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A fireside chat with ghost investigator Linda Zimmerman about things that go bump in the night
by Bernie O’Connor - firstname.lastname@example.org
Astute readers of The Observer will recognize Linda Zimmermann’s name from our previous article on the Pine Bush UFO Fair. In that article, we concentrated on Linda’s years of in-depth UFO research in New York’s Hudson Valley. However, besides diligently pursuing the mysteries of things seen soaring in the skies, Linda is also a dedicated ghost hunter who confronts things that go bump in the night.
After reading a few of Linda’s aptly titled Ghost Investigator books and not being able to shut the lights off at night, I reached out to the author to find out more about this chillingly fascinating topic.
Bernie: Thank you Linda for speaking with me today and discussing your ghost investigation adventures. The hair is already standing up on the back of my neck.
Linda: BOO! Just kidding. I’m happy to share my paranormal experiences with your readers.
Bernie: Linda, you went from being a Research Scientist to being the author of over 15 books, including a comic book on ghost investigating. Why ghosts? Have you, or a family member had a ghostly encounter that triggered your interest in the subject? Or is it the challenge of applying the scientific method to help legitimize what is considered a fringe and sensationalist topic by mainstream science?
Linda: I loved ghost stories when I was a kid—the classic flashlight under the covers reading scary stories at night. Ghost hunting was NEVER anything I thought I would do. In fact, in the early 90s when my husband and I were dating, he said we should stay in a haunted bed & breakfast, and my response was, “Are you crazy? I would never stay in a haunted place.”
A short time later, I was lecturing on local history in Rockland County, NY and people kept asking about local legends and ghost stories. I tried to collect some stories, but they were few and far between, and never contained any detail. So, I quickly realized that if I wanted to tell ghost stories, I would have to investigate hauntings myself. I absolutely used my scientific training, and learned as I went along, always looking for rational explanations and using equipment and instruments to try to obtain measurable data. Somehow word spread that I was the “ghost lady,” and requests for investigations came pouring in.
I admit I was terrified on my first investigation, which was a doctor’s home that was built to look like an old, stone Scottish manor house, which added to the creepy factor. After almost 30 years and hundreds of investigations later, there is still some fear on occasion, but I’ve come a long way from saying I would never go to a haunted place!
Bernie: When approaching a new ghost investigation are you open minded as to what you may discover, or are you skeptical as to what you may find?
Linda: It always pays to be skeptical whenever you’re dealing with a supposed paranormal event. I carefully vet the cases I decide to investigate. I just don’t rush in determined to find ghosts. Trained in the scientific method as I have been, I begin looking for an obvious explanation as to what may be causing these claimed unusual events. One case in particular I investigated involved a woman who was plagued with horrible nightmares. She blamed them on an evil presence in her house. Since these nightmares only occurred in her bedroom, I concentrated my detective work, if you will, in that room of the house.
My instruments revealed that due to the old wiring in the house, the plug receptacles near the bed were “leaking” large electromagnetic fields. These fields can interfere with the brain, causing hallucinations. So it turned out we didn’t need an exorcist in this case, only a licensed electrician.
Sure enough, after the repairs were done, the nightmares ended.
Bernie: You have also written four books about UFOs, which do you enjoy investigating more: hauntings or UFO sightings?
Linda: Whichever one I’m doing at the time! But seriously, ghost investigations are often much more intense and things could be happening for hours, so you are constantly on alert in a haunted location. When researching a UFO sighting, you could stand on that spot every night for 50 years and never see anything. Due to the nature of the phenomena, they are different experiences, but I love them both. They both involve the thrill of the hunt and the mystery of the unknown.
Bernie: Have you ever had a memorable ghostly encounter?
Linda: How much space do you have in this article? After almost 30 years and hundreds of haunted sites, I have many memorable experiences. One of the scariest was in a hidden basement room used for bootlegging in the Shanley Hotel in Napanoch, NY. As I was climbing the ladder to get out of the room, I felt two hands grabbing my legs trying to pull me back down.
Then there was the old Ulster County Jail, which was wildly haunted. Among the many pieces of evidence we recorded, was a man’s voice whispering the name, “Sarah.” It wasn’t until a month later that we learned from a retired corrections officer that an inmate had hanged himself at that location, and his last word had been his daughter’s name, Sarah.
It was because of these experiences at the Ulster County Jail, that when it was recently demolished, I arranged to have one of the jail cell doors brought to the Pine Bush, N.Y. UFO and Paranormal Museum so that others could use their sixth senses and see what they feel from it.
Bernie: In several of your books and interviews, when on a ghost hunt, you speak of the ghostly presence at hand knowing all about you. How would you define that feeling? Is it a form of communication, say like telepathy, between you and, can we call it, the entity?
