"It's much easier seeing haunted places on television than it is visiting them on your own," he said. "When you're actually at that haunted abandoned house and you see that shadowy creature moving from window to window, you simply can't change the channel."
Despite his caution, however, Lewis - who co-authored "The Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations" with Terry Fisk - actually encouraged people to get off their couches and explore the legends and lore of their own backyards during a program Tuesday night at the New Lenox Library.
For an hour, Lewis showed slides of famously haunted Illinois locales he and Fisk visited and investigated such as Bachelor's Grove Cemetery in Midlothian and told stories of ethereal figures like Resurrection Mary, whose ghost is said to hitchhike for rides along roads in Willow Springs and Justice.
"I try to cover the entire state and I really try to include a wide range of stories," he said. "Some are pretty scary, some are funny and some are just plain bizarre."
Lewis even provided the dozens in attendance with a road-by-road guide on how to get to the over 30 Illinois locations he discussed.
"What I hope people get out of this is an adventure," he said. "Whether or not they believe in ghosts or creatures, I hope this inspires them to explore their own state. A lot of people don't realize that they have some really odd stories in their own backyards, so I hope this makes people want to travel to these places and make an adventure out of it and have just fun with it."
Tippi Graham, of New Lenox, came with son Benjamin, 7 months.
"We love, love, love hauntings," she said. "We've gone on a couple park district's haunted tours and as a kid, I used to go to Bachelor's Grove Cemetery."
Graham said she'd be taking Lewis' advice and hitting the road in search of the otherworldly in the near future.
"For me, it's about the spookiness, but it's also about wanting to see something for myself," she said. "It would be great just to experience a haunting. It's really neat and I think it would be thrilling to go to those haunted places"
Patti Miller, of New Lenox, came with friend Dawn McIntosh.
"We always had a fascination with ghosts and I've even had a few experiences with ghosts myself," she said. "I've seen people who were close to me like my grandfather, who appeared to me after he died, and my husband's great aunt."
"It just makes me wonder if something really exists and if people really come back after they're dead," she added. "I really think the ghosts come back for a reason, even if it's only to say goodbye. They just want to say one last farewell."
Amy Ingalls, of New Lenox, came with friend Erin Hunter.
"I've been reading books on all the Chicago ghost stories and going to different places around here in hopes of seeing a ghost," she said. "It's always just kind of fascinated me knowing that there might be something else out there that you can possibly see and talk to."
Lewis said many people find ghost stories fascinating because they deal with issues of spirituality and existentialism.
"Ghost stories embody the unknown," he said. "One of the biggest questions we have out there is, 'What happens when we die?'
"None of us knows that answer, so it's intriguing to look at ghost stories in that way. What if we continue on?"
Jason Freeman can be reached at email@example.com or (708) 802-8808.