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
"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
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
"I am very much like a psychoanalyst but my patient is not on a
couch, it is within the body of an unconscious transmedium --
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."