Minnesota is home to ghosts, monsters, UFOs and much more weird stuff. Chad Lewis joins us to talk about weirdness in The Land of 10,000 lakes…and there are water creatures too!
You can find Chad’s recent book on the subject at Amazon: Paranormal Minnesota: Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs
JIM’S SPRING BOOK GIVEAWAY& NEWSLETTER
Never miss anything going on at the Spooky Studio and qualify for Jim’s Spring Book Giveaway (some restrictions apply), sign up for Jim’s FREE newsletter HERE
Please note we do not guarantee 100% transcript accuracy. The below reflects a best effort. Thank you for your understanding.
This is the Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold.
JIM HAROLD: Welcome to the program. I’m Jim Harold. So glad to be with you tonight, and we are going to talk about Paranormal Minnesota, and I hope that you’ll enjoy our livestream. And boy, do we have a great guest tonight, I’ve got to tell you. We had him on our Halloween party, and we’ve had him on numerous shows that we’ve done on our Plus Club shows, and we welcome tonight to the livestream – and for those listening on audio, the Paranormal Podcast – Chad Lewis. Chad, welcome to the program. So good to have you.
CHAD LEWIS: Hey. Greetings from the Northwoods.
JIM HAROLD: I’ve got to say, you have done so much. For nearly three decades, Chad Lewis has traveled the backroads of the world in search of the strange and unusual. From tracking vampires in Transylvania and searching for the elusive monster of Loch Ness to trailing the dangerous Tata Duende through remote villages of Belize and searching and re-searching for ghosts in Ireland’s castles, Chad has scoured the earth in search of the paranormal. He’s been on many, many TV, radio shows, podcasts. He’s authored – I think he’s up to 26 books. Chad, how do you find time for all of these paranormal adventures?
CHAD LEWIS: I think it’s a lifestyle. I love adventure, I love travel. I’m addicted to roadside attractions. When I’m traveling, I’ll drive two hours out of the way to see the world’s biggest ball of twine. I see it all together as an adventure – the folklore of it, the travel of it all combines where I just really can’t see doing anything else.
JIM HAROLD: And your new book, the one we’re going to talk about today, Paranormal Minnesota: Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs. I know that’s up in your neck of the woods, but why specifically Paranormal Minnesota right now?
CHAD LEWIS: I really wanted to throw together the entire spectrum of the supernatural. I’ve done books on Minnesota ghosts, Minnesota creatures, I’ve done tons of Midwestern series where Minnesota’s thrown in, but I really wanted to combine all of those. I still remember when I first got started and books like Jerome Clark’s Unexplained! came out.
JIM HAROLD: Awesome.
CHAD LEWIS: I still remember that and how mind-blowing it was that on one night you could read about pterodactyls flying in the sky, and the next day a haunted place, and then a sea serpent. Just this wide assortment, and it was never-ending. I really had not done something like that for Minnesota, so I thought it’d be fun to combine them all to give that kind of feel that I had when I first started out in this field.
JIM HAROLD: I like the title is Paranormal Minnesota: Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs. I’m looking down because I actually have the book right here, folks. It’s excellent; you’re going to want to get it. But the thing is that the word “paranormal” – and this is a pet peeve of mine.
In 2005, I started the Paranormal Podcast, and to me, it’s kind of like what you said in your subtitle there. It’s ghosts, it’s monsters, it’s UFOs, it’s headscratchers. It’s a wide array. I think over the years, we’ve kind of limited that word, and people have held it captive to just ghosts. I’m assuming from that title your definition of paranormal is similar to mine. What is your definition of the word “paranormal?”
CHAD LEWIS: Again, when I started out, everything was kind of thrown together, from ESP and telepathy to crop circles, out-of-body experiences, strange falling from the skies, whether it’s fish, frogs, whatever it is, and just anomalies in general. You’re right; the last maybe 20 years, especially the last decade, people are paranormal researchers or investigators, but really they like to focus only on hauntings or ghosts. Running the entire line of the supernatural and not having that specific area of research is what fascinates me, the entire group of it all together. Because to me, it’s all weird.
JIM HAROLD: I agree with you 110%. And by the way, everybody out there, all our spooktators out there, thank you for joining us. We’re going to be doing more of these. But save your questions for Chad. When we get to the Q&A section, put your question in the chat with a “Q” in front of it. But hold your questions for now, and we will get you involved when we want to get your wisdom and have you ask some great questions of Chad.
