Interview Exclusive: John Zaffis – Godfather of Ghost Hunting!

Image: Linda Marie

With over 4o years of investigative experience, John Zaffis is undoubtedly a top-notch source for sorting the supernatural. In addition to being featured on SyFy’s Haunted Collector (2011 – 2013), Mr. Zaffis is a seasoned author, lecturer, researcher and yes, demonologist. John’s numerous first-hand paranormal experiences have solidified his belief in otherworldly phenomena. He openly shares his invaluable wisdom at events throughout the year and it was during Pennhurst Paracon that I was finally able to chat with the fascinating Mr. John Zaffis.

Linda: To start things off, I actually have a couple of questions from a professional paranormal investigator in Australia, Ms. Sarah Chumacero.  She would like to know if there is a specific paranormal topic that you prefer teaching?

John: No, there isn’t one that I prefer. I was a demonologist for many years, then we ended up doing Haunted Collector and that went more towards haunted idols. Talking about the demonology, or haunted items, or cases… I enjoy talking about [all of it] when it comes to the paranormal universe. There’s not really one set thing that I stick to talking about.

Linda (for Sarah): What is one specific thing every investigator should know? 

John: (laughs) Brian J Cano.

Linda: (laughs) Everybody should know him?

John: (smiles) To respect families, pay attention to what you’re doing, especially if there are children and things involved. Do your research, check into things. It’s a key essential thing before actually saying what is happening or what is going on. Very, very important. Find out if people are going to doctors, on medications or have drug problems. I think it’s very important to find all that stuff out.

Linda (for Sarah): What are your thoughts on the popularity and growth of paranormal TV shows? What has been its impact on the field?

John: Well I think the impact with a lot of the TV shows and things going on, it’s a double-edged sword. That’s how I really view it. I know so many of the people on the shows and a lot of them are personal friends. People have to remember, too, that people do the best that they can with the shows. It’s an interesting thing to watch and look at some of the different ones when I do get the opportunity to catch them and watch them.

It’s even like paranormal movies and about conjuring a nun and all those. People say, well, it’s really not focused on the true case. They take elements. That’s it. I don’t know anybody, including myself… if I want to go see a scary movie, I want to get scared. And if you watch a movie, what are we all going to do? We’re going to go home and oh, it was boring. Nothing happened in the movie. So again, Hollywood has always done that with the scary movies and the true cases, they just really add a lot of things to them. It’s for entertainment.

Linda: Are there shows you think people should be watching?

John: Well again, everybody has different techniques, everybody does different things. It is what it is. That’s the way I look at it. To me, the key element with learning to do investigations and be a paranormal investigator is being part of a paranormal team and having that opportunity to work with people that do it. Hands-on is the best teacher.

Image: Rick Sasson

Linda: Where did your education in the field emanate?

John: My education came from Ed and Lorraine Warren. Again, that’s why a lot of times I laugh when people say to me, well they were strict Roman Catholic. That was their belief system. That’s what they practiced, but they did not go by that when we did investigations. Working with them, I met rabbis, ministers, shamans, medicine men, witches, you name it. They worked with a lot of people in their careers, and that’s what gave me a better understanding of working in our field. A lot of people practice different things. Does it mean that they’re doing something on a negative level out there? I don’t believe that.

Linda: What does it mean to be a demonologist?

John: What it means to be a demonologist is, basically it’s to study a lot of different religions, a lot of different practices, a lot of different cults, to get a knowledge base of what to comprehend and understand when you deal with that stuff. We do have set people that just go strictly from a Christianity perspective, we have people that go from a pagan perspective, all different perspectives come into play. Some of the clearings and things that I’ve done has been absolutely amazing to watch. Native American or Buddhists performed ceremonies to be able to help people. With that, I think it’s good to have a good understanding of a lot of those things and getting involved with it to be able to help people. That’s how I view demonology.

Linda: I think people hear that term and they just associate negative connotations or simply don’t understand it.

John: Well, a lot of people just associate it with the Roman Catholic Church. People don’t even realize the rights of exorcism have been around long before organized religions. It’s important to understand and gain that knowledge in any field when getting involved with it to have a good appreciation to be able to help people.

Linda: What is it about the paranormal that keeps you interested? 

John: What keeps me interested after 46 years is the fact, it’s still such an unknown to all of us. It’s great, it’s fantastic seeing what people are doing today with all the equipment and getting a lot of this stuff. But at the end of the day, you still have to take that step back. We still can’t prove this scientifically, because for scientific findings we have to have repeatability, and we don’t really have that. You’ve got to be able to chart and you’ve got to be able to do that for the scientific community to actually recognize it. That’s what’s cool about today is so many people are striving. You’ve got a lot of engineering people, scientists-

Linda: I have an engineering background…

John: So do I, yeah.

Linda: Which field?

John: Mechanical.

Linda: Me too!

John: Yeah. So what intrigues me and just keeps me going, is just watching what people do, how they do it. There are a lot of younger people today digging in there, trying to figure it out. I just look at it from that perspective.

Linda: I know Brian (Cano) is big on collecting data.

John: When it comes to Brian, he’s very hardcore with it. I think one of the major achievements when it comes to Brian is that I would get him to the point where he would just stand there and go, I can’t figure it out, I can’t answer. It made him start to think a little bit deeper into that part of it that we just don’t have the answers to. But that’s healthy to be that way. It really is.

Image: Brian J. Cano

That’s something I respect very much about him. He always gets intrigued and interested. Afterward, he’ll always say to me, “How did you figure that out? How did this happen? Why did that happen?” He goes, “There’s no logical reason why…” blah blah blah, and I just laugh.

