||As a young boy, paranormal
researcher Chad Lewis said his older brother often saw a
man in their house with what appeared to be a strange rash
around his neck. It was not until after his family moved
out that their mom told them a previous owner hung
This experience sparked an interest in Lewis about what
happens when people die and the possibility of ghosts
Lewis will be one of three speakers at a paranormal
conference at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Plaza Hotel, 1202 W.
Clairemont Ave. The other speakers will be paranormal
investigator Rick Hendricks and Linda Godfrey, who wrote
"The Beast of Bray Road: Tailing Wisconsin's
Lewis said he never directly had an experience before he
started investigating the paranormal. His work as an
undergraduate in psychology at UW-Stout started his desire
to look futher into such occurrences.
Lewis also has a graduate degree in applied psychology
Senior John Schaffer has been on investigations with Lewis
and plans to go to the conference, which he's attended
three times in the past.
The investigation Schaffer
went on with Lewis involved exploring a house the owners
claimed was haunted. The house, Schaffer said, was located
next to a railroad and the owners had nine dogs. Excessive
growling was the main sound they both heard in the house.
While upstairs, Schaffer said he heard a growl, but after
thinking about it, he wasn't sure if it was a dog or
something else. In cases such as these, he said, the
researchers are objective and don't have expectations for
the investigations. In addition, he said, sometimes they
aren't trying to prove that something is true, but trying
to disprove it.
As a skeptic of the paranormal, Schaffer said he
appreciates the research that sometimes proves there are
more questions out there and that researchers focus more
on that than just finding answers. He said he started
going to paranormal conferences because they prove humans
can't understand everything and that we never will know
everything about scientific discoveries.
"It's always fun to hear what the speakers have to
say," he said.
All three of the speakers plan to localize the research
they have done to be pertinent to the audience and to the
Chippewa Valley. Lewis said he is presenting a slide show
about the haunted Chippewa Valley, and he plans to focus
on new cases from places in the community that few people
Approaching the information he gets from both sides is one
technique Lewis said he uses when he hears a story from
someone about paranormal activity. When he was
undergraduate at Stout, he wanted to know if these
experiences were happening and how they affect the human
Time: 6 p.m.
Place: The Plaza Hotel, 1202 W. Clairemont
"I am trying to sort
out fact from fiction in my investigations," he said.
In his presentations, he always sets up the history and
investigations of stories he hears, and then leaves it up
to the people to decide if they think it is true or if the
place is haunted. He also said he offers tips for people
who plan on going to places he talks about, telling them
to get permission or go with other people and bring
Lori Rowlett, associate professor of philosophy and
religious studies, has been on Lewis' TV show, "The
Unexplained," on CVT-11 to talk about voodoo related
to spiritual possession.
"I think he's curious about everything that can't be
explained in ordinary ways," Rowlett said.
Hendricks, a UW-Eau Claire alumnus, said he plans to talk
about encounters with ghosts, aliens, monsters and
fairies, as well as ghosts appearing in showers.
Hendricks' interest in the paranormal came from when his
mother ran a haunted saloon in Ladysmith where there were
ghosts who moved things around, he said. Since he knew
most of the customers who went to the saloon, it made him
wonder why certain people have experiences and some don't,
"I'm not out to convince people these things are
real," Hendricks said.
Rather, similar to Lewis, he presents the data, and
usually can tell if it's a hoax. From there, however, some
difficulties in researching the paranormal occur.
Sometimes things only happen to some people in a
subjective sense, he said. Something may happen specific
to their life involving someone they know in their house,
for example. This makes it difficult, Hendricks said, to
go in as an objective person to try and have the same
Lewis also expressed some difficulties in his research
when trying to gauge how much time to devote to
investigations. Lewis said he has heard stories that have
been true, but hasn't found anything when he investigated
them. That doesn't mean, though, that the place isn't
haunted, he said.
Wasting time is also a frustration for Lewis. You have to
be there for something to happen, he said, but it is
frustrating when something could happen one night and then
not happen for years.
But these frustrations don't change Lewis' or the other
speakers' fascination with the paranormal.
Sometimes getting interested in these topics comes
unnaturally. Godfrey was always interested in the human
spirit because of her dad, but never thought about
werewolves until she had to write a newspaper article
about people possibly seeing one near Elkhorn, she said in
"That sort of thing will pique anyone's interest,
quickly," she said.
Godfrey will be talking about her newest book, as well as
the relationship between it and her first book, "The
Poison Widow: A True Story of Sin, Strychnine and
Murder," she said.
Similar to Lewis and Hendricks, Godfrey remains somewhat
skeptical in her research.
"I do believe there is a spiritual world beyond our
usual five senses and that human beings can have the
ability to perceive some things from this world," she
said. "I always examine people's stories closely, and
try to play devil's advocate on behalf of my readers. I
always try to report fairly on what people say, and then
look at surrounding circumstances to see if their
statement can be supported."
Both students and the speakers are looking forward to
certain aspects of the conference.
"I've had people come to the conference and tell
stories they haven't told to anyone for 20 to 30
years," Lewis said. "That's by far my favorite
part of conference. It's amazing the stories you hear when
people find out who to tell."
If not to tell stories of personal experiences, there are
other reasons to go.
"Anybody who comes will have a great time,"
Rowlett, who never has been to a conference, said she is
very open to going and has always wanted to go to one. You
don't have to truly believe in the paranormal to have fun
at a paranormal conference, she said.
Schaffer said the speakers are very professional, and the
topics of the conference are things students won't
necessarily hear about at school. When compared to other
social activities, like going to the bars, Schaffer said
it's a good alternative, especially to get people in the
mood for the Halloween season.