Benjamin S. Jeffries is the team documentarian for 765 Paranormal, a ghost hunting group based in the Lafayette, Indiana area. His first book, LOST IN THE DARKNESS was released by Schiffer Books in 2013, followed by GRIM SHADOWS FALLING in 2015. His third book, VILE: PEEKING UNDER THE SKIN OF MURDERERS, will be released early next year. He’s appeared on Darkness Radio with Dave Schrader and Tim Dennis, Club Para with Ryleigh Black, and Jim Harold’s Paranormal Podcast, and his book, LOST IN THE DARKNESS, even made a cameo appearance in episode 208 of Fox’s SLEEPY HOLLOW.
Please tell us a little about your background. Were you born and raised in Indiana? How did you become interested in the paranormal?
I was born and raised in Dayton, Indiana (Go Bulldogs!) and as long as I can remember, I’ve been into monsters and ghosts, folktales and legends. I think it was instigated by my dad at first, who himself is a brilliant writer & a retired literature & drama teacher. If it wasn’t for him, honestly, I wouldn’t be writing anything. My dad literally made me want to write. He also introduced me to Frankenstein and all the Universal monster movies, but I kind of took it from there. He was mostly into science fiction and westerns, whereas I always seemed to gravitate toward the horrific. Ghost stories and urban legends, especially, seemed to pull on my interests more than any other type of horror tale.
As I got older and kind of stepped out of that veil of childhood, I began to realize that yes, there were strange things happening in our house, things happening to me, to my family, that sort of thing. I once saw a dark figure in the doorway of my bedroom that didn’t resemble my dad or my older brother. Things would disappear and reappear in other places. I suffered from very acute depression and didn’t know why. I later found out that a man had killed himself in the house a few years prior to my parents buying it in 1972. I’m fairly convinced that something dark had been piggy-backing me for most of my life in that house. A career, or at least more than a passing interest, in the paranormal was pretty inevitable.
Your books, Lost in the Darkness and Grim Shadows Falling, seem to focus on the darker side of the paranormal. What draws you to this aspect in particular?
I think I’ve always been that way. A dark kid, the morbid one in class who tells horrific jokes with a straight face. The darker, the better. And I’ve tried to be positive but I just can’t seem to take it well. I always get drawn back into the darker stuff. That being said, I think that, when it comes to ghosts and hauntings, I think that the “unfinished business” and “life cut short” aspects are incredibly tragic situations that will rarely, if ever, get resolved. When writing about these ghosts and hauntings, I guess I kind of hope that, by getting the story out, it allows them some sort of resolution.
How did you research locations for Lost in the Darkness? Which is the most compelling prison, hospital, or asylum, and why?
A lot of my research began in the library and with documentaries on the subject. Say what you will about Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, but the majority of those television episodes have great researchers like Jeff Belanger (my hero) who provide great starting points for deeper investigation and research. In places like Moundsville’s West Virginia Penitentiary, you can talk about the ghost of William “Red” Snyder all you want, but if you don’t know the man that he was, the story becomes hollow and superficial. I researched “Red” Snyder a lot, visited the prison twice, and wrote about him as if he were a long lost relative. I think research is good, but immersing yourself in the actual history of the location brings so much more to the text. It adds shadow and depth to a stick figure, which I hope I was able to do with LOST.
In all, I visited roughly ten of the locations in the book while researching it, which was one of the best road trips I’d ever taken. I had started out at Central State Hospital in Indianapolis, which I stopped at on my way to Louisville’s Waverly Hills Sanatorium, simply because it was an hour away from my house. At the time, I really didn’t know where to go with the book. I knew I wanted it to be scary, I wanted it to give you a chill, and I wanted it to be dark as hell. But visiting Central State Hospital gave me the focus I needed. I was taking pictures for the book near the old carpentry building and as I turned to leave, I heard, very clearly, a disembodied voice behind me say, “What are you doing here?” Nothing there. Looked in the windows, no one there.
As I was driving off the campus, and during my whole trip out of Indianapolis, I thought about what that voice had asked me. What WAS I doing there? I didn’t have an answer. By the time I got to Louisville, I realized that I wasn’t going to write about haunted places, I was going to write about the people that were still there. Still haunting those places. THAT was what was important, not the buildings. But its a symbiotic relationship. Those spirits are attached to those buildings for a reason, but the heart of the haunting is with the ghost still living in the prison or hospital it can’t escape. I find that tragic, especially when they’re no longer bound by flesh and don’t have to stay but still can not leave.