We deal more with a spiritual realm than we do anything else. That’s a hard thing for a lot of people to comprehend and understand. That’s just the facts of it. It’s spiritual more than scientific.

“John is a walking Masterclass of Paranormal Experience.  He’s had decades of experience and has been present for or adjacent to some of the most well-known cases out there.  Add to that the fact that he was trained by his uncle, Ed Warren, and that amounts to a pedigree of the highest standard.  I’ve learned a lot from him.  He’s always been happy to share his knowledge – but make no mistake – he makes you work for it!” – Brian J. Cano

Linda: Do you feel like we’re headed in the right direction as far as understanding?

John: Yeah. Again, that’s a tough thing to really say whether we’re heading in the right direction because I stick with the philosophy that if you don’t take chances and if you don’t try different things, you are never going to get any answers. I try to always look at stuff and keep an open mind when people try different experiments or do different things.

Linda: What are your feelings on the impact of social media?

John: It’s interesting that there’s [some] positive, yet there’s a lot more negative. The reason I say that is because it’s very irritating in our world today that people can hide behind a keyboard. A lot of times when reading stuff, regardless of whether it’s myself or other people that I know, I’ll go, where did you hear this from, or where do you get this from? People don’t check things. They just run with stories. Well, I heard this and somebody told me. Again, most people that know me, even if you send me derogatory things about anybody, I won’t comment on them. I will delete them, I will take them off. It’s just something that I learned at a very young age to just stand tall and just deal with it because it’s going to happen no matter what you do.

Image: Joe Reed-Gifford

People are always going to have haters. And it’s not just us in the paranormal field. You watch what people do to other people that are on TV and you just read some of the stuff and it’s just, sad. Sad that people do that. They don’t realize a lot of times the repercussion that has on the individuals.

Linda: It can ruin careers. Take people down whether it’s true or not.

John: It ruins careers. It’s a terrible, terrible thing. It’s a good thing on one hand, but a lot of times watching what people say and do to people is a horrible, horrible thing. It really is.

Linda: I was curious to hear your take because you’ve been investigating before social media was even a ‘thing’. I feel like you have a different perspective than some people just coming into it.

John: I do, I do. To me, it’s an important element. Unfortunately, we all need to use our social media to go back or forth and like I said, the majority of the time when I see something or I’ll read something and it’s just like, why do you have to do that to somebody? To me, there’s no point to it. It just gives people gratification to do that to people and I just, I don’t see it. I don’t get it.

Linda: I’m with you. I use it as little as possible.

John: You’re sitting here talking to a guy that still has a wired landline that he uses.

Linda: So do I. (laughs)

John: I won’t give it up either. I will not give that up.

Linda: Let’s talk about your museum. Where is it? How did it get started?

John: It started way back when I was doing an investigation with my aunt and uncle. This woman had collected these little statues, bought one, and it was moving around and everything. Ed and Lorraine went to go investigate, I was with them. We were driving back home and he threw it to me in the backseat and he goes, “You want that, kid?” I’m like, what am I going to do with this?

What that did was, it made me start to think and start reading up on things. We didn’t even have the Internet or anything. So I started getting books on it and realizing, my goodness, there’s been haunted items around as long as everything else that goes … Our most famous one, the Hope Diamond. That really intrigued me and made me start thinking, and just started researching. Here I am today with all kinds of haunted items.

The collection just kept growing and growing. I had put a barn up on my property. I live in a residential area. I don’t blame neighbors, they don’t want people trucking in and out of the neighborhood. I can understand that. Today one of the key things, I still keep looking around for a piece of property to rent or buy to be able to put the museum in there so it’ll keep going after I’m gone. Hopefully one of these days I’ll find the right piece of property that I can afford and get it done.

Linda: I see you have three books here and said you have two more that you’re working on. Can you talk about those?

John: Sure. There’s one I’m doing in conjunction with Rosemary Ellen Guiley*, just about a lot of cases. She was very interested in getting a lot of my theories on things. She gets very intrigued by the way I look at stuff and the way I handle stuff, so she wanted to do a whole section of that.

*Note: The day after this interview, news of Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s passing on July 18th was released. John Zaffis was broken by the news. Rosemary was much more than a mentor to John, she was a personal friend… she was family. Her impact on the paranormal field is immeasurable and she will be sorely missed. Thankfully the knowledge and expertise she has shared will live on through her peers.

Another book that’s completely done, it’ll be What Lurks Within. I’m doing this with Debbie and Larry Elward. They’re good friends that I’ve worked with for 40 years. It’s a combination of a lot of our creepy, creepy stories.

Linda: That’s awesome.

John: Yeah, both books would be dynamite to finally come out.

Linda: I look forward to those. Is there something you don’t get asked that you want people to know?

John: Geez, I don’t know. Everybody always asks me everything.

Linda: They cover everything?

John: I think the one thing I get a kick out of is when people will say, well, what do you do when you’re not doing something paranormal? The two things in my life that I enjoy the most is walking. Daily, I walk continuously all over the place. I lived in my area for 30 years and I finally, the past couple of years, got to meet every neighbor I know in our neighborhood. And I love to cook. I’m very big on cooking.

Linda: So what time should I be there?

John: Anytime. I’ll start cooking up a storm. I start cooking in a heartbeat.

Linda: You never know when I might be in your neighborhood. (laughs)

A big thank you to Mr. John Zaffis for taking the time to speak with me. Such an honor spending time with the Godfather of the Paranormal!  For more information visit Be sure to follow Mr. Zaffis on social media to keep up with the latest news and event appearances… Facebook: Johnny Zaffis Twitter: @JohnZaffis


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