Tuesday, November 5, 2013


"Woke up this morning, can't believe what I saw...a hundred billion bottles, washed up on the shore..."

- The Police, Message in a Bottle

This was the way my Halloween began this year; with the words penned by Sting playing out as I wiped the cobwebs from my mind.  I'm no psychic, but I knew something was amiss.  What that was, I had no idea.  Would it be trick or treat?

I found out soon enough as I logged onto Facebook for my daily dose of cat memes and status line therapy posts.  John had posted that Haunted Collector would not be coming back and that elicited hundreds of responses lamenting the news.  Texts and tweets began pouring in about it and I was overwhelmed at first...I needed some confirmation of my own.  It came in the form of an email from our production company.  It was true.  What a way to kick off the biggest day of the year for a paranormal investigator.  So, I wrote a post of my own wishing everyone a Happy Halloween and that I would gather my thoughts about it soon.  These are those thoughts, on what may be my last blog entry for a while.

Where do I begin?  How can I sum up the experience of a lifetime within just a few paragraphs?  We had three seasons of incredible adventures, both on and off camera.  I visited places I never thought I'd ever see.  I experienced things that forced me to expand my mind concerning the paranormal as well as the way we examine it.  The friendships made, the laughs we had, the hard times and the trying times...the way the public responded to us, the people we were able to help, the fans and friends at the events and conventions...all of this and more is woven into the fabric that is Haunted Collector.  For me, it was and is much more than a television show.  Our adventures, our lives, continue even now that the cameras aren't rolling.  We're paranormal investigators, we're a group of friends and above all we're a family unit.  No network can dissolve that bond, ratings be damned.

Season One cast, minus John

In this bittersweet moment of farewell, I exist in the unusual dichotomy of duality...and perhaps I am experiencing the phases of loss simultaneously.  I will miss the show, I'll miss the Wednesday nights live-Tweeting with viewers and the interaction with everyone whose lives we touched through it.  I'm saddened that we got cut-off mid stride because I felt we weren't done yet...there was still more to do.  I'm angry that the politics of those in the power positions in the production companies and networks caused this.  I've tried to bargain in my mind the ways we could avoid this, save it, keep it going and as I see these feelings echoed online, I know it is all for naught.  As a logical being, these feelings are natural, but counter-productive.  So I choose to focus on the positive.  You won't see me pointing fingers nor threatening a tell-all of the shenanigans that often seem to come to light after premature cancellations.  I was given the opportunity of a lifetime and I am grateful for the gift.  Daily, I am contacted by scores of people wanting to be on TV and asking me how they can do it.  I wasn't looking to be on TV and somehow I ended up on it.  I'm aware of the list of people who despise me for it, but even that I am thankful for.  Your ire strengthens me and drives me forward.

Season Two cast

The honor was mine to follow John Zaffis, my friend, my mentor, my brother on adventures that changed my perspective on many things.  In addition to the paranormal aspect of the show, I got to work with some of the hardest working crews in the business.  I can't adequately describe how hard these people worked, from the camera and sound guys, to the producers and the editors and even the production assistants.  Always smiling, always upbeat, always dedicated.  Their work ethic was an inspiration and to all of you cats, I thank you - you made us look like rock stars weekly on TV.

Recently, I was asked how long I'll keep Haunted Collector on my profile.  It struck me as an obnoxious question at first.  I've seen actors in one episode of Star Trek's original run in the 60's show up at conventions signing pictures from back in the day.  I've always been an avid sic fi fan and con goer and I would enjoy seeing them, but I too would ask myself, "How long are they going to milk that appearance for?"  Am I now one of them?  I don't feel that way, no.  The difference here is that those actors were playing a role.  No one on Star Trek has ever been in space.  The extended Zaffis Clan really experienced the things you saw bits of on TV.  We lived it.  We have lessons to pass on.  Everything I live through gets added to my arsenal of wisdom, so the answer to the question must be, "forever".  I coined the internet hashtag #Collectors to identify those fans of our show and I too will always be a #Collector.

