Haunted Collector Season 2 Interview: What Scares John Zaffis?
Haunted Collector returns for its second season on Syfy with new team members joining paranormal investigator John Zaffis and his family as they search for objects that have become home to paranormal forces. Zaffis stores these purportedly haunted items in the Museum of the Paranormal which is, in his own words, “a barn on my property.” These items include obvious instruments of death – guns, knives, swords – along with seemingly mundane articles like a music box or broach. What kind of items seem to get haunted the most? “Dolls are the biggest culprit,” says Zaffis.
I spoke with John about his experiences and the upcoming season.
Travis Langley: I see that you’ve got new members joining your team. How do you select new members for a team like this?
John Zaffis: What we try to look for, Travis, is people that are very interested in the paranormal field. They’re interested in learning, in understanding the process of it, because it’s very important to go in and look for logical explanations; look for things that you can actually rule out. Working with Jason and Jesslyn was a very good opportunity to tie in with working with me, working with my son and daughter, working with Brian, to get a better understanding of what that process will be on trying to help these families or help these locations determine what’s actually causing the activity. So I was very excited to be able to work with them and share information and look at their perspectives, and bring a lot of things to the table.
So…is this person interested in the paranormal? Why are they interested in the paranormal? And are they willing to comprehend and understand what we need to do to actually look for things that could possibly be paranormal?
Travis Langley: And how did you get into this area?
John Zaffis: When I was 16 years old, I had an experience. It was the middle of the week, a Wednesday evening, and at the foot of the bed we had like a 6-foot figure that actually appeared. It was transparent and it was shaking its head back and forth. I had gone downstairs and was explaining it to my mom, what I experienced, and my mom really wasn’t one to talk about the paranormal. She was petrified of it — a lot like my daughter.
I started thinking about it at that point and started digging into things and started researching things. We didn’t have the Internet, so the only thing I was able to do was actually get books and start meeting people. I was exposed to a lot of different things, and that’s what really got me into it. Then I started digging in even deeper. And the more I got into it, realizing that people have had paranormal experiences for thousands and thousands of years, and seeing and reading all of that really intrigued me even more.
And to this day, I’m still intrigued by a lot of the things that we don’t quite understand. And we’re trying to prove so many things out. We’re looking at it from a scientific perspective. And I hope before I turn into a ghost that we’re able to prove everything from a scientific method.
Travis Langley: As you accumulate these items, do you ever worry that your museum is a potentially dangerous place?
John Zaffis: Not really. And the reason I say it that way is because there’s a lot of bindings and different rituals and different prayers that are continuously done over the items, and there’s a lot of things that I do over these items, from a spiritual perspective, to bind that energy to them. I’m very guarded and very cautious with this. The building, the barn itself, was designed in a very unique way. As I was building it, there were a lot of things that were done from the foundation all the way up to the second level to actually seal the building.
I have a lot of spiritual friends — Native American shamans, priests, ministers — that when they are here visiting, I will always ask them to protect things and bind different things. And there are items that are in the museum that I do feel that we were able to break some of the energy that was associated with them.
So again it’s a continuous thing, to protect the items, but the most important thing, to me, is if I can bring peace to a family. Bringing [the items] here to the paranormal museum and confining some of that energy, I hope, will bring peace to somebody out there and that family can move forward without having to worry.
Travis Langley: You’re working very hard to gather evidence scientifically. How do you respond to skeptics who just say you haven’t proven anything yet?
John Zaffis: Well, I agree. I can’t disagree with that. We’re gathering a tremendous amount of information out there with [electronic voice phenomena] and our video systems and hot and cold spots. We’re gaining all this information. We’re storing it. All of us are working out there doing it, but could we actually get repeatability? No. That’s what we’re striving for as far as a scientific method per se. Today I know a lot of engineers and scientists and different people that are intrigued with our field. Speaking with them, how they’re developing some of this equipment, I’m hoping somewhere down the road we’re going to be able to get repeatability… We are working from a spiritual realm and it’s very hard to get spirits to actually repeat something that they did. If we’re able to achieve that somewhere down the road, that’s going to be monumental in the paranormal field. So when somebody tells me that, that’s okay and I can understand that. But we’re striving for it. We’re working diligently at it from many different angles today.
Travis Langley: What kind of evidence seems most promising?
John Zaffis: I would actually say that today, when we’re looking at it, is we can get some repeatability from being able to pick up and register energy around an item with the EMF detectors and using your thermal imager. And when these things do occur and they do happen…you have [equipment including the REM-pod] able to record actual energy around something, to me that’s significant. And that’s one of the steps that in moving forward that is going to be beneficial in our field.
Travis Langley: What has been the hardest part of doing this work?
John Zaffis: My main concern is always trying to help a person to understand why they have paranormal activity; trying to be very guarded with training people and helping people to understand the paranormal, because it is a bizarre field. When … parents and their children are being affected by something, that’s a very difficult thing, being a parent and trying to understand what they need to do to understand what they need to do, how they need to do it, because … we can’t touch these things. We can’t just open the front door and throw them out. So talking to people and getting them to understand why some of these things are occurring and why they’re happening is a very difficult part of the field.
Travis Langley: Do you have any particular role models that have inspired you in this field? Or not just this field — who are your heroes?
John Zaffis: Ed Warren, Lorraine Warren, Hans Holzer are probably the ones that were most prominent as I was learning and growing up in the field. Many of these people looked at things from different perspectives and shared their information in bringing it to the forefront in our field. I always tell people, gravitate towards us old people (because I’m one of them now) that have a lot of knowledge.
There’s several people out there that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. They were the pioneers in our field, and they carried those scars of going through those times where people would continuously ridicule them and try to debunk everything that we’re trying to understand and share with people out there. It’s a difficult field, but I have several mentors out there that I have a tremendous amount of respect for and always will.
Haunted Collector returns for its second season tonight on Syfy. Let us know which TV series you’d like to see GeekNation cover. Comment below and tell us on Twitter.