Paranormal Investigator Profile: Troy Taylor

Troy Taylor is the author of more than 30 books about ghosts and hauntings, including The Ghost Hunter’s Guidebook (Whitechapel Productions, 1999), Haunted Illinois (1999), and The Haunting of America (2001). He’s the president of the American Ghost Society and editor of Ghost of the Prairie Magazine. _

Q: What is your favorite haunted place?

That’s one of those questions I can’t answer with one. There are a handful of places that I always go back to, that I never get tired of and not just because of the history and all of the years of ghost stories behind them.

One of them is the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis. It’s one of those places where the tragedy of the place just lends itself to a haunting. Plus, there have been really reliable stories over the years. It’s a place that I’m fascinated with. And I know this sounds bizarre, but it’s a place that I’m really comfortable with. I think my fascination with the history of the family and my respect for the family just makes me feel comfortable there. But I do honestly think it’s a very haunted place.

Second would be a place in Illinois called the Old Slave House. I can’t give you a town that it’s near because it’s just in the middle of nowhere. But it has a really horrendous history regarding a guy who leased slaves to work salt lands. He ended up kidnapping free African-Americans and pressing them into slavery. It’s the only place in Illinois where slavery really existed. He kept the slaves chained up in the attic of the house. This sounds like an urban legend, but this is all really documented history and it’s one of the only buildings—as far as I know, it’s the only building in the state of Illinois—where official state records actually talk about the ghosts. That’s how long the ghost stories have been around.

The Bell Witch cave in Tennessee is also very high on my list. I’ve been there probably a dozen times. I’ve spent the night in the cave, I’ve known the owners for years—it’s just one of those places that has a great history behind it.

Finally, I’d have to say the first place where, I’m convinced, I actually saw a ghost. And that’s the old Waverley Hills Sanitarium in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s an old abandoned tuberculosis sanitarium with a dark history behind it, and there’s just story after story there—more than just kids chasing down ghost stories. These are real people who’ve been there, who have had some really good documented encounters. One night, a friend and I were walking down the hallway there, and a guy walked across the hallway in front of us and disappeared into a room on the other side of the hall. I have no doubt that it was a ghost, considering the room was empty when we got there. I have to list that as one of my favorites.

Q: Why be a ghost investigator?

I’d love to say that I have some kind of really deep spiritual reasons for searching for life after death, but I don’t. I’ve always just taken it as fact that there is life after death—that we’re all going to end up somewhere. But preferably, I’m not going anywhere. I always tell people if it’s possible, if you have a choice to be a ghost, I want to be one. So I’m not looking for proof, because I can’t convince everybody. For me, it’s just a lifelong fascination with the unusual and the unexplained. Yes, I’m convinced that there are ghosts and I’m convinced that there is life after death, but still, how does it work out? How does it happen? That’s what intrigues me. If I had all of these answers, I probably wouldn’t be interested.

Q: What are important items to bring with you on an investigation?

When I started out in this, I had a camera, I had a notebook, and I had a pen, and that’s about it. That’s why I think my belief system on the whole thing has never really changed. All of the gadgets and gear are great, but, for me, I find it hard to use electronic equipment and then offer that as any kind of proof. Only because there are so many things that can go wrong with electronics as far as trying to use them for evidence. Yes, it can be very compelling, but, for me, I’m always looking for the history behind the story. And by that I mean that if I can find a house, and that house turns out to have people who live in it now who claim that it’s haunted, and I can go back through three previous owners and they all tell the exact same story, have the exact same things happening, without knowing that anyone else has ever reported it. For me, all I needed was a notebook and a pen to get what I consider to be “real proof” that the place is haunted. That’s nothing that I [need to] use a magnetometer or a gauss meter or anything else to prove. I was able to do that with a pen and a piece of paper. People are the key behind the story—they are the essential element to all of this. People who get into this and don’t have any kind of people skills are in big trouble. So that’s really why I push with this kind of thing. If you have a video camera, bring it along, you want to remember what the place looks like. If you want to use electronic equipment, definitely use it if you know how to use it. But if you don’t know how to use it, I tell people don’t even bother.

Q: What’s a funny thing that’s happened to you during an investigation?

There’ve been so many things…. I always tell people, never go do this stuff by yourself. But, unfortunately, there have been a few times when I’ve gone and done it by myself. I had gotten a call from these people who were hearing footsteps in their attic every night. They were sure that their home was haunted. And they had actually done some research into the history of the place. The real story behind it was that it had been owned by a farmer who had committed suicide when he lost his farm back during the Depression. He had gone up to the attic and hung himself. They were convinced that it was this guy’s ghost and the footsteps were happening every night—which obviously got my attention. Not only do they have a good story, but they have a good story that was happening every night. So I thought this was the perfect chance to get to really experience something.

So I went out to their house and it got late, and we were all sitting around in the bedroom being quiet and we started to hear footsteps walking around in the attic—I could hear them plain as day. I tried to get this woman’s husband to go up there with me, but he was terrified—no way was he going to go up there. I climbed up into the attic with a flashlight (now a little nervous myself at this point), shined the light around, and I saw not one ghost, but two walking around. They were furry, they had tails—there were two great big raccoons in the attic. And every night, they would wake up when it got dark and go out to look for food. These things were so big that when they walked around up there, it sounded just like a person walking. You combine that with the story and suddenly you’ve got a ghost in the attic. I can laugh about it now. I always tell people you should never jump to conclusions.

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