Season Three cast

Given this, I am forced to acknowledge another truth about our society - television and entertainment are dominant forces in many of our lives.  Much of our information we get from the internet and TV.  Go ahead and dispute it, resist it, but the fact that you're reading this now lends credibility to the statement.  The paranormal community is getting bigger all the time and it is an unfortunate truth that many of the newcomers get their education of such primarily through the para shows.  I've always said, let the shows be the inspiration for you, but be sure to read, research, get mentored and then do more reading.  Never let the TV be your sole educator.  Being on one of the shows, this message was taken to heart and the things we tried to show about process and concepts was digested by the masses.  At conventions, I would try to further this by giving as much information as I could about the topics, to the point of overwhelming the audience.  The sad reality though, is that without the show, the message will be harder to get out now.  Will the new blood care what I have to say without a TV show at my back?  This remains to be seen and I hope to be proven wrong.

I'm not good at goodbyes and I'm not a fan of change...so it's difficult to know how to wrap this up.  What I do know is that we'll all continue to do what we've been doing - you'll just have to look a little harder to find us.  Just know that out there somewhere, the Zaffis Clan, be it together or separately, is doing well.  John Zaffis, Aimee Zaffis, Chris Zaffis, Beth Ezzo, Jason Gates, Jesslyn Brown and myself - veterans still in the service.  All week people have been telling me that, "When one door closes, another one opens".  I don't subscribe to that adage.  When a door closes, you have a closed door, that's all.  It's what you do about it that defines your situation.  But you can bet that we'll all be knocking on, kicking down and creating new doors for the future.  Count on it.

"Seems I'm not alone in being alone - a hundred billion castaways looking for a home..."

Never goodbye, more like, "See you later..."

Friday, April 19, 2013

EPISODE 307: Ghosts of Geneva/ Fort Fear

Once again we found ourselves in my home state, this time in the town of Geneva.  The more I explore New York, the more I appreciate it.  It may be known as the Empire State (the Star Wars geek in me revels in that fact), but so much of it is "Small Town, USA" that people forget there is more to New York than Manhattan and the stereotypical Italian/NY accent.  But while I'm in this New York state of mind, let's delve into this case.

Charged with battery
• One of the reports that came to us regarding this case centered around a battery that allegedly exploded for no reason.  When we arrived at the house, I got a chance to examine it as I listened to the tale of how it happened.  It appeared to be melted in some places, burned in others, but all in all not too worse for wear.  I noticed that it was a "no frills" brand and in my years in the field, I've learned the hard way that you must spend an extra dollar or two for one of the Big Two Brands, or else you'll have dead equipment soon enough.  But in this case, was it something attempting to communicate that caused the battery to discharge more than its voltage?  Unless we got an EVP from a spirit claiming responsibility for the act, it would be impossible to say.  Given the other things that have happened in the house, it's an interesting anecdote, if nothing else.

No shirt, no shoes, no evidence
• In the office on the first floor, where Margaret has all her family research, Chris and I were doing a full spectrum sweep.  While nothing jumped out at us in UV or IR, one of the toys on a nearby table took a dive.  It was a little, monster action figure and it seemed to just jump off of it's own accord.  At first I thought it may have been the vibrations from us walking into the room that caused it, but that was not so.  Nothing else had moved and it wasn't like it leaned back and forth and then tipped over.  It jumped!  I trained the full spectrum camera on it and we even called John in (as we do often) but we were unable to determine what caused it.  Oh, and here's a little fourth wall demolition - the cameraman had no shoes on.  People often ask about the cameramen when it comes to things moving or falling and that's a valid inquiry but in this case, as it was muddy outside, the whole crew just had socks on.

"It touched you, where?!"
 • Now I have to watch the episode again, since I was busy live tweeting during it, but I don't recall them showing John and I in the living room on Night Two.  After his posterior probing experience on the couch, John brought me in to examine it to see if I could explain how it happened - power recliner, nearby wires, etc  Needless to say, I found nothing out of the ordinary and we decided to conduct an EVP session there to get a confession (again, I'm looking for ghosts to take responsibility for their actions...lol).  I tend to lose command of the English language when I'm in a session with John.  His many years of experience and his expertise continue to humble me, so I tend to stay quiet and let him lead the session.  Even when he asks me to throw a question out there, I find myself stammering and asking something repetitively basic.  This time, however, we had no problems going back and forth with our line of questioning.  I had the REM pod extension on my Mel activated during this and it seemed to be responding to my questions. That is, until Jason called from the prison.  That momentary break was all that was needed to sever the tie to whomever I was communing with, if indeed it was a "whom" and not just coincidence.  I'm going to have to go over that audio again because if I'm remembering correctly, there were some funny puns flying during that session...another reason it got cut, I'll wager.

