Karen has a PhD in Linguistics and works as a Researcher,
Lecturer and Consultant Linguist
1. Where do you see ghost hunting and Paranormal groups, web sites
or Ghost information, tours Books like your own in 10 years?
If the proliferation and popularity of related groups, television
shows and web sites are anything to go by, I'd forecast that there
will be a continued, if not increased interest in this area.
Paranormal topics delve into beliefs, fears, hopes, hardship, the
meaning of life, life after death and other concerns and experiences
fundamental to the human condition. These issues will naturally and
always be of curiosity to people, even across cultures.
2. What would you personally consider to be the definitive proof
that ghosts are real?
Seeing a ghost myself? Not really. I'm not the only one who needs
to be convinced.
I can claim to have seen a ghost and then proceed to spread the story
to anyone prepared to listen, but this account is hardly "definitive"
Paranormal or pseudoscientific phenomena that can be demonstrated
under test conditions could constitute "proof". I'm certainly
not convinced by way of a 'dust orb', an unintelligible 'spirit recording'
or a vanishing hitchhiker tale.
I've often heard the quip 'for the skeptic, no proof is enough'. That's
bollocks. Proof is proof, and skeptics seek the evidence, if indeed
there is any. However, for some people, 'anything is proof'.
3. What is the most real evidence you personally have uncovered
I haven't encountered any evidence at all, so far.
I won't completely discount the possibility of uncovering future
evidence from some area across the broad realm of the paranormal and
4. Are you skeptical of the claims other make of their findings?
Absolutely. Anecdotal evidence, stories, subjective, uncritical interpretations
of anomalous sounds and photographs, detecting temperature changes,
motion and magnetic fields, the movement of dowsing rods, feelings,
'knowing' and 'intuition' do not constitute evidence.
However, most non-skeptical investigators will claim to be 'a skeptic'.
They know there is credibility associated with skepticism and the
scientific method. If you think you're skeptical, are you skeptical
enough? In the end, we should all
have the same objective...
5. If you could investigate your "Dream Haunted Hot Spot"
where would it be?
There are many, many unique places that I have yet to visit, including
Coral Castle near Miami; Resurrection Cemetery (home of 'Resurrection
Mary') near Chicago; Haunted Hollywood; Tombstone, Arizona; Roswell,
New Mexico; the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky; Salem, Massachusetts
and Myrtle's Plantation in Louisiana. In fact, next week I am travelling
to New Orleans and intend on investigating some of the ghosts, voodoo,
hoodoo, juju and infamous folklore there.
Outside of the US, I am keen to visit Borley Rectory, Hampton Court
and Windsor Castle in England, Glamis Castle in Scotland, the Chase
Vault in Barbados, the Bermuda Triangle, the Oak Island "Money
Pit" in Canada, Monte Cristo Homestead in Australia...among many
6. What was your first Paranormal encounter?
I have had many strange experiences that have always had natural,
logical explanations; ethereal music in a crematorium that turned
out to be 'piped music'; phantom piano playing that turned out to
be live piano playing; a glowing white 'angel' in a cemetery that
turned out to be a street light; a 'glowing blue man' that just turned
out to be a man; erratic, flickering lights and a misbehaving television
set that turned out to be a break in the circuit; a 'ghost' that turned
out to be a deer; 'spirit' voices that turned out to be human voices;
7. What scares you about Ghost Hunting or Paranormal Investigations?
The dogmatism, irrationality and delusion of some 'believers'.
Aside from that, any investigator needs to be careful of the practical
dangers of inspecting dilapidated houses and buildings, the risks
of hanging out in unfamiliar environments, especially at night-time,
and to ensure that you receive
permission to access private property before you go looking for ghosts
where there might be guns.
8. If you could work side by side with one of the Paranormal Investigator
greats, who would it be?
Harry Houdini. Skeptic, magician and renaissance man. He debunked
numerous psychics and mediums, some who even fooled academics. As
a conjuror he could replicate their performances. As a child, I was
also very interested in the seminal work of Harry Price. Perhaps I
can channel them both?
If I'm stuck with living greats, I'd have to choose magician Penn
Jillette. But that's probably only because I want to sleep with him.
9. Read any good Paranormal Books lately other then your own?
I'll recommend some classics: Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World,
James Randi's Flim Flam!, Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird
Things, Ian Rowland's the Full Facts Book of Cold Reading, Lynne Kelly's
The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal, Richard Wiseman's Deception
and Self-Deception and Bob Carroll's The Skeptic's Dictionary.
10. What Question do people ask you most when you tell them your
a paranormal investigator, writer?
Have you ever seen a ghost? My answer? No!
