Interview with Chad Lewis, Explorer of the Unknown

For over two decades, Chad Lewis has traveled the back roads of the world in search of the strange and unusual. From tracking vampires in Transylvania and searching for the elusive monster of Loch Ness to trailing the dangerous Tata Duende through remote villages of Belize and searching for ghosts in Ireland’s castles, Chad has scoured the earth in search of the paranormal. Chad has been featured on the Discovery Channel’s A Haunting, William Shatner’s Weird or What, ABC’s World’s Scariest Places on Earth, Monsters and Mysteries in America, and Beyond Belief along with being a frequent contributor on Ripley’s Believe it or not Radio. With a Masters Degree in Psychology, Chad has authored over 20 books on the supernatural, and extensively lectures on his fascinating findings. The more bizarre the legend, the more likely it is that you will find Chad there.

What inspired your pursuit of the legends and lore of the Midwest? In what state did you begin your quest, and what was the first place you investigated?

I squarely pin the blame for my interest in the paranormal on my home state of Wisconsin. I grew up not too far from one of the three ‘UFO Capitals of the World’ that the state claims to have. So in high school I became interesting in the stories of those who saw UFOs in the sky so I traveled to the town and began to interview witnesses. Soon after this I started studying psychology at UW-Stout where I became interested in human perception and belief systems which might make some people believe in the paranormal while others did not.

My first paranormal cases were all in the surrounding area around my home in Eau Claire, as they were the easiest to get to and research while battling a hectic college schedule. My first unofficial case was the above mentioned UFOs of Elmwood. My first real haunted investigation centered on the spirit of a young woman who had been frequently spotted roaming the area of an old rural dam. While doing further research on the case I discovered that back in 1974 a young woman matching the description of the ghost had been murdered in that area. I was so ecstatic with the whole research process that this case spawned my interest into the entire field of study.

How did you meet up with Terry Fisk and create Unexplained Research? Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Terry came to a lecture I was giving in Eau Claire and began telling me about the research he was doing, which incorporated more of the spiritual side of things and we felt that having different approaches to these haunted locations would be a benefit to each of our respective research goals.

We started traveling to Wisconsin’s alleged haunted sites, looking to add the information to our website. What we found is that many of the directions were horrendous, we would often spend several hours crisscrossing an area just trying to locate one spot. We also found that many of the stories were either embellished, erroneous, or even outright lies so we decide to head to the bookstore to find a book that would tell us how to get to these places, give us the correct background story, and tell us what others had experienced there. We quickly discovered that at that time no such book existed, so we decided to write one ourselves.

Looking back now, we could have done a better job at ruling out some of the more sketchy legends. Our Wisconsin book has about 100 locations listed in it. However, because we actually traveled to (and investigated) each of the places in the book we ended up traveling to about 400 places in order to narrow it down to the 100 that made the book. As you can assume, this was very time consuming and it would have been better to eliminate some of the place right from the onset.

Of all the allegedly haunted places you’ve studied, which are two of your favorites and why?

I love places that not only have a haunted story attached to them, but they also have some Americana feel to them as well. With that being said here are two of my favorite spots:

1. The day that music died – Clear Lake, Iowa

Upon first glace the relatively small corn field would not stand out in the midst of Iowa’s expansive farmland. But if one slows down and takes their time they will soon learn that this is the farm where in 1959, the plane carrying Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens crashed into flames–killing all of the musicians (and the young pilot). Since that fateful day numerous people have heard the phantom sounds of music being played accompanied by many visual sightings of what is thought of be Buddy Holly’s ghost. I love the idea that these old-time musicians continue to follow their passion–even from the grave!

2. Raven’s Grin Inn – Mount Carroll, IL

The first thing you need to know about the Inn is that is a “haunted” haunted house, meaning that when you are walking through the home, if the eerie props don’t scare you, the real spirits of the house just might. At first glance the amazing home looks like it popped out of out of Hollywood as some weird Tim Burton creation. However, when you take the tour you will quickly see that unlike Hollywood, the Inn provides a perfect combination of being both campy and creative. Although the owner has been giving people spooky tours for over 20 years, the spirits in the home have been spooking visitors for over 135 years.