It had been a cold winter thus far and Detroit was no exception.  The sun shone brightly each day, but offered no warmth to our traveling cadre of Collectors.  Having just come from the beaches and the heat of Puerto Rico, we were not in the best of spirits to deal with the temperatures of the North.  John had been to Fort Wayne before and he told us tales of the activity there - the fact that things had taken a darker turn made us put aside our desire for comfort and got our heads in the game.

Sun that offers no warmth
 • Did I mention the cold?  Well, that's too simple a term; frigid or arctic would serve better.  No matter how much we layered up, the wind coming off the water cut through our sweaters and jackets and made it seem like we were wearing shorts and tank tops.  This was definitely a factor during the investigation, since it's hard to listen for EVPs when your body is shivering and your teeth are chattering.  The areas in the fort we were in had little or no heat, so even when we came in from outside  it was only to escape the ever-present wind.  While it's impossible to investigate in "ideal conditions" all the time, it is important to note all the things that can affect your body and thus, your perception.  If it's fifteen degrees outside, you're not going to feel any "cold spots".  Your body is concerned with survival - you will shiver involuntarily to generate warmth - those personal experiences such as being touched, tugged or anything of the sort are now off the table.

Sneaking Sally through the alley
 • The one sense I was sure would not be affected by the cold was my sight.  Maybe my hearing as well, but it was sight that served me the best at Fort Wayne.  The first spot I found myself investigating was one of the sally ports.  The term "sally port" hails back to medieval times.  It refers to a door, or access point to the side or back of a fortress, smaller than the main gate.  If the fortress was being attacked, the defenders could deploy troops from that port and try and flank the enemy force.  The action of marching out to battle this way was called, "sallying forth" and thus the door was a "sally port".  Chris and I spent a lot of time in the sally ports.  We kept hearing banging sounds as if something were hitting into the doors and walls.  At one point, we felt like someone was in there with us and we ran throughout the tunnels to try and corner whomever it was but we came up empty.  Then we conducted an EVP session at the intersection of two of the tunnels.  Upon listening back to it, we heard an inexplicable sound - just then, Chris and I saw something pass in front of the tunnel entrance.  Was it a producer?  John or Aimee?  Or even a homeless person cutting across the grounds?  It was too dark to tell, so we decided to go look.  Moving quickly and silently, we emerged from the tunnel only to find that the figure had already crossed the grounds and was over by the main building.  It seemed unlikely for a human to cover that distance so fast, so we gave chase!  The shadowy figure then bolted around the corner and towards the gate.  We ran until we found ourselves over by the prison house.  I guess this didn't make it in the cut due to time constraints, or the fact that Chris and I were red-faced and out of breath by the time we lost track of it.  I thank the editors for maintaining the illusion that we're in-shape!

Here is a bonus scene depicting one of those chases:

Fort Chon John
 • I'm a movie buff.  I quote movies a lot as part of my everyday speech.  I'd do well as a Family Guy character, but it irks my producers as so much of my dialogue gets cut because of it.  Honestly, I don't know why...said movies and shows do not own the words I'm speaking out of context.  I've gotten a few through over the years, I'll have to make a list of what made it someday.  But off camera, Chris and I amused ourselves with a Jackie Chan quote from Shanghai Noon: in the movie his name was Chon Wang, pronounced like "John Wayne".  Because we were in Fort Wayne, that's all we found ourselves able to say the whole time.  "Chon Wang"  "That's a horrible cowboy name, that'd never work!" As I've admitted to in previous entries, we're silly.  Guilty as charged.

