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20 QUESTIONS WITH Jeff Belanger

Jeff Belanger leads a very haunted life. He’s been fascinated with the supernatural since age ten when he investigated his first haunted house during a sleepover. Since then, the paranormal investigator has been a writer and journalist for various newspapers and magazines, and in 1999 he launched Ghostvillage.com as a repository for his writings and research on the subject of the supernatural. The site has since grown to become the largest paranormal community on the Web, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. Over the years, Jeff has interviewed hundreds of people about their experiences with the profound. His objective approach to the subject makes the supernatural accessible to a wide audience. He brings personality and humor to this subject which makes him one of the most sought-after experts in the field. He's written for many paranormal Web sites and print publications and is the author of several books. Also see www.jeffbelanger.com.

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Jeff Belanger leads a very haunted life. He’s been fascinated with the supernatural since age ten when he investigated his first haunted house during a sleepover. Since then, the paranormal investigator has been a writer and journalist for various newspapers and magazines, and in 1999 he launched Ghostvillage.com as a repository for his writings and research on the subject of the supernatural. The site has since grown to become the largest paranormal community on the Web, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. Over the years, Jeff has interviewed hundreds of people about their experiences with the profound. His objective approach to the subject makes the supernatural accessible to a wide audience. He brings personality and humor to this subject which makes him one of the most sought-after experts in the field. He's written for many paranormal Web sites and print publications and is the author of several books. Also see www.jeffbelanger.com.

Jeff Belanger graduated from Hofstra University with a B.A. in English. After college Jeff served as Editor-in-Chief of Main Street -- a biweekly arts and entertainment newspaper in northern Fairfield County, Connecticut, he worked in marketing and public relations for both private and public companies, and he's currently a full-time writer living in Massachusetts with his wife, Megan, daughter, Sophie, and parakeet, Mambo.

Books by Jeff Belanger
Jeff has been exploring the unexplained since 1997 when he was asked to research and write a documentary film on Dudleytown -- a ghost town in northeastern Connecticut. Since that time Jeff has gone on to write for several newspapers, magazines, Web sites, and he's authored several books (with more on the way).

The Ghost Files: Paranormal Encounters, Discussion, and Research from the Vaults of Ghostvillage.com (New Page Books, September 2007)


Ghosts of War: Restless Spirits of Soldiers, Spies, and Saboteurs (New Page Books, September 2006)

Our Haunted Lives: True Life Ghost Encounters (New Page Books, July 2006)

The Nightmare Encyclopedia: Your Darkest Dreams Interpreted (New Page Books, November 2005)

Encyclopedia of Haunted Places: Ghostly Locales From Around the World (New Page Books, August 2005)

Communicating With the Dead: Reach Beyond the Grave (New Page Books, April 2005)

The World's Most Haunted Places: From the Secret Files of Ghostvillage.com (New Page Books, August 2004)

Jeff Belanger has three forthcoming books scheduled for the next twelve months. The Ghost Files: Paranormal Encounters, Discussion, and Research From the Vaults of Ghostvillage.com is being published by New Page Books, his first children's book: Who Is Haunting the White House? is a middle reader being published by Sterling. And Weird Massachusetts -- also being published by Sterling.

Jeff is also writing a paranormal thriller novel that he hopes to have complete by the summer of 2007... errr, better make that late fall of 2007. For interview requests and media appearances, please email: media@jeffbelanger.com or call: +1.508.966.5057.

Jeff Belanger 20 Questions

1. Where do you see ghost hunting and Paranormal groups, websites or Ghost information Books like your own in 10 years?

The subject of ghosts and the supernatural is a really hot topic right now because it’s being fueled by a show on every television network and cable channel, there’s hundreds of thousands of Web sites, many books, and tons of paranormal investigation groups all over the place. I don’t think the subject of ghosts can maintain this level of popularity too much longer. In fact, I’m already seeing groups start to diversify the paranormal phenomena they will investigate. Five years ago, everyone specialized. It was just ghosts, just UFOs, just Bigfoot, etc. Today we’re seeing groups delve into all of those subjects.