In this book, it is not just ghosts, it’s not just monsters. How wide of a breadth are we talking about in Paranormal Minnesota?
CHAD LEWIS: I kept it mainly to the big three: UFOs, cryptids, and hauntings. I’ve thrown in some crop circles, which has a UFO connection to it in this particular case, and some other oddities, like a psychic vampire, a real vampire, and expanded it a bit. But I wanted it to be those big three. I didn’t get into some weirdness that I would love to have done, just due to the size of the book. I really wanted it to be – today’s reader, they really like that fun, but they don’t want 900 pages of a definitive guide to something.
So I wanted it to be accessible to people, but also contain enough that people had never heard of before. For me, that’s the big challenge. For a book called Paranormal Minnesota, I wanted it to be all new stuff I hadn’t written about before, but then you have to throw in some of those favorites, if you will, because otherwise people will say, “How can you do a book about paranormal Minnesota and not include this case or that case?” So I had to throw in some all-time favorites, but I also wanted it to be new, fresh stuff that I hadn’t done before.
JIM HAROLD: One caught my eye immediately. I was telling you off air, my Campfire show, probably all-time favorite story of almost everybody is the Roadhouse Saloon, and you’re the person who supplied me with some photos of it, so I could say “Look at these photos, it’s real, it’s real!” So thank you for that.
But I noticed in this book, you have a story of the Last Turn Saloon. There are a couple stories we’re going to ask you about, and people should pick up the book, but that’s one that I’m really curious about. Tell us about the Last Turn Saloon.
CHAD LEWIS: Last Turn Saloon is this old historic place up in the Northwoods of Minnesota. It was there during the time of the lumberjacks, the railroad workers. So you had these strong, sturdy men, but also you had these rambunctious people that would come in. It was a place that most of us today would not want to venture into back then. It was very unsavory characters and all kinds of weird things happening at this saloon.
It actually had to move after a hanging that went awry, and it moved its location. It was called the Last Turn Saloon because it was really the last turn before the town became no man’s land, before it became all forest and no law there, really the Wild West. So it has this long history of a sordid and unique history that also ties in to some of the haunted stories there.
As you and I were talking earlier, you really can’t throw a rock in the Midwest without hitting a saloon that has a paranormal story attached to it. We have so much unique history in the Midwest that a lot of these places, these bars, these saloons, these old brothels have a unique history tied to them.
JIM HAROLD: What do you think makes a place haunted? I think of a chemistry set when you were a kid. You had a chemistry set and you put in different things and it blows up or whatever, it bubbles out of the tube. What do you think that unique chemistry is that creates a haunted location? Is there one recipe? Are there many recipes? Share with us what you think some of those recipes might be.
CHAD LEWIS: I think over the years, some of the theories I’ve subscribed to, if these things do exist – people often talk that when you die, if you become a ghost, why wouldn’t you hang out at the places that you loved to hang out while you were alive? If you had the opportunity, why would you be patrolling the old graveyard when you could be at your favorite pub or favorite theater or favorite restaurant? That’s one reason, I think. If we do get a choice, and if these things are real, of course you’d want to be in the places that you enjoyed while you were alive.
Others subscribe to the idea that these spirits need energy, and they feed off of our energy, intentionally or unintentionally. And again, that would play into why we have so many legends of haunted theaters and haunted bars and saloons, because if you go to these places, you’ll see they’re lively places where people are there. There’s a lot of camaraderie. There’s a lot of hanging out and having fun. So if you were something that needed energy, what better place than a Minnesota saloon?
JIM HAROLD: Have you experienced personally hauntings or ghosts? I assume you have. As much investigation and so forth as you’ve done, I’m sure you have. But is that a common thing for you? Has it happened multiple times? What’s been your experience?
CHAD LEWIS: In the last 30 years I’ve been doing this, traveling to thousands of places, I could probably count on one hand or just a couple fingers things that have happened where I would say that was 100% strange and unusual, beyond my explanation of the time. But for me, it’s always very subtle stuff. I’ll go to these places, interview the witnesses who tell me these amazing stories of all kinds of full-on apparitions to things moving on their own, hearing voices, all the typical haunted activity. And yet when you’re there, you’re researching, you’re exploring, nothing happens.
