Richard Senate has been hunting ghosts since 1978 and has found "few answers and many questions." He has visited over 200 haunted sites and authored several books on the subject of psychic research. He stresses that he is a normal person, but one with an obscure hobby. In the real world, Mr. Senate works for the city of Verona, manages three different historic sites as well as giving lectures at a local college and writing a weekly column for his local newspaper entitled, "The Psychic World." His wife, Debbie, also writes a column entitled "Dear Debbie," which "is a sort of psychic Dear Abby who gives advice on all sorts of things from past lives to job prospects."

Mr. Senate will be on an upcoming special on the A&E Network (Haunted Houses, showing on October 27, 1996,) the new episode of Sightings (Sci-Fi Channel in October) and on the Art Bell Radio Program "Dreamland" on October 6th as well. Mr. Senate was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to do an interview with verbosity.

verbosity: You have just finished an investigation of the Queen Mary. What can you tell us of your trip? Although you are still reviewing the data, have you acquired any preliminary results?

Richard Senate: The last trip to the Queen Mary was a real success! We collected new data on the haunted areas of the ship including a new account of a phantom in the pool area of the great ocean liner. During the seance a spirit calling itself Alan Mopray(?) was channeled and he informed us that he was going home to England--he was unhappy that the ship was moving so slowly! He seems to have been a drinking man in life and haunted the bar on the ship. He seemed to be happy and enjoying his voyage' home.
He also seems to have been some sort of Hollywood actor of some type and spoke of Buster Keaton, whom he admired and Charlie Chaplin whom he did not. He also spoke of James Dean and Chuck Heston. He also ranted against some one named Samson whom he hated. He called him a warlock who had control of people--making and breaking careers. He even said that his own career was ruined by this man. It must have been really ruined because no one had ever heard of the man even though he said he was in well over 100 films including The King and I.
I have yet to do the research on this actor and the warlock Samson. At first I thought it must refer to one of the Hollywood moguls but when I asked he said this Samson had nothing to do with the studios. During the seance a light appeared to six of the members, floated away and vanished. That night, a team member had an icy form visit her room as well. My next task is to see if such a person existed at all (I don't think so) and if they ever sailed on the Queen Mary. I will rent the video of The King and I and see if anyone named Alan was in the film and then go from there. Ghost hunting is research much more than wandering around old haunted houses (or ships). The information will be published in an article or in a book I am planning. I am the co-author of a book called The Haunted Queen Mary. When we update the book, I will add the new stories.
v: Have you ever communicated with a spirit face to face, and if so, what was it like? Can you tell us about the event?
RS: Yes, I have communicated with spirits, ghosts, phantoms or whatever they are. It hasn't happened a lot in my career. I have seen spirits but when this happens they seem silent. I have heard spirits but they do not seem to wish to listen. Only though a medium have I even spoken to a ghost. It is strange and I had a hard time believing this was even possible. I don't care if you do not believe me in this I only know what I have seen and heard. I have gotten information that would have been impossible to have gotten except by talking to some one who has passed over the threshold of death. What do ghosts say about being dead? Well, they do not seem to know that they are dead. They seem to be unable to sense time. They believe only a year or so has passed when in fact it has been four decades! They have said that they see sound and hear colors! They also seem to be obsessed with some detail of their lives. So they are, as a rule, poor conversationalists. It is strange to talk to some thing that may well be the essence of some one from long ago. It is also fun to argue with the spirits at times.
I will not say that all seances are real--fakes are out there all the time--but, in my investigations I have seen and heard something that would make your hair curl! I believe there are real mediums--they are rare and sometimes even they fall into error.
v: You have stated that "evil or negative ghosts are as rare as negative and evil people." Have you ever encountered any evil ghosts? Do you believe it is possible for an evil ghost to hurt you?
RS: Yes, their are evil things out there and once I did investigate a site that had something old and evil lurking in a rented room. Three men had rented the room and gone mad! One poor fellow had taken his own life! I had not been told of this so when I came in with a team (yes, I work with a team of people not just by myself) we didn't know what to expect. The medium began to cry out, the candles went out, the atmosphere in the room changed. It was a full hour before we got the psychic off the floor! We tried all we could to get rid of what was there and I will be frank about this--it scared the Hell out of me. But, I knew these people and they were not faking. They didn't know about the people who had gone crazy! We were told about that detail later on. Still, after our encounter the evil seems to have vanished and in time it was gone.
I do not believe any ghost can really harm you. I feel that the stories about such things are more the product of sensationalism and story-telling than real encounters with ghosts. A year or so there was a case of a man scratched by a ghost. It was in all the tabloid press. I was not involved in that case but, I feel that it was a case of mind causing things to happen on the skin such as in the case of stigmata. I always say that ghost hunting is much safer than driving on the freeway.
v: Some cultures believe that ghosts are spirits who cannot rest because of an unfinished or unfulfilled deed, usually related to something they did while mortal. Other cultures believe that ghosts are spirits who have come back from the 'Otherworld' to fulfill a mission. Even the Bible speaks of Angels and Demons. What, in your opinion, are ghosts?
RS: I must agree with some of the old concepts. In the investigations I have conducted I have found that some spirits seem linked to things that they did in life. But, this isn't the case in every haunting. There is so much we do not know. I feel that there isn't a single answer to this mystery. I feel that if there is an answer it is in the nature of reality itself. Many ghosts seem linked to warps in the fabric of time rather than the wandering spirits of gothic fiction.
