With Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension now out in UK cinemas and hitting US theaters this Friday, Daily Dead recently caught up with paranormal expert Christopher Chacon, who talked about getting involved as an advisor on the Paranormal Activity films, the level of realism of the franchise's supernatural happenings, his real-life experiences investigating phenomena, and more.

How did you first get involved in paranormal investigating?

Christopher Chacon: I kind of fell into it. I was paying my way through college as a magician illusionist and some people came to me and said they had this ghost in the house that’s keeping everyone awake. They were wondering if I could come over and figure out what’s happening. And of course, as a magician illusionist, I was very aware of how events can easily be misconceived as something supernatural or paranormal.

So I helped those people and very soon after that, I got three more cases of people saying they were having phenomena, and then it turned into a couple of people with psychic phenomena, a reincarnation case, and then a couple of close encounters cases—of UFO encounters. It snowballed, I was getting all of these cases and I found it very compelling, the process of belief systems and the experiences these people were having.

After getting dozens and dozens of cases, I partnered with a parapsychologist. We collaborated together and that’s when I jumped into learning the parapsychological method. Together, we took on hundreds of cases and did that for a long time.

Right at the point when I was saying, "Okay, I’m about done with this world,” I got recruited by a scientific think tank of this organization with a division in anomalistics. They hired me and taught me to investigate anomalies, which is a very different way of looking at these phenomena. That lasted a dozen years.

After that I said, “Okay, I’m done with these phenomena,” and right when I’m leaving that organization, I begin getting phone calls from clients who are saying they’re having phenomena. At that point, I’m no longer part of a scientific group. I don’t have a compliment of scientists and money and resources behind me, but they still wanted assistance and help on a more personal level—be it an exorcism, some kind of phenomena or some kind of creature that a government was tracking. So I decided to go ahead and consult and assist, and I’ve been doing that for about 12 years now. I don’t charge for my services, they just have to fly me to whatever part of the world it is in. I hit the ground wherever that might be—South Africa, China, wherever—and I assess the phenomena that they’re seeing, give them my thoughts, and first and foremost try to help the people being traumatized by it.

How did you become an advisor on the Paranormal Activity films?

Christopher Chacon: I knew the director [Oren Peli] and the producers. Once they made the film, they wanted my feedback because I actually deal with phenomena day-in, day-out. And then they talked to Paramount, who came onboard when they acquired the film. I sat down with Paramount, they picked my brain, and that’s when they came up with the idea that maybe they should use my services. They were thinking that the film was definitely going to spark a dialogue with people around the world because of the way the film touches everyone personally—it looks like you’re eavesdropping on somebody, it looks like home movies. So they asked if I could participate in discussing real phenomena out there, how it compares, and discuss other people’s actual experiences. And Paramount has kept me onboard with each of these creations.

When you first watched the original Paranormal Activity, what was your reaction? Did you think they had realistically portrayed supernatural phenomena?

Christopher Chacon: In the mail, I get tons of videos—clips and pictures from people who document their phenomena—and ironically enough, it looks a lot like what you see in Paranormal Activity. It is very similar to people who try to or who do document these things around the world. It’s almost in the same league. You could probably cut together what people have sent in and it would look like a Paranormal Activity film. So it’s definitely in the same plane. As soon as I saw it [Paranormal Activity], I thought, “Wow, they’re going to hit home with a lot of people,” because it looked that real.

When I was watching the people watching the very first one, an interesting thing happened. Whenever you watch a reality show, it makes you more susceptible into believing what’s on the screen. You turn into an eavesdropper. When that happens, it almost lowers the sense mechanism in people watching it. Everyone begins an invested interest because they’re watching someone’s home movies in a way. So when the phenomena happens, it immediately strikes a chord where people jump. It makes it scarier—it gives the illusion of making it scarier. When I saw that happen, that’s when I thought, “Wow, they have figured out a way of pushing those buttons in people in the same way that people watching reality TV forget that what they're watching is produced reality.” When I saw that, I knew people were going to gravitate towards this because it makes you feel that you’re really seeing it—if the situation feels real, then the phenomena must be real.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension adds a unique technology into the ghost hunting equation. What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of using equipment to track supernatural entities?

