slated to participate.

When she is not writing or developing material for Haunted America Tours, Alyne enjoys participating in Renaissance festivals and medieval faires throughout the region where she has presented her own experiential discovery of her gypsy heritage with others dedicated to the gypsy way. A November child, she loves dark, brooding, grey days, cold weather and thunderstorms; anything to do with the British Isles, the American Civil War and New York City; reads the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edgar Allan Poe, Christina Rosetti, and Tolkien, admires Milton, Blake and Machiavelli, and is a student of modern writers John Michael Greer and Joseph Liewsienski. Other than Haunted America Tours her favorite website is School of the Seasons; she roots for the Yankees and the New York Giants; enjoys watching the paranormal on TV (prefers "Most Haunted" to "Ghost Hunters") and at the movies; and likes to garden. Her favorite Mardi Gras parade is the Krewe of Mid-City, her favorite color is black and she lives in New Orleans with her teenage daughter, a black dog named Shadow and a black cat named Sweetie.



Alyne Pustanio 20 QUESTIONS

1. Where do you see ghost hunting and paranormal groups, web sites, ghost tours and/or books in 10 years?

There has always been a great interest in the paranormal and the unexplained. It seems like it is almost essential to the human condition. I see interest remaining steady and I also predict there will be remarkable developments in the science of paranormal investigations that will bring us a greater understanding of the unseen.

2. What would you personally consider to be the definitive proof that ghosts are real?

My proof is my own personal experiences with ghosts and the supernatural. Of course, there is a school of thought that subjective personal experience proves next to nothing when it comes to the paranormal, however, I don't agree that is always the case. Generally, however, I don't think there will ever be definitive proof, or I should say the kind of "proof" that skeptics so desire that would prove without a doubt that the paranormal is real and human experiences of it are genuine. It will continue to be a highly personal experience.

3. What is the most real evidence you personally have uncovered so far?

I would have to say that EVP's go a long way in providing me with a feeling of something genuine. This comes from life experience as well. My mother was always interested in the unexplained, having had many experiences throughout her life. Many years ago, when paranormal investigations were in an infancy stage, my mother provided me with one of the first examples of EVP I ever heard and which she recorded in our own home. Although it fascinated me, it was enough to propel her into becoming a born-again Christian... I expect it scared the bejeezers out of her! So yes, sound recording and video (as opposed to film) which hardly ever lies. Outside of personal experience, I've found these the most convincing forms of evidence.

4. Are you skeptical of the claims other make of their findings?

Occasionally, but only when others have brought up serious doubts about the veracity of certain individuals or claims. Again, paranormal encounters are highly personalized experiences; even in group settings, where several people have an encounter, each is likely to make a personalized assessment of the experience. As I stated, I tend to try to mix any skepticism with empathy.

5. If you could investigate your "Dream Haunted Hot Spot" where would it be?

There are so many places I'd like to experience, it's hard to narrow it down. I've never been to the Ohio State Penitentiary and I'd really like to go there. Leap Castle, in Ireland, also comes to mind.

6. What was your first Paranormal encounter?

When I was growing up in New Orleans, the first home I remember was a shotgun double not far from the New Orleans Fair Grounds; it was haunted. I remember, I was around 5 or 6 years old. The first room of the shotgun was the living room that doubled as my brother's bedroom with a pull out sofa arrangement; the next room was my parents' bedroom; the third room was the unofficial "TV" room because there was a big TV in there and a twin bed that was mine. The kitchen, and a porch/playroom with an adjacent bathroom made up the rest of the house. Anyway, one chilly night we were all gathered in the TV room watching something and everyone was intent on the TV. My mom was reclining with her head at the top of the twin bed; I was laying on my stomach with my head on my arms at the bottom of the bed. There was a bedside lamp on in my parents' bedroom but except for the light of the boob tube the TV room was dark. Out of the corner of my eye I saw movement that drew my attention away from the TV. I looked toward my parents' room but at first saw nothing. Gradually, however, I became aware of something moving just above eye level. I glanced up and saw, quite clearly and vividly, a large hair pin -- the big black kind that my mom used to secure her curlers -- floating into the TV room. I watched in silence as the hair pin simply floated, well above everyone's eye level, through the TV room, into the kitchen and then out of sight. I can't explain why I never said anything at the time; I guess if you knew the kind of teasing my brother would have given me it would make sense. But I recall that the next day I went straight to the playroom in the back and when I went about playing, lifting the lid on the built-in toy chest that doubled as a window seat, there, alone, on the windowsill, sat the solitary black hair pin. I should add that a number of strange things happened in that house and it wasn't until years later, after we had moved into a larger and (ironically) much more haunted house, that my mother told me how an elderly man had died alone in the old house and that she had actually seen apparitions in addition to hearing noises and experiencing poltergeist activity in the house. Needless to say, as the years went on, I was to have many more dramatic and frightening experiences with the supernatural. But that was my first awareness of the unseen.