There’s also an ebb and flow to interest in the paranormal. In the 1860s, Spiritualism was huge, and a big reason for that was the United States Civil War. In the 1940s, Spiritualism again went through a revival--we saw another spike in the late 1960s and early 1970s just after Vietnam--but this time there was more of an occult angle to the interest. The 1970s was also the time when the UFO phenomena really took off – heavily fueled by the belief that Vietnam taught Americans that their government doesn’t always tell them the truth. September 11th played a big role in the next big interest spike in ghosts and the supernatural. Whenever there is heavy turmoil in the world, people will seek spiritual answers.

Ten years from now the interest in ghosts will not be as high as it is today, but that’s okay. In some respects, all of the attention the
subject receives right now has taken ghosts out of the realm of the weird and made it okay to talk about. This is a very good thing. Ten years from now we’ll be taking ghosts more for granted.


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

I don’t have definitive proof. I wish I did! However, I think there is some really overwhelming evidence out there, and chief among the evidence is the eyewitness testimony. Millions of people from all over the world have had a brush with something they can’t explain. The event makes a profound impact on that witness, leaving each individual with their definitive proof. Ghosts are a human experience.


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

I’ve interviewed over a thousand people about their claims of a supernatural encounter. I’ve talked to people about some really famous cases like Amityville, and I’ve spoken with the man-on-the-street. Collecting this testimony has been objective in the field of paranormal research. When I can be the first researcher a witness speaks with shortly after an encounter, that’s kind of the Holy Grail for me. Fortunately, because of what I do, I’ ve become a magnet for people who want to share their ghost accounts.


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

I’m always skeptical, but I’m also open-minded. Some of these findings require a great deal of belief, so they’re more leaps of faith than scientific findings. My background is in journalism so I work hard to remain objective. If someone has findings to share, I’ll have questions for them. Because we can never remove belief and faith from this subject entirely, I think we need to leave a lot of the findings put forth by investigators for each individual to judge.


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

The White House in Washington, DC. I’ve been there once and had the opportunity to interview some of the staff about their ghosts, but you can’t get up into the second and third floors of the building without an invitation from the First Family. Sadly, I don’t have the financial resources to make a campaign contribution big enough to earn me a night in the Lincoln Bedroom.


6. What was your first Paranormal encounter?

I have yet to have a full-on paranormal encounter. I’ve had a few things happen that I can’t completely explain, but so far no full-bodied apparition. One of those unexplained things occurred while visiting the Catacombs of Paris, France, I was completely alone in the limestone quarry tunnels 30 meters below the city. It was quiet, dimly lit, and I was surrounded by the human skeletons of 60 generations of Parisians. The skulls and bones line each side of the tunnel in a very macabre and intricate pattern. When you first see the site, it takes your breath away. While walking through the tunnels, I kept seeing these darting shadows in front of me. I was the only living thing down there who could cast a shadow, and I can tell you mine was at my feet. I think we all have these unexplainable events in our lives—whether it’s smelling phantom smells, hearing whispers you can’t account for, or something even more profound. Whether we pay attention to these signs and try to derive meaning is another issue entirely.

www.jeffbelanger.com


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

The living!


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

Thomas Edison. He was a visionary and true man of science. In his speeches attempting to build that could be influenced by what he called “life swarms” that leave a body after it dies. I would have loved to have been a lab assistant to Edison when he was working on his spirit communication device.


9. Read any good Paranormal Books lately other then your own?

Tons! There are many people out there writing some great stuff on this subject. Here’s a few of the authors that I keep close-by on my own bookshelf: Brad Steiger, Loyd Auerbach, Deborah Blum, Troy Taylor, Vince Wilson, Joshua Warren, Hans Holzer, Mary Roach, Ursula Bielski, Plato (seriously), and Dennis William Hauck, just to name a few.


10. What Question do people ask you most when you tell them you’re a paranormal investigator, writer?

Some of the more skeptical may say, “You don’t really believe in ghosts, do you?” (Those are often the same people who will pull me aside later and say, “Actually… this one time something weird happened to me…”) I think a lot of people are fascinated with the unexplained and they usually have a lot of great questions about how I go about doing what I do.

