As a paranormal investigator, Chad Lewis has, over the years, tracked the elusive chupacabra, toured the infamous Loch Ness, hunted vampires in Transylvania, and visited the standard haunted house. He organizes the Unexplained Conferences and is the host of The Unexplained TV and radio shows. He found a moment in this busy Halloween season to talk to City Pages.
CP: Do you use your Master's Degree in applied psychology (from the University of Wisconsin-Stout)?
CL: Yeah, I think I use it quite a bit, and probably more than a lot of my colleagues that were in the same program, because the paranormal really is dealing with people. A lot of the cases that we get, whether it's UFO, whether it's Bigfoot, whether it's haunted locations, what you get are eyewitness reports from people. So dealing with people, knowing how to interview people, looking for people who might be trying to pull a hoax or might not be telling the absolute truth, or just learning how to ask a question without it being a leading question. So I think I use psychology in every case. Even though I didn't plan to set out doing this, I think psychology is one of the best backgrounds you can have for this type of work.
CP: Are you funded by private people or mostly from grants?
CL: Neither, actually. Both my research partner [Terry Fisk] and I do not charge for any type of investigation that we do. People who do charge, I would be very skeptical of those people because when somebody says that their home may be haunted and they want us to come investigate, what service are we really doing for them? We might try to find out what's happening, see if there's a logical or normal explanation. But in the end, what service are we really providing? I just wouldn't feel right about charging for something like that. All of our research is funded by our books and our speaking engagements. Up to about a year ago, both my research partner and I were working in "real" careers, if you will. You know, real jobs, not this. But it got to be so much that we just couldn't do both things any more and we had to go full-time doing this.
CP: Honestly, Chad, do you really believe in ghosts?
CL: Well, that's a very interesting question, and probably the question that I get asked most often. And I'm going to give you an answer; I'm not going to sidestep that question. I do. Here's the kicker—I believe that people are seeing these things, whether they're the spirits of their deceased relatives, whether it's some type of hallucination, whether it's the memory of the earth that's being replayed over, much like if you were watching a video, it's just something that's happened in the past. I think something's happening but I don't know what that is. But I've talked to too many intelligent, down-to-earth people that have had something happen to them, that I'm firmly convinced that something's happening. But after 14 years of doing this, I don't know what that is. And that's part of what keeps me moving and keeps me interested in this field is that I still don't know what happens when we die. I don't know if we're alone in the universe and I certainly don't know if we've captured every animal here on the planet. So I think like most of your readers, I'm still curious. But I certainly do believe these things are happening and I'm looking to try to find out, well, what exactly are these things?
CP: When you die, what location are you going to haunt?
CL: A lot of wonderful places. I'd probably haunt near Loch Ness in Scotland, just the banks of the Loch because it's just such a beautiful area. But here in the United States, I'd probably haunt a small northern Wisconsin town where a little resort called Little Bohemia is located because that's the place where John Dillinger is said to haunt with a few of the gangsters. It has a huge history of people in northern Wisconsin gathering there. So I think I would probably haunt someplace like that. You're out in the country, it's a beautiful wooded northern Wisconsin town, and you couldn't ask for much more.
CP: What's the best place in the Twin Cities to go for a ghost sighting?
CL: I would recommend—and I'm biased on this because of the whole Dillinger connection again—but I would recommend the Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul, and not only because it's deemed to be haunted by several men who were shot to death in there, former gangsters that hung out, so you have all these hauntings and a very good possibility that something would happen to you there, but you also have a very unique history. This place started out as a mushroom factory, turned into a glass plant, then it was a speakeasy, a nightclub, and it still continues to live on over all these years. It was a hangout for St. Paul's gangster element, so you have not only the opportunity for a haunting, but you certainly have an opportunity for a very exciting history lesson as well. So I would recommend people travel to the Street Caves there, and they actually give tours, which is very unique.
Lewis's book, The Minnesota Road Guide to Haunted Locations, is a must-read for those looking to freak themselves out this Halloween or any time of the year.
Sun., Oct. 21, 2 p.m., 2007