• More scenes you didn't see: inside the jail house, it seems like we came in, then immediately ran back out after the shadow again.  We spent a considerable amount of time in there doing EVP sessions, a ghost box session as well as deploying a few REM pods and a REM pad.  In addition to the pencils in the office falling to the floor, a pile of wood near the furnace fell as well.  Was it a sign from beyond or merely gravity?  I concluded it was the latter, but the timing of all the things falling was intriguing.  We also kept hearing banging noises on the walls.  We thought that perhaps it was a tree branch hitting the side of the building or a (very heavy) squirrel on the roof.  I even went outside to see if I could reproduce those noises by banging on the walls and windows, but it did not match up.  The first night Chris and I investigated in there and the second night we returned with Jason.  Remember, just because you didn't see it, doesn't mean it didn't happen! :)

Speaking of things unseen, there was a tank parked nearby that I very much wanted to get into.  I saw it but never got close to it, much less in it.  Equip that bad boy with some EMF meters and a particle thrower and I'd be ready to take on any urban terrain investigation!

Living in a box
 • Because I was assigned the outer reaches of the fort to investigate, I spent little time in the main building.  I got to explore it a little bit as the production crew was setting up interviews and other shots I wasn't needed for.  I forgot my flashlight at the hotel, so I wandered around in the dark for most of it.  it was kind of cool to do it that way - only my senses to guide me and the hope that I didn't fall into an open shaft or something else equally as dangerous.  It reminded me very much of the "Nightmares Fear Factory" in Niagra Falls that Jesslyn and I went to...wandering around in the dark, arms outstretched, moving from corridor to corridor by feel.  Some sections had light filtering in from the outside and some of the lights in the old displays were on, but for the most part it was dark.  There were a lot of historical boards and educational kiosks throughout the barracks.  I'm hoping they get to fix it up and open it again to the public as a museum of some sort.  History is an important thing to remember and as far as Fort Wayne goes, it is rich in that even without the haunted element being involved.  It can be said that we are all haunted by the past and by learning from it, we can grow and continue to develop.

I think that's all I have to say about these two cases for the time being.  It's been too long since I've assembled a blog entry so it's still coming out a bit rusty.  You'd think my stint in Writer's Jail would have oiled those literary gears in my brain to turn a bit faster, but I think I'm still warming up.  I'll be going back to write entries for the first half of this season as well as going back to finish the entries from last season.  Hey, what do you expect?  We're not even out on DVD, this might be the only extra content you ever see from Haunted Collector.  Hmm, we're going to have to do something about that...

See you next week, for "Shadow Boxer/ Ghost Storm".

EPISODE 302: Cigar Bar Spirits/ Child's Play

The adventures of the extended Zaffis Clan have taken me to many points across our nation and even as far west as Hawaii, but ironically it took us three seasons to get as far east as Boston.  We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in Ohio and Connecticut, so it was a real treat to visit Beantown and experience a major city I had never been to.  "Never been to Boston before??", you might say.  How is it possible that a movie nut like myself has never been to the setting of Cheers, Good Will Hunting and The Departed?  I've never been to the moon or Middle Earth either, so sue me.  When I got into my hotel room, as is my custom, the first thing I do is set my luggage down and turn on HBO.  What movie was on?  Knight and Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.  Ironically, it was a scene where they were racing through Boston, over a bridge...I look out my window and I see that very bridge, sans Cruise and Diaz, of course.  But that's not what you came here to read...allow me to get to the case.

The journey continues
 • There is so much famous history in Boston and especially the North End, where our case was located.  Honestly, I was surprised about the layout of this part of town.  Having been in countless cities and towns over the past three years I just assumed Boston would be more of the same - hell, even Maui had a Taco Bell and a WalMart within its borders.  But I found it to be very European, with thin, winding side streets barely wide enough for a single car, bistros, bakeries and bike riders everywhere.  The chain stores and restaurants I was used to seeing were nowhere to be found and that was strangely comforting.  I was forced to go outside my norm and try different things...like Boston Clam Chowder, for starters.  Because of the parking situation around the case, we had to walk to and from the hotel each day, which was just fine with all of us.  My path took me through the Paul Revere Mall (not a shopping center), past the Old North Church, by an old graveyard and over the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge (not the easiest name to remember).  Corny as it sounds, I really could feel the echoes of the past reverberating off of every brick in the road, every tree that swayed in the wind.  Be it factual or the result of my thinking about it, it made my time there so much richer.

