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Haunted Collector Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Haunted Collector

This is an interview with Lead Investigator John Zaffis and Executive Producer Rick Sasson on May 25, 2011 about the show Haunted Collector.

Question:
John, when you go into the homes where the people have been having problems, how do you determine which item it is that the problems are surrounding?

John Zaffis:
What we do is an extensive search with the equipment, and a lot of times there's multiple different items. And one of the key things is, in the initial investigation in speaking to the client, we're trying to determine did they bring in a new antique; did they bring something in from their travels, vacationing or something.

And then usually at that point in time I can usually narrow it down. If the activity had started somewhere within that timeframing of bringing that new item in or new collectible; something they might have picked up at a garage sale, it's a unique process. And the best way I normally will describe it, it's like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, trying to determine exactly what the source is and what item it may be.

Question:
Once you've determined what the item is, you then take it and put it into your museum. Is that a museum where people can come and actually view the items or is it just to keep them safe?

John Zaffis:
It's basically to keep them safe. I've had the museum for several years now but it's a private museum and it's based on my property where my home is. So it is not something that is open to the public.

Question:
Did anything happen during the episodes that you shot so far that surprised you?

John Zaffis:
Oh absolutely. Here again, doing this work for 37 years, I always go in prepared for anything that might happen.

Question:
Can you talk about the precautions you take to ensure the powers of the items are contained while on display in the museum?

John Zaffis:
There are many different types of things that I do. I'm a Paranormal Investigator and we have to be very analytical. We're dealing with a spiritual realm so there are different precautions that I do take. I use sea salt, holy water, and there are a lot of different rituals and different prayers, depending on what that item might be associated with. So there are many precautions that I actually do over the items to either hopefully break that energy or contain it to that individual item.

Question:
Is there ever a worry that you have all of these things in one place with a lot of buildup of energy there?

John Zaffis:
Yes, there is a continuous process. I work with a tremendous amount of spiritual people, and when they come over to visit I make them work. So I have them doing a lot of different bindings and different things throughout the museum. And as the building was being built, there were a lot of spiritual precautions that I had taken with bearing crystals and the foundation and putting them in the walls and different types of spiritual things. So there are a lot of different things over the course of just putting up the barn to put the items in it. So there are a lot of precautions that I do take.

Question:
In the press release it mentions the low-tech methods that you use like talcum powder. Can you talk about how talcum powder is used and other lower low-tech methods that you use?

John Zaffis:
After 37 years of being involved with the paranormal field, I'm a very fortunate young man. I call myself a paranormal brat because I had an opportunity to grow up and work with Ed Warren, and he was my mentor. And, back then we didn't have any of the equipment. All we had was cameras and tape recorders and we would abide by a lot of the old methods. Putting baby powder down, one of the things is just to see if any energy or anything is going to move across it and make any markings whatsoever. But I believe very strongly today in taking the old world and the new world and actually combining it together. So trying a lot of the old methods that we used to do just to see if there was going to be any type of changes or anything whatsoever, just letting a tape recorder run.

I still have my original camcorder. Every once in a while I still use that and just set that up to monitor in a room. So there's many old methods that I apply that are very critical. Because then if you can document something with what we refer to today as our scientific community in the paranormal realm, getting an EVP, electronic voice phenomena, or getting something on video, that really substantiates things to me. We're bringing the old world and the new world together to actually try and get some evidence and to actually prove and substantiate some of these claims that people are telling us.

Question:
Can you talk about the origin of this project and how it came to Syfy?

John Zaffis:
It was something that I've always been interested in because for 37 years I've been collecting these different items. And several years ago decided to open up the barn to put all these things in it. And over the course of the past couple of years I've been very interested in doing a show to be able to talk about some of these things. Some of the experiences that people go through with a haunted item. And what's intriguing about it more than anything is it's an actual physical thing that a person can look at; they can see. And to talk about some of the craziest bizarre that are associated with the items is very intriguing and it always has been to me.