Christopher Chacon: My particular opinion is not the norm, because when I joined that scientific group some time ago, they had access to state-of-the-art technology. We were dealing with prototype technology that still isn’t out to this day—prototypes with technology that allowed us to see energy through walls. Usually it’s only used in defense purposes—for the military or medical [fields]. That group was definitely ahead of the curve as far as applying technology to investigate stuff. Even today it still hasn’t reached the advances we were using when I was in that group.

But that being said, people who use the technology sometimes misinterpret its use. Back in the ’90s when I was on some reality programming, we showed technology and some people got the idea that it was used to track phenomena. You often see a person holding an EMF meter and it goes off, then there must be ghosts there. They misinterpreted what we were doing. What we were trying to convey is that the technology monitors the environment, not the phenomena. And you can’t just monitor electromagnetic fields, we have to monitor background radiation, electrostatic fields, current of air, toxicity of chemicals in the air—you have to look at every aspect of the environment.

Then what we did was look for a ripple in it, look for footprints left behind by whatever it was. That displacement is what the equipment picks up. It’s like if you have an empty fish aquarium. It’s crystal clear and there’s water in it, but you don’t see the water. If you throw an ice cube in it, though, the water displaces and overflows. That overflow is what we would pick up and read. That’s what the technology does. If equipment goes haywire or picks up something, it’s usually because the environment does it. That’s not a steadfast rule, though.

For example, a lot of times people associate cold spots with ghosts or sometimes poltergeist activity, and that’s not the case at all. There have been many cases when the phenomena happens and there are no variations in temperature, and there have been cases where it’s extremely cold or extremely hot and yet you don’t have other phenomena associated with it. Technology can only take you so far. At some point you can be inconclusive and you have to take that leap to what is causing it.

In your real-life cases, have you ever encountered events similar to what is shown in the Paranormal Activity films?

Christopher Chacon: In short, yes. If you take all the films and remove each paranormal event that happens, I have encountered or encountered people who have encountered an event like that. In other words, clustering them all together in one spot in that amount of time—it’s extremely rare for something like that to happen. Individually, each of those paranormal events—yes, I've encountered people or situations where phenomena like that has occurred. Even the whole idea of the title [Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension]—I’ve encountered situations where those things have been described, that level of phenomena. There have been cases that do exist out there that are similar to it.

One of the creepier aspects of the Paranormal Activity films are the possessions that take place. What are your thoughts on how that element of phenomena is portrayed onscreen in this franchise?

Christopher Chacon: How they depict it—it’s realistic from a portion of the cases overall across the board. There are so many different types of “possession-type” phenomena. The way Katie compares to Regan in The Exorcist—those are extremely different types of possession. So there is a spectrum of different types of behavior that happen. So the answer is “yes," they have definitely depicted it to some accuracy.

There are those cases where possession happens because of the environment—anybody who walks in there becomes possessed or only a certain person. There are cases where it’s residual, where you could walk into a place where the phenomena is happening and you could leave, go home, fly to another part of the world, but because you walked in it, you’re now somehow attached to that phenomena, so it will still possess you. There’s a huge span of variables regarding different types of cases. I’m finding that every case I encounter is very different than the next, depending on the person or situation. The phenomena don’t fall into one clear-cut category.

Was there one defining moment in your paranormal career that altered your initial, somewhat skeptical, approach to phenomena cases?

Christopher Chacon: Yes, there was. One particular case I went to, they wanted me there to observe and explain something. Basically what had happened in this environment was all these chairs took off in different directions. Some of them were slammed in the walls, into the ceilings. One of them completely disappeared. They didn’t know where it was. The researchers found something strange with the wall of the kitchen. So they proceeded to cut out the wall, and when they ripped the stucco back, they found the chair embedded, interfused into the wall. When you take out the wall and look at the chair—the only way they could have fabricated that would be to hire carpenters to bend the wood to the exact same model and type of the chair and shape and mold it, because there were no breaches, no cuts, no glue anywhere. It would have been such an elaborate thing, and then for what cause? Because none of it ever went public or was discussed. That was really a turning point. At that point I said, “I have to start having more of an open mind."

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.