Tonight Kbatz is chatting with Kathy and the ghostly gang from the Paranormal Books and Curiosities Shop and Museum in Asbury Park, NJ!
Thanks for taking the time to chat it up with Horror Addicts.net!
How did the idea of a paranormal shop come together when you first opened in 2008? Did you find Asbury Park or did Asbury Park find you?
I had reached a breaking point in my former career. While I loved what I did there did not seem to be much forward movement for me doing it. I decided that I could put all of my skills and creativity into something that I was passionate about and my future would then be in my own hands. Of course, I wasn’t sure how to do that! I tried a bunch of different approaches, started writing my book, scouted a tour site and ultimately, I decided the time had come for a brick and mortart destination spot for Paranormal enthusiasts and Paranormal Books & Curiosities was born. Asbury park seemed a natural fit, it had a stormy history and it was interesting and unique and I thought Paranormal would fit right in.
Now that ‘paranormal’ topics are arguably more popular than ever, how do you define your shop and inform against those who would call such themes evil, occult, witchcraft?
I find most people who come in are curious, even if they are afraid. I don’t consider it my job to convert or convince anyone of anything. I just want people to be able to explore their interests safely. So, when someone comes in an asks me if I am a witch or if I worship the devil (this happens way less frequently than someone asking me if I am psychic or just saying “boo”) I tell them the truth, which is I am not, but there are a bunch of books on the front shelves that can help them with any questions they may have about those things!
How do you decide what books, merchandise, equipment, and oddities go in the store? Where do you get your more unusual museum pieces and exhibits?
I decide based on my own interest and the interests of my customers. I can tell you that the store I have now is not the one I opened. It is far more diverse than it was in 2008. My customers have helped mold and shape it by the questions they ask. As far as The Paranormal Museum, some items are artists renditions of legends but most relics I have either found in my travels or have been donated to The Paranormal Museum. Many people have objects that are interesting to them, but they feel uncomfortable with them. I am happy to make room for those items and to tell their story.
Do you have a ‘curiosity’ of which you’re most proud? What’s the weirdest object you’ve come across?
This is tough. I have so many favorites! One of the pieces in The Paranormal Museum that I truly love is a cutting from the Oleander Tree from The Myrtles Plantation. The Myrtles is one of the most famous hauntings in America and it’s seminal story concerns a poisoning by oleander from this particular tree. I love the idea that we have the DNA if you will, of a haunting.
Speaking of DNA, I also have a strand of Andrew Jackson’s hair. Ole Hickory, as he was known, spent a few sleepless nights investigating the Bell Witch in Tennessee and that earned him a place on our wall.
Weirdest is tough, because they all make sense once you tell the story…but I do have a Palo Mayombe cauldron complete with bones and blood ash..I suppose some would think that weird.
In addition to book events, you also host psychics, ghost lectures, and weekend ghost tours in the shop and surrounding community. Have you ever been frightened by any encounters? In twenty years in the investigative community, how much legitimate activity have you witnessed? Any false claims or debunkings?
I don’t know that I have ever been frightened, but certainly I have been made uncomfortable. I consider myself to be quite skeptical, although I don’t generally “debunk”. I try to explain. “Debunk”-ing implies that there is some kind of hoax or intentional fraud and I don’t find that to usually be the case. I have often been able to experience what is claimed by witnesses, but have interpreted my experiences differently than they. I can’t put a percentage on it, but I would say that paranormal activity is far more rare that contemporary field enthusiasts (ghost hunters) would have you believe. But it is not non existent. There is something that people are experiencing.
How did the Paranormal BC Investigative Team at the store come together? Has the more recent popularity of ghost hunting shows and events helped or hindered the long active investigative community?
My team came together organically. I get a lot of people asking to join or asking to “come along” on investigations. The truth is I investigate much less than many other groups because it is very time consuming and a lot of people who ask for investigations are more curious to see what investigators do than they are concerned that they have activity. Some of my team members came on public investigation and I liked how they approached the subject. It is all about the “fit”.
I think the TV Shows have done both good and bad, but overall I would lean toward good. They have given a broad audience the vocabulary to discuss what we term paranormal. That is good. That helps start and continue conversations. The bad is that they have created an entire army of weekend investigators armed with equipment they only understand from watching TV shows. Is that bad? I don’t know. But I know it is frustrating to many people who have been investigating for 15-20-25 years. Still, I don’t see how it has to negatively impact anyone’s legitimate research or study. It is annoying for the old school people, but then again, sometimes I think there is a little too much territorialism in general.
My recommendation to people interested is what it has always been. Read, learn, read, learn.
How do you deal with any jokesters, non-believers, and other norms who think its all hooey?
I don’t mind that, provided they are respectful. I get it. I’m not sure where I sit on these issues myself from day. I am always questioning. That is what it means to be a student of something, you question it to learn. That does not mean I tolerate condescension though, or mockery. If you have already made up your mind and are comfortable with what you know or believe, you should have no reason to disrespect other people’s journey to their own decision. The key is to be smarter and more articulate than your heckler!
You were also involved in several Hurricane Sandy projects. Did you suffer much damage during the storm? Now that summer is upon us, has the clientele returned to the beach? Do you have any special events happening during the season?
I hesitate to even complain about our losses because in comparison to so many others they were minimal. Of course we lost several months of business, which as a small business is very difficult to overcome. But we were so grateful to be able to help our neighbors in the little ways we did. Time will tell if the people will return, we haven’t seen it yet, but we are hopeful! We have tours and seances, investigations and how to classes, psychic readings, book signings, pretty much something each week! Each month we have what we call a “Paranormal Weekend” where people can attend a paranormal event Friday/Saturday/Sunday and make a mini vacation out of it.
What purpose does the Shop and the companion museum hope to serve along the Jersey shore?
I think we are different. We are unique. We offer people the opportunity to explore strange and unusual things in a beautiful setting. I think we reflect what is so “cool” about New Jersey and specifically, the Jersey Shore. I like to think we are a place people are proud to turn their friends onto.
Where can we find you online?
Thanks again for taking the time to scare it up with Horror Addicts.net!