But I learned early on that the idea that I would come there for a day or two and expect something to happen – what I learned is that folklore doesn’t operate on a calendar. It doesn’t punch a timeclock. It doesn’t adhere to any manmade idea of time. So I learned early that just because I didn’t experience something there, maybe I was only there for a day or two. I think it’s frustrating for people that go to these places and nothing happens, but it’s expected.
I had a fellow researcher, a colleague, that was so fed up with nothing happening while he was at these places that if he was having let’s say a family reporting a haunted activity, he would go like he was a visiting cousin or something. So if the family was sitting around playing games, having a beer, he’d partake in that rather than being this outcast walking around the house, looking for things. Trying to sneak in and trick these things.
It’s kind of the same thing that MUFON, the Mutual UFO Network, did so many years ago. They would put what appeared to be jewelry boxes in people’s bedrooms and they’d have all sorts of recording and sensors on it, but it would be hidden like it was just a piece of family furniture – trying to entice things to happen without it being known that you’re actually trying to record them.
JIM HAROLD: That’s a good question: Do you think that sometimes these entities, or whatever they are, are cognizant that they’re being recorded? Is it kind of like people? Some people are terribly camera shy. “Don’t get a camera anywhere near me.” And then other people are kind of like – I remember my oldest daughter, when she was a little kid, and then I have my youngest daughter. I’d be trying to take pictures of my youngest daughter on the old school camcorder, and my oldest daughter would say, “Hey camera! Hey camera!”
So people are different in this way. Are ghosts or entities different in this way? Some are like “Cheese!” and then others are like “No, I don’t want you to take my picture or record me or record an EVP.” Do you find that to be the case?
CHAD LEWIS: I think it’s a great unknown. If there are spirits there and they have the ability to control that, maybe it’s not even in that control where it’s just random. But I’ve often found that it seems like certain people either have the ability to experience that or they’re able to bring it out.
I had a research colleague of mine back in my college days that it seemed like everywhere we went, odd things would happen. Nothing crazy, but just when that person was around, you would expect some bizarreness to occur. It leads to the whole question of, are some people able to produce this or more susceptible to it happening?
It’s the same thing when you get a carload of people driving down the highway at night and several of them can see a UFO in the sky and others in the same car have no idea what the other people are looking at. So I think it might be on both sides. It might be a human perception on this side, but also maybe something is playing on the other side of things as well.
JIM HAROLD: I wanted to tell you about a couple of free podcasts that we’ve rolled out in recent months that maybe you haven’t had a chance to check up on, but please do. First of all, Unpleasant Dreams. Each week, we take a different case or phenomenon and delve deep into it. It’s hosted by Cassandra Harold, written by Maddy Hilker, and I am executive producer. We’re very proud of that.
So far this new season, we’ve tackled the bizarre and strange case of Teresita Basa – did she actually mete out justice from beyond the grave? You’ll have to listen to find out. Also the case of Betty and Barney Hill, of course that seminal case of alien abduction back in the 1960s that is still fascinating us today. So both of those, plus there’s the Season 1 archive. Every second Monday, we put out an episode of that, so please follow, subscribe, and listen to Unpleasant Dreams wherever you get the Paranormal Podcast.
Secondly, another new show that’s just out in the last couple of months is called You Won’t Believe What Happened To Me. It’s kind of like our Campfire podcast without the ghosts. Just incredible stories that have happened to people. We’ve had people who have narrowly escaped death, people who have met celebrities, people who have had a nightmare of a hitchhiking experience. Just amazing, amazing stories. Some of them are happy, some of them are sad, some of them are good, some of them are bad, some are hilarious, and some are downright chilling.
So check it out, You Won’t Believe What Happened To Me, hosted by me and my bride, Dar Harold. We’re having a great time doing it, and it seems like the audience is really enjoying it. So check out You Won’t Believe What Happened To Me on the podcast app of your choice or at jimharold.com, and make sure to follow or subscribe. We certainly appreciate it. Both of those shows are absolutely free, and thought you might want to check them out if you haven’t had a chance.
I hope you’ll check out Unpleasant Dreams and You Won’t Believe What Happened To Me. And now, back to the show.