So several months ago I decided to get together with Gurney Productions, do a pitch, and long and behold due to the popularity today of auctions and all these different items and everything out there, Syfy was extremely interested in picking up the project. And it was something that happened extremely quick and fast and furious. And I think the six episodes that will be out there will definitely have a person sitting back and looking at some of these things on how they occur and why they occur.

Rick Sasson:
I think the two things that sort of make it unique from some of the other paranormal shows out there right now are number one, the objectives and just investigating their origin and the possibility that they might contain some energy is something that's not out there. And also John has a great way about him with the clients. And I think what this show does is really sort of help them get through their emotional turmoil because if the family feels haunted; whether it's paranormal or not, they're going through something. And John is really great with his team at getting to the bottom of it and sort of helping them through their ordeal. So you see a sort of mini-arc with every episode and you kind of experience the journey of the family as they get through their haunting or alleged haunting.

Question:
For someone who likes to go to garage sales and antique sales and bring interesting things into the house, is there any way to have a feel that something might have something attached it before you buy it or bring it in?

John Zaffis:
Well what I've noticed over the course of the years is that yes, people love garage sales, tax sales, estate sales; these are extremely popular more so today than ever before. But the running joke with me is, especially with women, if they're picking up something; they're looking at it and it feels creepy and you don't like it but you like the item, please don't buy it, leave it there. So, the women definitely like I said, they can usually tell. They'll sense something about it and that's something that I talk about when I'm lecturing.

If something's not right; if something doesn't feel right about an item you're finding out there, it's really not worth taking the chance. I would just leave it. I wouldn't purchase it, and you just hope that there won't be any issues. And a lot of times once a person does pick up an item and they do bring it in, there can be all different types of things out there that energy can be attached to. Once something like that does enter your life, you have to remember we deal with energy. Energy could never be destroyed and it could take on very many characteristics.

And we're like batteries and spirit drains from us. So therefore, sometimes with these items the energy that's attached to it, once it intermingles with us it can actually get things to start up, and you can have a haunting that will occur. Because I don't feel that everything out there is haunted or has curses of anything on it but there are those items that do intermingle in our lives and can actually wreak havoc.

Question:
In the press release it talks about some items that whatever is associated with them is so powerful that you have to bring them back and actually bury them. Could talk specifically about some of those objects and maybe just give me an example of why some things are so much worse or more powerful than others?

John Zaffis:
A lot of items that are used in spiritual means whether on a positive or a negative, a key factor with them is that these energies are drawn upon and they're actually attached to a lot of these different types of items. We could be talking about daggers, swords, relics, religious items, ceremonial items. When they're used in that process, those energies are extremely strong towards those items. So therefore the intent of the item was a deliberate and the energies were forced to attach to those items.

Because a lot of times those are very difficult and the reason they're difficult is we don't always necessarily know the process that an individual could have used to send that energy towards an item, especially on a negative level because there's many different ways; different things that are performed over ceremonial objects.

So there are those occasions where I've removed daggers, I've removed certain things from authors that were on a negative level that the energy about these things were just so heavy that sometimes it's just really not worth it. And it's not really worth bringing home because then again we have to do twice as much work over that. We're trying to seal it and trying to break it, so in certain circumstances there are those times I will bury an item.

Question:
Has there ever been an objects or situation where you just really got scared?

John Zaffis:
Oh, absolutely. Here again, with being involved with the paranormal field, you can have a tremendous knowledge base. You could be prepared, you can understand a lot of things, but you always must keep your guard up. And when you get involved with things that are really on a negative perspective and you walk into a circumstance, you get called in and people are practicing things really on a negative level, you have to keep your guard up and you've got to be very cautious. I mean there have been situations where I've walked into rooms where there is different types of altars set up and there's really some bizarre items that you can find.

I'm very cautious and very guarded with those types of circumstance because you have to prepare yourself for absolutely anything that could transpire when dealing with these haunted items. So even to this day, 37 years later, dealing with this I'm still very guarded and very cautious. But, today I have a knowledge base when speaking to an individual and getting an understanding what they might be involved with or what might have been practiced. So I have a good grip on things usually before I go into a home or a business to try and investigate and find out exactly what's happening and try and help those people out.

