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Haunted Collector Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

Haunted Collector

This is an interview with Lead Investigator John Zaffis on May 29, 2012 about the show Haunted Collector.

Question:
I want to talk about the new season. It looks like you're going to be doing some traveling this year?

John Zaffis:
I'm very excited about it. We went to a lot of locations. We did places that have never been done before, interesting, intriguing, with the activity. Again, going in and trying to figure out if there's anything logical happening. Is it paranormal? And sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. But I'm very excited about the season in general.

Question:
Can you talk about the case about the two steamboats that crashed in 1868 and is actually affecting a house in Kentucky where you went to?

John Zaffis:
Yes. Interesting perspective on the case. Her parents had owned the property. They were restoring it into a beautiful bed and breakfast, and the daughter and the grandson had gone to stay in the property so that it was occupied. And they were having a lot of activity going on. They brought a lot of antiques in, a lot of different personal items and things. And during the course of the investigation, there were many items that were actually conflicting with us trying to determine what was actually happening.

But as you go through your investigation and you're actually eliminating things and ruling out the possibility of certain things, sometimes you never know what the end result will be. But in this particular case, the end result to me turned out to be a very significant thing that is a good possibility, that our conclusion does tie in, and the paranormal activity did actually calm down in the home.

Question:
How do you select new members for a team like this?

John Zaffis:
What we try to look for is people that are very interested in the paranormal field. They're interested in learning, in understanding the process of it, because it's very important to go in and look for logical explanations; look for things that you can actually rule out. And working with Jason and Jesslyn was a very good opportunity, to tie in with working with me, working with my son and daughter, working with Brian, to get a better understanding of what that process will be on trying to help these families or help these locations determine what's actually causing, the activity.

So I was very excited to be able to work with them and share information and look at their perspectives, and bring a lot of things to the table. So again, one of the key factors that's so important is, is this person interested in the paranormal. Why are they interested in the paranormal? And are they willing to comprehend and understand what we need to do to actually look for things that could possibly be paranormal.

Question:
How did you get into this area?

John Zaffis:
When I was 16 years old, I had an experience. It was the middle of the week, a Wednesday evening, and at the foot of the bed we had like a 6-foot figure that actually appeared. It was transparent and it was shaking its head back and forth. Well at 16, again I wasn't really into it or anything. And I had gone downstairs and was explaining it to my mom, what I experienced, and my mom really wasn't one to talk about the paranormal. She was petrified of it, a lot like my daughter.

But anyhow, I started thinking about it at that point and started digging into things and started researching things. We didn't have the Internet, so the only thing I was able to do was actually get books and start meeting people. But I was very fortunate. I look back upon it today that I had that opportunity to work with my aunt and uncle, Ed and Lorraine Warren. And the education that I actually achieved working with them, you could never get out of a book or anything else.

I was exposed to a lot of different things, and that's what really got me into it. Then I started digging in even deeper. And the more I got into it, realizing that people have had paranormal experiences for thousands and thousands of years, and seeing and reading all of that really intrigued me even more. And to this day I'm still intrigued by a lot of the things that we don't quite understand. And we're trying to prove so many things out. We're looking at it from a scientific perspective. And I hope before I turn into a ghost that we're able to prove everything from a scientific method.

Question:
When you come across a haunted item, do you find there's anything particular in any of these items?

John Zaffis:
Yes. Usually what we do when we go in, naturally we choose the cases that have items associated with them. So and if it's in a particular room, what we normally will find is a lot of times we will get high readings, EMF, off of particular items in a room. So a lot of times we'll focus in on that to see if this could be causing the disturbance. And in this season you will definitely see us doing a lot of experiments to try and prove or disprove if it's a particular item that could be triggering the activity within a room.

And the other thing, a lot of times with items you will get EVPs, electronic voice phenomena. What that is sometimes we'll pick up different information. We can get names. We can get different things associated with a particular item. And that's where it gets intriguing, because a lot of times I take a step back and I try to connect these things to see is it this item. Or is it something else that might be trying to trigger us? So it's an in-depth process, but the majority of the time what I look for is to see if we can get any evidence that is surrounding a particular item in a home that could be causing the disturbance.

Question:
You take these items out of the homes and store them in a museum of the paranormal. Are we going to see more of the museum?