11. In your opinion, Where is the most Haunted city in America or
The prevalence of this title tends to undermine the claim. So many
places claim to be "America's most haunted city", including
New Orleans, Chicago, Gettysburg, Savannah, Salem, San Diego and San
One of the world contenders is Pluckley in England. This is a small
village with a population of only 1000 people, and at least 20 ghosts.
Pluckley must have more ghosts per square mile and per capita than
any other city in the world! The village lays claim to a 'Red Lady',
a 'White Lady', a 'Tudor Lady', a phantom coach and horses, the sounds
of the 'Screaming Man' and many other ghosts!
12. Do you feel more people should get involved with Ghost hunting
or Paranormal Investigation?
Definitely. You'll find more orbs than headless coach drivers, but
it is good fun. Furthermore, these beliefs and stories are important
from a folkloric and historical perspective.
13. What does the future hold for you?
In the near future, a book about my experiences as a (skeptical)
paranormal investigator; Red, White and (True) Blue (a travelogue);
ongoing articles and many, many more investigations!
I'd love to act as a skeptical consultant or 'devil's advocate' for
an investigative show about the paranormal. Of course, having such
a show is 'de rigueur' nowadays, but after a decade of investigations,
this is no passing fad for me. I would also like to write and produce
my own series, from a humorous, skeptical perspective. I'm not the
crusty, bearded, bespectacled stereotypical skeptic.
14. Paranormal Conventions do you see them growing?And if so which
ones are the Must go to ones?
Conferences are important for any legitimate industry, for sharing
and discussing research, results and also for networking. I'd like
to see more paranormal conferences, if they will take a more responsible,
I recently attended the HPI's
(http://ghosts.meetup.com/231/) inaugural conference at the Brookdale
Lodge near Santa Cruz. With an interactive session on 'remote viewing',
a séance and an investigation of the haunted hotel, this was
Again, I'll play the dissenter and recommend a few annual Skeptics
conventions, including the Australian Skeptic's conferences (held
in Tasmania in November 2007 www.skeptics.com.au), the James Randi
Educational Foundation's The Amaz!ng Meeting and the Skeptics Society's
yearly conventions. Do a search online, there are also many local
communities that hold monthly meetings and functions.
15. What is your most favored tool of the trade?
Critical thinking. Forget flashy, expensive, irrelevant equipment.
Investigating the paranormal requires a healthy dose of skepticism,
an open mind and a sense of humour.
16. Tell us about your best moment in investigating or conference
attending for you?
I would have to say that my finest moment was an undercover investigation
of a large telephone psychic company. The company advertised that
they were seeking psychics and I applied for a role. The company waxed
lyrical that they hire only 1% of applicants, and that they have stringent
recruitment procedures. However, after bluffing my way through an
application form, an email reading, a real time chat room reading
and even a telephone reading, this skeptic was offered a job as a
You can read
the whole story here: www.bad-language.com/psychicskeptic
Another crazy experience involved an investigation into pareidolia
(seeing faces on food, and places other than faces). Following the
'Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich' affair, I created the 'Pope
Tart', a Pop Tart that 'revealed' the face of Pope John Paul II. This
created a media frenzy, and demonstrated the subjective nature of
More can be found here: http://www.bad-language.com/popetart
17. What is the hardest part about being a paranormal writer?
I am extremely enthusiastic about what I do and I enjoy travelling
and writing about my experiences. It's a challenge to peel back the
layers of myth, rumour and fiction to reveal any fact.
What can be annoying, rather than "hard", is to read the
uncritical, accepting accounts of paranorma lphenomena written by
others. Tell it as an experience, or tell it as a tale, but don't
tell itas fact.
18. How do you document your investigations?
These investigations are ethnographic in nature. As 'fieldwork',
they are based in observation, and involve describing and recording
any results. In this sense, 'results' are descriptions of experiences,
folklore and cultural anthropology.
19. Have you ever taken a ghost Tour? And, What about it did you
I have taken many ghost tours, some recent, local ones include the
San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour, the Haunted Haight Walking
Tour, the Old Sacramento Ghost Tour, the Sacramento Old City Cemetery
Ghost Tour, the various tours at the Winchester Mystery House in San
Jose and a number of tours around Alcatraz.
I love the narrative and historical aspects of these tours. What
do I not like? It peeves me when the stories are told as fact, or
not even told at all. I went on the Quarantine Station Tour in Manly,
Sydney so many times that I knew more stories than the tour guides!
20. What in the field of ghost hunting and Paranormal Investigating
needs the most attention.
The belief that paranormal investigators adopt the scientific method.
The use of scientific instruments is not, in itself, the scientific
I would urge investigators to think critically in analysing their
findings and to not treat the label 'paranormal' as some sort of default
for anything that is not immediately explicable. As I always say,
the absence of an explanation is not proof of the paranormal.