IS IT A GHOST
YOUR GHOST STORIES
In 1989, Taylor started working in a bookstore and a few years later, he wrote his first book on ghosts. It was called Haunted Decatur and delved into the ghosts and hauntings of the city where he grew up. He also created a tour that took guests to places that he had written about in the book. The book became an immediate success and its popularity, along with his previous experiences with ghost hunting, established Taylor as an authority on the supernatural. The book and tour led to media and public appearances and numerous requests to investigate ghostly phenomena.
In 1996, Taylor organized a group of ghost enthusiasts into an investigation team and the American Ghost Society was launched, gained over 600 members in the years that followed. The organization continues today as one of America’s largest and most honored research groups.
In 1998, Taylor moved his operations, which now included the American Ghost Society, a history and hauntings bookstore and a publishing company called Whitechapel Press, to Alton, Illinois, near St. Louis. In Alton, Taylor started his second tour company, Alton Hauntings, which also took guests to local haunted places in the small Mississippi River town. He would go on to put the place on the map as “one of the most haunted small towns in America.”
Taylor remained in Alton until 2005, when he returned to Decatur. By then, he had also established two more tour companies, in Springfield, Illinois and another company that arranges overnight stays in haunted places. These tours, including those in Decatur and Alton, were organized under the heading of the Illinois Hauntings Ghost Tours. Taylor also continued the operation of Whitechapel Press, which specializes in ghost-related titles and has more than a dozen authors working under its banner. In 2006, Taylor also launched the Weird Chicago Tours, which are based on his book, Weird Illinois, which was published by Barnes & Noble Press.
Along with writing about the unusual and hosting tours, Taylor is also a public speaker on the subject of ghosts and hauntings and has spoken to literally hundreds of private and public groups on a variety of paranormal subjects. He has appeared in newspaper and magazine articles about ghosts and has also been fortunate enough to be interviewed hundreds of times for radio and television broadcasts about the supernatural. He has also appeared in a number of documentary films, several television series and in one feature film about the paranormal.
He currently resides in Central Illinois with his wife, Haven, in a decidedly non-haunted house.
What is your favorite book that you have written?
That's sort of like asking a parent which child is their favorite but I have
some that I like more than others. I have always had a fondness for the
"Ghost Hunter's Guidebook", which, while not my first book, really got me
started with readers outside of Illinois. I also loved working on "Bloody
Chicago", which is all about the murders and ghosts in Chicago. I have had a
great time with my upcoming book, "Ghosts by Gaslight", about the beginnings
of psychical research and have always had a soft spot for one my my most
unusual books, "Out Past the Campfire Light". No one really gets this one --
but I love it. It's all about hauntings and strange stories from the great
outdoors. There's not another book like it on the market and it was a great
fun to work on.
What experience have you had that you would consider the most conclusive "proof" of something paranormal?
There are a couple really. I saw a ghost at the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in
Kentucky, which was pretty compelling to me. I was also part of an
investigation at the Villisca Ax Murder House in Iowa where a ghost
literally performed on command, opening and closing a door. We spent hours
trying to prove that it was NOT happening. In the end, we couldn't.
How do you feel that your Ghost Hunters Guidebook has become a standard for ghost hunters around the world?
I'm just happy that so many people have found it useful. That was the point
of the book: to be able to help people get started in, or expand their
abilities in, ghost hunting and be entertained while doing it. I state many
times in the book that I want people to read it and then adapt it to work
for them. I never claim to be an "expert" but just wanted to take my years
of investigations --- and horrible mistakes --- and put them out there for
people to hopefully learn from.
What positive and negative effects do you think all of the current media
attention (Ghost Hunters, Most Haunted, Celebrity Paranormal, etc?) has had on the field of paranormal research.
