EXORCISM: LIVE! INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS SMITH AND NICK GROFF
Interview conducted by Karin Crighton
In 1949, a young boy known only as “Roland Doe” began to exhibit bizarre and terrifying behavior after his favorite aunt’s death. Hoping a change in scenery would cure the boy, his family left Maryland for St. Louis. There his symptoms compounded until it was clear grief was not the cause. It was demonic possession. Roland Doe was exorcised by Father William Halloran nearly 30 times over the coming months until he was rid of the tormenting presence. His story inspired the novel (and future film) The Exorcist. On October 30th, Devil’s Night, Ghost Aslyum host Chris Smith, paranormal investigator Nick Groff, and renowned medium Chip Coffey will enter the famed St. Louis house where Roland Doe lived after fleeing Maryland to find what, if anything, lingers there.
Exorcism: Live! came to New York Comic Con and sat down with a roundtable of reporters to talk to us about what they might encounter and what they have seen in their work.
Part I: Chris Smith and Nick Groff
Karin Crighton: Best case scenario, what do you think is going to happen?
Chris Smith: Best case scenario, hopefully we’ll find some evidence, get to collect some evidence, have some interaction, find out what’s there, and if it’s something bad maybe we can help get out of there.
Reporter: You’ve been through this stuff before, what’s one of the scarier things you’ve seen?
Nick Groff: I’ve been in a lot of scary situations; it really takes a lot to scare me, but I've been extremely nervous. I mean, human nature, we all get scared, right? It doesn’t matter how strong you are, going into location with negative energies that are a little more sinister than a typical human spirit can be very dangerous. I wasn’t always one to believe in possession or this type of exorcism until i had experience in losing yourself mentally and having negative energies overtake you, that’s where it gets really frightening for me. It’s like you’re fighting this good and evil battle inside yourself.
KC: You’ve been overtaken?
NG: I’ve lost myself I would say. In this old place called Moon River Brewery in Savannah, Georgia, I had this negative experience overtake my whole mind and I just lost myself for a second. It’s like you black out. You’re fighting yourself internally to rid that negative energy off of you. It’s a really weird experience; that woke me up to the possibilities of oppression, possession.
Reporter: Are you psychic or intuitive?
NG: Just a paranormal investigator, interested in the unknown.
Reporter: It’s interesting you were susceptible to the experience. Is it common to go into spaces where such a strong entity and not moving on to another realm?
CS: In a lot of the places we’ve investigated we have run into those things before, and each member of the team is affected differently. I, myself, am not as sensitive as other members on my team. Dougie – he’s another member of my team – can tell you almost immediately as soon as you walk into a place if there's something there. Whereas I have to investigate, pull out some gadgets, try to get some readings, it just affects people differently.
NG: That’s the great part about being a paranormal investigator, you have an experience, you know what your body is going through. Your best tool as a paranormal investigator is your body. We all produce some sort of energy, that’s a scientific fact, but when we die where does that energy go? Energy multiplies, it lingers, it’s multi-layered, in this world we live in, it’s very complex. With equipment to help validate the experience, that’s what we’re searching for: to find something more groundbreaking so we can discover new things in the paranormal field that we don't fully know yet. Science is studying it, but a scientist will say if a ghost isn’t here at 5pm every day at this exact spot, then it doesn’t exist, but that’s not true. We know there’s more to it than the typical science.
CS: That’s why we have those gadgets. You can have a paranormal experience yourself, but we’re also trying to show other people that these things to do exist; it’s like what [Nick] said, it validates what you’re feeling if you can get the same thing on any type of instrument.
Reporter: What is the experience like, seeking out paranormal activities?
NG: It’s scary. You have to picture we’re in complete darkness. You’ve heard about the stories, the haunting, you do your research, but you do have to be logical: not everything is paranormal. There are things that can be explained. So, we have to use equipment and you have to take in your experiences that you’re having emotionally. And some people are more sensitive in that nature. The best way to describe it is using a computer. If you’ve never used a computer before and you start to use it, you’re going to get better and better every day you use it before you become a pro. We're going to locations week after week and week eventually we’re going to get better and hone in our skills and become sensitive to the energies that occur at these locations.
CS: It doesn’t mean you’re immune to fear. A lot of us, as humans, like to be afraid. It’s that mystery of the unknown. It’s half because of the thrill and half you want answers. So it’s kind of fun for me going into place like this, trying to figure out what these things are and how to communicate with them that fun of being afraid. We like to watch scary movies, we like going to haunted house. We like being afraid.
NG: It’s an adult adrenaline rush, like a roller coaster. You never know what you’re going to get.
Reporter: What do you believe of in terms of animal spirits?
CS: That’s a good question. I was born and raised Missionary Baptist, so I’m very religious in that aspect. I believe when you die you go to Heaven or Hell. As far as animal spirits, they don’t really talk about that in the Bible. So I personally don’t believe in that, but I’m open; whatever anybody believes is what they believe.
NG: I believe in energy, a higher power whatever we label it, whatever religion, we go somewhere. I do believe there is life after death. With animals, animals produce energy too, so possibly they do linger. I had a dog for thirteen years, my best friend, that connection that you don't have with other people. Then my dog passed away, he was very sick and I had to put him to sleep, and I had some experiences at my house where I used to keep him in my basement where I felt like he was walking with me at times, and I could hear his paws walking in my basement. But then my wife kept saying, “Hey you gotta take Cocoa’s ashes and bury him.” I’d been keeping his ashes in the basement, so I think energies linger to comfort you. It’s not just the emotions, it’s hearing physical sounds too. This is what fascinates us to keep striving to discover new things, to hope for more paranormal happenings. The most interesting thing of all of this is we don’t have all the answers.