Enter to win Jim’s Spooky Studio Book Giveaway. Go to jimharold.com/giveaway for the rules and get yourself entered. Now back to the Paranormal Podcast.
JIM HAROLD: Another thing you talk about in this book – and I believe that you’ve talked about these beings on other shows you’ve done with us, and it could be this story or another one if you would like to share – a story about the Wendigo. Explain what a Wendigo is, and maybe give us a story of a Wendigo. It could be the one that’s in this book or it could be another one, but I think that is fascinating and very chilling as well.
CHAD LEWIS: Wendigo may be the oldest North American legend, and it may be one that many people have no idea, they’ve never heard of it. The Wendigo, in its most simplistic definition, is a gigantic monster of the north. It started with the First Nations people in Canada. They talked about during harsh winters, when times were tough and people were starving and food was scarce and game was nowhere to be found, people would be at their weakest – mentally, physically, and spiritually.
That’s when this Wendigo would show up, always very tall and gaunt, skeletal-looking. Sometimes it was missing its own mouth and lips because it had an insatiable hunger for human flesh, and when no prey was around, it would consume its own body. It could either show up and devour you, kill you, eat you, or worse yet, it could possess you, where you would slowly turn into a Wendigo and start seeing your friends and family not as loved ones, but as tasty game like moose and beaver.
JIM HAROLD: Ooh.
CHAD LEWIS: People affected by this would actually beg to be killed because they feared they were turning Wendigo, and they were afraid that they would consume their loved ones and harm their friends, family, and others. We have hundreds of cases of people killing one another because they were a suspected Wendigo. We think of these things mostly in Canada, but they quickly spread to the Great Lakes region of the U.S. and East Coast as well.
There’s a place aptly named, Lake Wendigo, in Minnesota. It’s thought to be the last place where they performed a Wendigo dance to protect them from the Wendigo. There’s a lake on an island in a lake, which is kind of an anomaly in its own right, and the lake is thought to be the Wendigo’s habitat. It uses the lake like a kettle, and the stories are there if you walk around the lake, the Wendigo will snatch you and pull you into a watery grave. People who summer on the lake do not allow their children to swim in the lake because too many people have drowned.
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, that’s one of the more terrifying things. Jack Carr says, “I’d like to see a ghost, but I’ll pass on the Wendigo.” [laughs] Daniel says, “Say no to Wendigo.”
CHAD LEWIS: In Minnesota, the Wendigo was seen as a harbinger of death, a death omen. It would portend bad luck coming to you. If you saw it, much like seeing or hearing the Irish Banshee, it meant that you or someone you knew was going to die very shortly. So it was something you didn’t want to see.
In fact, there’s an infamous case of people back in the late 1800s, early 1900s that heard a Wendigo was in the vicinity, and rather than venture out and get food and water and game, they ended up starving to death in their shelter because they were too afraid merely on the suggestion that a Wendigo was in the area.
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, that’s really chilling, absolutely. I guess my question is this: Indigenous people, I would think they would be a great resource for these legends and so forth and have many stories to tell and much wisdom to pass on. I’m assuming that’s true, right?
CHAD LEWIS: Oh, they certainly have tons of wisdom and expertise, and they hold these legends in a much more serious tone than a lot of the rest of the countries tend to do. But in terms of talking about it, that’s a tricky situation.
I was doing a program up near Lake Wendigo on Minnesota creatures, and before the program, some elders came up to me and said, “We heard you’re going to be talking about a specific creature of the area.” They wouldn’t say the name Wendigo. They said, “We would appreciate it if you would not mention it at all. Not by name, not by form, nothing. Just get rid of it.” I said, “Sure, no problem. I can throw it right out of my program.”
Those words had no sooner left my mouth than I could see their body language just relax. They were terrified that I was just going to mention it, because many cultures believe that when you talk about these things, it puts you on the map. When you go looking for the weird, the weird will come looking for you. Now all of a sudden, you’re known to whatever it is. So a lot of cultures, including First Nation and Indigenous peoples, refuse to talk about it, especially with outsiders.
