Tales of a ghost hunter
The next time you have a ghost problem, don’t call the Ghostbusters, call Debi Chestnut. A paranormal investigator with over 30 years' experience, she is the author of numerous books including her most recent, Something Wicked: A Ghost Hunter Explores Negative Spirits (Llewellyn Publications).
Chestnut took some time away from the hunt to share her thoughts with Tribune readers.
Tribune: How did you get started as a paranormal investigator?
Chestnut: I started doing this when I was in college many years ago. One of my psychology professors was a parapsychologist. He would come in and tell us about his investigations. And being a psychic medium, I had an interest. He taught me how to ghost hunt; we did it old school back then. I learned all the right ways.
Tribune: Do you need to be psychic to be a ghost hunter?
Chestnut: I am a psychic medium, but most of the skills you need to do this can be taught. We get new people on the team and we take them to places where we know there is paranormal activity. But also, we know there’s nothing there that will hurt them. It’s a safe environment where they can learn the equipment and interact with the entities.
Tribune: How do you suggest people find a ghost hunter?
Chestnut: The easiest thing to do is to type “paranormal investigator” and your city in a search engine. In my first book Is Your House Haunted? I have a whole section on how to find the right paranormal team. Ask for references, although, sometimes, it’s hard for ghost hunting teams to get references because there’s a bit of a stigma about having a haunted house.
Tribune: How much does it cost to hire a paranormal investigator?
Chestnut: If they are going to charge you, find another team. We never charge. If I have to travel out of state, I ask to have my traveling expenses covered, but as far as charging for the investigation, no. Most reputable teams do not charge. We are in it for the research and to help the people going through this. It can be quite traumatic.
Tribune: Where are you most likely to find a ghost?
Chestnut: They can be anywhere. Grocery stores, churches, historical museums, office buildings, houses. There’s no rhyme or reason to where they’re going to show up. A lot of times, they are the former owner of the house or they are connected to the land. Sometimes, they are invited in. Those are the hardest ones to get rid of.
They can also haunt objects. Be careful what you buy in antique stores or garage sales. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t buy it. I have dealt with numerous haunted objects. I have some in my house. I have a pair of cufflinks that are extremely haunted and are in a mason jar covered in sea salt so it’s really not going to go anywhere.
Tribune: What is the story behind those cufflinks?
Chestnut: A gentleman died and his daughter gave everything away to thrift stores. He was very upset. He can tend to be a little violent, but he’s not a negative entity. He’s just upset. That’s why his cufflinks are in the Mason jar with salt. He’s not ready to be dealt with yet. He needs to calm down. Eventually, I’ll get him to cross.
Tribune: How can you tell if an object is haunted?
Chestnut: What I recommend people do [when in a store] is to put your hand on the object for a little while. If you get a funny feeling, don’t buy it. Carry it around while you’re looking at other things. If you’re not sure about it, don’t buy it. If something seems too inexpensive—too good to be true—it’s too good to be true for a reason.
Tribune: You devote a large section of your book to demons and exorcisms.
Chestnut: There is evil out there. Whether you classify them as demons depends on your personal religious belief. But there are negative entities out there. Demons have never been alive in human form. Those are dangerous. In the 30 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve run into three. Even though there’s been a dramatic rise in demonic activity in the past few years, they are still extremely rare. Possession is even more rare.
Tribune: If someone has a ghost, what do you recommend?
Chestnut: Most of the time people can make their own activity stop just by talking to it. Say, “Hey I know you’re here; I acknowledge your presence. Here are the ground rules.” Lay down some rules, especially if you have kids or grandkids in the house. Tell it to stay away from the kids. Nine times out of ten they are going to listen to that. Tell them gently, “You’re not wanted here. You need to leave.” A good spirit is going to understand and leave. Every spirit needs something; we just have to figure out what that is.
Note: To learn more, visit debi-chestnut.com.