Secrets from the Real GhostbustersScott Flagg, Jack Roth and Melody Bussey are real-life ghostbusters, not the kind with super-charged packs from the popular 1980s movie, but the kind that investigate paranormal activity. These Florida-based ghost hunters help homebuyers decide whether they should purchase a property that may be haunted. HGTV sat down with them to get their advice on when it's okay to live with ghosts and when it's time to move.
Scott has investigated over 100 cases of alleged ghosts, hauntings and poltergeists around the world. He researches the psychology of superstitions and paranormal beliefs and experiences. He is a doctoral student in psychology.
HGTV: What advice would you give to people who believe their house is haunted?
Scott: I think one thing to keep in mind is that in the many years that I’ve been doing this, vigilance and really paying attention to phenomena, trying to set up equipment like this almost ensures that it will go away. I can’t tell you the number of investigations we’ve gone on and there have been absolutely nothing that we found, despite the homeowners or wherever the location is, them having repeated events, day in and day out. So, my advice would be to set up a camera, try to become an expert yourself.
HGTV: If someone is experiencing paranormal activity in their home, would you suggest they live with it, get rid of it or move?
Scott: It depends on someone’s personal beliefs. To me, this stuff is very interesting and fascinating, and I’d love nothing more than to live in a house that was supposed to be haunted all the time, just so I could study it. But for some people, it’s unnerving, it interferes with their family, with their lives, and it’s detrimental to them. It’s detrimental to their worldview. It may have them questioning things that are beyond the scope that anyone can really answer. And so I think it’s a personal choice. I think people need to be self aware. It can also be a great opportunity for people to learn more about themselves, what their beliefs are and how they interact with the world. But you have to be aware of that option and be willing to go down that road, you know, if you’re willing.
Jack has logged hundreds of hours investigating the paranormal over the last 10 years. He currently serves as a field researcher for noted parapsychologist Andrew Nichols and the American Institute of Parapsychology. One of his first investigative forays occurred in New Orleans, where he produced and wrote a pilot episode for the TV show “Hauntings: A Journey Into the Unknown.” He was managing editor of Ghost! Magazine, an international publication for ghost-hunting enthusiasts. Jack is a member of the American Battlefield Ghost Hunters Society (ABGHS).
HGTV: What is the scariest thing you’ve seen in your work?
Jack: Probably the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me during an investigation was when we were investigating a Masonic lodge here in Florida, and we had gone up to the top floor -- and there were about four of us up there. And suddenly, on the floor below us, we heard what sounded like an animal growling. And it was the most guttural, scary sound I think I’ve ever heard in my life. And we had been told, before we went into the Masonic temple, that this place was extremely, not only extremely haunted, but very scary in what was going on there. So when we heard that growl, I got to be honest, I really wanted to stop the investigation then and there because I was afraid to be in that building.
HGTV: What is the most common problem homeowners face with hauntings?
Jack: People often feel like there is a presence around them, especially in particular rooms. They’ll also feel, a lot of times, faucets will turn on and off, showers will turn on and off for no reason. Items will go missing and turn up somewhere else three days later. And, of course, the family blames each other, and it becomes a little stressful.
I think that’s one of the reasons why people want to know what’s going on, because it does cause stress in the family unit. And the stress itself is negative energy, and that negative energy can feed off of the energies that are already there and create a situation that might be even worse. But most of the time, it tends to be fairly benign, and it’s just a question of either feeling that somebody’s watching you or hearing sounds-- footsteps. Footsteps are very common, on staircases, upper floors. They just hear footsteps or they hear shuffling when they know there’s nobody there.
HGTV: What are some tips for people who think that their house is haunted?
Jack: If you think your house is haunted, the best tip I can give you is not to panic. Don't let fear overtake you. I think the best thing you could to do is call someone, either a parapsychologist or a reputable paranormal investigative team to come in, do an investigation of the house, do historic research on the house, and try to find out what really might be going on there. Because I think once you know, and once you obtain the knowledge of what might be happening, you’re going to feel a lot better. And I think, in almost every case, you can coexist in your home with whatever energies or entities are there. We live in a very strange world with a lot of mystery, so it behooves us to, instead of being fearful, to maybe try to know more about what might be going on around us.
I actually would recommend living with the ghost, as long as they’re benevolent, as long as they’re not harmful, they’re not scaring children. They either have something to do with the property in the past -- they either owned the property or something happened there with them. And many times you can help them to make their transition to where they really need to be. And that isn’t the case of a genuine haunting, but even in the case of residual haunting, understand that the history of the house is part of the house. It’s part of the charm of the house, part of what happened in this home.
HGTV: When do you think it’s time to move out?
Jack: I think it's time to move out of a home when it begins to scare somebody in the home, especially the children. When there is something that might be more malevolent in the house, that might be angry, that might have a bone to pick with whatever happened in their lifetime. Sometimes you don’t want something that’s that negative to affect either your spouse or your children. And if you can’t come to terms with that, or can’t work that out with the energy, than it might be a good idea to move.
Melody is a highly-trained sensitive who has been using her skills in the paranormal field for a decade. She can “remote view” haunted locations with as little as an address and is able to speak directly with spirits when she is in their presence. She specializes in battlefield locations but has investigated everything from residences, public landmarks and historic buildings both domestically and internationally. She was formerly the editor in chief of Ghost! Magazine and is a member of the American Battlefield Ghost Hunters Society (ABGHS).
HGTV: What is the most common problem homeowners face with a haunted house?
Melody: One of the problems that people face when they live in a haunted house is the not knowing. The unknown. You know, all of a sudden their dog or cat is barking at something in the corner that they can’t see. Cats are playing with something that you can’t see. It’s the unexplained. And the only other explanation that they have is that it’s a ghost, and thanks to Hollywood, they automatically think it’s evil and it’s going to take their soul.
Nine times out of 10 the haunting is very benign. They were nice people in life and they’re nice people in death. And they just want you to know that they’re there. They want someone to acknowledge their presence, but you totally have control over that, and I think that’s the thing most people don’t realize. You can tell them to go -- I don’t know why it is, there must be some kind of universal law they have to go. You have to tell them not to come back, otherwise they will.
People will maybe feel their hair being flipped, or doorknobs will turn on their own. That one’s a little creepy. Televisions will come off and on at different times. Showers will turn off and on on their own-- that one’s really freaky. You’ll smell the odor of cigars, and no one in the house smokes, and it’s very pungent and very obvious. The smell of fresh-cut roses. I mean, these are things that are unexplained, and they’re very typical. Doesn’t mean someone’s there to take your soul. It could simply be a relative coming to visit.
I think people tend to overreact, and I understand because you can’t see what’s going on, but I think if you allow the rational side of yourself to kick in, document, document, document. And then contact a reputable group. You can deal with it, and certainly you can deal with it on your own.
HGTV: What are your tips for people who are living in a house that is haunted?
Melody: One of the key things is to get a spiral notebook and explain to the entire family that you’re going to journal. You might put a small notebook in every room where there’s activity. And every time there is something that occurs, you write it down. This serves two purposes: One is it’s going to provide a track record, and you can maybe start seeing patterns. Is there a certain time of that date that it’s happening? Are you doing something that’s kicking it off? It’s also going to keep you from panicking because it’s very hard to panic when you’re actually writing something down in a notebook.
After about a month of activity, contact a reputable paranormal investigator because then you’ll have something to give them to go on. And they can come in and let you know. And one of the first things a reputable group will do is actually sit down and interview you, to find out for their own sake whether it’s a haunted house or a haunted family. You know, a lot of times it can be both, or one or the other. And that’s where you start with all this. But documentation is key. You have to start there.