As his mouth opened, out poured horrors and knowledge accumulated through spending thousands of hours in cemeteries, dingy cobweb-filled basements and on desolate haunted roads.
In a rapid-fire presentation, Chad Lewis, co-author of the book "The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations," flipped through a smattering of the haunted locations and legends listed in his book, one of many in a series. About 100 local residents gathered to hear him speak at the event hosted by the Friends of the Library at the Burlington Public Library.
"Be warned it's much easier watching these places on television than visiting them, because when you're at that haunted cemetery, and you see that shadowy creature lurking from grave stone to grave stone, you simple can't turn the channel," Lewis said.
Cemeteries, Lewis said, were once considered gateways to the other world. They are places where the dead cross over to the other side and occasionally terrorize unsuspecting passersby.
One of his many stories included the cursed chair of the Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown.
Local folklore says anyone who sits in the stone chair-shaped grave marker will be cursed and die within one year.
In the true spirit of investigation, one of Lewis's colleagues, Richard Hendricks, decided to brave the curse and perched upon the chair.
"He sat in the chair for an hour, and as far as I know he is still with us today," Lewis said.
Lewis has also investigated the cliffs of Stony Hollow Road in Burlington looking for the ghost of a young maiden named Lucinda. The girl reportedly killed herself one night by jumping off a cliff when the man she loved failed to meet her so they could run away together.
Though he has spoken with several eyewitnesses who claim to have seen the ghost, Lewis said the apparition failed to appear when he toured the old road.
In fact, Lewis said that in his 13 years of traveling all over the world as an investigator of the unexplained, he has never seen a ghost, but he's still looking.
"If you are afraid of ghosts, hang out with ghost researchers, because we never see them," Lewis joked.
Every location in the haunted locations book series has been researched and investigated.
Lewis said researchers first quiz as many eyewitnesses of the paranormal events as possible. Then they begin to visit local historical societies and talk with senior citizens to see if the incidents have any basis in fact.
Finally, the investigators trek out to the haunted location with night vision goggles, motion detection equipment, electromagnetic field meters, laser thermometers and even psychics.
While Lewis may not have seen a ghost, many audience members said they have heard, seen and been scared silly by spirits.
Andrew Wilson of Burlington told the group a story of a building that had once stood where the audience now gathered, the Burlington Medical Center.
Wilson said his mother, Mary, often heard noises and saw shifting figures out of the corners of her eyes while working as a nurse at the hospital.
One man said he saw an American Indian shaman made of blue crackling electricity dancing in Geode State Park.
As the presentation drew to a close, Lewis left his audience with one final haunted location. A location he called, "private homes."
How much do you know about the place where you sleep at night, he asked. What ghosts are there in your back yard?