John Zaffis:
The museum is a barn on my property. And yes, all the items are stored in there. Now with me, it takes a lot to even get me to pay attention to activity. A lot of times people will come in. They'll do EVPs and do different things around the items, and they will pick up different energy and get some fantastic results from it. I'm hoping we'll see a little bit more of the paranormal museum. I think that's very important because people continuously do ask that question. "Well, John, we only see you put the item in. We never actually get to see anything that is surrounding it."

We did a few commercials with items that are actually on, the TV episodes. And people have been very intrigued by that. They're very interested in, all the other items that I have and the different things that I've collected over the past, 38 years of actually being involved with this and collecting them. So I'm hoping we'll see a little bit more in some of the footage that will be in the episodes.

Question:
Have you added anything new for this season?

John Zaffis:
A couple of them will be extraordinaire. Looking at the perspective of bringing new equipment in and on board, yes, we have several different items that are fantastic with checking things, putting the items on a pad to see if we're going to get any type of disturbance around it. We have a little helicopter that's actually going to be in one of our episodes, and our surveillance system. So again with a lot of the equipment, I'm very thankful for Brian and Chris, because they really know the ins and outs with all of the equipment, setting it up and doing the different things.

Some of the results that are achieved by the equipment, I think it's so important to have that associated with the investigations. Because when you least expect it, that's when you get your evidence. You can be in one room and then in another room. So having this surveillance system set up and using the amount of cameras, to me is such a beneficial tool in our field and with our investigations. So I'm very excited about a lot of it. And some of the results and some of the things that came forward in some of our episodes is actually phenomenal.

Question:
Is it more of a challenge this season to kind of find the right cases for the show as opposed to it was last year?

John Zaffis:
It's always very difficult because you'll get a lot of submittals that will come in for investigations. And again we try to get a good comprehension. did this person bring something new in their house? Did they bring any antiques? Those are most important. Why? Because, here again that's what our show is focused on, is the paranormal end of it, of having a haunted item in their home. So yes, there's a lot being involved with it in researching these cases and trying to find these things out.

And I had a fantastic, fantastic production group this season where everybody was jumping in. We're all asking each other questions and trying to get a better understanding of it. I'm looking for the certain items that could be affiliated with an investigation that we will be filming. And to be quite honest with you, I was very excited about the cases that were chosen this season around. Unfortunately some of them that I wish we could have done, we just didn't have the time. And we only did 12 episodes and some of them we just couldn't actually get to.

But the ones we did that we did choose and we did work and we did film, I am extremely excited. As you could tell, I keep throwing that out because most of the places we went to were places that were just very intriguing. Having Aimee dig into the history and the items, the history associated with that, are things that, really came to the forefront in this season.

Question:
Have you ever been more afraid or more anxious before trying a new challenge or at a new location that you've never really been to? Or do you feel that you're so used to it, you're just ready to just grab it and go?

John Zaffis:
Well no, because we deal with the paranormal. So I'm very anxious and I'm always guarded. And it's not so much for myself, because I look at it from this perspective. I understand the paranormal a little bit. when we leave this physical body, do I know exactly where we're going to go? No. But I'm very cautious with all of the kids. They're going into it. They're trying to research. They're trying to be involved with things. And you've got to be very guarded and very careful, because a lot of times spirit and these different types of energies can trick you.

So I proceed with caution no matter what I do or how I do it. And you will see me in this season get very excited in several episodes when I'm very concerned and very guarded for all of the team members, because that's a big responsibility as far as I'm concerned, with getting them involved with it and learning this field. But I do understand, on the other hand, they do have to jump in and they have to learn just like I did. But as being a parent and all of them being my friends, I'm very guarded and very cautious.

But like I said, in this season you will see John reacting. You will see how I inter-react with all of my team members and different things that are very personal and very emotional at different times. Again looking at it from that whole angle on what's happening and having my team members, you've got to remember here again not only am I doing a TV show, I have one of my daughters and I have my son there. So that's a double whammy for me when we're out there investigating.

Question:
Is there a particular region in the United States that you feel is more prone to paranormal activity?

John Zaffis:
Not really, because when you start looking at the history and you start digging into our different states, again a lot of people always felt that it was just the New England area. But as you learn to study the history of all the different states and the different locations, there were so many things that I learned as everybody was researching and digging into it. Down South things date back a lot longer than we even realized some of the locations, the dates on the properties.