That's damn right
 • Our first day there, we were slated to film the opening introduction, where John says, "Welcome to..." wherever we were.  Here, it was to be shot at the Paul Revere Mall, the walkway you see in the above main cast picture.  But seemingly minutes before we were to start shooting, a protest group came along and covered much of the area with tomatoes.  The funny thing was that no one saw it happen, they just all showed up - one minute the mall was empty and then it wasn't.  To my knowledge we hadn't angered the Tomato God so I didn't know why his minions were marching on us.  The producers grumbled and retreated into an emergency meeting to decide how this would be handled.  In the mean time, Jason and I noticed a guy lurking across the street - he was connected to this somehow.  Perhaps he was a familiar of one of the Tomato Lords and was staying behind to make sure the troops remained undisturbed.  We decided to corner and question him.  It was then that is was revealed that this was a protest against some agricultural company involved with the city.  Our production schedule was an unfortunate victim of collateral damage by this particular protest.  We were assured that this would all be cleared away by the end of the day, pushing our intro back to the last day of shooting.  We got the scene in the can, but it was ultimately cut.

Collector's Paradise
 • While I'm on the subject of cut scenes, one thing you will notice about Season Three is the absence of the baseline sweep.  I bitched about that from the moment I found out they were not being used to this day.  Chris and I spend so much time canvasing each location and finding logical explanations for much of the reports that I feel it's important to show even some of it.  That and the fact that for many viewers, if they don't see it, they assume it has not been done.  Let me assure you, I have done plenty this season that will never see a final cut.  At the cafe, we checked out the reports of cups and dishes flying off the shelves, the spinning wheel of the coffee grinder as well as the tommy gun encased above the back steps.  There was so much to see and so much to check off the list there, I can understand why much of it got cut, but I would love it if even a montage of the baseline was put back in, just to show the scope of what was done.

To the producer's credit, we bitched enough about wanting extra content and cut scenes shown that they began posting them on SyFy.com last season.  Here is one from the Cigar Bar:

Extended family
 • I feel it's something I've answered many times, but it warrants repeating here.  I get asked all the time how much John sells the items he removes for, or why don't they get compensated for the removal, or a million other finance-related inquiries.  I instantly get heated when I hear these questions...not because I don't encourage questioning, but it's the fact that money is the first thing that pops into everyone's heads.  None of what we do is for the money.  Yes, we're on a TV show and we get paid to be on it, but the only people making out like fat cats here are the production companies and the network.  It's all about advertising dollars for them.  For us, it's about the investigation, the evidence and helping those who asked us for it.  When John removes an item, it's not for personal, or financial gain - it's to help the victims.  People who have been tormented by negative activity are like addicts in many ways...the chance for relapse is very high in those early days after we remove the item.  The item itself is not an expensive trinket with a dollar value, it's a representation of pain or discomfort and many of the people we help are very eager to see those items go.  There are those who complain down the road, but it's usually by those who were looking for something other than help...and I'll leave it at that.

The cases in this episode were flopped in production.  That is to say, the Wappingers Falls case was filmed before the Boston case.  It was our third case back and it already felt like an old glove.  The team fell into their roles comfortably and all the old jokes became funny again.  After this one we were headed to Boston and then home for Thanksgiving, so already there was a feeling of, "We're going home soon..." in the air.  Three of our first four cases were in New York so for me, I was never far from home.

Local Support
 • The week this episode aired, The Poughkeepsie Journal did an article about our time there.  Unfortunately, the paper is a smaller one and they no longer have the full article online.  It's nice when local news outlets are interested in us and our show.  Being from NYC and not being on one of the two "Big Shows", I'd have to kidnap a politician's pet or leak a sex tape to get any press around here.  To make the waters even muddier, there was a sort of de facto block on the media with us.  Any time a news crew or reporter would show up, we'd get herded into holding, as if it were a quarantine zone.  Personally, I feel the more they write about us, the better - let's get the word out there, even if it's one small, local paper at a time.  When it comes to press and our producers, I'd rather ask for forgiveness than permission.

