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What got you into researching the strange and unusual?
I blame my interest in the unusual on my home state of Wisconsin. Not only do we have the UFO capital of the world in our state, we have three of them. Growing up near one of those capitals, during high school I kept hearing people talking about seeing UFOs. I began traveling to the town and interviewing people about what they were seeing in the sky. It was also the time I began college. I was a psychology student and I was interested in why some people believe in (and see) the paranormal while others do not. I started presenting my research on human belief systems and human perception at college research symposiums, during which people would come up and say "Help, I think my home's haunted," or “I saw some weird creature in the woods.” I ended up doing my master's thesis in student beliefs in the paranormal.
What has been your most memorable or scary personal paranormal experience?
I always joke that if you're going to these places and you're not getting scared, you're not trying hard enough.
I was in Central America exploring the jungles near Monkey River in search of a legend call La Llorona or “The Weeping Woman.” I was in a jungle so thick it took a work out with the machete just to walk a few feet in. Here I encountered feces throwing howler monkeys, snapping crocodiles, and vicious mosquitoes willing to attack any exposed piece of flesh. In this part of Central America La Llorona is a magical being said to travel alongside of a river preying on travelers or drunken men. She lures men to her with her womanly charm and her eerie cries of helplessness. Yet helpless is the one thing the La Llorona is not, as once she hooks a victim, she draws them closer and closer until she transforms herself into a serpent like creature and the victims are never heard from again.
I was staying at a monkey sanctuary surrounded by families of deceivingly loud howler monkeys. I was able to arrange a private evening canoe trip that was billed as a “Night Crocodile Tour.” However, I took this river tour opportunity to focus our sights on the spotting the La Llorona. Here in the middle of the night, the guide, myself, and my research partner set out looking for the Weeping Woman knowing full well that she uses the riverbanks to lure victims to their certain death. We cautiously stepped into what we were told was a canoe, which looked to us like a glorified two by four, to search for the deadliest animal in the river, yet that night we hoped of seeing an even scarier creature than the crocodile. Amazed that our canoe actually stayed afloat, we now set our sights on the riverbanks with hoping to catch a glimpse of La Llorona. Debating what we would do if we actually spotted the Weeping Woman distracted us from the fact that we were mere inches away from one of nature’s most skillful killing machines. I don’t know if I was more scared of the crocodiles or La Llorona. I told my partner that if they were too scared, we could head back to dry ground and I would not hold it against them---hoping they would say yes. Even though I did not see Llorona, I was terrified of my surroundings, the atmosphere, the folklore.
And how about a cryptid experience?
Walking through the woods during the evening in Transylvania. It was dark moonlit night and I was staying at an old farmhouse out in the rural countryside. I needed some supplies for the next days’ adventure, so I decided to walk the two miles to get to the small village. There was a nice path through the forest leading into town. I had a nice headlamp with me and when I started out, I was thinking how lucky I was to be walking through Transylvania on a perfect moonlit night. As I progressed, my mind started wandering and playing tricks on me. The bizarre atmosphere was seeping in and suddenly every tree branch snapping in the woods was a werewolf sharping its clows or Vlad the Impaler riding up to invite me to his castle. Deep down I think my mind knew that I wasn’t going to be killed by a vampire (mainly because I had my vampire hunting kit with me) but it just shows how a legends and folklore can significantly alter your perception of things. Unfortunately, I did not encounter any supernatural beings during my walk, but it did give me some keen insight on the enormous impact that environment plays on legends and folklore.
You have researched all over the world. Is there a place you have yet to visit?
And for what would you be looking for there.
I really have my sights set on Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, Canada. I really want to search for their famed sea monster—Ogopogo. Just before the pandemic closed our boarders I was in Northwest Alberta, Canada doing some Wendigo research and I gave some serious thought about making a quick detour to check out the lake (about an 11-hour drive from Alberta) but I simply ran out of time, as I was too consumed with tracking the wendigo legend. Now that things are opening back up, I am itching to get there.
Of all the cryptids you’ve researched. Is there one that tops the others in likelihood of existence?
I have put a lot of stock in sea serpents having a good possibility of existing. Whether they are some yet undiscovered species or simply one that we thought has been extinct for quite some time, the idea that something is lurking in the depths of our waters really intrigues me.
Have you had any memorable run-ins with local (known by all) wildlife while out in the bush?
I was down in the everglades exploring the area looking for the Skunk Ape. I was returning from a deep hike in the swamp. I was approaching a drier secluded grassy area where I was able to had been able to park my vehicle several hours prior. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of something dart into a small grouping of thick trees. I immediately stopped and pulled out my binoculars, but I could not spot anything. As I stood there in silence, I could hear a weird huffing emanating from the tress. Being in the everglades, the creature could have been an assortment of many deadly animals---maybe it was a vicarious wild boar, or a hungry bear, a dangerous panther, or perhaps even the infamous skunk ape. As I approached with caution the huffing got louder and louder until finally a white-tailed deer came crashing out the wood in retreat. Being from Wisconsin, I see deer all the time, but this one definitely ranks high on my list of causing my heart to race.
What are your favorite tactics and equipment to utilize while researching.
Whether it’s ghosts, UFOs, cryptids, etc
A lot of people contact me stating that they really want to research the supernatural natural, but they don’t have $10,000 in equipment to get started. I always tell me people not to be dissuaded by their lack of equipment. There is nothing that can replace curiosity and common sense. Believe it or not, I tend to use a lot less equipment today than I did when I first started out in this field. I quickly discovered that when I went to check out a legend, I spent so much time setting up, monitoring, and breaking down all the equipment that I was missing out on the legend itself. I was so pre-occupied with what the equipment could “tell” me, that I was not even taking the time to really enjoy the legend. I still use plenty of equipment today (depending on what type of legend it is) but it is no means the heart of my adventure. For me, my favorite piece of equipment is the notebook (seriously). I use it to interview witnesses, take down directions, start camp fire etc…. and I find that it puts me smack-dab in the heart of the legend---just where I like to be.
Any upcoming projects folks should know about?
Like most researchers I know, I have about a dozen projects in the works. If you want to find me, just visit the weirdest legend that you can think of, and you will probably find me there.