Creating The Jumper: From Author to Ghost Hunter

I have had an interest in the paranormal since I was a child. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I always thought it was fun to have the living daylights scared out of me. Oh, who am I kidding? I still love it! However, my love of the things that go bump in the night didn’t originate from books or even movies. I had my own brushes with the unexplained that have stuck with me throughout my entire life. Plug your ears, skeptics, you may not want to hear this.

Yes, I am a believer in the paranormal. Not the Hollywood version designed to mimic the “haunted house” experience, but rather I hold an acceptance that there are some things we simply cannot explain. Skeptics are rolling their eyes right now, but people who have had their own experiences know what I’m talking about. It’s okay to be skeptical. I am too. It’s healthy. Outright cynicism, on the other hand, is just plain boring.

I remember one time specifically from my childhood where a small group of us were camped out in the basement of my friend’s house. We were all alone, playing board games, when we heard a thud come from the hallway just outside the door, followed by the sound of high heels clicking against the tiled floor walking away from us. I imagine my face turned quite pale with fear. I called out the name of my friend’s mother, but there was no response. My friend assured me that she was not home, but I wasn’t satisfied with that. Like a scene straight out of a Don Knotts and Tim Conway film, the three of us lined up and walked through the house together. Sure enough, the house was empty. I’ll never forget that day, or the excitement that came along with it.

When I set out to write The Jumper, I wanted to write about that experience. To explore that feeling of being converted from a non-believer into a believer within the blink of an eye. In my story, R.C. Dawson experiences that after encountering the spirit of a teenage boy that haunts the community center where he works. Not only does R.C. change his perspective on the paranormal, but it also enables him to think differently about his path in life in general.

Naturally, to write a ghost story, I did a lot of research in the paranormal field, which has grown leaps and bounds since my childhood in the ‘80s. In The Jumper, R.C. conducts an amateur investigation to try and make contact with the restless spirit, and I wanted to make that as authentic as possible. I have watched many programs about the practice of “ghost hunting,” but knowing that the ratings are more important to a network than the authenticity, I found myself very skeptical. With all due respect to Jason and Grant from Ghost Hunters, some of their evidence in recent seasons had left me concerned about the validity of their findings. That, and their addition of a “longtime friend” to the cast that just happened to be an attractive, starving B-movie actress with a passion for ghost hunting… and a new boob job.

I knew that I’d never be able to work past my skepticism until I could see how a paranormal investigation was conducted first hand. When I saw that Zak Bagans and Aaron Goodwin of Ghost Adventures fame were hosting an event in my neck of the woods, I immediately packed my bags. The event included the opportunity to do a private “ghost hunt” with Zak and Aaron, which I participated in.

The hunt consisted of a two hour block of time in a reportedly haunted building in the marketplace of downtown Seattle. Zak and Aaron were gracious hosts, taking the time to walk us through the process, demonstrate how to operate the equipment, and engage in conversation about their personal experiences from a previous visit to the location. With so few people around, I knew they would be unable to pull any funny business, so I proceeded into the investigation with an open mind.

After one of several EVP sessions (the practice of capturing disembodied voices on audio), our recording was taken to an on-site computer, and we watched as the digital file was monitored on screen by audio technician, Billy Tolley. Much to our surprise, Billy found something. It was a brief patch of audio containing a faint whisper that clearly said “don’t believe ‘em.” Just as you might be doing right now, I too appreciated the irony. However, I watched the process from beginning to end and could verify that there had been no tampering. We’d caught a bona fide EVP.

Over the course of the investigation there would be more snippets of audio that were captured, and I have to say to anyone that doubts the sincerity of Zak and Aaron, they are the real deal. They are passionate about what they do, and they are good at it. Observing Zak in action was inspiring, because that’s not the part you get to see on television. You get to see him cuss, act like a goofball, and occasionally overreact to basic bangs and pops, but in reality, he’s calm, collect, and professional. I’m not even remotely joking. It was an honor to be trained by him.

Coming away from the Seattle experience, I felt better, but still wasn’t sold entirely on the practice. My skepticism just wouldn’t allow me to get over feeling like there was a trick to it all. When I returned home, I soon participated in several investigations with a local group and was given the opportunity to put my new skills to action. I thought that if I personally caught evidence of the paranormal without “a net,” then and only then would I believe it.

After six months, I came away with much that I could not explain. I’ll never forget the feeling of finding that first EVP. The recorder had been set up in an empty room, and at just over three hours in, the clear sound of a female whispering “David” came through in the audio. It still gives me goose bumps!

Feeling satisfied that I now had enough experience to work off of, I wrote The Jumper. The practice of doing a real investigation is actually quite boring, as long hours go by without a single hint of activity. That wouldn’t translate into a very interesting read, so I created the ghost story of Brandon Fletcher and then embellished the heck out of it! I now understand why Hollywood-style ghost stories are told the way they are. Be that as it may, there is still room to tweak the formula and create something that can be both authentic and fun. That was my goal in writing The Jumper, and I hope that you’ll enjoy it!

One thoughtful comment

  1. Love this blog and the fact that you actually conducted research into ghosthunting for your novel. I had also watched these Cable shows with some skepticism (are Zak and Aaron’s reactions sincere or acting) and wondered whether EVPs (the most compelling ‘evidence’ on most of those shows) are legit. Thanks for shining some light on this topic with your own personal experiences!

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