Question:
You're not just a paranormal investigator. I was reading up that you studied Demonology and all. How is kind of that different and how does that add to your investigative skills?

John Zaffis:
That helps me when I'm investigating again with ritual items or religious items; with some of the ceremonies and different things that I've been exposed to over the course of the years. And many different belief systems will use different types of objects. So, that knowledge base has helped me sometimes to be able to determine what might be a major source that the energies were sent to. So looking at it from the demonology end of it/paranormal investigator, it's been a very good asset to me with being able to determine things and decide what I'm going to do once we realize what we're dealing with. Are we dealing with a lighter energy human spirit or ghost or are we dealing with something that's more on that negative level.

Question:
What do you want skeptics to know about the paranormal, what would you tell them?

John Zaffis:
When it comes into the skeptic society we have many, many years of proof. We have all kinds of EVPs, photographs, tapes; you name it. To the non-believer, we're never going to have enough evidence. To the believer, we have an overabundance.

Question:
In the museum right now, what would you say is like the most commonplace thing you have or the thing that is the newest?

John Zaffis:
Unfortunately I can't say that. You're going to have to watch the show. No, actually a 1940s outfit; a woman's dress with a jacket. A young lady had picked it up, she liked dressing in the older attire. And she started wearing it and she had it in the house and she started having a tremendous amount of activity in her home. So she was explaining it to me and we were going back and forth and this is maybe about a month and a half ago. And she described the dress and the little jacket that she was wearing over it. She felt like she had energy around her like a tingling which is very common, because again we're dealing with energy that it's attached to some of these items.

So at that point in time I had recommended to her to remove it and she did and everything stopped. She brought it back into the house again and the situations started back up again and she felt like somebody was watching her. So she got back on the telephone with me; we were talking going back and forth. And she said, ???Mr. Zaffis, I don't care what you say, I'm packing it up and I'm shipping it up to you.???

Question:John Zaffis:
The very first thing, many years back, was just like a little statue that this woman had picked up. And she had it in her home; it was a little ceramic thing and she would find it moved in different spots and different locations. And she was very tormented by this is the best way I can describe it. A very stable person and it was part of like a collectible thing that she had. And we went in to do our investigation and we were talking, going back and forth. And in speaking to her and everything and looking at the fear on her face of this little ceramic status was something I think that really intrigued me.

I don't think it's more than like two or three inches high. And she wouldn't touch it; she wouldn't go near the cabinet where it was; wanted absolutely nothing done with it. That's what actually got me going Aaron on some of this. It was like can an object actually hold on to spirit because that's how we would refer to it. Today I refer to as energy because we have a little bit better understanding of these things.

How can this happen? Why would it happen? And that's when I really started delving into these different things and trying to get a comprehension on how it could hold on to the energies of a deceased person. That's what intrigued me and that's what really got me going with this because most people don't even realize it over the course of years, how many cases and how many different investigations many within the paranormal community have investigated where it might have been a piece of jewelry of a piece of furniture or some of the most least obvious things that people bring into their homes and can wreak havoc.

Question:
Going from an object that's just a couple of inches high to having a barn full of these things I mean, where were you storing these before you had the museum? At what point did you decide you needed to put all of them in a separate structure?

John Zaffis:
That's my wife; she made that decision. For many years I just stored them. I had them in boxes; I had a small barn on the property. I just kept piling things and piling things. And about seven years ago, I think it was 2004, I said let me pull some of them out and let me just set up, because originally it was in the basement of the house. I had a couple of rooms down there and I had a lot of the different items.

And I just had them and I would just talk about the stories and some of the things that relate to these items. Because some of the stories are so bizarre and crazy as you know Aaron, you can't make these things up. So it's intriguing and then I was really thinking about it and I said I have to make a decision. And my wife said to me at one point in time; she says I don't care what you do with them, she said, ???Just get them out of the basement of the house. I don't want them in the house anymore.???

