Our Phantom Neighbors
Ron Kolek of The New England Ghost Project talks about his normal: the paranormal.
If you’ve ever wondered who you’re going to call when you run into a ghost, well we’ve got just the guy. With Halloween in mind [ Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2013 issue of Merrimack Valley Magazine ], we caught up with Merrimack Valley ghost-hunter Ron Kolek, executive director of the Dracut-based New England Ghost Project, to get a peek at the world of the unseen, the often felt, the always spooky and the relatively unknown. Kolek and the New England Ghost Project aim to educate people about the paranormal through tours, classes and special events that take place throughout New England.
How did you get involved with ghost hunting and paranormal investigations?
I didn’t used to believe in ghosts. I owned a manufacturing company, and everybody thought it was haunted. One day, I ran my hand through a table saw and cut my fingers off, and when I was in the ICU, I had what I felt was a near-death experience. I was in a place that was very bright and white, warm and comfortable. It was like the Madonna song “Like a Prayer”: It felt like home. But then it just disappeared … and I was back in the ICU. When I got out of the hospital, my hand was in a cast. I had plenty of time on my hands, and I took a course on TV production. In order to complete the course, I had to do a show on something. So I had this haunted shop and this near-death experience, and I wanted to find out more. So that’s how I got started.
Where do you typically go to investigate paranormal activity?
I get hundreds of requests. I like to investigate historic buildings. History and the paranormal go hand in hand, and you can’t have ghosts without a past.
Tell me about your investigative partner, Maureen Wood.
She is a trance medium, like Whoopi Goldberg in “Ghost.” The spirit actually goes into her body. It’s kind of freaky because her head will go down, and she’ll look up and her eyes will be so deep and piercing that they go through your soul. Believe it or not, some spirits out there don’t like me. She’s dislocated my finger, tossed me across the room. She becomes much stronger when the spirit is in her.
How often do you see or experience ghosts?
You know, I never really thought of it that way. When we investigate, we certainly experience something, and we certainly gather information. If you consider that, [it’s] every time we investigate. Ever heard of table-tipping? I do a paranormal studies group in Andover, so one time we decided to look into table-tipping, and I invited these ladies to come in and demonstrate. They’d ask questions, and the spirits would tip the table or tap out answers. So I did an investigation a couple weeks later at a lighthouse with the director and the historian [of the lighthouse], and we tried it. We went upstairs to where I was staying [overnight], and in the kitchen was a huge oak table, 4 inches thick, double pedestal, 5 feet across. There were six of us, so we put our hands on the table, and before the night was over, the table was rocking and rolling, spinning, jumping off the floor.
So what do you do with the ghosts once you are in contact with them?
We ask questions. But we don’t have a set of questions, because not every investigation is the same. We have to be fluid and adaptive, so we follow conversation. We ask why they’re here, what they want. For instance, one guy, Jacob, who is pretty angry by the way, apparently has papers buried in the basement of The Windham Restaurant [in Windham, N.H.]. Unfortunately, the basement has concrete floors, so those papers aren’t going anywhere. We’ve talked to him a lot.
What are most ghosts doing here?
That’s the $64,000 question. In reality, each has its own story. I don’t believe in sending ghosts to the light; I believe that they are here for a particular reason. Some spirits are here because they don’t want to go. I really believe in free will, and that it drives everything. So if you are so comfortable at a place and don’t want to leave, you may stay. There is another belief that your religion can keep you here; for instance, if you’re afraid that you might go to hell, you may not want to move on.
What should people do when they encounter ghosts?
It depends on the circumstances. Sometimes — I truly believe this — spirits will attempt to contact us for a particular reason. Not all ghosts are harmful or evil; most aren’t, in fact. The number one sighting of spirits or ghosts is a messenger ghost, someone who has just died and will come back to say that they are OK or to see if the other person is OK. If you believe in guardian angels, why wouldn’t spirits come back to watch over you?
Is Massachusetts a ghost-heavy area?
They’re everywhere, they really are. We have great history. It’s always interesting because ghost hunting is so popular now that you have all these tourist traps. I’ve always wondered about that. Say you’re a spirit in these places and you get hundreds and hundreds of people going through there, asking all the same damn questions. What is it like for those ghosts?
New England Ghost Project
Ron Kolek online