Dale Kaczmarek is president of the Ghost Research Society, founder of Excursions Into The Unknown, Inc., and author of Windy City Ghosts, Windy City Ghosts II, and Field Guide to Spirit Photography, among others. He is also CEO of Ghost Research Society Press, which has produced fine quality books on the supernatural and the mysterious since 2004.
You were involved in one of the first paranormal research organizations in the Chicago area, formed in the late 1970s. What changes have you noticed in the paranormal field since that time? Have those changes been for the better or for the worst?
Well actually there were no other paranormal teams in existence in 1977 in the Chicagoland area or the Midwest for that matter. We were the first. I have noticed a technological change in the equipment we use today. There was none when I started my group and only many years later did we have to “adapt” certain types of equipment such as Dr. Gauss meters and such for use in ghost research. Today, however with bright minds like Bill Chappell of Digital Dowsing and Andy Coppock, we use equipment specifically designed for paranormal research. Plus I have seen a radical change in mind sets. People never wanted to talk about their personal ghost experiences in the past but do so today because of the influence of growth of paranormal research.
How did you become interested in the study of ghosts and other unusual phenomenon? Do you remember your first case?
I became interested in paranormal research not because I had a personal experience myself but due to my parents and grandparents telling me ghost stories when I was a youngster. I remember that early on my mother relating stories when she and my father were first dating back in the late 30s and early 40s. My father’s favorite thing to do after a date with my mother was to drive around Resurrection Cemetery looking for the hitchhiking ghost Resurrection Mary! My mother was absolutely terrified and did not want to see the ghost but I guess I take after my father. He really wanted to see for himself if there really was a ghost or if it was nothing more than a story or local legend. Of course, neither one of them ever saw the ghost but these were the kind of stories that I heard when I was quite young and they made quite an impact on me. Later, as I grew older, I wanted to research these stories for myself and ascertain if they were true or false and that’s what eventually led me to found the Ghost Research Society.
Besides Resurrection Cemetery, one of the very first cases I can remember drawing me into this field was Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery around 1974. The stories of disappearing houses, blue ghost lights, phantoms, disappearing cars and such was very compelling to me since the area was so close to where I grew up. I found myself researching every aspect of the cemetery such as history, genealogy, and of course, ghosts. I spent a great deal of my time immersed in books at local libraries, historical societies, county bureaus and colleges trying to find out all I could about this cemetery and why it could be so very haunted. Today, it’s by far my biggest folder in my file cabinet of research!
What have been some of the most interesting cases you have investigated over the years?
I have investigated a number of very interesting places in the past 36 years of research including: Waverly Hills Sanitarium, Mansfield Reformatory, Moundsville Prison, Ft. Mifflin, Gettysburg, Fredericksburg and Antietam Battlefields, Brumder Mansion, Lemp Mansion, Prospect Place, Bobby Mackey’s Music World and so many others that I could not even begin to pick a favorite. I also have had the opportunity of investigating some rather unique locations that don’t exist anymore due to urban renewal or some other disaster where the building no longer exists such as Coliseum Ballroom in Benld which burnt down less than a week after our investigation this past July, Fort Sheridan Military Base which closed down many years ago, the General Wayne Inn in Marion, Pennsylvania which closed down, Maryknoll College which was demolished for condos, the Mokena Entertainment Center which was torn down, That Steak Joynt in Chicago which was permanently closed and later reopened as a Mexican restaurant and Widow McCleary’s Restaurant in Thornton which was known for their haunted underground Artesian well!
Some of our best evidence to date came from Mansfield Reformatory where we captured a moving shadow person on video tape, heard prison doors slamming shut, experienced sudden drops in temperature and abnormally high EMF readings and photographed a dark figure on the second tier of a cell block.
What advice do you have for some of the newer paranormal research groups that have sprung up in the past several years? Do you feel that their reliance on gadgetry is misplaced, or have you also taken advantage of some of the newer techniques demonstrated on shows like Ghost Lab?
My best advice to new paranormal teams is to start with the basics like I did. Don’t rush into becoming a paranormal investigator by starting a new group. Join an experienced group and learn from them first. This way you won’t make mistakes and jump to conclusions. I worked as a research assistant to the GRS from 1977 until 1982 until I finally was given the presidency of the group. It was only then that I felt comfortable enough to be able to be on my own, establish a protocol and methodology for investigating and begin to take on members. The biggest mistake I see over and over again is novices and new people buying some paranormal equipment, starting a website, designing some business cards and pronouncing themselves paranormal investigators without any training, knowledge or past experience in the field. This is where most groups fail. Even today, I read books, attend lectures, seminars, conferences, workshops and network with people in the paranormal field all the time. I don’t claim to be an expert and I truly believe that there are no experts in the field, simply people that have more whiskers sort to speak. These are the people the newbies should seek out for advice and training before trying to start a group on their own.
Paranormal equipment is a necessity if you are going to conduct investigations but knowing what equipment is good and which is junk can be a tricky thing especially if you are a novice in the field. Don’t simply buy up everything you see on television programs or on the Internet. Talk to others who have used and worked with the equipment in the past to see what is good and has produced results for them at their investigations. Trying to have a huge arsenal of equipment just for show can be expensive and foolish.
On August 10, 1991 members of the GRS conducted a thorough investigation of Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery. Everyone was paired up in teams of two and given maps of the entire cemetery. The maps were covered with transparencies and the teams were told to slowly walk through the designated routes and to mark with grease pencils wherever their equipment fluctuated, they felt or had a personal experience, etc. Teams were told not to bunch up and to stop when the team in front of them stopped to make sure there wasn’t any contamination of evidence and to prevent the rest of the group to hear what a particular team might have just experienced. We continued this until all team members had made the entire circle through the cemetery and then I removed the transparencies and overlaid them for comparison purposes. It became immediate that there were at least three areas where most had some kind of experience including a small checkerboard tombstone with no name. That area had the most check marks. I then split up the groups to those areas in question for additional experiments with cameras, tape recorders and equipment to see what could be gathered. Jude and Mari Huff were among the GRS members in attendance and their 35mm camera was loaded with black and white, high-speed infrared film which was pushed to 400 ASA.
There was no other people in the cemetery at the time of these experiments except the GRS team. I was observing the experiments and was very near to Huff’s area by the checkerboard tombstone when she took a series of pictures of the tombstone. I can attest that at the time, there was no real person sitting on the tombstone and surely nobody dressed in a long white gown in our group at the time. Of course after the film was returned from the processor, it clearly showed a semi-transparent figure of a woman sitting on the tombstone in profile with long brown hair. Parts of her body, namely her head and knees are transparent. You can see through the to the trees and foliage! Of course throughout the years I’ve taken a lot of criticism and flack for this photograph because it simply “looks too good to be true.” However I was there at the time and would not have ever jeopardized my name or my reputation over any one picture. I do still to this day believe it’s one of the best examples of authentic spirit photography that we have in our collection.
How can our readers get in touch with you if they would like more information about the Ghost Research Society or would like to solicit your opinion on a haunting or anomalous photo?
If anyone wishes to get in touch with me to purchase one of my books on Chicago ghosts Windy City Ghosts or Windy City Ghosts II, Illuminating the Darkness: The Mystery of Spooklights, Field Guide to Spirit Photography or Field Guide to Ghost Hunting Techniques or just to have a free analysis on a paranormal picture that they have taken or come across, they can contact me directly through my website: www.ghostresearch.org or email me at email@example.com. If you prefer a more personal contact, I can be reached at 708-425-5163 and I am on Facebook and have a Ghost Research Society page as well.
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