And that's when I was tossing the idea around, what the heck could I actually do. And I said, ???Let me just throw a barn up in the backyard and actually put the things in there because it is separate from the house.??? And I can actually take a lot of the items that had bindings and that were buried in salt and what have you and actually put them up and be able to talk about some of the stories and not be that concerned that some of these things were in the house. I had them set up but a lot of the more heavy-duty items; the idol and things like that, I never actually wanted some of those things in that area. So that's how it all actually came about.

Question:
And the show has similarities to something like Antiques Roadshow or Hollywood Treasures or Pawnbrokers, the fact that it's your team pursuing these items. Do you watch any of those other shows? Have you ever seen any of those other ones?

John Zaffis:
I watch them all. I'm intrigued. I'm very intrigued by items. I think people are very fascinated about trying to look at different things that people have and trying to just look at the grand picture of so many of those items that are out there that people have. They've never spoken about them, where have they come from how old can the item be.

Those are different types of things that just actually intrigue me. And it's very fascinating at some of the things that people collect. And, some of the collections of things I've seen in people's homes are really bizarre. I mean I thought I've collected some really bizarre things over the course of the years from homes but watching some of these shows and seeing some of the items I mean, it's very intriguing.

And here again I think one of the key aspects with items, you could see an actual physical piece of furniture or jewelry. It's not where we're just looking at it and saying okay, that's a ghost picture or somebody caught something in a piece of video. You're seeing an actual solid item, and I think that's what intrigues many people out there with the fascination of so many different TV shows out there about antiques and collectibles, and a lot of those different things. And the popularity today I think is very strong and people just wanting to be able to see solid objects.

Question:
You were very close with Ed Warren, a very famous investigator in his own right and in a lot of ways the person who started this current movement. What would he say to you when you told him that Ed, I've got my own TV show? What would he say to you and what advice would he give to you?

John Zaffis:
I'm hoping he would be very proud of me. He always would say to me at different points in time, you have what it takes kid, it's in your blood. I always reflect upon all that knowledge; everything that he had shared with me. I think some of my most personal items in the museum are the things that he had given me from investigations I did with working with him.

But I'm kind of hoping today, him and as most people don't realize, my mom and Ed Warren were twins. And both of them unfortunately today are no longer here with us, but I'm kind of hoping and taking a step back that they're looking down upon the whole situation at some of the family members and I'm hoping he's proud. Take that step back and say, because he always called me kid , and say, ???Kid you did remember some of the things I did teach you over the course of the years.???

It is something I'm reflecting very strongly upon. And Aaron as you know, you and I know each other very personally and Ed was my mentor. He was my friend. He was someone that most people didn't really know Ed. I knew Ed Warren, my uncle. And the many times he would just stop by my home and him and I would just sit and talk and it would just be him and I. And the knowledge base that man had could never, ever be replaced.

Question:
You mentioned earlier about items used in spiritual rituals or ceremonies. What about weapons that were used to take a life. Like would they usually contain negative energy in your experience?

John Zaffis:
Over the course of the years I've worked with many in the military. Actually I was involved several years back with a training program about some of these different things with all branches of the military. Again, an item can hold on to the energy. And you stop and you think about some of these things even going back to the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, so many of them; can the energy be held on to by some of these items whether it's a gun or a bullet or any item that has seen tragedy or was involved where a murder took place. Any of these things energy can definitely be attached to these different types of items. I've worked on many of cases with military items.

Question:
So what about samurai swords; same kind of thing?

John Zaffis:
Absolutely. Anything that could have been used in any type of rituals, depending on the circumstances or you've got to remember, with these things we really are never going to know 100% was it responsible for murdering somebody. We know the stories. We know the things that people tell us, that's why I'm always intrigued by when a person picks up one of these swords or they pick up some of these different items, could it actually been involved with a murder or a suicide or a lot of these different things.

That's why it's important to actually experiment with these items to see if we can get anything around them. Get an EVP or pick up any type of high electrical readings; anything around these different items that might give me an indication that there is energy attached to this item. But sometimes that could be the million dollar question; was it actually involved with a murder? Sometimes we can actually trace things and tie things into a location; a timeframing. And when you start putting the pieces of the puzzle together, especially with a lot of military things, sometimes you can actually relate it and tie it in to where it might have been involved with a battle if you will.