It's great that these shows bring new people to the field, that's always a
good thing. The ones who are serious, work hard and realize that this is not
just fun and games stick around -- the other's don't. Unfortunately, it's
the others, the hobbyists and yahoos who want to run around graveyards and
take pictures of "orbs", who seem to be the real target audience for most of
these shows. Not all of them are bad but c'mon, have you seen "Celebrity
Paranormal Project"? First of all, "celebrity" is reaching here a bit and
the show is just plain stupid. If you are attracted to the paranormal field
because of this show, then please re-think not only your viewing habits but
your real commitment as to what you are doing here!
What advice would you offer someone who is interested in getting into the
field of paranormal research?
Learn as much as you can before you go out and start trying to do
investigations. There are great people out there who are willing to help you
and work with you. If someone turns you down for help, they weren't worth
asking in the first place. Find all of the reliable information you can ---
learn how your camera works, your recording devices,and anything else you
will be using to investigate with. Don't try to use equipment that you don't
know how to use. Learn and then re-learn it first before trying to use
high-tech equipment during an investigation. Man, I could go on and on....
What would you suggest to someone who is seeking help because of a haunting?
First, you'll want to make sure that you feel the house is really haunted.
Keep track of everything that happens and write it down, making note of what
occurs and when. This will be a valuable information source when (and if)
the time comes to have your home investigated. You also check into the
history of the house and see if there is a reason that it might be haunted
--- you might be surprised at what you find. If you decide to bring in ghost
researchers, check them out thoroughly before you allow them into your home.
What are their credentials? Do they have experience? Are they affiliated
with someone and if so, what does the home office say about them? I wrote an
article about this for "This Old House" magazine and a longer version of
"What to Do if Your House is Haunted" is on my website.
We have had people contact us and say that they are "certified Ghost
Hunters" and we don't really look at that as being a benefit, what do you
think about the current "certifications"?
Certified by who? See, that's the thing -- there are NO experts when it
comes to the paranormal, so who has the right to certify anyone? I offer a
research course for people, using the "Ghost Hunter's Guidebook" as a
manual, and they get a certificate of completion if they pass the course, as
well as a one-year membership in the American Ghost Society. However, I am
very clear in stating that the course does not "certify" you in anything.
It's a course designed to help improve your skills, knowledge and research
techniques. I honestly feel that it can help people do better research but
it certainly does not make them as "expert". Anyone who claims that they can
"certify" someone as a ghost hunter is as phony as people who charge for
Why do you think that ghost hunters investigate at night & in the dark?
Good question... I think it's the "spookiness" factor, really, plus it's a
habit that we have all gotten into over the years. Truthfully, if a place is
haunted, it's going to be haunted in the daytime as well as at night. In
fact, I have had some pretty interesting experiences at locations I believe
are haunted in the middle of the afternoon.
What do you feel are the most important tools that a ghost hunter can use?
Number one tool -- yourself! No question about it, we are our own best tool
when it comes to investigations. Not fancy high-tech equipment or video
cameras. It's your own knowledge, intuition and open mind that will suit you
best during an investigation.
If you could do an investigation at any location, where would you like to
If I could travel back in time --- Borley Rectory, without question. I would
have loved to have been one of Harry Price's volunteers during the year-long
investigation of the house.
What's your take on the prevalence of the "psychic medium" in the modern
media? We have all these TV shows now, a glut of books on the subject. What do you make of all that?
In my more than 20 years of experience with ghost research, I have met only
a handful of psychics and mediums that I thought were genuine. They were not
flashy, didn't advertise the fact, just seemed to be tuned into something
that I wasn't. Being a historian though, I have long been fascinated with
the mediums that sprang up in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I think most
of them were frauds as well but there were a few that even the best
scientists and researchers of the day could not dismiss. Not much has
changed. The problem now is that the media (and TV shows) make it seem like
there are real psychics all over the place. Be warned -- there aren't!
How long have you been involved in research/writing?
I officially started ghost hunting and investigating in 1985 and published
my first book in 1994.
How many books have you written and what are the titles?
My 43rd book came out in October.