I have interviewed people who give evidence that at least some ghosts are indeed the spirits of loved ones returned to help or advise the living. This might be as many as 20% of the reported haunts. Some ghosts have even saved lives! Many of the reports of angels may be nothing more than ghosts. If I remember my Bible (yes, I am a Christian, I do read the Bible, too) People can't become angels no mater what the TV and movies say--Clarence can get his wings when the bells ring because the angels were all made before God made Man! Remember: "Let us make man in our image". If the fundamentalists are right and the devil is behind all this ghost stuff he is really blowing it! People seem to become more church going after seeing a ghost! They improve their lives, give up drugs, become better citizens. Few become deeply involved in New Age things but they become convinced there is a supernatural world.
v: We have an old building on our campus dating from the 19th century. There are many rumors associated with this building, including satanic worship. How would we go about investigating this building and determining if it is, indeed, haunted?
RS: I have found that many places linked to satanic worship are haunted. It is the worst thing that can happen short of murder. How would I investigate such a place? Well, I would first collect all of the history of the building, who built it and why, what anyone hurt in the construction? Was their another building on that site? Was there a death in the building? Next, I would have interviews conducted of all the people who have had things of a paranormal nature happen in the building being sure to ask for details such as the time of day. If some one saw an apparition I would ask them to draw pictures of the phantom (or use a sketch artist as the police do) Details of clothing are important in dating the specter --costume people in the theater department can be of help in finding when styles were popular.
I would ask psychics to visit the place one at a time and record their findings. Make sure they know as little as possible; those who conduct the walk though with the psychic should also know nothing about the haunting presence. An equal number of people who think they have some psychic abilities should also be walked though as a control.
Then, and only then, should an overnight stake-out be tried. Tape recorders should be set up in the haunted areas as well as cameras loaded with very high speed film (XXX-BXW seems to work the best--place a Red filter over the flash unit--not the lens. You may have to bump up the ASA for clear pictures; I do not suggest an automatic camera for this). Also, a psychic should be with the team (it should be a team effort). Review all tapes the next morning for whispered EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) sounds. The best time is between the hours of three and four in the morning. Collect your data and see if any of it matches the historic data. Your mission should be to discover who is haunting and why. Many times when this is done the energy seems to vanish away by itself as if telling its story is all that it wanted.
v: How do you feel about the new "pop culture" that has evolved around the paranormal, especially shows such as "X-Files?"
RS: I like the X-Files. They have done a great job in bringing this subject to the public in a positive way. They piece they did on the psychic who could see into the mind of a murderer was excellent! It really told what it is like to be psychic. I have worked with enough of them (I'm married to one) to know what is true and what is not! This was a great leap from the psychic shown in the movie Poltergeists a few years ago.
I don't really think it is a pop culture thing at all just from time to time supernatural subjects become popular--this has been happening for many ages and will continue for many more. Now, I feel it may well be very healthy for people facing a confusing world and a new electronic age. Who knows what the next century will hold out for us?
v: Do you believe there is any truth to the idea that Halloween is evil?
RS: That is just so much poppycock! Is all Saint's evil? No, I don't believe anyone sees this as evil except for some crusty old Puritans still ready to burn witches. No, because it deals with the subject of death and ghosts and such people have mixed it up with the devil and all that is evil. I feel that it has continued to be so popular because it says something to the human soul.
Outside of candy makers there isn't much profit in the day--it has defied attempts to commercialize it like Christmas. Halloween Cards have never really caught on. It is a hold over from Pagan times that brings joy into people's lives the way no other holiday can. Even Christmas has been ruined. Who really has fun on Christmas outside of brainwashed tykes who are programed to want the newest plastic doodad thought up in Hollywood--made by underpaid Chinese and sold at inflated priced to guilty parents? Halloween--what is it really; a costume, bowl of candy and a reason to face our fears. Besides that it is a great reason to have a party! No wonder Puritans hate it so.
v: Does Halloween hold any special power? Are haunted sites any more haunted on Halloween?
RS: No! Ghosts do not punch clocks nor do they watch a calendar.
v: What are your plans for this Halloween?
RS: I will first take my two daughters out trick or treating (my littlest one calls it Trickytreating), Then go home and pass out candy to all of the teenagers in costume. We will have the house decorated with a cemetery on the lawn and such things. I may have a funny hat to wear but, outside of that my Halloween is like those of millions of Americans. I will not be flying on a broom or talking to the dead or anything else. Oddly enough, for me, the ghost hunter, Halloween is really rather dull. The only break comes once in a while from some radio show calling me on the phone asking silly questions about ghosts and haunted houses. I try to be kind to the manic DJ's and give some sort of funny answer to keep their show moving along. I guess I'm getting middle aged. There was a time when I did party a lot on Halloween, but not now.

Extra special thanks goes out to Richard Senate for this hauntingly good interview. Be sure to check out his website for more great information!

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This interview was handled via e-mail by verbosity editor, Seth Waddell. Unauthorized reproduction will only earn you a stern slap on the wrist.