7. What scares you about Ghost Hunting or Paranormal Investigations?

Well, honestly, I think so many people do it because they really like a good scare, don't they? But what I find the scariest of all is the people who approach the activity with absolute disregard for caution of any kind. The bonehead thrillseekers or the avowed skeptic out to debunk everything. People are the scariest thing about ghost hunting, when it comes right down to it. Too many fail to show the activity the respect and discretion it deserves.


8. If you could work side by side with one of the Paranormal Investigator greats, who would it be?

Oh, that's a loaded question! There's so many! But honestly, I would love to accompany medium David Wells of England's "Most Haunted" on an investigation; I believe him to be the absolute genuine article and they are lucky to have him. And I'd probably like to accompany Grant Wilson but primarily because I think he's cute...

9. Read any good Paranormal Books lately

? I have been reading some books on the history of the dark arts, so I don't know if that qualifies, but I recently came upon a little book by cryptozoologist John D. Coleman that contained some genuine, first hand chills. About scary highways and backroad encounters...

10. What Question do people ask you most when you tell them you are a paranormal investigator / writer?

I usually get, "Why are you interested in THAT?" from most people. Then when they read one of the articles I've written they understand why. The unknown connects on many levels with everyone's experience of their history and culture.

11. In your opinion, Where is the most Haunted city in America?

I have to say New Orleans. Without a doubt. And it's not because I live here by any means. There is such a unique, rich, layered culture in this city. Every step you take through the French Quarter you are walking on the dust of hundreds of years and the silt of millions of impressions left by those who have passed that way before. Something about New Orleans absorbs, simply, everything. The same can be said about the surrounding areas, the plantations of the River Road, the swamps, and the backroads and old towns. There is more than a mystique about this area: it simply exists in an in-between state that is completely palpable and unexplainable.

12. Do you feel more people should get involved with Ghost hunting or Paranormal Investigation?

The field could always use more legitimate, knowledgeable enthusiasts and professionals.

13. What does the future hold for you?

My 8 Ball says, Ask Again Later...

14. Paranormal Conventions do you see them growing?

Yes, absolutely! I'm helping one to grow right now and hopefully I can help it's founder realize his goal of making Babel Con THE convention for the paranormal, science, sci-fi and fantasy in the region!

15. What is your most favored tool of the trade?

My computer keyboard.

16. Tell us about your best moment in investigating or conference attending for you?

You know, it's not always essential to have the biggest names and the most well-known yahoos out there. There is a lot of great work being done in the field by a lot of dedicated and mostly (as yet) anonymous individuals. A convention is a great place to give them the exposure to grow and I think it's essential to include these kinds of folk. Otherwise, the whole thing become stagnant, or like a big merry-go-round where the same people keep coming by again and again.

17. What is the hardest part about being a paranormal writer?

Keeping a broad spectrum. I tend to have certain subjects that continue to fascinate me and about which I could read and write ad nauseum. I have to remind myself to be fluid.

18. How do you document your investigations?

My personal experiences are enough for me and I tend to defer to the experts on the science.

19. Have you ever taken a ghost Tour?

Yes, I've been on several in the US and elsewhere. One of the best I've ever experienced was the Tragical History Tour's visit to Jack the Ripper's London. It was creepy and fascinating and there was more than one unplanned "spooking" such as the woman who moved the curtain in the Mary Kelly apartment just at the "right" moment sending all of us screaming in terror and leaving the tour guide behind! I've also had the pleasure of being a tourist in my hometown and have been on several tours of New Orleans. While they've all been fabulous, the only problem I've encountered is sometimes knowing more about a haunt than the tour guide, or knowing of better haunts than the tour takes in. Inevitably, I end up at the rear of the group talking about nearby hauntings and getting a knowing scowl from the guide. It just happens that a lot of the true haunts are never mentioned on the tourist-focused tours, usually for no more reason than that there's not enough time to cover everything. Still, it's frustrating, I suppose.

20. What in the field of ghost hunting and Paranormal Investigating needs the most attention?

The tendency to making celebrities out of certain reasonably valid individuals or groups while overlooking the really hard-working people and organizations who are putting their heart and soul (and their personal funds) into a field that they simply love outright, whether they get famous doing it or not. That's irksome and it should be addressed because ultimately the legitimacy that pioneers like Hans Holzer, the Warrens, Sylvia Browne, etc., envisioned for the paranormal field years and years ago, and toward which great strides have been made, will be eclipsed by showmanship and greed. Megalomania is a great danger in a field where a lot of people know a little but only a few know a lot and some want to disprove everything.

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