When you stop and you look at that, and to me that process of sharing that information is so important, that I can honestly say to you today, can I say geographically is there one particular place out there that is focused on paranormal activity? No. It's throughout the whole United States. It's throughout the entire world. We're fortunate today, in the US. We're more open now. And that has a lot to do with all of the TV shows out there sharing the different locations and sharing the information.

Where if you go into the other countries out there, Italy, Greece and a lot of these places, Egypt, you stop and think about it, for thousands of years they have viewed paranormal activity and they accept paranormal activity, more. And they have a more better understanding of it, of respecting it, than what we used to have here. We used to have a very high fear factor. But I think today people have a better understanding of it. And I think that has a lot to do with the TV shows that are out there today.

Question:
Do you feel that a lot of the paranormal activity is maybe centered from maybe objects that come from asylums? Or objects that are children's, like dolls? Or maybe something that might come from a ship?

John Zaffis:
Actually it could be all of the above. If something came from a ship and there was a tragedy, can some of these items hold onto energy? Absolutely. I feel probably the most things that I have in the museum are toys and a huge collection of dolls. I mean over this past weekend I just worked on a case where a woman had purchased a lot of different dolls, and she had them in her home and she had a lot of activity. And she was so petrified by those dolls, and a lot of times they're beautiful dolls. It doesn't necessarily always mean all the dolls are haunted. But she was so petrified of it, she wanted all ten of those dolls removed.

I mean again with the factor, a lot of people don't like having paranormal activity in their home. And if we can do something by removing an item, I mean whether it's a little tiny trinket or whatever it could possibly be, it's important to be able to help those people regain that confidence of being able to live in their homes and be comfortable there again.

So it goes right across the board. It's not really restricted to, any types of items. I've seen things from, gosh, a button that came from a grave site up to, a couple of pieces of furniture. So it's not really restricted to any type of an item. It depends if it was involved with, a tragedy or something, or something even on a beautiful end where energy could attach to it, but yet it's causing a paranormal disturbance in different locations.

Question:
Do you find that sometimes if a family member doesn't listen to the paranormal activity, it makes enough energy and enough sound to bring in other family members? Because sometimes maybe it's only directed at one person, and if the one person doesn't hear the message, do you think that's how other people get involved in a family?

John Zaffis:
Oh, absolutely. Very common in investigating. And I've seen this throughout all the years of, being involved, is that it will usually pick one person to focus in on. And if it's really not getting that person's attention or getting that message across, then it will start to affect other members within the family. That's why I always tell people if you're experiencing something, whether it's bangings or knockings or you're seeing something, always share it with the other people living in the home or talk to other people about it, because that's most important.

Because a lot of times people think they're going crazy. They're going, "Nobody else is saying anything in the house, but yet I'm experiencing this." And when we're involved with it at that point in time, it could reach a point where those people are scared. They don't want to stay in their house. They don't know what to do. They're fearing for their children. They're fearing for a lot of different things that are occurring, especially pets also. Because, here again, most of us look at our pets just as our children also. So it really escalates out of control. So I think it's very important to talk about these things up front and as quick as you can, so that way you could actually get some resolution even quicker.

Question:
As you accumulate these items, do you ever worry that your museum is a potentially dangerous place?

John Zaffis:
Not really. And the reason I say it that way is because there's a lot of bindings and different rituals and different prayers that are continuously done over the items. Here again when we're filming in the museum and things are moved, they will be put back in the places that they were removed from. And there's a lot of things that I do over these items, from a spiritual perspective, to bind that energy to them.

So I'm very guarded and very cautious with this. But again, the building, the barn itself, was designed in a very unique way. As I was building it, there were a lot of things that were done from the foundation all the way up to the second level in it, to actually seal the building, protect the building. I have a lot of spiritual friends, Native American, shamans, priests, ministers, that when they are here visiting, I will always ask them to, do from their belief system to be able to protect things and bind different things. And there are items that are in the museum that I do feel that we were able to break some of the energy that was associated with them.

So again it's a continuous thing, to protect the items. But the most important thing is, to me, is that if I can bring peace to a family, I can calm down the paranormal activity that's occurring in their home, I'm used to dealing with these types of things. So bringing them here to the paranormal museum and confining some of that energy, I hope, will bring peace to somebody out there, especially an investigation we worked on. And that family can move forward without having to worry about that.

Question:
You're working very hard to gather evidence scientifically. How do you respond to skeptics who just say you haven't proven anything yet?

