The Rutgers Rarities Team recently contacted Al with some serious questions and we were honored with the following comprehensive and candid responses from this awesome guy who definitely knows his stuff - I mean he"s been doing it for over 35 years. Check out the interview below and you"ll learn a lot about what it takes to be a serious professional investigator and you"ll probably be a little scared as well.
Q. How did you first become involve with paranormal investigations? It seems like an interesting change of pace from your background in history, psychology, and engineering?
A. I was a sophomore in H.S. I went to St. Joe's in Metuchen. I was at the Piscataway library waiting for my father to pick me up. Saw a book on Ghosts on display and picked it up, paged thru it, and brought it home. Read it twice in one night! Couldn't believe that this guy was saying ghosts are real and there was even a scientific discipline call Parapsychology which in part dealt with paranormal phenomena. Ghosts, poltergeists, oobes (out-of-body-experiences), NDEs, all this weird sh*t. I was hooked. For the next 5 or 6 years I devoured everything on the subject. Even wrote papers on it for school.
I graduated from college in 1970 and started visiting some of these places I'd read about. By 1974 I was associated with the Somerset Co. Historical Society and I was the Newsletter Editor for the group. Had a column in the Newsletter every month called Tales of Old Somerset. Researched a lot of things (like your doing) dealing with strange phenomena. So many people confided in me about haunting phenomena in some of the old homes in Somerset and Middlesex County.
My background in history really helped me to research old homes and properties. Spent many long hours in the old Jersey Room of the Rutgers Library as well as many archives in town and county libraries. I was thrilled as I was getting to use both of my loves, history and parapsychology. Also, joined a number of parapsychological organizations like ASPR and PRF. Had correspondences with many of my new "heros" like the late psychic Alex Tannous and Bill Roll (a dear friend today).
Investigations grew and grew. The field was fascinating to me. Every time I thought I had something figured out, the next time out the behavior changed. Frustrating, but fascinating. Then I started getting calls from newspapers (especially around this time of year) and TV shows. Some of the top Parapsychologists in the world were referring cases to me. I can honestly say, I would really be honored when Roll or Auerback would call and ask my opinions on things. I mean, who the hell was I to give them opinions?
I started lecturing on the subject around 1988. Only in Jersey, NY, PA area. Some years, I would do 40 or more lectures. Got a lot of leads on haunting from these lectures. In the mid-90's, there was a rash of shows on TV regarding the paranormal. They all called and I worked with everyone, Paranormal Borderline, Sightings, Encounters, The Other Side, all of them. Only agreed to film for Sightings, as I felt it was the best one out there. Worked about 5 years with them and filmed many shows. Some are still being shown today.
Now, at the same time, I had to earn a living as I had a wife and 2 daughters. I worked first as a Technical Info Engineer for a local air-conditioning company. Stayed in the field and advanced to a Service Engineer (I don't have an Engineering degree) and today I am the Director of Quality and Service for the largest white goods company in the world. As such, I spent many hours working in development labs, quality labs, etc. Know a little bit about lab equipment and pure scientific and engineering methods. So that helps also in keeping an even keel when doing an investigation.
Q. Your background & interest in history strikes a note with our team as we feel that a huge percentage of investigating the rarities at Rutgers has been simply learning the history of a site. How critical is obtaining such background knowledge for an investigation and do you feel that it could be damaging as it sets the stage for preconceptualizing or biasing your mind towards an anticipated experience?
A. I think research is a key to this field. Even before an investigation, I will research as much as I can about the area. If it is an historical structure, I will try to learn about it. Does it influence the investigation? Yes, hopefully in a positive way. I have found that many times I know more about the area and the house than those reporting the activity. You can get some subtle insights into the haunting. Un-asked question-What about so-called "psychics" working the case? Then, you do your best to keep the person totally in the cold. When I work with psychics (which is quite rare now-a-days), I don't tell them anything. I personally pick them up and take them to the undisclosed site. Could they pick up something from me? Maybe. This is the best way to ensure the integrity of the investigation.
Of course, research after the investigation is also crucial. As far as homes with legends attached to them, I try to stay away from that type of investigation. Not so much when I started out, but definitely now. Leave them to the ghost-hunters and Weird NJ.
Q. Your practical, science-based style of investigating combined with your years of experience really set you apart from other paranormalists. Your approach seems logical and very credible to the average ignorant person, especially when compared to the "psychics" and "orb-seekers". Yet the science of parapsychology still seems to rely heavily on "psychical aspects of human nature as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis". What's your stance on parapsychology as a scientific discipline?
A. Psychical Research was brought into the scientific realm in the late 1800's with the establishment of the Society for Psychical Research in England. At this point you had some of the greatest living minds from some of the most important disciplines come together with the common goal of making sense out of these anomalies. Unfortunately, here we are 125 years later and as a science parapsychology is still struggling for acceptance. This is because we are not dealing with things most sciences attack. We do not deal with black and white issues. We are more of a behavioral science. Things aren't black and white. And it is nearly impossible to bring much of what parapsychology studies into a lab. We can do oobe experiments, psychokinesis studies and even some poltergeist studies, and esp experiments into the lab but can we bring a ghost into the lab? Not readily.
Still it is of the utmost importance to at least "attempt" to do things with scientific precautions. For example, when I do evp recordings I not only tape but film them to make sure NO one is moving, speaking, farting, anything when I hear what I think is a voice on tape. Also, I do not tape on both sides of the tape because of audio bleed which can occur with some tapes. You need to be as "scientific" as possible. Either way, you will still get blasted by the skeptics who are on the complete opposite side of the fence and do not believe anything no matter how much proof is there.