JIM HAROLD: I’ve got to say, I’ve thought about that from time to time. In our line of business, we talk about all this stuff, and I had a case – I mentioned it several times to several different guests, so I may have mentioned it to you, but I interviewed the late great Rosemary Ellen Guiley 20 times on our shows. Twenty times. She and Brad Steiger were probably my all-time two favorite guests. You’re great, though, don’t get me wrong. You’re great.
CHAD LEWIS: I’m with you. I would’ve loved to have Brad Steiger on a show.
JIM HAROLD: Anyway, I did an interview with Rosemary Ellen Guiley about a book she did on the Djinn. Rosemary would always send me her books, and those books were keepers. Some of them, I’ll give them away to listeners. Right now we’re doing a big book giveaway, jimharold.com/giveaway to find out how potentially to win a book – some restrictions apply. It’s kind of fun. But anyway, a lot of times I’ll pass them on to listeners and so forth, or sometimes I’ll donate books to the library and different things. But I always keep Rosemary Ellen Guiley books.
But anyway, we interviewed on the Djinn, and within a couple days, a beloved uncle of mine passed away who we were not expecting to pass away. I knew he was ill, I knew he was having problems, but I didn’t think it was anything fatal. And then, within two weeks, my mom passed away. And you know what I did with that book? I threw it away. I felt terrible, but the Djinn freaked me out. And even now saying this, it’s like, am I inviting them? Because that’s part of the legend of the Djinn, that they maybe come after you if you start talking about them. That’s part of the lore, I believe.
So some people might consider it superstitious, but I worry about it sometimes. What do you think? Are you immune to it, or do you concern yourself with that kind of thought?
CHAD LEWIS: I’m with you as well. I’m not very superstitious; I love researching superstitions, and I like the fun ones. For instance, here in Wisconsin, it was bad luck to not say hello to a rabbit or a bunny that you saw. So of course, every time I see one, “Have a good day, bunny,” so be it.
But I did a book on supernatural dares, and it had a similar concept where you might have to go out to the haunted chair at the graveyard and sit in it, or you might have to knock on a mausoleum three times. Without fail, like 99% of these dares, it’s always bad things will happen. Mishap, misfortune, or death will occur if you tangle with these things. It’s never anything good, that you’ll win the lottery or find true love if you do these things. So there’s always been some sinister aspect with the paranormal, whether it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy or maybe we just all of a sudden start paying more attention and add a coincidence to it. Or maybe we suffer from confirmation bias.
But I really do think that when you start exploring these things, it opens up an entire world, and a lot of my colleagues will do certain things to protect themselves, whether it’s – if they’re religious, they’ll say a prayer. They might burn some sage. They’ll sprinkle some salt. They might wear certain garments or certain jewelry to help protect them. But luckily for me, I’m still here.
JIM HAROLD: Same here, but I do think about it from time to time.
CHAD LEWIS: I do too.
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, it runs through my mind, there’s no question about it. And it reminds me of another concept, and this I am fascinated by. We did a lengthy seminar for our Plus members on tulpas with David Weatherly – the idea of thought-forms, that sometimes we can generate things just by our thoughts. I know that’s maybe a little bit far afield of this particular book, but is that something you’ve looked into, and what are your thoughts on that idea?
CHAD LEWIS: First, let me say you’re throwing out some great researchers. I think far too many people get in this field and they don’t read stuff that has been done before them. David Weatherly, Brad Steiger, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Jerome Clark, all these fantastic researchers. If you are new to the field and you want something to start studying, grab those books. You just can’t go wrong. I think too many people jump into this field today mainly because of the TV shows rather than the old researchers. Don’t tell Weatherly I’m saying he’s old. Some of the early researchers. [laughs] I don’t want David to put a curse on me, gosh.
No, but some of the early researchers, people who have been doing it before I was involved in the field, they’re a wealth of information. I don’t even know what your question was. Something about Weatherly –
JIM HAROLD: The tulpas. The concept of the tulpas. Have you researched that, and if you have, what are your thoughts?
CHAD LEWIS: So many people, especially in my field – I deal with a lot of people who claim they’re intuitive, they’re psychics, they’re mediums, and they always talk about energy following intent. That’s one thing you’ll hear them say over and over and over – again, the idea that if you believe in something so much, it will come to fruition. Of course, skeptics say, “Then why do we not see Santa Claus everywhere, because so many people believe in Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny, or anything of that nature?”
