Aging Out of Paranormal Research

How many are there 55 or over?

Many well respected researchers are aging.  The people I list are to be thought of as the best of the best-there are others but I’m sure I missed plenty.  I tended to stay away from “ParaCelebrities” in this list, although many of us have done media along the way.  The people on this list are people I respect and want to honor.  If there are names you don’t recognize, I’m not surprised. These are not, for the most part, looking for fame.  There is a vast majority in the under 40 crowd, so I’m sure I’ve left out someone important.

What ways age limits you

One of the things that limits us old folks is mobility.  Field work is taxing, especially in cryptozoology. Several use canes and walkers when off camera.  In field work we also have to be careful of balance and falling, especially in fields and forests.  I haven’t done fieldwork in years, but I still do research.  Ghost and hauntings research often involves stairs and long nights.  After two big car wrecks and two bouts of cancer, I don’t do field work except in rare cases.

Money ran out long ago.  This has never been a money making profession.  Most of us  have been supporting our own endeavors for decades.  There are some (even on this list) who manage to make “a living” but far more depend on other, more “normal” jobs for pay. Most media does not pay much or anything at all.

What ways does it help you?

after so many years you develop some respect among colleagues and younger people.  There is a lot of information already stored-in your brain or your personal library.  I got far more offers for podcasts and other media five years ago, but now when I ask for some exposure I generally don’t get turned down.  My seniority gets a lot of people to my lectures and conference speeches and that is very fulfilling.

After age 50, lots of things are clearer.  There is a bigger sense of behavior and culture from all that happens over the years.  Many of us have no fear of our own death; we’ll show up and get studied when that happens.  We also are able to acknowledge things we got wrong in the past, which is sadly missing in the ParaCelebrity crowd.  We learned long ago that getting no evidence is just as important as what we do see.

Experiences of hauntings, Mothman, UFOs and the like are much more  plentiful after so many years and usually by 50 we are secure in telling our stories.  That’s largely because we aren’t judged as widely.  We definitely do get judged, but not typically by what we have accomplished instead of what our listing lists as our accomplishments.  The judgements usually don’t affect us seniors.  We have less to prove.

When I first started in the Paranormal field, twenty years ago, there were researchers I thought were old.  The Warrens, and  John Keel especially caught my attention.  It wasn’t too many years until they lost “star appeal” for me.  The Warrens have a questionable history and John Keel wrote books more often than he did research.

Paranormal research dates back to the 18th century.  There were few actual researchers, with organizations such as the Society for Psychical Research investigating spiritual matters. Psychic researcher Harry Price published his Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter in 1936. Harry Price was my gateway in and he had already passed by 2000.  My first published piece was about him and I learned a lot from researching his work.  Now, few “researchers” know who Harry Price was.

That level of seniority is well respected past the deaths of those we had for mentors.  Stanton Friedman (1934 –2019) was a nuclear physicist and professional ufologist who resided in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. He was the original civilian investigator of the Roswell UFO incident. I adored him and learned so much from his work.  Rosemary Ellen Guiley (1950 - 2019) was an American writer on topics related to spirituality, the occult, and the paranormal. She was also a radio show host a certified hypnotist, a board director of the "National Museum of Mysteries and Research" and the "Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial Encounters", and a "Lifetime Achievement Award" winner from the Upper Peninsula Paranormal Research Society, Michigan. She was always highly approachable and was the premier resource for spirituality.  She wrote more than 49 books and was popular at media outlets and conferences. 

J Allen Hynek (1910 –1986) was an American astronomer, professor, and ufologist. He was head of Project Sign and Project Blue book and came to the field as a debunker.  That changed with his research.   He developed a classification system and was among the first people to conduct scientific analysis. I met him briefly in Columbus, Ohio when I was not very old-I knew nothing of his life until much later.   For me, he was just a drinking buddy with my grandpa! 

Dr William G Roll (1926 –2012) was an American psychologist and parapsychologist on the faculty of the Psychology Department of the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia. His work with poltergeist activity was amazing.  He coined the phrase "recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis" (RSPK) to explain poltergeist cases but RSPK was never accepted by mainstream science and skeptics have described Roll as a credulous investigator.  I am fortunate to be close friends with one of his biggest experiencers, Tina Resch.  She has a lot of respect for him as a person and as a researcher.

Aging Researchers

Several others of us are fast approaching senior age.  I am 59, so in the working world I’m a “senior”.  These are colleagues near my age that I respect, largely because they have so much experience.  John Zaffis (born 1955) is a paranormal investigator researcher based in Connecticut. He runs the Paranormal and Demonology Research Society of New England, which he founded in 1998.   His linage includes studying under his uncle and aunt, Ed and Lorraine Warren.   Zaffis lectures at colleges, universities, and libraries] and currently runs the Museum of the Paranormal located in Stratford, Connecticut.

