ALGONA - How does one begin a career in the paranormal?
"I was a student studying psychology," said Chad Lewis, co-author of The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations. "I was interested in UFOs and why people believed they'd been abducted."
Through his research and presentations, people begin asking him about other strange occurrences.
"They'd tell me 'this is a little off the topic, but I think my house is haunted'," Lewis stated.
So he started looking into ghosts and other unexplained phenomenon.
How does one begin writing a book about haunted locations in Iowa?
"My research partner, Terry Fisk, and I were traveling though Wisconsin," Lewis said.
They had decided to investigate the haunted locations of their home state, but were running into many problems. Either the directions to the locations were completely wrong or the background information was made up or greatly exaggerated, so they went looking for a reliable source for the haunts in Wisconsin.
"We wanted a book, but there wasn't one," Lewis said.
So the duo co-authored The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations followed by books on Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. They are currently working on one about Illinois.
The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations is an actual guidebook, and it is divided into easy to read sections. Deciding what location to visit can easily be based on how much time you have to travel as locations are geographically organized. Those interested in a quick spook can turn to page 103 and visit Union Township Cemetery.
As with every haunting, the book gives directions to the location and the ghost lore. It then gives the history of the location, and the authors explain what their research has turned up. Finally, there is a dare to complete at many locations.
"If you are brave enough to walk over the old iron Gypsy fence in the middle of the cemetery, you will be forever cursed by the Gypsy people."
Cemeteries are common in the book, but other locations include restaurants, bridges, a library and even a vacant lot in Emmetsburg where a hotel used to be.
Visiting these locations may result in animals covering your car, statues moving, car troubles, your car being pushed uphill or you may die.
Both authors have visited every location in the book.
"That's one of the things we're most proud of is that we've actually been there," Lewis said.
While in Algona, Lewis even stopped by Sister Sarah's to give the giant Cheeto a look.
"I'm a sucker for roadside attractions," he said.
In addition to visiting the Cheeto, they dug through old newspapers, visited historical societies and talked to senior citizens while investigating the haunts.
"They're the experts. They may have been around when these things happened," Lewis stated.
After several books, it takes Lewis and Fisk about five months to research a state. Once the book is out, they continue to receive comments about additional information and welcome emails about haunts. That's how they found out about Union Township.
"We originally received an email from a resident asking if we heard of it," Lewis said. Despite all his work, Lewis has never witnessed a haunting.
"It's frustrating because you spend that time waiting for something to happen and it doesn't," he said.
Even without witnessing anything unusual, Lewis is still excited about the book.
"I see the book not only as a guide to some haunted places, but as a source of adventure," he said. "You're going to see some odd places in the state and think 'maybe my own backyard is a little stranger than I thought."
To order The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations or for more information, visit www.unexplainedresearch.com.