Haunted Collector, Syfy’s hit reality series, follows the often scary adventures of paranormal expert John Zaffis and his motley crew of investigators, including two of his children. He’s a man well-known in the circles of ghosts, hauntings, possessions and the downright bizarre, and now he’s become a TV personality on a mission: To find questionable artifacts in people’s homes and calm the nerves of the absolutely terrified.
The nephew of famed paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, Zaffis has been interested in the supernatural almost his entire life. In a revealing interview with Hollywood Soapbox, he talks about the upcoming season of Haunted Collector, plus some of his more memorable cases on the road.
Here’s Part I of our discussion (read Part II here). Questions and answers have been slightly edited.
Is this a dream job for you? It’s serious stuff, but it seems like you’re in your element when you go to these haunted houses?
Absolutely. Again, it’s something that I believe very strongly in. I know there’s definitely things out there that can affect people and affect their homes. Having an understanding of it, I try to help as many people as I possibly can.
How did Haunted Collector come about?
Well, were just going back and forth. I was interested in doing something in the paranormal realm for a TV show, and, as you know, there’s already a lot of shows that are very cookie cutter out there. So, the approach with the haunted items came about, and it was something I was interested in.
What can audience members expect in the upcoming season? The premiere episode featuring the house in Kentucky on the Ohio River is really interesting.
The woman had moved in there. There were thousands and thousands of dollars worth of renovations done by the family. They were just trying to live there, her and her son, peacefully. There was a lot of activity. But then again, near water, you’re going to have that.
A lot of times, when people bring artifacts in from the yard, or they bring it in from other locations, there’s a possibility they might have energy attached to them. And, the energy could intermingle with the individuals. So therefore it could cause a disturbance, and it could cause activity within these houses. Again, that was such an old home. It was an old stately mansion at one point in time. They renovated it, and again the energy from the property, the house and some of the items in there. I’m hoping by removing that piece of bone, whether it’s human or animal, whatever it was, will help to bring some peace to the family.
At the Kentucky home in the premiere episode, when you received that recording of what sounded like a little girl saying, ‘Oh my God,’ I could see the shock on your face.
You don’t normally get something so clear-cut. And it’s right there, and it happened as we were filming. So, again, looking at that as we were doing it, going back and forth, and then when we played it back, I heard something. When we amplified it, it really took me back, because it was so clear.
At that point, she kept telling me of situations where she felt like there was a child spirit or something small that kept crawling in bed with her and snuggling with her — not hurting her or anything like that. It was scaring her. She was trying to figure it out. And, again, is there a possibility that that connection was there between that EVP and a little child’s voice? It sounded like a little girl to me. But again with EVPs, 10 people can listen to them and you get 10 different versions of it. Things had calmed down after we did that. Did we bring closure to several of the spirits that were probably inhabiting and causing issues there? I honestly feel we did.
Is it great working with your family, including your children who help with the paranormal investigations?
It does. Traveling around and getting involved with one of my daughters (I have two) and my son, you’re with them 24/7, so you bond differently. … When you’re out on the road, you’re traveling, you really get to know a person, because you spend a lot time with each other. It was something that was very enjoyable.
They ask a lot more questions because we’re around each other all the time. They walked away with a better understanding just after the first season. So they were able to line different things up for the second season, when we were going in and investigating. Again, it’s a very key element, and it was something from the perspective of being a father and working with two of his children. It was enjoyable.
There are believers and non-believers out there. But you try to have a skeptical eye, and you disprove a lot of the phenomena. Does that give you more credibility?
Yes and no. Again, with paranormal investigating, or the TV shows, they are very controversial — all of them. When looking at this, I think it’s a key element. It’s all things that I’ve learned over the years. See what you can find out about the piece of property, or see what you can find out about people that have lived there. Start digging into things, because sometimes these things can line up and they can prove or disprove something that’s being experienced by people.
You can go in and say, ‘Gee, this doesn’t make any sense. It’s not lining up.’ It still helps to give a person a peace of mind. OK, it’s not really connecting. It’s not really tying in. When the things do start to line up and they are tying in, the pieces of the puzzle are falling together, that tells me we got that good possibility of being able to bring closure to some of the paranormal activity that’s happening in these homes.
How did paranormal investigation begin for you?
When I was 16, I actually had a sighting. It was a Wednesday evening — because when you have an experience, you don’t forget it. There was a black-shadow form, very transparent, at the foot of my bed. It was 6-foot tall, and it just kept shaking its head back and forth.
Well, at that point, I wasn’t interested in the paranormal or anything. That startled me, and I had gone down and was telling my mom about it. And she goes, ‘Well, that was your grandfather.’ And I go, ‘How do you know it was your dad?’ She goes, ‘Well, John, you were 4 when he died, and he was a very stern, quiet man, but any time anything was wrong, he would always shake his head back and forth.’
I embraced that as something as a positive, and a few days afterward, my grandmother had passed away. That’s what really started the road with looking into this, because you hear so many of the stories about deceased loved ones coming back to help loved ones cross over. To me, that was verification right there. And then I just started studying it, and getting into it and going into places, working with people …. and that’s how it evolved. The deeper I got into it, the more I started realizing there was this whole world that people don’t even talk about. And that’s what really opened it up, and to this day I still push forward with a lot of things.
By John Soltes / Publisher / [email protected]
Haunted Collector airs on the Syfy network on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Click here for more information.