Perhaps my earliest memory of things paranormal was a book that I got while waiting in line at the local Thriftway grocery store. It was one of those small kids books in the rack and was called "Haunted Houses" by Larry Kettelkamp. I remember seeing the infamous picture of the Brown Lady Ghost, the alleged apparition on a staircase. I thought that was cool, but then again spooky as a kid is cool. I also remember the Time-Life Mysteries of the Unknown series of books which covered topics like ghosts, hauntings, psychics, aliens, and mystic places. All that stuff interested me just because it was so different and off the beaten path. Whether it was true or not didn't matter, it was just interesting reading.
There was a television show in the early 1980's called That's Incredible. They had a story about a haunted Toys R Us store in Sunnyvale, CA. You can search for it on YouTube and watch. I was maybe 10 years old and it freaked me out. Watching the clip on YouTube now, I kind of chuckle. One, because of John Davidson's amazing hair. Two, it featured Sylvia Browne way before I ever knew who she was. Finally, the picture that was captured. The alleged apparition looks exactly like someone from the 70's in bell bottom jeans, sport coat, great hair, and leaning against the wall like he's the coolest cat in the place. Probably the only time a ghost has been captured in a photo that wasn't dressed like they are from the 1800's. Seems a little fishy to me now, a ghost of a man allegedly from the 1800's but is dressed like a disco king. This was one of the first times I heard about ghosts on a television show that wasn't a plot line for a Halloween episode.
Sometime in the mid 1980's the church we went to, Hiway Chapel Assembly of God in Independence, MO was going through some drama with getting a new pastor and there was some contention amongst the brethren. Stupid feuds as to whether the youth group should have video games in the basement, or whether or not we were celebrating Satan because we dared have a float in the local Halloween Parade on the Independence Square. We started going to Hiway Chapel around 1981 before my mom married my stepdad. The pastor that married them wasn't the first pastor of the church, it had others before him going back a few years. Apparently the first pastor made a tape recording talking about the church probably recollections or his vision forward. One day, not a Sunday, one of the deacons came in and heard what he thought was someone talking or preaching in the auditorium. But nobody else was in the church except him. He walked into the auditorium and sure enough nobody was there, but rather the talking was that cassette tape of the first pastor talking about the church playing over the sound system. How that tape got into the sound room in the loft above the auditorium and playing he did not know. With all the turmoil going on at that church during that time, it seemed a bit strange that a cassette tape of the first pastor talking about his new church was playing. How that cassette tape made its way to the soundboard upstairs and started playing, well that is up for you to decide. I don't know if that first pastor had died or not, I had never met him in the previous 5 years, so he may well have passed on. It was like he knew about the drama going on at the time and decided to let his thoughts be known via that cassette tape that he made years earlier.
In 1993, I started working at a local haunted house in Kansas City called The Beast. Not a real haunted house, but the ones for public amusement around Halloween. My first night working there, I was put in the Pit & Pendulum room. I was behind a wall operating a skeleton that was supposed to be getting sliced up with a swinging ax suspended from the ceiling. The room that I was in was a former bathroom and was filled with junk. The room was dark so the customers going through wouldn't see me on the other side of the wall. Most scenes where us spooks would be in the house, were along the path that customers would take. Well, except for my spot which I had to take what we call "the back roads" of the house that customers wouldn't have access to. It was an out of the way location so it was a little secluded and creepy. One of the many seasons I worked there, a story was relayed to us by one of the floorwalkers (house security team) that they placed a new spook in that room. Later when the floorwalker was doing his typical walkthrough, he saw this same guy coming down the hallway rather hastily. The floorwalker stopped him and asked what he was doing and to get back to his spot. The guy said that he was in his spot operating the skeleton, talking to the customers on the microphone, when all of the sudden, the chair he was sitting in was yanked out from under him. He got so freaked out that he grabbed his stuff and was out of there. Of course, when the dopey Goths that worked there heard this story, they would gather in that room before the show started and try to summon the spirit of whoever was there. Weirdos.
Another incident at The Beast that occurred took place in the Ballroom. It was the first room that customers would go through and generally had about 6 people working the entire room. Some of the actors reported a blue streak that would go across the ceiling from one area to another on occasion. So now the Ballroom is the haunted area, or at least that was until one of the workers figured out that the blue ghost was actually the result of faulty wiring. Once the electrical work had been replaced, no more ghost. Amazing. The building was probably about 100 years old and in an old part of town, so that's probably why the rumor of the place being haunted started. Spooks have also reported feeling as though they are being watched. This was debunked when myself and some friends found mattresses, clothes, and empty bottles behind the walls. Allegedly the owners would let homeless people stay there as long as they did not mess with the house. So yeah, spooks weren't imagining they were being watched. They probably were being watched, just not by ghosts. Most likely by drunken bums watching us spooks scare customers.
When I started having weird things happen in my house, I would try and figure out a rational explanation. When the clock radio turned on in the kitchen, I tried to explain it away as the alarm was set and it just happened to go off. The thing is that I never set the alarm on that clock radio and the selector switch was not on ALARM. I figured what if the power went out, the alarm time resets to midnight, I moved the selector switch from ON to ALARM when turning off the radio, and that is why it came on. That would make sense, except it went off at some weird time in the morning and not midnight. When the bedroom window was open and Bob was barking at the moving curtains, I tried to figure out how that could have happened. I don't automatically come to the conclusion that it must be haunted or a demon is taunting me by turning on a radio. I was debunking before I even started watching Ghost Hunters.
Speaking of Ghost Hunters, that was the first paranormal investigation television show that I got into. Before that, television shows devoted hauntings were typically during the Halloween season. I would always be glued to the Travel Channel watching all the numerous Top 10 Most Haunted Places type of shows. In the 1990's there weren't really ghost hunting shows like we are deluged with now. It was usually about the history of old castles in Europe, or places in America like the Myrtles Plantation or the Winchester Mystery House. I would watch Most Haunted just for the sheer overdramatic hysteria involved when they would started screaming and running around, or when the fake medium Derek Acorah would become "possessed". I would watch Paranormal State and chuckle as Ryan Buell believes he is being stalked by a demon but couldn't say the name because it would be angered?? And waiting for Elfie the Pagan to conduct a ritual or offer advice on how to get rid of spirits provoked a few chuckles.
I watch Ghost Adventures with my wife and back in 2007 or so when I first saw the episode of Ghost Adventures when they went to the Goldfield Hotel, I felt this was a legitimate paranormal investigation show. At first I admired their spunk and energy, but that quickly deteriorated when during the first season they became a little dramatic and started making claims that UV light wards off ghosts or random things such as if you have three scratches on you, it must me from a demon because it's mocking the Trinity. Where they get these ideas, I have no clue. Nothing like three dude-bros dressed in tight black clothes investigating allegedly haunted places and acting like everything is demonic. I guess every paranormal investigation group has their methods.
So that is my curiosity. I find the places that I have visited to be really amazing, despite the paranormal claims. I enjoy the history and background to haunted locations. Whether or not I find any evidence in photos or recordings, the locations I have been to were always fascinating and gave me good stories to tell. And believe it or not, no demons followed me back to the house or possessed me.