Linda: It is something that is hard to describe. But unmistakably when you experience it, it’s an intense, intimate connection where you feel like the entity is reading you like a book. And conversely, you are seeing into their thoughts and feelings. When the entity is positive, it’s a beautiful thing. When it’s a negative entity, not so much! Those experiences can be traumatic when you connect with something bad, and it’s important to block it out, or simply get out of the location.
Bernie: Is it possible that some hauntings are caused by other types of beings? One type of being that fascinates me is the Djinn. Do you have any thoughts or experiences with them? Any other thoughts on what other types of beings, other than deceased people with unresolved issues, ghosts could be?
Linda: Over the years I’ve heard it all—Djinn, demons, interdimensional beings, aliens, etc., but personally, I have never encountered anything that doesn’t fit the profile of a deceased human’s ghost. And I should point out that I have investigated prisons, cemeteries, battlefields, churches, and many sites of murders, suicides, and executions. Some entities have been very intimidating and negative, but that’s the way they were in life. I always say that death does not improve one’s personality.
Bernie: In one of your books, Ghost Investigator Volume 6, you wrote that you were attacked by a particularly malevolent male energy during an investigation. Was it at an asylum? Then, after some research, you went back and confronted it. How did you mentally prepare for something like that? And should a novice ghost hunter attempt the same thing?
Linda: One of my worst experiences was at Rolling Hills Asylum in Bethany, NY. I encountered not one, but two awful male entities and felt attacked on a very personal level. I had to leave that area, and later asked the owner if anyone had reported anything unusual in the 2nd floor East corridor. Her response was shocking, but not unexpected. Women said that they felt assaulted by two male spirits!
This really bothered me as a woman, and as an investigator. Perhaps I was putting pride and anger ahead of common sense, but I was determined to go back and let them know I was aware of what they were doing and they weren’t going to get the better of me. And no, I don’t recommend anyone doing this, seasoned investigator or novice.
My palms were sweating and my heart was pounding a few months later when I approached the door to that corridor, but I was determined. I stepped in and announced I was back and knew what they were doing and they couldn’t scare me anymore. I could feel that they were there, but I stood my ground. While I won that round and was very glad I had done it, I was still relieved to get out of there!
Bernie: What kind of equipment do you need to start ghost hunting? And do ghost hunters need a specific mindset to conduct a successful hunt?
Linda: The biggest mistake new ghost hunters make is buying a lot of expensive equipment and then realizing they can’t get access to haunted sites or they don’t have the patience and time to devote to it. Even worse, I know of people who have spent a lot of money on every gadget imaginable, then found out they were too scared to ghost hunt!
My advice has always been that the best way to conduct a paranormal investigation is to sit still and be quiet. No one ever contacts me to say they’re getting anomalous readings on their instrumentation—they tell me they hear footsteps, see figures, feel cold spots, etc. In other words, a haunting is primarily something experienced with the five senses, and the sixth sense if it’s developed enough.
Of course, as a former scientist, I love data, and you should absolutely try to obtain the basics of photos, audio, and video. The next level is meters and sensors and instruments that can detect things beyond the human senses. Just be aware that there are a lot of expensive devices that are nonsense.
And big groups don’t provide the best investigating conditions—too many extraneous noises and distractions. The quality of the evidence is inversely proportional to the number of ghost hunters!
Bernie: Are these reported specters always human shaped or can they take on other forms?
Linda: The vast majority look like the humans they were, or some part of them, or a whitish or dark shape or mass. I suppose they may be capable of other forms, but if you’re seeing things that look like monsters or aliens, we are probably out of the ghost realm.
Bernie: Some ghost hunters have claimed that sometimes something follows them home from a ghost hunt investigation. This, I believe is called “The Hitchhiker Effect.” Has that ever happened to you and how can a ghost hunter avoid this frightening situation?
Linda: Oh yes, it’s a very real occupational hazard! I have a mental routine I go through when leaving a haunted site, basically clearing techniques. I also always throw all my clothes right in the wash when I get home and take a shower—both as a continuation of the clearing idea, as well as getting the dust and god-knows-what off of you from old basements, attics, cemeteries, etc.
Even with that, I have still had “uninvited guests” follow me home. An amusing example of that was the morning after a particularly intense investigation I had a plumber come to my house to work on something in the basement. I suspected someone had followed me home, and sure enough when I was in the basement talking to the plumber, we heard footsteps above us on the first floor.
He asked who else was home and I tried to downplay it and said no one. The footsteps got louder and more persistent, and he grabbed a big wrench and ran upstairs, convinced there was an intruder. He was kind of freaked out when no one was upstairs and the doors were locked. But what could I say?
I did some major clearing of the house after he left, and got rid of it that afternoon. Fortunately it was just a curious spirit and not harmful. Needless to say, never invite anything to come home, or open yourself to an entity.