The Everman Ethan
 • The audience is very inquisitive when it comes to procedure and how long we spent in a place; did we try X or Y, or why didn't we show A or B?  Maybe one day we'll air a 26-hour long episode of Haunted Collector and then they'll be sorry!  Seriously though, I have to give a huge amount of respect to the unsung (yet well paid) cameramen who make us look like rock stars every week.  For every EVP session that does not get shown, there is a cameraman, a sound tech and a producer in the area, sitting in silence, letting us do our thing.  Usually only the cameraman is with us, so that means if we're getting responses or craziness coming through, they are there with us for all of it.  At the Drahos house, Chris and I spent a lot of time in the basement - with Ethan, the third man to our A-Team with us the whole time.  So why are certain things cut when they seem so important to the case?  To let the editors off the hook for a moment, I will say that in the basement a lot happened - but not a lot of it was captured on camera.  What do we say all the time?  Paranormal activity does not occur on command - there is no "action" call for the supernatural, it happens when it happens.  Down here, it happened almost exclusively when Ethan was running out of tape or battery life.  If I recall correctly, he went through three tapes and two batteries while Chris and I were in the basement.  Psst...just to let you know, the tapes record for 45 minutes.  Much of the, "holy crap" moments occurred as he waited for someone to bring him fresh assets.  Some things we can redo, such as reactions, other things we cannot.  C'est la vie, Collector.

Condensation confusion
 • Let's discuss the casket plate for a moment.  Of all the cases we've been on and all the items we've discovered, I was the most confused by this one.  We've gotten errant readings on the thermal before that have alerted us to items being charged with energy of that unknown type, but this time is came complete with condensation!  In the past, it's just been a reading and it typically seems to be an inverse one...if it reads very hot, it tends to actually be cool and vice versa (although a warm object being paranormal seems to be rare given the energy it would require to heat it up).  Never before has there been a secondary indicator - now with the casket plate, the condensation was the cause of the reading, but what was the cause of the condensation?  Nothing else on that wall was affected.  John brought the item to an expert and a possible solution was arrived at, but in my mind, I'm still at the top of those stairs, wondering what the hell caused the condensation!  I remember last season while we were on the road we had four cases in a row that each had something to do with the four basic elements of the earth: air, fire, earth and water.  I also remember asking John if an elemental could be responsible for any of them, or possibly a djinn.  He didn't actually answer me, he just raised an eyebrow, gave me that patented John Zaffis Mystery stare and ran his fingertips through his beard.  I've come to learn that when he does not answer me, he's deep in thought and whatever I've said has put him into archive mode, as he searches for the answer in a past case.  Now I'm not saying that there is a water elemental at the Drahos House, I'm just considering all of the possibilities since I have so little to go on.  officially, on the record, I still consider that portion of the case very much open.

Miss Fanny's Party House
 • One of the common questions I'm asked is, "Of the cases you do, how many are residential and how many are business?"  For the show, it's about 50/50.  The top of this episode was the Cigar Bar, a business and even though Julia runs events at her house, it is still a residence.  Because of that, I can safely say that the place will never be totally free from activity.  I just hope that us being there helped reduce the negative activity there.  Given that it's not too far from me, I may have to stop in again in the future and see how things are there for myself, when the cameras are off.

So that was episode two of Season Three.  It's weird to refer to it that way...those were times of my life where I learned, I laughed, I lived.  To boil it down to a unit of reference, to be packaged on the shelf and indexed feels...sterile.  If I could only hook my brain to a USB port and share with you all that colored those days you'd see so much more.  But, that's why I started this blog, to give you guys even a sliver of that extra stuff, be it from the case or from my perspective during it.  Now if the other five would do the same, we'd really have a compendium of craziness at our fingertips!  See you next episode, "Ghost Behind Bars/ Haunted Brothel".

Thursday, April 11, 2013


I've been lazy.  I've been devoid of inspiration.  I just got out of "Writer's Jail" (that's another story) so it's in my best interest to not let my literary outlet lag.  They may drag me bag.  That being said, give me another day or two and I will get back on the recaps with a vengeance!  Seriously!