In October, author Randy Russell released his fifth paranormal-themed book, The Ghost Will See You Now: Haunted Hospitals of the South. In this chilling volume, Russell shares over 40 true ghost stories based in the South’s most haunted hospitals and asylums, including the ghostly flapper of Asheville’s Highland Hospital and the casket girls of New Orleans’ Ursuline Convent Hospital. You can find The Ghost Will See You Now at BlairPub.com, Amazon.com or other online retailers.
I recently had the chance to ask Randy a few questions about his latest book and his paranormal philosophy in general. Here’s what he had to say…
How did you research the stories for the book?
Researching historical happenstance associated with the creation of a ghost and the continuation of ghostly hauntings at old hospitals, abandoned asylums, and other medical facilities across the South began for me in seeking a very basic understanding of a true ghost experience to begin with. Any understanding of a ghost starts with understanding what an individual experiences during an encounter with a ghost.
I want to know what seeing a true ghost feels like. This is something I learn (and am still learning) by talking to people who have met ghosts. I call this growing catalogue of true ghost resources my “first-person ghosts” and this is where my research begins. These interviews directly inform all of my ghost writing, no matter the topic or settings under consideration.
Even though I research historical events at known locations, my understanding of a ghost experience comes from interviewing as many people as possible who have encountered or interacted with ghosts. Luckily for me, an interaction with a ghost is not an uncommon occurrence in the South.
I have begun some exciting new research into famous ghosts at historical sites. Many of the encounters have become well-documented over the years. But when you go there… you wait all night and… nada, nothing, nil. No ghost appears.
For instance, you can go to the cemetery in Florida and see the mausoleum featured in the story from the book called “Hospital for One.” This is where a man was put to final rest inside a custom-made coffin that could be opened from the inside. An internal trigger caused the sides of the coffin to fall away. The mausoleum he built also contained a recovery bed aligned next to the coffin.
Will you see or experience his ghost there? Others have. Those who see known ghosts at an historical site share a commonality, I’m discovering. Whether or not we see a ghost when we visit an historical haunting may have as much to do with what (or who) we bring with us as it does with what (or who) is already there. In brief, a ghost inside us is recognizing a ghost outside of us. And the ghost inside us is letting us know a ghost is there.
I’m also documenting cases of a few extraordinary individuals who not only see or experience ghosts regularly, but whose very presence makes it more likely that others will see or experience a ghost.
Which story from the book do you find most intriguing?
I have to confess a fondness for the pure oddness of one rather horrific ghost in particular. This ghost is of a three-legged woman in Columbus, Mississippi in the story I call “Love’s Last Leg.”
The occurrence of a messenger ghost in Spartanburg, South Carolina also continues to fascinate me. I collected this encounter, titled “Ghost Delivery” in the book, from interviews I conducted more than a decade ago and was thrilled to find a place to tell it in The Ghost Will See You Now. Of the hundreds of people I have interviewed, I have only spoken to two individuals who have encountered a ghost acting as a messenger for another ghost or dead person. When I speak on true ghosts in the South, I refer to these case histories as instances of a ghost you couldn’t see. They provide a sharp counterpoint to the fascination people have with the idea of seeing a ghost.
What do you think about skeptics who adamantly deny ghosts exist?
I’m waiting for each one of them to call me and tell me they have changed their mind. About half of the first-person ghost experiences I have collected over the years happened to people who adamantly did not believe in ghosts. Until they met one.
As you know, sometimes belief is more a question of definition than of an actual experience. It’s clear that the dead from time to time communicate with the living. For me, communication between a dead and a living person is a ghost experience.
A fella could have a ghost jump out of his dresser drawer in the morning, and call him names all the way to church and back, and that guy just isn’t seeing it as a ghost encounter because he can’t take a picture of the experience.
Some people think it’s only a ghost if it wears all white and goes boo in the middle of the night. They want to believe a ghost is something you can take a picture of. If that’s what it takes for a ghost to exist, then it’s easy to understand why many people don’t believe in ghosts. They’re looking for the wrong evidence. The evidence of a ghost is in the experience of the ghost itself. It will happen to you.
As for pictures of ghosts, communication with a ghost can certainly be visual. Seeing a ghost, however, does not define whether or not ghosts exist. The only way a camera could take a picture of a ghost is if the camera is human. I haven’t yet found a camera with human feelings. And certainly hope I don’t.
What, ultimately, made you believe in ghosts?
I guess I have to say the ghosts did. But really, it isn’t a matter of being “made” to believe. It’s more along the lines of keeping an open mind when you experience something that normal interactions between living people does not, cannot and utterly fails to explain.
If you want to know more about ghosts, ask around. At least half the people you know have a story to tell that will blow holes in your reality socks. They just need to know for sure that you are ready to listen before they say anything.
People, I have discovered, also sometimes need to be reminded. They’ve forgotten incredible paranormal experiences they had as children because adults passed off their encounters as telling stories and making up stuff. Maybe. Maybe not.
What inspired you to write multiple books about the paranormal?
Oh lordy McGordy, there are just too many ghosts in the South for one book. Ghosts are stacked up around here like pancakes at I-Hop on Mother’s Day. It requires more than a few books to sort them all out. I think of the books of true ghost stories as public housing for ghosts. All the old buildings, including hospitals, being razed and otherwise falling to ruin has left it to writers to find places for ghosts to dwell.
Do you plan to write more books about the paranormal? If so, what topics are you working on and/or considering?
For me, ghosts are normal. They’re like couches and toasters. Relatives. Ghosts are in our houses because we are in our houses. Ghosts are in our DNA, our blood, our muscle. Our bones. Saying this, of course, means anything I write has ghosts in it.
One of my lunatic great grandparents is probably coming up with my replies to your kind questions right now. I think you have a topic you would like to explore. What would you like to tell me? That’s what I’ll write about next.
Randy Russell is also the author of Ghost Cats of the South and Ghost Dogs of the South, and is the co-author of The Granny Curse and Other Ghosts and Legends from East Tennessee and Mountain Ghost Stories and Curious Tales of Western North Carolina. For more information, check out his website, OurHauntedSouth.com.