Bernie: Have you ever encountered a ghost animal in your investigations? Say a dog, cat or other animal? How do animals react to ghosts?
Linda: There are some wonderful animal ghost cases, most often former pets appearing to the people who loved them in life, or returning to the home they knew. I have mostly dealt with cases of dogs and cats, but there are also stories of ghostly horses and pigs!
As for animals sensing ghosts, they have amazing abilities to see the spirit world. Fear is a typical reaction, but there are cases when the dog or cat is attracted to a ghost, most likely because it is a former owner, or is just a very loving spirit. I’ve always thought that a trained dog like a German Shepherd would be a fabulous addition to any ghost hunting team.
Bernie: What do you feel is the most important advice you can give to a ghost hunter just starting out, based on all your experience?
Linda: First, be honest with yourself. No one wants to spend 8 hours at a haunted site and find nothing, but it happens, and if you try to force the evidence or let your imagination run away with you, then ghost hunting isn’t for you.
Second, it’s not a game. Ghosts are the troubled spirits of human beings and you can encounter a lot of sad and disturbing thoughts and emotions during an investigation. And if you are able to research the history of a site, keep in mind though, you may also find out a lot of upsetting details of the former occupants. Yes, ghost hunting can be an exciting adventure, and it has obviously kept my attention over 25 years, but just make sure you know what you’re getting into.
Bernie: Thank you, Linda, for your valuable time now and generous words of wisdom to all the novice ghost hunters out there. Meanwhile, how can people get in touch with you if they have a haunting they may want you to investigate?
Linda: Sure Bernie, my email is the best way to contact me: email@example.com.
Bernie: Thank you again Linda, and good luck on your next ghost hunt.
Linda: Thank you, Bernie.
The Hunchback Phantom of Pomona, N.Y.
Bernie: How did you catch this figure in the photos? It looks positively ghoulish!
L. A young couple was renting a house and were trying to break their lease. The house was somewhat of a recent structure, yet the couple claimed at night a black figure would appear in their bedroom. It would hunch over them in bed and stare down at them. They also experienced poltergeist activity such as smashed household items and heavy, ghostly footsteps. While I was taking pictures in the living room, that night, something seemingly passed by the window, blocking out the outside light as it did so. Since there was no way anything outside could have caused this, I grabbed my infrared camera and began shooting and I caught this unexplained shape. I sent this photo to three different photographic analysis experts and they couldn’t explain it away.
Ghostly Fingers on the Trail Cam
Bernie: Please tell me about your investigation into the Patchett House and how you captured these photos.
Linda: The Patchett House is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also believed to be the third most haunted location in the Hudson Valley. It’s now the Walkill River School for Art. But in the basement, it still has the embalming room from when it was used as a funeral parlor back in the seventies. During my team’s investigation of the Patchett, we were on the second floor when we all heard this tremendous crash. We thought someone had broken in and was trashing the place. After a quick search of the building we found nothing, the place was locked up tight. But we had an infrared Trail Cam in the basement, in the embalming room. Something had tripped the camera. When we examined the time and date stamps, we realized that these pictures were taken when we heard the huge crash. It appears that something held onto the camera and shook it. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t duplicate them.
Did Lundy Road Have a Portal to the Unknown?
Bernie: This next set of photos is exceptionally weird. What’s going on here?
Linda: Lundy road has a dark history of murders, natural disasters and just plain spookiness.
My husband and I were out exploring the many very old and deserted homesteads that dot the area. We came across this stone house and decided to investigate it. As we circled it I took photos from various angles. In the first one, taken with my still camera, you can see the doorway is blocked up with a full solid piece of wood. As we circled the house, I began to use my video camera.
When we came back around to the front door and I looked through the camera’s view finder, the door and transom had partially disappeared! I had no explanation for it. I began to approach the door and I couldn’t see too much inside because it was dark out, so the inside was very dark as well. As I got closer, I felt like I was being drawn or lured into the building by an attraction or invitation of sorts.
Luckily, my spidey-sense kicked in and I froze in my tracks before I got too close. Slowly, I backed away. And my husband and I just kept going, jumping in the car and quickly leaving.
Bernie: Do you have an opinion as to what was going on there?
Linda: I have no idea what that was all about!
Bernie: Do you think there could be an intelligence behind this seemingly paranormal manipulation of physical matter?
Linda: Absolutely! But as a follow-up to this mystery, we revisited the property a few months later and we found that all the doors and windows had been bricked up. Thus preventing anyone from getting in, or for that matter, anyone or anything from getting out. Unfortunately, all my original photos and videos of this house were lost in a recent fire caused by a lighting strike.
Visit Linda on YouTube to listen to first hand accounts of her many paranormal investigations. (Watching these in a dark room in the dead of night is best.)