Why do you think the Midwest is home to so many unusual people, places, and events?

I feel that the Midwest weirdness is a combination of the odd assortment of strange people, unique geology of the land, along with a sorted history. The contradiction of having both large sprawling cities and wide swaths of primitive land makes for an interesting mix of urban and rural legends. People in this region also tend to showcase an openness to folklore and legends, carrying on the traditions brought over from the old countries.

Do you feel that interest in the paranormal has declined in recent years, why or why not?

Throughout history I feel there has always been a huge interest in the paranormal or supernatural. One big difference is that one hundred years ago there wasn’t a never ending supply of TV shows bringing that interest to the forefront. I do, however, think that the number of ghost groups being formed has peaked and is actually on the decline. Many of the ghost hunting groups that were formed as carbon copies of the TV shows quickly discovered that fully researching cases took a lot of time and energy, and when the notion took hold that Hollywood was not handing out TV shows to every group with a cool logo, these groups began to fall apart.

What I see instead of new ghost groups forming is the continued explosion of legend tripping. Curious people looking for explore the paranormal by going to these legends and exploring them for themselves. Often times legend trippers are not looking to interview witnesses, dig up new research, or be bogged down with historical records, they are simply there to have fun and try the legend and have an adventure.

We thoroughly enjoyed your book The Wisconsin Road Guide to Mysterious Creatures. What is your favorite legendary creature in Wisconsin, and are there any of these creatures you truly believe exist?

My favorite creature from the Wisconsin book is the Hellhounds of Meridean, Wisconsin. This secluded rural island boat landing seems to be a paranormal hotspot where within a few miles stretch you can encounter a phantom car, mysterious disembodied lights, a siren-like ghost, a shadow demon, apparitions of deceased children, and of course the hellhounds. My favorite story of the hellhounds came to me after a conference in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, when a big burly biker guy came up to me to re-tell his terrifying experience with the hellhounds. The biker was the exact type of guy that wouldn’t get scared by anything, yet as he started his story I noticed that his hands were shaking. He told me that one day during a motorcycle ride near Eau Claire, he and a couple of his friends decided to take their bikes out to see the ghost of Mary Dean. It was just about dusk as the small group motored in to the area of the boat landing.

Immediately they spotted several large black dogs roaming near the boat landing. Fearing that the dogs were out to harm them, the bikers quickly decided to scurry out of the area as fast as they could. When I asked him why he thought the creatures were hellhounds and not just plain wild dogs, the now visibly shaken man stated that several things about these hellish canines convinced him that they were not normal dogs. On their arrival, the bikers were able to see that the dogs appeared to be nearly transparent—the group could almost see right through them. The second thing that freaked them out was the fact that the group exited the area at a quick pace, but the hellhounds had no problem keeping up with them, no matter how fast they went.

With a gruesome looking hellhound running right next to him, the man kicked out his foot and attempted to hit the ferocious dog, yet much to his surprise, his foot simply went right through the creature. This aggressive action seemed to work, because after the kick, the dogs simply disappeared into the night. The group was so shook up about the incidence that they did not stop riding until the hit the safety of Chippewa Falls (about 30 miles away).

That matter of creatures truly existing is a difficult question. I feel that all of these creature partly exist due to the generations of belief that surround them. Whether they actually living (or dead) things that are flesh and blood is another question, but I do believe they exist, if only in our telling and re-telling of the stories. As far as what creature I put the most credence in–that would the sea serpents or lake monsters. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s Wisconsin had over two dozen lakes, rivers, and streams that were thought to be inhabited by some sort of aquatic monster. Although many of these creature stories died out, a still continue to be sighted to this very day.

Do you have any upcoming events or projects you are working on? How can our readers get in touch with you if they would like to know more about your books and appearances?

I am always working on numerous new research projects. Right now I am finishing up a book on the Wendigo with fellow researchers Noah Voss and Kevin Lee Nelson. To see where I am presenting next, you can go to my website I am always out prowling the back roads and the more bizarre the legend, the more likely it is that you will find me there.

Sorry guys, this page is copyright, 2015. You do not have permission to copy this for any reason. Please learn how to cite your work. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are courtesy of Chad Lewis.


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