As far as being a writer, that’s usually a different discussion. Many people feel they have a book in them and they often want to know how to go about putting their ideas down on paper and getting their work published. I tell aspiring writers that it’s an endless process, a lot of work, but also very rewarding. There’s four books that I think every writer should keep close by: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, Stephen King On Writing by Stephen King, a dictionary, and a thesaurus. After that you need to read every day and write every day.


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

Even before Hurricane Katrina I would have answered New Orleans. So many belief systems and cultures come together in N’awlins. You have a Voodoo influence, Catholic and Protestant influence, you have an old seaport where pirates and smugglers came and went, and hundreds of years of American history.


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

It’s not for everyone, but if someone has an interest in this field of research, the good news is you can get started in your own town with equipment you probably already have lying around your home: a pen, paper, maybe a camera, possibly an audio recording device or even a video camera. Though paranormal research isn’t for everyone, if you have questions
about it, then start asking. There are a myriad of groups, Web sites, books, and other great resources out there to help you get started.


13. What does the future hold for you?

As I gaze into my crystal ball… I see I’m long overdue to clean it. Seriously, I have three new books coming out between the fall of 2007 and the spring of 2008, and one of those is a non-fiction children’s book on ghosts that I’m excited about. It’s called Who Is Haunting the White House? I’m also working on two other projects that I’m shopping around right now, and I’m speaking at several conferences and symposiums around the country in the coming year.


14. Paranormal Conventions do you see them growing? And which ones are the Must go to ones?

This has been a rough year for paranormal conferences. Several have cancelled due to poor planning, and unfortunately that hurts all of them. But the good news is there are still some great ones out there.

There are two kinds of conferences that are well worth your time. The first are small, regional-interest conferences. These kinds of events are held all over the country and are usually organized by prominent paranormal investigation groups. You get a healthy dose of local haunts and history from people who have actually done the investigations. The second kind of conferences are the big ones with national names. With these you definitely want to take a look at who is behind them and how long they’ve been around.

One must-go-to conference in 2007 is the Ghost World Conference in Gettysburg July 20-22, 2007. This conference has been in the planning stages for over a year, and some of the best and brightest in the field are attending. The conference will also include a symposium intended to bring the paranormal community together to develop a reporting system that will allow researchers from around the world to examine data related to ghost research. Another great conference to watch for this year is Troy Taylor’s Haunted America Conference June 22-23. This conference is in its eleventh year, so you know it’s not going anywhere.


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

Breath mints. I prefer Altoids myself. You’ll be speaking with the living a lot more than the dead, and nothing is a bigger turn-off than bad breath.


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

Last year I had the opportunity to tour the White House and interview some of their staff for my children’s book. It was an amazing experience to go through that building with so much historical significance, and, by many accounts, so many ghosts!


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

Having enough hours in the day. There are so many projects I’m dying (excuse the pun) to get to, but the lecture schedule, promotion, and administrative work associated with running my Web site take up so much time. I’m
grateful to have so much going on, but my first love has always been doing the research and sharing my findings.


18. How do you document your investigations?

I always have an audio recorder with me. I think some of the most compelling evidence we have of the existence of ghosts is the first-hand eyewitness accounts. I’ve interviewed over a thousand people about their brush with the unexplained, and I find their testimony extremely compelling.


19. Have you ever taken a ghost Tour? And, What about it did you not like?

Hmmm… I’m not sure how to answer this one. I’ve been on several great ghost tours in various parts of the United States. appreciate anyone who can bring together history and hauntings in a creative way.


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

There are so many paranormal research groups all over the world who are doing some great field work. For us to leave a legacy for the future, we definitely need to start sharing information and leaving a legacy of data. The good news is we’re working on it. The symposium at the Ghost World Conference is a good start, and I know there are others who are working to
accomplish the same thing with Web sites and other projects. The next step is to move forward with something that is usable for the paranormal community as well as the academic community.

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