But yet at the other side of the coin, we’re seeing when you’re talking about Slenderman and a lot of these made-up legends that all of a sudden manifest themselves in ways you could never predict. So I think there is a lot of power in our perception because our perception really guides the way we see the world. If you have a negative outlook, that’s the way you’re going to see things and vice versa. So for me, it follows logically that so many people putting so much energy in certain legends or folklore may propel them to actually to actually being truer.
When I started studying psychology at college, that’s what I was interested in. What is it about human perception or our belief systems that allow one person to experience or believe in these things and somebody else does not? I think that’s a field of study that is wide open. If anyone is interested in studying that, I think that’s an idea that needs a lot more work.
JIM HAROLD: Other types of stories in the book – what about water monsters? I would think that Minnesota – there’s a lot of water; it’d be a natural place to have some freshwater monsters, possibly, in those waters. Is that something that’s a part of the picture up in Minnesota?
CHAD LEWIS: Obviously, Minnesota’s known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and they have many, many more than 10,000 lakes. Quite a few more. So it makes sense that water serpents, sea monsters, lake monsters, these giant leviathan of the deep would appear. They have some of the best sea serpent legends, from Lake Superior – if you’ve never been to Lake Superior, it’s gigantic. You’ll think it’s an ocean, it’s so big.
And they have stories of giant sea serpents there, all the way down to a lake on the Mississippi River, Lake Pepin. It’s right on the Mississippi, dividing Wisconsin from Minnesota, and they have a lake monster called Pepie. The people of Lake City, Minnesota are so convinced that Pepie is real that they are offering a $50,000 reward for the capture of this monster. And as of today, nobody has taken that reward.
JIM HAROLD: To me – and again, I like different paranormal phenomena, and like you, I’m a big tent guy; I include it all: UFOs, ghosts, cryptid creatures – but ghosts, I think there’s definitely something to it. UFOs, definitely something to it. Water monsters, definitely something to it. It just stands to reason that there are things in the water that we don’t understand. We see it all the time. You’ll see some picture on the internet of something that’s been discovered that was thought to be extinct or whatever. So that makes a lot of sense to me.
Bigfoot, I’ve got to admit – I think we’ve had this conversation – it’s kind of like, catch me on a different day. One day I’m like, “Oh yeah, probably, there’s probably something to it.” Another day I’m like, “Mm, maybe not as much.” Do you take a look in this book at any kind of Bigfoot-like creatures, anything like that?
CHAD LEWIS: Yes. Obviously, I’ve done Bigfoot stories in other Minnesota books that I’ve done on Minnesota creatures. There’s a creature in the north middle of the state called the Hairy Man, and there’s a lot of debate whether this was just some isolated loner living out in the woods, a hermit letting his whiskers grow long and looking disheveled, or if it’s more of what you would consider your Bigfoot or Sasquatch.
I’ve talked to people that claim that they’ve spotted this creature, and they’re completely convinced that it’s not some human that just has removed himself or herself from civilization – that it’s some creature not known to science or not of any known creature on this planet.
I’m with you with the Bigfoot theories. One day I might think it’s more flesh and blood, like it could be an animal the way we think of a bear or a moose. But then on other days, there’s so many other things that lead me to it not being of this planet, or at least in the way we think it would be. So I’m with you that that’s probably the most confusing for me, the Bigfoot, whereas sea serpents, you think sure, it might be some species not quite discovered yet or ones that we thought were already extinct but they’re not quite extinct.
And you always hear scientists say we know more about space than we do about the bottom of our oceans, so that always lends some credibility as well. As more and more of our forestland seems to be shrinking and there are more game cams, there are more people out there looking, the habitat for Bigfoot, if it is here, like a bear, is shrinking every single year. So it’s only a matter of time before they run out of habitat if, in fact, that’s what they are.
JIM HAROLD: I have to ask you about one of my favorite topics in the paranormal, and that’s the idea of UFOs. I know you have some UFO stuff in here. A lot of sightings in Minnesota?
CHAD LEWIS: A ton of sightings. Jim, I started out joining MUFON. That’s how I got involved in the field of the supernatural. I grew up in Wisconsin, and not only do we have the UFO capital of the world here, we claim to have three of them in our state. Three different cities all claim to be the UFO capital of the world. So when I started out, I started out joining the Mutual UFO Network. Actually, I was the State Director in Wisconsin for some time, many, many years ago. So I’ve always been fascinated with UFOs.