CS: True story. Going to back to what Nick said, I believe in residual energy – energy never dies it just changes form. Now where that separates with the soul, I don’t know. I have my own religious beliefs, but I do believe in energy lingering behind. We’re still getting radio signals from Vietnam, and that tells you that something is going on that we don’t completely understand. That’s why we’re here.
Reporter: In your investigations have you found something that even the biggest skeptic has said ‘this is irrefutable proof that there are presences other than the physical realm’?
CS: We went to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Oklahoma where we caught the best visual evidence that, in my opinion, we’ve ever captured. My brother, who is the worst at this, he just haphazardly walks around with his camera not paying attention but he always catches something! I don’t know if they think he’s not looking when they present themselves, but we had a full body apparition come through a doorway, stop, look at us, then walk right through the wall.
KC: And you stayed?!
CS: We didn’t know what was going on then, we caught it later when we were looking over the evidence. To me that proves something is there, how can you disprove that? We didn’t have CGI!
KC: How much continuing activity have you heard about in the St Louis house?
NG: I’ve investigated it before, it’s very weird. You sense something there, lurking, waiting, lingering. I had voices come through on a device that we use that captured the words “Devil” and “Diablo”. What are the chances of that scanning on a frequency that shouldn’t have anything coming through? That just blew my mind. And the emotions. The first time I went there I walked up to the top of the second floor and I was filming – during the day too – and I felt a presences lurking. There was a bathroom to the right of me and there was a figure was there, dark figure that I couldn’t make out but I knew it was there. I could almost feel it breathing down my neck. What’s so scary about that is I went home after doing some interviews to my hotel room and went to sleep and had the worst nightmare about this figure that night. It’s hard to describe; it’s like it figured out my weakness and telepathically it got to me. It came in my dreams and disrupted my own mind, my thinking. The next morning, my family and the other guys that I was with were texting my cell phone about the dream they had about me. My dream was this negative energy was throwing us around the room and physically harming us and hurting us. And they were texting me, “I had a weird dream about you being thrown around, and something attacking us and you were in the dream.” It’s surreal – and it wasn’t just me!
Reporter: Have you ever been followed back from an investigation by an entity?
CS: I’ve got a story about that. We were investigating a log house in my home town; it was a pre-Civil War home. Legend was a Civil War soldier went rogue and the union caught up with him and executed him upstairs. And this guy was renovating this place and called us in because a lot of the workers wouldn’t stick around because of all the activity they were having. So we went in, we got some really good evidence, but what happened to me after that was so prolific; for some reason ever since then, I felt a presence in my backseat of my Ford Explorer. I didn’t know what it was, but every time I looked into my backseat I expected to look in the rearview mirror and see something. And the weird thing about it was we had our website and our number on the back glass and I was checking my email one day and this lady emailed and said, “Hey, I’m a psychic and I feel things. I saw you on the interstate and checked out your website. I really think what you guys are doing is cool, but be careful. There’s something in your backseat.” I sold it on Craigslist a month later. So somebody else is driving around a haunted Explorer now.
Reporter: If I can piggyback off his question, have you ever had the ability to eradicate a negative spirit in any of the places you’ve visited?
NG: I was one of those guys that was always, “Meh, cleansings and obsessions, this and that”; I’m somewhat of a naïve paranormal investigator. I have to have the experience. I got into this very young, so I was always that guy, “Come on! Let’s go! Put me in a morgue slab, I’ll sit in the most haunted place in the world.” I was one of those crazy dudes. Last fall, when I had all these negative experiences from the locations I was going to, I started noticing that at my house things were different. We started hearing sounds, doors opening. I called one of my friends, who I really trust and believe in, and she came over. She was a sensitive, a psychic too and it takes a lot for me to believe in a psychic medium.
CS: Me too.
NG: Yeah, there’s one on every corner. But she says things to me that are so personal that no one knows I became a believer. She came over she says to me, “You have all this negative spiritual energy lingering in the corner of your basement. There’s one person pacing back and forth” (I have my office in the other side of the basement) “who’s protecting you from this negative energy. It’s a guy who I was very close with, he was neighbors with me in Las Vegas and he passed away from old age before I moved out of Vegas.” And I thought, how did you know that? That’s when I knew. For the first time ever, I used sage. I was never a big believer in sage. You have to find something you believe in personally, like deep down in your soul you have to believe. It doesn’t matter what religion or what the faith you have to believe. So I saged my whole house, let the smoke out and things were way better. I also salted my shower bed; you plant your feet in the salt and ground yourself and let all the dirty, negative energy.
Reporter: We salted ourselves before we came here!
NG: I never believed in that, but it works! I swear to God, after I did it all these good things were happening in my life it was crazy!
CS: I know what I’m going to do when I get home.
Reporter: What kind of equipment are you guys going to be using at the house?
CS: For electronic voice phenomenon, we’re just going to be using voice recorders. Paratechnologies has also come up with these things called “parascopes” and they detect static electricity. Using those we’ve been getting a lot of success. High-end, deep infrared cameras getting full spectrum, we have used a spirit box, we’ve been getting success out of that as well.
Exorcism: Live! will air 9pm on October 30, 2015 on Destination America.
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