Sunday, October 7, 2012

Interview with a Ghost Hunter - Part 1

Joe Mahlstede is paranormal investigator with North Bay RIP. His role with the team is as an investigator, still photographer, digital voice recorder and location scout. Joe and I went to high school together and got reconnected through Facebook. When I found out Joe was a ghost hunter I was immediately fascinated and wanted to learn more.

Joe agreed to an e-mail interview so I could learn more about his project and the experience of ghost hunting.  It seemed like this would be fun to share with others as well, so I am posting it to my blog.

This is a two-part interview. The first installment focuses on how Joe got interested in the topic and some of his personal experiences with ghost hunting. The second installment focuses on his related web series project, Amateur Ghost Hunters RIP.

Sophia: What got you interested in ghost hunting? From your Facebook bio, it says your interest started with the death of your father when you were quite young. What made that connection for you?

Joe: The experience of losing my father at the age of five was exactly what got me thinking about life after death.  I think being so young and naive and basically unprejudiced by the "adult" world around me, I just refused to believe that he was really gone.

What was your earliest experience of a ghost/spirit/energy?

My earliest experience was shortly after my father had passed.  I had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room and I remember getting up to walk down the hallway to my bedroom.  As I started down the hall, there was my father standing next to my bedroom door just as I had remembered him in life.  He looked very peaceful, as if nothing was wrong but he was just there to check on me.  I remember feeling very comforted.  And just as quickly as he appeared, he was gone.

Are ghosts everywhere and some people are just more in tune?

I fully believe we are surrounded by spirits at all times.  Spirits are made up of energy and we all know that energy never dies.  It has to remain somewhere.  Some people are definitely more in tune than others.  Unfortunately I am not one of those people.  Other than the experience of seeing my father after his passing, I have never "seen" anything like that again.  I think that is part of the reason why this field interests me so much.  It's to have that experience again and hopefully capture it somehow to validate what I feel like I've known all along, spirits do exist.

What do you think is the biggest misperception about ghost hunting?

The biggest misperception by far is the fact that it's scary.  Quite the contrary, it's actually quite boring!  An investigation consists of many, many hours of sitting in an abandoned building, 99% of the time without heat or electricity. Typically we have six to ten video cameras rolling as well as that many digital recorders.  Multiply all the hours spent in a location by the number of devices we have recording, and that's how many hours of evidence review we have after an investigation.  Often, any paranormal experiences we may have in a location are caught on our devices and not known to us until we start reviewing the recordings.

When people find out you have this side project about ghost hunting, what are some of the questions that you get?

The two biggest questions are "Is it scary?" and "Can I go with you?"  I think the most popular after that is "Have you ever seen a ghost?"

What do you say to the skeptics? I saw your quote in the Napa Valley Register about skepticism being healthy, anything else you would add?

I think skepticism is very healthy.  We had a member of our group that thought EVERYTHING was paranormal.  That person is no longer with us.  I think we have a responsibility to disprove any "evidence" that we get before we come out of the box screaming "GHOST!"  But most importantly, unless you've had a personal experience yourself I think it's easy for people to be skeptical, and rightly so.

What is your dream ghost hunting spot? If you could go anywhere in the world to ghost hunt, where would it be and why?

GREAT question!  And I'm not sure I even have an answer for that one.  So many places, so little time!  It would definitely have to be somewhere that nobody has previously investigated.  Some great places would be The Valley of the Kings in Egypt, Hearst Castle, The Tower of London and the Coliseum in Rome.


Thanks for checking out the first part of my interview with Joe Mahlstede.  Installment two of the interview will be posted later this week. If you would like to keep up to date on Joe’s paranormal investigations, you find him in the following places:

If you are in the Napa/Sonoma area, you can meet Joe and the Amateur Ghost Hunters team at Buena Vista’s Haunted Cellar Party on October 20, 2012. This event includes a tour of the winery’s renovated champagne cellar, DJ and dancing, plus food and drinks.

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