John Zaffis:
I agree. I can't disagree with that. We're gathering a tremendous amount of information out there with EVPs and our video systems and hot and cold spots. We're gaining all this information. We're storing it. All of us are working out there doing it. But could we actually get repeatability? No. That's what we're striving for as far as a scientific method per se. Today I know a lot of engineers and scientists and different people that are intrigued with our field. And again, looking at that, speaking with them, how they're developing some of this equipment, I'm hoping somewhere down the road we're going to be able to get repeatability.

But there's one thing I do understand, that we are working from a spiritual realm and it's very hard to get spirit to actually repeat something that they did. If we're able to achieve that somewhere down the road, that's going to be monumental in the paranormal field. So when somebody tells me that, that's okay and I can understand that. But we're striving for it. We're working diligently at it from many different angles today. And hopefully before I'm a ghost, I'm hoping we can actually get repeatability and look at this from a scientific approach, and be able to incorporate so many angles of our field, the spiritual end of it and the scientific end of it.

Question:
What kind of evidence seems most promising?

John Zaffis:
I would actually say that today when we're looking at it, is we can get some repeatability from being able to pick up and register energy around an item with the EMF detectors and, using your thermal imager. And when these things do occur and they do happen, and some of the other pieces of equipment that, you have an item on it like the REM-pod and a lot of these things being able to record actual energy around something, to me that's significant. And that's one of the steps in moving forward that is going to be very beneficial in our field.

Question:
After you've had a blessing or binding done on these items, has any of the clients ever wanted the items returned?

John Zaffis:
Absolutely. And again that's something that I always understand. If an item is removed and we've done what we needed to do to it, the activity calms down in the person's home and everything and they would like the item back, I have no issues or qualms with that whatsoever. But the problem is a lot of times when we do send the items back and they start to intermingle with the individuals again, the person touches it if it's a knick-knack or a little statue or something, their energy associating with the energy of the item can actually trigger it again.

So we've got to be very cautious, and I do explain that to people. And 9 out of 10 times I'll get a telephone call and they'll say, "John, it's on its way back to you. The activity started up again." So, but there are those situations where things had calmed down. We were able to actually get it broken. Because people do say this to me. They go, "Well why don't you just do your bindings and your things that you do over it, and leave it in the home." I've done this many a times, here again the success rate, sometimes it does work.

But a lot of times if a person is moving something or they touch something, their energy will actually break what we had done around the item. And it can be done very innocently, so it's like a double-edged sword when dealing with a lot of this. I always keep my fingers crossed and hope that if the item is returned or left in the location, that the activity, will calm down and that things won't start back up again.

It's very tricky and, it's a difficult thing to understand when we're dealing with it. And I can understand it, from many perspectives. And again with people, you try to do what you can to remedy the situation so that they can move on. And being an investigator, that's one of my key elements, is to be able to help them. Sometimes it's not always cut and dried. But again, I always tell people like it is, and I always will tell them what they need to do. And hopefully that's what's going to work and, bring closure with the haunting happening with them.

Question:
What's the most items you've ever had to remove from a home? Has it only been one? Or have you found like a complete set of something?

John Zaffis:
Dolls. Dolls are the biggest culprit. And I don't understand it, but it just seems to me that energy will actually attach to these items. But I did stop and think about one of the theories of it. It's one of the most innocent things that are out there. Dolls are, they're pretty and, people collect them. They display them and everything. And it's the perfect vessel for energy to attach to and hide behind, because it's such an innocent item. To be perfectly honest with you, I don't even know how many dolls are in the museum. One of these days I have to count them all.

Question:
Do you find yourself being presented with items? Do people give you dolls that they think are haunted?

John Zaffis:
Yes. Again when traveling around and when I'm out there lecturing on campuses and universities or paranormal conventions, a lot of times I end up coming back home with items. And, again, people are nervous and they're scared. And sometimes they just don't like to take the chance. And when they purchase an item and they can relate to it, that, "Gee, John, that's when it started and I really don't want an investigation. I really don't want any paranormal activity here. Please just take it and just put it in your museum or bury it or throw it in a body of water," which you do, whatever, these items.

And another significant part of it is also, too, people get very nervous when you make a recommendation to them to either bury the item or throw it into a body of water, because they're already scared and they're petrified of the item. And they'll go, "You know what, John? I'd rather you took care of the situation and you handled it, and you decide what needs to be done with the item, because I just want that item out of my life."