Loren Coleman was born in Norfolk, Virginia and grew up in Decatur, Illinois.  He studied anthropology and zoology at Southern Illinois University and psychiatric social work at the Simmons College School of Social Work in Boston. He did further studies in doctoral-level anthropology at Brandeis University and sociology at the University of New Hampshire. Coleman taught at New England universities from 1980 to 2004 before retiring from teaching to write, consult, lecture, run the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland. Maine.

Not famous really, but a key researcher in sound is John Mizzi.  EVPs are his specialty and he is an excellent teacher for those new to EVP.  Few media events, and no podcasts or YouTube or website but he loves the research and has invented EVP collection equipment that rivals any of the “cool” tech in the field.

Jacques Vallee is an Internet pioneer, computer scientist, venture capitalist, author, ufologist and astronomer currently residing in San Francisco, California and Paris, France.  His life experience was the model portrayed by François Truffaut in the Steven Spielberg award winning film, Close Encounters of a Third Kind.

Brian Seech has a passion for researching cryptids and is the Research Coordinator for the Center for Unexplained Events.  He is the facilitator for one of the largest and longest running paranormal conventions in the Pennsylvania area. 

Fiona Broome  is an author, paranormal researcher and consultant. She and I became fast friends because we aren’t afraid to argue.  Her approach is highly spiritual, but she is incredibly intelligent and completely able to understand the more scientific side of the research

John Sabol is a cultural anthropologist, field archaeologist, actor, and "ghost excavator".  His many books are absolute must reads.  The moment when you sense you have earned John’s respect, you know you really made it.   His ghost excavation development has changed the course for the study.  We should all be doing it.  Pick up all the books.

I am only six months older than Richard M Dolan and I’m sure he would be dismayed to be called a senior.  He is an author and publisher who works primarily within the field of UFO research. His books tend to focus on historical studies.  Jonathan Downes (born 1959) is a naturalist, cryptozoologist, author, editor, film-maker, poet, novelist, activist, journalist, composer and singer-songwriter, with a background in radical politics and mental health care. He is Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology which he has taken the group to world wide respect. His father was an explorer and Colonial Service Officer who wrote several books on a wide range of subjects.  His mom Mary Downes (née Rawlins) (1922–2002) was a broadcaster and author who published several collections of Nigerian folklore under the pen-name 'Yar Kunama'. Big shoes to fill that he definitely accomplishes.  Jon is currently (since 1994) the editor of Animals & Men; the journal of the CFZ.

Stan Gordon was someone I had never heard of until we met.  I quickly learned he’s well versed on UFO’s and especially those in Pennsylvania.  We aren’t close, but I enjoy reading is books and hearing his lectures.

Prime Time

Next in line, those younger who are still in prime time and working, are folks like Benjamin Radford, M.Ed.  He is the deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine.  Largely viewed as a debunker, he is one of the world’s few science-based paranormal investigators.  His research often debunks something but he has a fair amount of data and research, and has done first-hand research into mysterious phenomena including psychics, ghosts and haunted houses; exorcisms, miracles, Bigfoot, stigmata, lake monsters, UFO sightings, reincarnation, and crop circles, and many other topics. Brian D. Parsons has been investigating claims of anomalous phenomena for just over about as long as I have. He is an author of books on ghosts, cryptozoology, and UFOs, all of which are presented with a balanced look.  He is an excellent public speaker, and a radio show host and spends a majority of his time explaining the rational side of paranormal claims and stories.

Susan Sheppard is a well-known psychic medium, astrologer, a talented artist, poet and masterful storyteller. Her areas of expertise are ghosts and hauntings, non-human spirits, fairies and fairy lore, astrology charts and forecasts, psychic dimensions, cryptozoology,  past lives and reincarnation, tarot and cartomancy, She has become a valuable resource on Indrid Cold, Men in Black, Mothman and Appalachian folklore. 

The “kids”

This is the future of the study.  It’s harder to make this list because I don’t often see any actual research from most in this age group.  Too many are just thrill seekers and media whores.  I do respect a few of them though.

Alex Matsuo is the founder of the Association of Paranormal Study and runs the blog and YouTube channel, “The Spooky Stuff.” She is one of the rare breed who does a fair bit of media appearance yet still takes the study seriously.  I met Alex years ago when she was learning the ropes (and politics) and is one of the few in this group I feel will actually listen to other opinions. Nicholas (Nick) Redfern (born 1964) is a best-selling author, journalist, cryptozoologist and ufologist living in Texas.  He is generous with sharing information.  Craig Woolheater is the Owner/President at Cryptomundo and Co-Founder at Texas Bigfoot Research Center.  He is quite active and knowledgeable. There are a few more up and coming researchers but so many do media work it’s often hard to respect them. 

Apologies if you have been left off this “list”.  There are a LOT of paranormal people out there, and these are my current votes for best of the best.  I would be happy to do a part two of folks you respect and I neglected!