Steve Gonsalves is the lead investigator of The Atlantic Paranormal Society and is co-star and producer of the SyFy series “Ghost Hunters”.
P: How did you get involved in the paranormal? Were you trained?
S: When I was maybe 9 or 10 years old, I read a book on hauntings by a gentleman named Lloyd Auerbach, and ever since then, I’ve kept reading all about it—not ghost stories, but paranormal investigation and the science behind it.
On training, there used to be an accredited parapsychology course that you could take, but the last one closed in the eighties. It was at the JFK University in California. Now it’s recommended that if someone is really interested in following this field of study, that they get a degree in abnormal psychology and perhaps biology, with an understudy in some sort of energy science. Which I have none of. I just did a tremendous amount of reading. I then took an educational approach and went to the Rhine Research Center at Duke University where I did an energy study with Dr. William G. Roll. But there is no apprenticeship or anything like that. It’s mostly field study, going out and doing it—that’s really the best way to learn in this particular field.
P: In your fieldwork, have you found that there is a particular type of building that is more prone to haunting?
S: We have found that buildings with running water beneath their foundations or limestone in their structure tend to have a higher degree of activity. But it’s more connected to the land and the energies associated with the land than the actual structure itself. Overall, it seems to be trauma, turmoil, and those sorts of things that work as catalysts.
P: So, is it more about events that have occurred at a place, or are their energies embedded in certain locations?
S: The events-based route seems to be a little more accurate according to most of the research. But it is also attachment-based. There may not be an event, but maybe some guy spent thirty years hand-building his house, or maybe he built a mansion for his wife and died before she could enjoy it. People could be emotionally attached to something and stick around for whatever reason. The mechanics are still unclear, but we do see that that happens sometimes.
P: Does that mean that you have found ghosts of architects that are inhabiting their designs?
S: I don’t know of any specific examples of professional architects… but it would make sense. If someone had spent a tremendous amount of time really focusing on this building and its design, and they had a real passion for it, then they could stick around and want to interact with that. We find that a lot. If you put something together, you are the architect. We had a case where a woman spent five years taking different fabrics from loved ones and making this quilt for family members, but she passed away before she could finish it and it seems like she is still attached to that. In essence, she would be the architect of the quilt, right?
P: Yeah, totally. Do you find ghosts in places that they inhabited a lot, or are there any general types of spaces—like corners, attics, or basements—that ghosts tend to congregate in?
S: It depends on the type of haunting. If it’s a residual haunting where the spirit is doing its own thing and not aware of time and space—more like a playback—it seems to be more location-based: always on the stairs and then disappears into the wall, or always seen in the bedroom. But if it has an intelligence—an intelligent type of haunting where the spirit interacts with its surroundings and seems to be aware of time and space—it will free-float throughout the structure and not be confined to a certain area. For instance, in the Winchester Mystery House in California, they seem to think that one of the spirits there is mostly confined to the bedroom, but she has some intelligence, so maybe that’s where she spent her final days.
P: Do you ever encounter entities that are not the spirits of the deceased but are something else entirely?
S: Yes. There seem to be some that are just energy. We can’t say that it’s a person. You see something move or a door slam, but does that mean that there is a spirit that was once a human and is closing a door, or is it just energy? Then there is what we call inhuman, which if you are religious you may call a demon—something that doesn’t seem to have ever walked on earth in living human form, something that seems to be here to get rid of humans. Then there is the whole realm of poltergeists, which are based on the self-manifestation of energy that just happen and nobody knows why. In those cases we will suggest that the individual receives some psychological counseling, and some of the time they find that when they work through their issues the phenomena stop. So that is more of an energy phenomena, not the case of something that was once on earth living as a human.
P: On the theme of slamming doors, are there other parts of a house that spirits typically interact with?
S: We have found that spirits will interact with just about anything. I saw a clock fall over in slow motion, which was crazy to me. I never thought that I would see anything like that. I’ve seen spontaneous fires, where all of the sudden a fire just erupts on a table. I’ve seen holy water start to bubble. Paranormal activity is not confined to just the opening and slamming of doors, but maybe something like opening a door or a window is a little easier and more forthright for a spirit.
P: Why do you think that spirits are confined to structures like this and not free-roaming throughout the landscape?
S: To be completely honest, that is something that nobody in this field has an answer to. This is a field that has not one fact.
P: Architecture is just like that.
S: Then we have something in common! There is speculation though. The spirit may have a different understanding of time and space than we do—fifty or sixty years to us may only be a few seconds for it, the mechanics of why a spirit would decide to remain in a place, whether they are bound by some sort of ethereal tether that we don’t know about, that’s one of the answers that we are trying to find.
P: You have encountered all of these spirits. Have this experiences helped you to answer the question of what happens after we die?
S: Our research seems to indicate that there is some sort of afterlife. We find what we believe to be spirits—we use spirit as an umbrella term that has been traditionally a religious term, but we use it to generally refer to what you may call ghosts. We have found that there appears to be something after this life, and that your consciousness travels with you in some respect. Personally, I am Roman Catholic and I believe that there is an afterlife, and the work that I have done has helped to solidify that belief.
P: And a question we’ve been asking everyone: what’s your favorite horror movie?
S: Ghostbusters—which is my favorite movie of all time and should be everybody’s favorite movie of all time.
October 26, 2017