anxiety, ghost-hunting, ghosts, Goffle Road Murders, Linda Zimmerman, stress

Interview with a ghost hunter

Linda Zimmerman

Many of you know that my friend and author, Don Smith has just published his epic novel, The Goffle Road Murders. He introduced me to Linda Zimmerman, a real life ghost hunter!!

I was eager to speak with Linda because she experiences a job stress unlike most. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there is no doubt that someone who deals with the underworld has their share of stress. I thought it would be interesting to see how someone who works with the supernatural handles anxiety and fear.

Hi Linda. Thanks so much for doing this! Don has talked so much about you that I feel like I know you.

LZ: Hi! Thanks for the opportunity to do this.

You are a ghost hunter. What is that, exactly, and how the heck did you get in to it?

LZ: I was writing and lecturing about local history fifteen years ago, and people started asking about ghost stories. At first, I would only go to a house to interview the owners and take a few pictures. Then I realized the best way to tell a ghost story is to experience the haunting. I began getting more equipment and setting up full investigations. A ghost hunter should try to gather as much “hard evidence” (photos, video, audio, etc.) as possible, research the history of the location, and interview as many eyewitnesses as possible. You need to be able to provide as complete of a picture of the haunting as is possible, and if that means experiencing the paranormal activity firsthand, so much the better.

I know I get really creeped out just watching a horror flick. What’s it like actually communicating with the dead? How do you overcome any initial fear?

LZ: I made a decision early on that if I ran every time something scary happened I wouldn’t get very far in ghost hunting. For the most part, encountering activity is an addictive adrenaline rush. However, when it gets nasty or threatening, that’s when it’s hard to stand your ground. I have never run from an investigation…although I have walked away rather quickly!

Can you describe a “haunting?” How is it possible to “stand your ground” with  a ghost? What sorts of “nasty or threatening” things would make you need to?

LZ: A haunting is composed of various paranormal activity which can involve sounds, images, sensations, and even being touched. Most are benign, they are like imprints. Others are conscious or interactive, and the nasty ones seem determined to scare or harm you. It may be hard to describe in words, but it’s instantly recognizable in person.

Don mentioned that you have to basically “overcome,” your reptilian brain or “turn it off.” Can you talk some about that? I think there are times when everyone’s reptilian brain goes into overdrive. It might be useful for us, dealing with the living, to be able to control it better.

LZ: Its simply a case of stubbornness and determination. Whether dealing with ghosts or people, if you have a specific goal you are trying to reach, you have to keep that in mind under all circumstances or you’ll never reach that goal.

In my experience, the stress response produced by the reptilian brain is usually automatic, meaning it’s very hard to shut it off. Is there a time when you really struggled with a fight/flight/freeze response?

There are many times when I am scared and want to run, and many more when I freeze for a moment. A lot of people can’t take it, and I don’t blame them. Not to compare what I do to combat, but as an example, why does one soldier run and another charge ahead? There’s just something that allows some people to suppress the primitive fight/flight response.

 Are the spirits or dead ever mad that you’ve wakened them?

LZ: I don’t know that I would use the term wakened, but I have often felt as though they believed I was intruding on “their” turf. And many get quite angry when you try to persuade them to move on.

Can you communicate with anyone who’s dead?

LZ: Not me personally, but there are psychics who seem to have the ability to communicate with most people who have passed on. And I tend to doubt that everyone who has died is “available for comment.” Hopefully, those spirits who are completely at peace have moved way beyond our level.

Would you say that as you’ve gained experience, you are less stressed out by it, since you kind of know what to expect and you’ve sort of already lived through the worst?

LZ: Absolutely. I was far more skittish in the beginning. I often forget how far I’ve come until I see a novice ghost hunter scream or run away.

To read more about Linda’s ghost hunts, check out her book Hudson Valley Haunts on Amazon.

c. 2012

carl jung, compare/despair, familiarity, irritation, stress, stuart smalley

Mirror’s Reflection


I used to have a co-worker who could have been me 10 years ago. She had the same boy problems, the same work issues, the same school issues. She even had the same immature responses I did and rationalized them the same way.
It was kind of like working with my younger, stupid self and it really annoyed the hell out of me. I was cringing so much that it was beginning to interfere with my work.
Carl Jung said something I found kind of interesting.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Or more concisely put, everything that irritates you about others reminds you of the irritating things you do. I wouldn’t have believed this 10 years ago, [even though it was no less true] but now it just seems to knock me over the head. I cannot stand to be around people who remind me both of my younger, uninformed self; likewise, my potential for doing ridiculous things.
In fact, I think the problems in our society have less to do with our differences, and more to do with our similarities. If someone is completely different than you, there is little basis for the whole compare/despair notion. [Props to Stuart Smalley on that term].
I’m willing to bet that the things that irk you the most about your co-workers, friends, and especially your family, have but the teeniest shred of familiarity to you. And that is why you have such a passionate reaction to it.
I have a friend who complains incessantly about the annoying things her mother does. The thing she doesn’t realize [and far be it from me to point it out to her] is that she is just like her.
So be gentle. The annoying persons we once were turned into the awesome stars we are now!! 

c. 2012

1988 election, michael dukakis, stress

A pique inside my journal…

Michael Dukakis 1988 election
image credit

I had a funny, albeit surreal experience, reading one of my old journals tonight. It is always interesting to read my wistful thoughts with the benefit of hindsight. Amidst all the usual junior high angst, one entry particularly brought a smile to my face.

This entry was during the 1988 election, my earnest 12-year-old mind was very uneasy at the prospect of Michael Dukakis winning the election.

July 4, 1988

Dear Diary.  Today is the 4th of July. All that is happening has got me thinking, this could be the last 4th of July we celebrate. Because if Mike Dukakis wins, we’ll probably go Communist, and  I am so scared about what might happen.

Now, granted. I was 12, and had precious little grasp on what was going on [I probably still don’t]. I remember being VERY worried. Of course I didn’t understand the intricacies of his ideology, I only knew that they were very different from what I thought was right, from my very fledgling Conservative beliefs.

My stress was very real that night, I remember obsessing for hours about it. The vague notions I had about his policies were frightening. I’m sure I didn’t yet know what all Communism entailed, or even how his policies were going to enable such a horrid effect. 80s-era Russia was my only association with Communism, which scared me. It brought to mind a Narnia-esque environment where it was always winter but never Christmas. I knew, at the time, religion and free speech were suppressed there, two freedoms, I enjoy very much.

Now 22 years later, I look at that and laugh. I had little understanding of government or politics. [Heck, thank goodness I was too young to comprehend Jimmy Carter]. Now that I’m older and wiser, I haven’t changed much at all. I still tend to allow my concerns to seethe and simmer, over actively idling like my car used to do. Exerting the same sort of wasted energy as well.

I always enjoy reading my old journals. They always put things in perspective for me. See how things have worked out seamlessly, despite your fretting about them, they seem to say. Obviously, everything turned out ok in that election. Even if it hadn’t, I suppose we would have learned to live with it.

c. 2010