Courtney Mroch of HauntJaunts.net

Courtney Mroch is the founder and writer behind hauntjaunts.net/blog.  Her blog focuses on paranormal tourism and many of the interesting issues surrounding the supernatural in the media and society today.   Courtney had her very first paranormal experience at age 5, and after numerous spooky experiences, she decided to hit the paranormal road and travel to places with uniquely haunted histories.

1. How did you become interested in the supernatural?

You know, this is a curious question. I'm not sure if I became interested in the supernatural or it became interested in me. I've always kind of been more drawn to stories of the paranormal or supernatural, but I never sought out ghosts or anything until 1999. And why I say that kind of fits with your second question so I'll move on to that one.

2. What's the strangest or most interesting paranormal experience you've had?

I was originally tempted to answer that it all started in 1998 when I stayed at the Shiloh Hotel in Utah for the law firm I was working for at the time. I was there for 2 weeks, but during my second week I had the oddest experience one night. I was awoken by children laughing. Thought I must be dreaming, but I couldn't shake the notion children were hiding in the drawers. I know, totally illogical, right? But it was so strong I got up to check it out anyway. Of course the drawers were empty, but since I was up I figured a trip to the bathroom was in order and that's when a dark mass "flew" at me from the closet. I covered my head and ducked because it was coming from above me. And fast. Either like something being thrown at me or someone leaping out at me. But nothing was there. No pillows had fallen, nothing was off the hanger, and no one was there but me. It really had me stumped. And startled, but not necessarily freaked out. Anyway, later I found out a lady had killed herself and her 7 kids by jumping from that hotel's roof. Rumor had it they were still there haunting the place.

Except, as memorable as that was, I then remembered where I went to school. Which is probably part of why the paranormal/supernatural has always interested me. I went to Cheeseman Academy in Denver for 1st thru 6th grades. It was in an old mansion on the edge of Cheeseman Park...the same park that would later inspire Spielberg's "Poltergeist." I loved the school (as far as attending) but I have to admit it haunted me too. I'd often have weird dreams about it (long after I was done going to school there), and when I attended...well, I never saw a ghost. But feeling spirits? Oh yeah. The third floor was terrifying. Which of course made it that more tempting to us kids to always want to go up there. (well, that and the fact it was an off limits area.)

Anyway, so that started my paranormal ball rolling. But when my husband and I moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1999 and I had a bathroom experience at Harry's in St. Augustine, which I later found out was rumored to be haunted, I got obsessed. So much so I dragged my husband all over Florida on weekends in search of other haunted places to see if I'd have more experiences. He started calling them our Haunt Jaunts so...here I am. Still at it today.

3. Where/how does science fit into ghost hunting and the supernatural?

I think people always want to validate their experiences. I know if I had something concrete to share with people when I relate some of my experiences rather than just my stories, maybe they wouldn't smile and nod their heads politely at me before finding an excuse to hurry away. (Not everyone. Some share their stories too. But most people simply put up with me and my ghost enthusiasm.) Which is why I think it's natural to turn to science to try and "capture" proof.

Also, I think it's one of those areas that's a still unconquered realm. Imagine being the first person to actually capture something irrefutable? Or, even better, with results that others could duplicate? I think that notion of glory inspires people not only to use the science we already have, but to think of ways of creating new technology and methods, to try and be that one who snags the glory.

4. Do you have any moral/ethical obligations in ghost hunting or communicating with the dead?

You know, this is another interesting question. Yes. Lately I've been thinking a lot about this in fact. There are two moral/ethical obligations in particular that I'm increasingly sensitive about in my particular field (paranormal tourism): Respecting the dead, and fakery/hype.

When I say "respecting the dead" I also mean respecting their legacies, including any loved ones who may still be living. It's easy to get sucked into the "story" of a haunted place, and gruesome ones make for some of the best, don’t they? But real people with real feelings are behind those "stories." I always like to keep that in mind. And maybe offer a little prayer for the blessing of their life before I trespass on their consecrated ground.

And then there's the faking of evidence and hype for publicity problem. A great example of both of these things combined is something I just wrote about: the Barwon ghost girl image and the ghost tour company who knew it was a fake --but encouraged the ensuing controversy nonetheless. (http://hauntjaunts.net/blog/2010/01/21/ethics-in-paranormal-tourism-the-barwon-ghost-girl-debacle/) Bad, bad, bad. Very irresponsible. I'd like to see less of this sort of thing and more companies involved with paranormal tourism exercising responsibility/ethical obligations when it comes to hauntings and haunted places rather than thinking only of profit margins.

5. If it were possible to contact or bring back someone from the dead, who would you bring back and why? Try to think of someone who is not famous.

My aunt, Pearl. Who would probably prefer I call her Lisa. Her given name was Pearl, but apparently she hated it and went by Lisa to all those who knew her. Which I never did, and my mom apparently didn't either. (Lisa died before I was born and her and my mom didn't have a close relationship, as I'd later come to find out in large part was because my mom was insanely jealous of her.)

Lisa died after being shot in the head in a hospital parking lot in New Orleans. She was bringing clothes to her daughter, whose husband was in the hospital, also because of a gunshot wound to his head. He lived, though. No one knows who killed Lisa. I didn't even know my mom had a sister until I was 10. I didn't know she was murdered until I was in my teens. I was almost 30 before I found out she went by Lisa. It was also around that time I learned that it wasn't the jealous husband who had also shot my cousin's husband in the head who was thought to have done her in, but her mob ties. Mob ties?! Apparently the New Orleans police sealed her case so no one could find out the facts. The only story that's stayed consistent after I learned about her is that whoever did it had high connections, high enough to get her case sealed. (Which I’d like to someday see if it still is or if I could ever get access to her files. I'd love to know what really happened!)

Aunt Lisa has only gotten more intriguing and mysterious to me as the years have gone on. She was an absolute stunning beauty. Absolutely glamorous. (Think Jackie O. or Audrey Hepburn. She had that kind of classic good looks.) It shows in the few photos I have of her, but you should see when people who knew her talk about her. Like my dad or his sister. She was one of those "walk into a room and turn heads, standout from the crowd, meant for better than most" kind of women. I'd love to know so much about her, like if she really had mob ties or if she knows who killed her and why, but also about my family. Things only her perspective could lend, especially about my mom, who was as nutty as they come. But why? Was she always that way, or did something happen to her growing up that shifted her that way? And does my aunt even know?

6. Do you have any other thoughts or interesting theories you'd like to share?

I'd like to thank you for asking me these questions for one thing. I'm OVER THE MOON EXCITED about "Phasma Ex Machina." I think it's a deliciously WOW! concept for a movie and I'm more than just a little eager to have my chance to watch it. (Chomping at the bit actually!)

But as far as my theories...the only thing I'd really like to see more of are less TV ghost shows. Or at least ones that aren't about the same as all the others. I mean, they'll all be the same in so far as people walking around in the dark trying to capture evidence. But I'd like to see the focus be less on the groups and what they might capture and more on the places and their paranormal activity. A show which profiled ONE haunted place over time, gathered evidence, tried to find connections about when activity was sparked and why...basically, truly researching a place using more scientific methods. And then each season it could be a new place that was studied...Heck, you don't even need a TV show for that. I'd just like to see some paranormal researcher somewhere doing this. Hmm...maybe I should put my money where my mouth is and be that person!