Question:
We know buildings and objects can be haunted, but have you ever encountered something transferring its energy to a family pet or something organic?

John Zaffis:
We have to remember, we're all made of energy, even our pets. And I stand very firmly and I go against my religious convictions on this; I believe that animals have a spirit and they have what we refer to as a soul if you will. And I believe that if they pass away their spirits can actually linger. And again can energy attached to a pet just as much as it can a building or an individual; it can also happen with animals; absolutely.

Question:
Is it generally energy or some kind of energy echo that you think is attached to things or is there ever a time where there's an intelligent entity that's somehow still hanging around an object and associated with it?

John Zaffis:
Actually it could be all. That's where it's important to go in to start to do your investigations. A lot of times with the echo, we would call that residual. Where energy could stay in a place, it could stay dormant just like it can with an item. And a certain person can buy that item and it could basically what I refer to as activate the energy that's associated with it. So I look at this from all the perspectives of it because sometimes you just don't know. That's why it's important to actually do what I call our testing around the items. And I work with several different people that psychometrize items, and here that's old world.

What psychometry actually means is holding an item. And a person that is sensitive or if they could pick up on anything, sometimes they could pick up on information on these items and sometimes we can actually correlate that to relate to the item. And it's information sometimes that could help us. So that's why I'm a very strong believe in bringing the old world methods and the new world methods together to be able to resolve some of these things; that's what's intriguing about it.

Question:
One of the things that you have mentioned a couple of times here is going into a place and finding these strange altars set up and stuff like that. Is it kind of a common occurrence that you find a situation where somebody has been trying to draw some energy in or use it and it kind of gets out of hand. Or is it more often the case that people bring things in and just don't know that there's something I guess, attached to it?

John Zaffis:
Actually it is both. Someone could pick up an item very innocently and bring it home from just about any type of origin if you will, garage sales, tax sales; anything. And, they might not be aware that there is something attached to that item. And once they bring it in it can start to wreak havoc.

And on the other end of it, after 37 years of being involved with this, I get involved with a lot of the cases that are on a negative level where people are trying to learn to do different things and practice different things and things do get out of control. And people don't realize a lot of times, when an individual starts to set up altars with items on it and start practicing and reciting things, they're actually welcoming spirit in, whether it's on a positive or a negative. So really to be honest with you, I deal with both consistently.

Question:
Some of the new neo-pagan religions have beliefs that a dagger that a witch used needs to be buried so the energy draws off of it before it's blessed. Is that kind of where that's coming from or do you believe that just burying it kind of suck the energy out of it and then it's okay or is it something that has to be buried forever because the energy can't be removed?

John Zaffis:
Those are circumstances where the reason that I follow through with that with sometimes burying these items, putting it in the earth and actually burying it in the dirt and sealing it, there's several different methods of things that I would do in circumstances like that. But I believe that actually helps to contain the energy and seal it into the ground.

Question:
Could you expand a little bit about the testing of objects. Besides having a sensitive person hold it, is there actually a scientific test? Are we talking electromagnetic meters and things like that?

John Zaffis:
Oh, absolutely. We use EMF detectors and what that is actually can check the electrical energy around something. We will actually check a complete room and then sometimes when you check around some of the items you will get high readings. We also do EVPs, electronic voice phenomena. What that is putting a tape recorder near it and seeing if we can actually get anything whatsoever in regards to a spirit voice or sounds or something that we're going to actually get off of that.

Another thing we also do too is when we're investigating sometimes, we'll set the cameras up and just let it run on that item to see if we're going to actually pick anything up around it whatsoever. So there's several different methods and different things that we do from a scientific perspective to actually try and see if there's anything with it or there's nothing with it at all.

Question:
What was it originally growing up that made you think, this is what I'm going to do?