Q. Have you ever recorded, experienced or heard anything on the Rutgers University campus?
A. I haven't personally investigated anything on the Rutgers campus but there are certainly stories. Like I said before, the Livingston/Busch Campus has a theater thats supposed to be haunted and the old building where the Office of Television and Radio was located.
There was an article in Rutgers Magazine in the Spring of 1992 that tells of a number of Rutgers haunts and legends. You should be able to get a copy at the library. They mention a lot of buildings on the Douglas Campus including Little Theater. They also mentioned Miller Hall off College Ave. and Woodbury Hall. Be careful. College campus' are notorious for folklore and legends.
Q. Can you give some basic tips for the amateur who knows nothing of EVPs?
A. EVP is the imprinting of voices and sounds onto a blank audio tape. For those who want to try this I suggest the following:
1. Use a newly opened tape.
2. Strictly control the # of people participating.
3. Document any natural sounds made (cars, sirens, farts, stomach noises, dogs barking) right on the tape by saying "dog barking" so you know what it is when you listen to the tape.
4. Don't tape more than 5-10 minutes at a time. It will take you forever to listen to the tape.
5. Only tape on one side of the tape to avoid bleed through noises or sounds from the other side.
6. Don't just open the tape up and wait. Ask questions. One every 40 seconds or so and then wait for a response.
7. Use a very good set of phones when listening to the playback.
8. If possible, use a board that separates frequencies when listening.
9. If you are just doing this to prove EVP is real, you do not have to be in a haunted location. You can tape in your own house. Pick a room and a time and always tape in that room at that time. They will eventually come around to leave messages. Q. The Rutgers Rarities team recently has had experiences with a "malfunctioning" audio recorder in specific 'haunted locations at the Inn". My audio recorder basically shuts off periodically in one section of the Inn where phenomena seems to occur. Have you ever experienced anything like this? Can we get some advice on where to go with this?
A. Malfunctioning electrical equipment comes with the study. I have had perfectly good tape recorders speed up or stop working. Many times TV cameras will suddenly go out as the batteries are drained. It is a common occurrence. They need energy to manifest. There are 2 sources for this energy, electrical devices and us.
Q. Before getting involved with RR, I personally never had any experiences with the paranormal and my viewpoint has been very skeptical. I did, however, have one experience recently in which we were investigating a suspected haunted location and I felt a physical force pulling on my camcorder as I held it steady while proceeding down the hallway. At the time, I tried to justify it, but realized shortly after that there was no reasonable explanation. Have you ever had a physical encounter with an entity during an investigation?
A. I have never been pushed or touched that I know of. I once did a poltergeist case where a light that was burning all night suddenly went out. In total darkness I told the homeowner to get a new light bulb while I slipped my hand under the lamp shade to unscrew the bulb. Instead, the bulb unscrewed itself and it was placed in my hand! I screwed it back into the socket and it burned the rest of the night. I don't care what the skeptics say. Light bulbs do not back themselves out of a socket.
Q. Have you ever been in a situation where you have felt you have been in danger or your life was at risk? Do you feel that there is a risk of physical harm when interacting with these entities?
A. I've never felt threatened and have never been harmed although I have had some antagonistic messages on tape. I think the only people who ever get harmed in a true haunting case are those predisposed to the idea that spirits can hurt you. I think this is bullsh*t. But if a person is weak of spirit, or weak psychologically, he should not put himself in this situation.
Q. Many organizations have consulted you for your expertise in the field. Are you currently working on any documentaries or television programs?
A. I am currently in the middle of filming 13 shows with my partner Garrett for Fangoria TV's Ghost Stories. We filmed 3 from Cape May, 3 from Central Jersey, and 1 from the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Mass.
Also, we are working with a production company to put together a series of DVDs about our investigations and stuff. We also have been doing podcasts (see our website Haunted New Jersey) which are no-nonsense true information packed (although we get kind of silly sometimes) shows about parapsychology and hauntings.
Wildlife Expert Replies:
I did do a photo essay on the Ecological Preserve, but coyotes were not included in my essay. I did reply to the Highland Park Environmental group's call for sightings of coyotes, because I have seen them on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I have never had my camera with me at the time and even if I had, my camera is not good at capturing moving, or distant objects. I have also seen bones, (probably deer) that have teeth marks in them. Other animals I have seen may not be so rare and include turkeys, chipmunks, hawks, chicken hawks, a variety of smaller birds including our state bird the goldfinch. Are you aware of the groundhogs that live in and around the Quads on Livingston?
Rutgers Rarities commentary:
This response legitimizes the Coyote Confrontation story with confirmed local coyote sightings by a local expert. According to one valuable Internet resource on coyotes, they "have a good sense of smell, vision and hearing which, coupled with evasiveness, enables them to survive both in the wild and occasionally in the suburban areas of large cities. They are common in most rural areas, but because of their secretive nature, few are seen." This comment identifies the sighting as a true Rutgers Rarity. Another comment from the site, "...although it hunts alone to catch small prey, it may join with others in hunting larger mammals like young deer or a pony", paired with the local expert response that deer bones have been found with teeth marks in them, suggests that there may be packs that travel and hunt at night. Adding to the fear of the animals, which have been spotted on Livingston Campus, the site reports that, "the coyote can run at almost 40 mph and jump over a 8-foot fence". With such dangerous creatures on the loose in a college setting, it is scary to think of the worst case scenario, since "the most danger is in urban areas where young coyotes have learned to steal and beg for food" and "as they lose their fear of people, they will become bolder in approaching people and may put themselves in hazardous situations they would normally avoid". Hopefully, the sightings at Rutgers were random, isolated incidents, and not examples of this phenomenon.