Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Author Bites - Adam Selzer on Spooks

Adam Selzer sees dead people. Sort of. Okay, maybe not. For the most part. I was introduced to the spooktacular side of Adam's work through Your Neighborhood Gives Me the Creeps but some of you might know him for his zombies in I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It. Sound a little familiar? Being one of the founders of Weird Chicago Tours, it's not a surprise he pens books on the creepy. Here I give him some room to talk about what he knows best - ghosts. Or not. I guess. Thanks for coming by, Adam!

"If Ya Wanna Be a Shadow Person, Ya Gotta Steal a Hat"
by Adam Selzer

When people ask me straight up if I believe in ghosts, I sort of hem and haw. Frankly, the answer is “nah, not really.” For a ghost hunter to go around saying this just isn’t good business; I guarantee you that if I were on one of those ghost hunting TV shows, they’d edit out anything I said that seemed vaguely skeptical. Ghost fans tend hate skeptics’ guts on general principle.

But having spent an awful lot of time tromping around in buildings and spaces that are supposed to be haunted, I’ve sort of come to think that if ghosts are real, sentient beings who can communicate with us and interact with us, they sure as hell don’t want anybody to know about it.

And yet I’ve met plenty of people – usually with a glassy look in their eyes – who claim to have ghosts all figured out. These people go on ghost hunt not to look for ghosts, but to prove their point. These are the people who are always saying that you’re supposed to tell ghosts to “go into the light” (as if some ghost had been floating around thinking ‘well, this is weird. I’m floating through walls and everyone who sees me screams and I keep reliving my own gruesome death. And you’re saying I’m supposed to go INTO the brilliant light radiating with God’s love? I thought I was supposed to steer clear of that.”).

Plenty of people who have come on one of my ghost tours or written me letters not only expect me to act like this, they also seem like they plan to BELIEVE whatever I tell them. If I were a little bit meaner, I could have a lot of fun with this. “Yes,” I could say to people who show me their “orb” pictures, “that sounds like you have a ghost in your house. And an evil one, too. The only thing you can do is drink a big bucket of dog pee, then dance around in your underwear reciting lines from King Lear. I can’t do it for you, you’ll have to do itself, or it won’t work. I’ll just be over hear on the folding chair.” I honestly thing I could pull this off.

But all that said, there HAVE been times when I’ve seen and heard stuff I can’t explain. Usually even in these cases, I can convince myself that it’s probably a hoax or a mistake. There’s only one thing I’ve seen often that I no longer even try to explain.

These are the shadowy forms that my team calls “soft shapes.” Shadowy black figures that are seen zipping through an old theatre we investigate (towards the spaces where the exits were back when the OLD theatre on the same spot burned down during a show in the early 20th century).

On TV, they’d probably call these things “Shadow People,” but I really hate that term. It’s cartoonish, and implies that these things have some sort of malevolent personality. That’s the impression most of the ghost hunting TV shows tend to give about it – and people certainly buy it. When I look at the tracking information on my blog, I can see that a lot of people go searching for things like “are shadow people ghosts evil?” and “What do shadow people ghosts want?” As though these things all belonged to the same club or something!

Even more interesting to me was something I just heard last week. While I was being interviewed by George Noory on Coast to Coast, he mentioned that he’d been hearing a lot about Shadow People wearing some kind of special hat. Hats! Like they not only belong to the same club, but get a standard issue uniform (probably from the same ghostly bureaucracy that issues ghostly women their flowing white robes and ghostly children their ball to chase – boy, do I hear about those a lot!). Maybe stealing a hat is part of the initiation if you want to be a shadow person - like stealing someone's sneakers to join a gang.

But I’ve seen the shadows.

We’ve run our tests, trying to figure out if they could be shadows OF something, and the tests aren’t showing us anything.

The best supernatural explanation is that these are “residual” ghosts (a term coined by one of my partners, Troy Taylor). Not thinking beings, but more like a video recording that gets replayed over and over when conditions are right (or, for all we know, when some cosmic Youtube surfer hits “play.”). Little jolts of unkown energy left behind by the theatre goers who got up and rushed from their seats after a backdraft caught on the flames onstage and turned them into a “balloon of fire” that shot into the auditorium, little realizing that they would have been safer staying in their seats (more were killed by being crushded trying to get out of the locked doors than by the fire). These “ghosts” aren’t re-living those last moments, they’re just sort of the echo, no more aware that they exist than the sound waves that echo through the auditorium at night.

They’re not “people.” They don’t even seem to be shadows of anything, and, though they seem vaguely humanesque, they move to quickly for us to tell exactly whether they’re human-shaped or not. That’s part of why we prefer to call them “Soft shapes.”

But if I ever want to get on television, I’d better start calling them “shadow people.”


Shooting Stars Mag said...

Nice post. I really want to read Adam's books...especially the history and zombie ones (two recent). I do believe in ghosts, but I'm not some obsessive person about it. lol


I don't know if you entered the Holey Donuts giveaway or not, but if you could check out this post and do so for my blog, it would mean a TON for my family and you can enter for the book afterwards too if you wish!:


Mary Ann DeBorde said...

Interesting review, I would be interested to read the book, albeit with a large grain of salt lol

While I do believe in ghosts, or the continuation of energetic consciousness, I have become terribly jaded to the entire 'ghost hunting' scenario with all the melodrama, shrieking, silly superstitions and so forth. Seems awfully juvenile to me, instead of serious, objective and rational research. Argh. hahaha

Donna said...

LOL! The book is written with a large grain of salt!

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