Paranormal researcher releases book at Kent State University Bookstore

Bruno Beidacki

Paranormal research and author James A. Willis pre-released his new book “Ohio’s Historic Haunts” at the Kent State University Bookstore Saturday afternoon. 

Willis’ book chronicles his interviews with owners, employees and patrons of locations that are said to be haunted in Ohio as well as his experiences being locked in such places.

“Ohio’s Historic Haunts” is a joint effort between the author and the Kent State University Press as its publisher. It will be officially released Tuesday.

“I think it is great that a university believed in such project,” Willis said. “As far as I know, that is unheard of.”

The local community took advantage of the pre-release.

“As an avid reader interested in supernatural topics, I am happy Kent State hosted this event,” said high school senior Joey Thompson, who drove 20 minutes to buy his signed copy.

It was not just Ohioans who attended the event. Andrew Becker was at Kent State because of the afternoon’s football game but decided to walk around campus before heading to Dix Stadium.

“My family and I came from New York to support Marshall, our alma mater,” he said. “I come to Ohio often, so I thought it would make for a good read on our drive back.”

Willis has published several books, including “Weird Ohio,” “Weird Indiana” and “The Big Book of Ohio Ghost Stories.” In 1999, when he moved to Ohio, he founded a nationally recognized paranormal research organization named The Ghosts of Ohio and has been writing on the topic since.

James A. Willis talked to The Kent Stater before the event.

How did you get interested in such an alternative field?

Well, I had heard about many paranormal stories as a kid, and as I grew up, I found out most of them were 100 percent fiction. That triggered in me the desire of figuring out what was true and what was not between said haunted locations.

At which point did you realize that you could turn your hobby into a source of income and a career?

When I first moved to Ohio, I started a group called Ghosts of Ohio. We would look for ghosts and I would write about my experiences in my blog. It was basically like a journal. Then a few years later, I was offered the opportunity of being part of a book called “Weird Ohio.” They found me through the blog, and that is how I got my career as an author started.

How did the process of writing “Ohio’s Historic Haunts” work?

I started by selecting locations around the state the had interesting paranormal stories. Then I visited 21 historically important places and dedicated a chapter to each. I wrote about the history, the interviews I conducted with people who believed in them and finally my experiences being locked in those buildings.

How can you tell if an unusual event is a paranormal activity?

What we did was to send footage and audio to experts and asked them to comment on it. We never mentioned the possibility that they were paranormal activities. All I wanted to hear was that they could not explained what caused it. Why? I do not know what a ghost is or looks like. My job is to tell the stories and let the readers decide.

Bruno Beidacki is an activities reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].