During the course of your investigations, have you ever encountered something you couldn’t explain? How confident are you that ghosts are real, and why?
There have been times when I’ve been touched or scratched by something that wasn’t there, which is pretty difficult to rationalize. My digital voice recorder started to rock back and forth in my hand while I was in Herb Baumeister’s shower at Fox Hollow Farm. They say you can debunk anything in the paranormal field, but the presence of a red scratch that wasn’t there before is kind of difficult to explain away. As far as if I think ghosts are real or not? I believe in them. I’ve experienced enough in this field that I can’t NOT believe. That alone won’t convince anyone, I know. But once you feel the icy fingers on your neck or that burning sensation from a spectral scratch, you’ll believe.
It’s all about the personal experience. I value personal experiences more than anything. I’m not looking for proof, or evidence, I’m always looking to make a connection, the more personal the better. So I don’t mind if I don’t get the activity on video as long as I can experience what a spirit has to offer on a personal level. However, I love it when I am able to capture a spectral voice on a recorder or a mist that couldn’t possibly have come from anywhere else on video. Man, that’s exciting stuff.
Grim Shadows Falling promises to reveal the “devastating truth” behind Black Moon Manor, a location in which many accuse its former proprietor of inventing hauntings. What is your take on this controversy?
The old Eastes house, or “Black Moon Manor”, was already haunted to the gills. Before Matt Speck ever moved in, there were stories of ghostly apparitions, sounds, and voices. Family members and former residents could tell you that there was no need for him to embellish or create any horrors about that house. What he did was essentially take the Eastes family history and turned it on its head, added a mad doctor, tossed in a dash of Waverly Hills Sanatorium’s history, and exploited the Eastes name to make a buck. I just found it truly despicable, especially since he was renting the house from the Eastes family and a good portion of them still lived in the area. It was a slap in their face.
In researching the house, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting some of the family who used to live there. They were some of the few I shared the initial draft with and when they gave me their blessing after reading it, I knew I was on the right track. I think they were happy that the truth would come out and finally be seen beyond the Internet. When the Ghost Adventures episode came out and the inconsistencies shone through, I was a little disheartened that they never called Speck out on it. But I understand why they didn’t; they had to remain impartial. I didn’t. It became such a venomous chapter that my editor asked me to tone it down out of fear that I would be sued. I didn’t care, but I did it for Schiffer Publishing because they’ve been pretty good to me over the year or two I’ve worked with them. I softened the tone, but I didn’t let him off the hook.
Knowing the Eastes family was behind me and appreciated my work on the chapter was the most rewarding part.I’m still pretty tight with Bobby Eastes, who investigates with Original Paranormal Paparazzi in Greenfield, Indiana. When it was finally torn down in 2012, it was kind of bittersweet, but the energy of that place still commands your attention. I visited the location last year and it was still very powerful. I have no problem with people who want to open their homes to paranormal teams. That’s their right and as a paranormal team member, I’ve participated in many paid investigations. But I do take issue with those that embellish or pervert truths, profit from those lies, and smack an entire family in the face in the process.
Are you currently working on any new books? Where can our readers go to find out more about you, your books, and your upcoming projects and events?
I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. All the usual social media suspects. Just look for “Benjamin S. Jeffries, L’Inkslinger Morbide” on Facebook and “benjeffries13” on Twitter. You can also visit my website, which can be found at http://parainkslinger.wix.com/benjamin-s-jeffries
On August 29, I’ll be at Roads To The Paranormal in Spiceland, Indiana with 765 Paranormal, an awesome team out of Lafayette, Indiana that took me in a few years back. I’m their documentarian, which means I get to follow them around with a video camera in the dark. It sounds boring, but really isn’t. We’re pretty serious about what we do, but spending seven hours in the dark until the wee hours of the morning make for some pretty funny behaviors; the gag reels that come out of filming them are almost better than the actual feature.
My next book, VILE, is currently on my editor’s desk at Schiffer Publishing, and should hopefully be out early next year. It’s about some of the world’s most disturbing, most grotesque serial murderers ever. It’s the feel-good book of 2016. Perfect for Valentine’s Day. I’m also currently working on my fourth book for Schiffer, which is still a secret until my publisher tells me it’s not.
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