By BARRY SHLACHTER Associated Press Writer BOSTON (AP) - Hans Holzer believes in ghosts. T

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By BARRY SHLACHTER Associated Press Writer BOSTON (AP) -- Hans Holzer believes in ghosts. The Austrian-born New Yorker makes a living writing and lecturing on his experiences tracking down ghosts, discarnates and apparitions, and ridding homes of them. Holzer said that after writing a 1963 book -- one of 85 -- called, "Ghost Hunter," he registered the title as a trademark but now is uncomfortable with the label. "I find it embarrassing and I've been trying to shake it ever since," he said in a telephone interview. "Then along comes a film, `Ghost Busters,' which I hate, because it's funny and we're serious people. We're not nuts." Holzer, 66, charges nothing for locating and later persuading ghosts to leave a person's home. But, deluged with requests, he now only accepts assignments that pose an interesting "scientific case or when a person is truly troubled" by the spirits of the not-so-departed, he said. "Ghosts," he explains, "are people who die suddenly or after long suffering in shocking conditions and are unaware of their own deaths. They haven't gone any place because they are like psychotics without a body." He calls them "stay behinds." But there aren't that many. "Only a tiny percentage of people don't go normally to the next phase of existence. They are the exception rather than the rule." But in all his years on their trail, ghosts have never made themselves visible to Holzer and that makes no difference to him. "I am not interested in seeing a ghost," said Holzer. "Does a doctor have to be sick in order to be a doctor? It's a stupid question. I am an investigator. I am writer. I am not medium." Scholars around the country have yet to find evidence of psychic phenomena that can withstand scientific scrutiny. Psychology Professor Donald McBurney, of the University of Pittsburgh, one of a dozen scholars and magicians who investigate purported communication with ghosts and alleged cases of other psychic talents, said Holzer's findings represent "unsubstantiated claims. "They would not pass scientific muster," he said in a telephone interview. "Holzer is one of the prominent ghost hunters and these people generally avoid us like a plague." During the past three years, McBurney's Paranormal Investigating Committee of Pittsburgh has offered Holzer and others a $10,000 prize if they can prove their boasts. Holzer has yet to take up the challenge, and as for the more than 100 who have, "we have yet to find any evidence for any paranormal claim," McBurney added. Holzer asserted that laboratory experiments prove nothing. "We all know volcanoes erupt but we can't reproduce them in a laboratory," he argued. "We are talking about scientific observation en masse, and conclusions drawn from that." Over the years, he personally has gathered loads of evidence by interviewing thousands who have come face to face with ghosts, he said. He has written up what he found in stories his publisher, Yankee Books of Dublin, N.H., calls "spine-tingling encounters." Last month, it reissued his 1966 book, "Yankee Ghosts," about discarnate New Englanders. "The Yankee ghosts show the same remarkable individuality and sense of moral fiber as their living counterparts," Holzer said. But with ghosts of any stripe, you have to firm, he cautioned. When one refuses to leave a family alone, Holzer responds with a "rescue circle" that employs a spiritual medium who makes contact with the "disturbed person called a ghost and you gently reason with him by explaining the true status of his house, that time has passed. "I am very much like a psychoanalyst but my patient is not on a couch, it is within the body of an unconscious transmedium -- temporarily." Ironically, once the ghost calls it quits and goes on to the hereafter, it might actually be missed, Holzer says. "Occasionally, when the homeowner is psychic himself, he might just pull the ghost back because he's bored when it's all quiet."

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