John Zaffis:
Well to be honest with you, I didn't. If you told me 15 years ago that I would be doing what I'm doing today, I would have totally, 100% disagreed with you. It was something that I'd had a fascination with because I had an experience when I was 16-years-old. At the foot of my bed I had seen my grandfather and he was transparent and shook his head back and forth. And I went downstairs and I was telling my mom about it and she said, ???Well that was my dad.???

And I said, ???Well how in the heck do you know that was your dad???? And she said, ???Well if he was shaking his head back and forth, he was a very stern person and didn't really say too much.??? That's what actually led me down the path. Even though there were paranormal people within the family, I never had an experience so therefore I never really looked at it. But that's what made me actually start getting involved with these things. And you have to remember back then we didn't have computers or anything and how we lived I don't know. So I would get books and just start reading anything I could get my hands on and took it a step a farther and started getting involved with the haunted items.

The curiosity I think is what really intrigued me. The more I would read the more different people I would meet and spiritual people, that's what really made me realize that there's this whole world that's so mysterious and so complex, I wanted to see that there is going to be an end. Is there ever going to become a day when any of us can take a step back and say, we can prove this out 100% scientifically. I hope I'm still around to be able to hear that information and actually told to me. Because I'd rather hear it while I was alive instead of being a ghost.

Question:
Have you seen the episodes back? Is there anything that maybe they couldn't include in the show for time or whatever reason that you wish they had left in?

John Zaffis:
Unfortunately at this point in time, I wish we had the opportunity to see some of the episodes, but we're still filming it as we speak; I have to film this afternoon for an instigation. So I really haven't had the opportunity to actually view any of the episodes.

Question:
When people call you with their objects, have you ever gone out and found that somebody completely made up something just to make you prove it or waste your time? Does that happen often?

John Zaffis:
Not too much today. I've learned how to actually screen people and listen to what an individual is telling me and get a good grip around it. And another key aspect is what I've done to add into the investigations. It's important to speak to the other people in the home or speak to other people that might be associated with it.

So there's usually several telephone calls with an individual before I would even set up an investigation to actually go out there. I mean there have been situations where we found logical explanations why something could be occurring. Have I worked on cases where somebody thought, gee this is the most haunted item I've ever had. It's got all this crazy stuff with it, and there was absolutely nothing to it at all. So that does happen.

The key factor with this is something I abide by and always will. A person might not have something paranormal going on, but these people are scared. They're not understanding what's happening. So even if I do go to a home and we don't find anything paranormal whatsoever, it still helps an individual - it gets them to understand okay, yeah, your pipes are banging or that there's a short in the wires. Or, you've got squirrels running around up in the attic. It's still helping an individual and they can move forward and actually it makes my job easier if they just have to call the plumber or the exterminator.

Question:
Could you talk about briefly about the background of your team?

John Zaffis:
We have four members. Brian Cano, he's my tech guy and he debunks absolutely everything or he tries to. He uses all the equipment and he works with my son Christopher. Chris has recently, over the past four or five years, actually shown a little bit of interest in the field, and he's been mentoring under me and he's been working with Brian and going back and forth with the equipment. And when strange bizarre things happen he tries to line the different things to try to get an understanding of it, so those two basically team up.

I usually work a lot with Beth Ezzo. She's a paranormal Investigator. She does all the scientific stuff and she's not what I call a psychic or a medium whatsoever, but she can actually tell you a lot of times if there's something in the room and it feels creepy to her and anything. And I've worked with her for so many years that when she does say something to me like that, I pay attention to it. And a lot of times we'll go in that room and do a little bit more testing.

And my daughter Aimee, she works with us. Over the years - and she never pays attention to this. A lot of times I'd bring the things home and she'd say, ???Daddy, what is that.??? And I would show her and everything and she would go look these things up. And she'd come back and go, ???Dad, you know what I found out, I found this, and this and that, and that.???

And so without her even realizing it, when it came into doing some of the research in different things she's always been a big asset. Today she works with us and she does a lot of historical checks and she does a lot of the different research and she's very good at it. So my team is very varied is the best way I can put it to you, with them actually trying to get a better comprehension and understanding of some of the different things that I've talked about and some of the things I've worked on over the course of the years.

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