Question:
Do you have any theories as to why an energy would attach itself to an inanimate object? And I was also wondering have you ever taken an object out and had to go back and maybe pick up a different object?

John Zaffis:
Yes. I'll answer the first one for you. A lot of times you have to remember it's energy that we deal with. And energy can attach to absolutely anything, glass, metal, stone, wood. And it will hold onto this energy. And a lot of times when these items get involved with individuals, you have to remember we're made of energy. So our energy, we're like batteries. And I call it activating it. An item can be dormant for many years and it can be, come into the hands of somebody, and it can activate the haunting that's associated with that.

So there again, we have to remember it can attach to absolutely anything of significance, clothing, furniture, jewelry, a little tiny knick-knack. Absolutely anything can hold onto things. And it's most important to go in and look at that to see which item. And, boy, when we go into locations like museums or antique stores, that's like looking for a needle in a haystack. So what we try to do is look in that particular area in those buildings where there's the most activity occurring.

And what we'll do is, do our EMFs in that area; our EVPs; our surveillance, and try to see if there's anything occurring with one particular item. But there are a lot of times there could be several different items that can have energy attached to them and can be causing a disturbance. Now have I also gone into some of these types of locations, a museum or an antique store, where we did not actually get anything concrete as far as evidence around an item? Yes. So it tells me sometimes we need to look at the building. We need to look at the property. We need to look at several other things that could be causing the paranormal activity, and it might not be an item at all.

Question:
It seems like a lot of the items tend to be antiques. Have you ever had a more modern item that was maybe causing the haunting?

John Zaffis:
Oh, absolutely. We have some of the dolls in the museum that they may be a year or two years old, where they associated with something, that something could have gotten attached to. Absolutely. Newer items, little statues or things like that - depending on the circumstances. Did somebody pass away, and they had a particular collection of something, and they had a statue in there that might have been a favorite item, and that energy just automatically attached to it? Yes.

So here again there are items that are newer statues or pieces of clothing and things of that nature; books. A lot of times you can have energy associated with books and different things like that. Things that could have been used in occult activity, that can have energy associated with it. And it can be a newer item. Again, a lot of things that are used in different ways can have energy attached to it. And it doesn't always necessarily have to be an old item.

Question:
What has been the hardest part of doing this work?

John Zaffis:
It's really several areas when I'm looking at it, what my main concern is always trying to help a person to understand why they have paranormal activity; trying to be very guarded with training people and helping people to understand the paranormal, because it is a bizarre field. So when dealing with this, when you're dealing with parents, and their children are being affected by something, that's a very difficult thing being a parent and trying to understand what they need to do to understand, when that activity's occurring, what they need to do, how they need to do it.

Because here again we're dealing with a world, we can't touch these things. We can't just open the front door and throw them out. So talking to people and getting them to understand why some of these things are occurring and why they're happening is a very difficult part of the field. A lot of times I could sit with people and talk to them for hours to try to, help them to understand what I've learned; what I understand about a lot of the things that they're going through, and the torment that's happening to them.

And people dealing with children, dealing with their pets, it's a very hard thing. And it takes its emotional toll on people, and it also affects all of us researchers in the field when we're out there trying to help people to get them to understand this whole mysterious world that we investigate.

Question:
Do you have any particular role models that have inspired you in this field? Who are your heroes?

John Zaffis:
My number one heroes would be Ed Warren, Lorraine Warren, Hans Holzer are probably the ones that were most prominent as I was learning and growing up in the field, Dr. Rohl. I mean many of these people looked at things from different perspectives and shared their information in bringing it to the forefront in our field.

And a key thing that's so significant is that people that have investigated over the course of many years, their knowledge base and the things that they can, sit down and share with you are things that you could never get out of a book. So I always tell people, gravitate towards us old people, because I'm one of them now,, have a lot of knowledge. And if there's something that I understand or something that I can share as far as information for the next generation to understand, that's the way I look at it.

But again, I think if I'm looking at things from a perspective, there's several people out there that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. They were the pioneers in our field, and they carried those scars of going through those times where people would continuously ridicule them and, try to debunk everything that we're trying to understand and share with people out there. It's a difficult field, but I have several mentors out there that I have a tremendous amount of respect for and always will.

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