really things that go bump in the night?
Chad Lewis thinks
so, and he's dedicated much of his life to
investigating it. Lewis and fellow paranormal
investigator Terry Fisk, who together have
formed Unexplained Research, penned a series of
books documenting the weird and chilling tales
from different regions of the country, including
"The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations"
bills itself as a guide to finding spooks in a
variety of places, from cemeteries to schools.
Lewis will visit
Robert W. Rowe Public Library, 120 E. Si Johnson
Ave., Sheridan, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, just in
time to kick off the Halloween season. To
reserve a spot, call the library at
For more information
about Lewis, visit his Web site at
Lewis took some time
to chat with The Times via e-mail about
his unusual profession and how he handles the
sometimes chilling situations he finds himself
Q. I'm sure you
take some flak for your credentials. But what is
involved in earning a degree in this field? What
kind of courses did you take? How did you get
into this field?
A. Actually both my
bachelor's and master's degrees are in
traditional psychology from the University of
Wisconsin-Stout. None of my course work focused
on the paranormal.
I grew up near a
famous UFO sighting in Wisconsin, so when I was
in high school I visited the town and started
talking with the witnesses and this hooked me.
When I went to college I was studying psychology
and I was interested in human perception and
human beliefs systems and what makes people
believe in odd things. I was presenting my
research at symposiums and people would approach
me and say, "I know this is not what you are
really doing, but I think I saw something in the
sky. Can you help me?" From there my research
really branched out in all areas of the
Q. I've seen a
lot of television shows dedicated to serious
pursuits of the unknown and unexplained (as
opposed to fictionalized programs). I'm thinking
along the lines of "Monsterquest" on the History
Channel or "A Haunting" on the Discovery
Channel. Why do you think people are so
interested in these subjects? Are people more or
less skeptical today than they were in the past?
Why do you think so?
A. I think people
have always been interested in the strange, but
the recent overflow of TV shows has just brought
it to the mainstream. Overall, I feel people are
just as skeptical today as they were 100 years
ago but they are more open about their beliefs.
Q. What is a
typical day like for you? What about a typical
week or month? What exactly do you spend your
time doing? Can you really make a living at it?
A. On an average day
I receive about 40 to 50 e-mails filled with
paranormal stories and cases. On my nontraveling
days I spend most of the day doing research,
writing and doing media interviews. On my
traveling days I am actually visiting these
paranormal places and doing investigations and,
of course, doing lectures.
Most researchers do
have outside jobs. However, about two years ago
the travel, investigations and speaking
engagements became too much to do with a 9-to-5
job as well, so I picked the paranormal.
Q. How often do
you encounter hoaxes? What are some red flags
that someone is pulling your leg?
A. It is very rare
that I encounter a person who is deliberately
trying to pull a hoax. It is more common that
people unwittingly believe something normal has
a paranormal experience. Most of the people I
encounter are normal, rational and intelligent
people who have had an abnormal experience.
Of course, having a
background in psychology, I try to watch for
signs of people being deceitful but usually
people are pretty sincere.
Q. Frankly, I'd
be terrified doing what you do. How often do you
get scared while working? How do you handle
A. I think it is
common for investigators to get a bit spooked at
some of these places. Over time your mind and
body becomes accustomed to the adrenaline caused
by fear and you can start to use the fear for
energy. A lot of the fear comes from the living
rather than the supernatural.
Q. What event in
your career scared you the most?
A. I was on an
investigation in Belize and I was searching for
the La Lorona and in order to get to the rural
river banks I needed to take the nighttime
crocodile canoe tour. Imagine the darkest county
road you know of and that is how dark the river
was. We were in a small, barely usable canoe
paddling down the river looking for the lady of
the night surrounded by crocodiles and snakes
and every sudden move could tip our unstable
canoe. I wasn't sure if I was more afraid of the
crocodiles or the lady of the light.
Q. You recently
collected stories to create a book on haunted
locations in Illinois. Where did you get your
stories from? How did you research them?
A. We received our
stories from a variety of sources. Of course,
some people e-mailed or called us with cases.
Others we dug up from the historical society or
old newspapers. We also talked with numerous
seniors and adolescents in the community we
We make sure to
visit each location we write about and we
usually bring in a lot of scientific equipment,
but we also try to use mediums or those who
believe they are psychic. However, it should be
noted that a lot of our research takes places
outside of the paranormal location. We spend a
lot of time digging through old death and birth
records, newspaper archives and county records
trying to sort fact from fiction.
Q. Any advice for
other seekers of the unexplained?
A. To me this job is
50 percent adventure and 50 percent research. I
always recommend people go out to these legends
with an open mind and enjoy the adventure that
comes along with the work.