Not only UFOs where people will see an odd light in the sky or even a craft, and then it vanishes and there’s not much to it outside of that – I like the stories that are just downright bizarre. Way up by the Canadian border in Minnesota, in a small town called Warren, back in 1979, a sheriff’s deputy had an encounter with a UFO at night. He thought it might be an aircraft of some sort coming down, emergency landing, and he raced toward it and then ended up waking up several minutes later with a mild concussion, radiation burns on his face, damage to his vehicle, and no cause of the crash of the craft whatsoever.
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, I think I remember that. What was his name again? Johnson?
CHAD LEWIS: Val Johnson.
JIM HAROLD: Yes, I’m thinking of the same one. That actual car is on display at a museum of some type, right?
CHAD LEWIS: Yes, right up in Warren, Minnesota, at their historical society’s museum, which is on the fairgrounds. They have the car. You can see the damage to the inside of the windshield. You can see the headlight’s busted out, the antenna snapped, broken at a weird angle. It was one of the most researched cases of the 1970s. They had automobile experts come in and look at the damage, trying to figure out exactly how much force it would’ve taken to bend the antenna without breaking it.
Val Johnson ironically moved away from the area after his sighting, and he moved to my hometown in Wisconsin here, which is very interesting. A colleague of mine just interviewed him a couple years back to try to get his thoughts on 40 some plus years now of what he thought it might have been. What I find fascinating, after interviewing a lot of witnesses who have had this happen to them quite some time ago – they’re still as puzzled as they were back when it happened.
I think we put an unfair expectation that these witnesses are going to figure out something that the rest of us haven’t figured out. We’ve been researching this for a very long time, and myself speaking only for me, I’m nowhere closer to the answers than I was when I started. So it’s unfair to have a witness who had something weird happen one time in their life to come up and solve these cases. I think we sometimes put an unfair stress on them as having knowledge now 30 years later when they’re just as puzzled as they were the day it happened.
JIM HAROLD: That’s a question about experiencers, because I deal with a lot of experiencers on my Campfire show. My default position is one of belief. I’m not going to ridicule anybody. When people come on, I assume they’re being sincere, and I believe for the vast, vast majority, people are being sincere in what they’re saying. Is that your experience? What has been your experience with experiencers, and what makes somebody credible to you?
CHAD LEWIS: I agree with you 100%. The overwhelming majority of people I’ve interviewed, I’ve spoken with, are down-to-earth, rational, logical people who aren’t looking to get on a TV show or write a book or receive any fame. Quite the exact opposite of that. They’re looking to figure out what happened to them. They’re experienced something they can’t explain and they’re just looking for answers.
Sometimes I’ve found that some people might misidentify something, or a lot of hauntings people will equate with supernatural things when it might be some rational or mundane explanation. But for the most part, I think people are very sincere. At some point it almost becomes moot because if you say you saw a UFO in your backyard and you describe it and it’s very vivid to you and you’re 100% certain, that’s very hard to prove or disprove if you were not there.
So at some point, I think I had to shift to seeing these things as folklore and legends and looking at how they morph and progress. Trying to disprove or prove somebody’s personal experience is nearly impossible. I think you can burn out sometimes if you get caught in that, whether you want to prove it down to an exact science. For me, I love the stories, I love the folklore. I’m looking at what they mean to us as a greater society, what they mean to us as humans, and that’s what fascinates me more so than whether somebody’s embellishing their story or not. Of course you want to try to sort fact from fiction, but at some point it’s nearly impossible to do that with some cases.
JIM HAROLD: It’s interesting you say that, because I remember when I was a kid, watching my favorite all-time paranormal TV show, In Search Of… This is as a seven-year-old kid, and I would always get angry because at the end, they would say, “And perhaps the mystery will stay that forever. Only time will tell.” I’d be like, “No! I want answers! Give me answers, give me answers!” Then flash forward to 2005, when I started the Paranormal Podcast. I thought, “This is going to be great. I’m going to get to talk to these great thinkers, and in six months I’ll have all this paranormal stuff figured out.”
And over time, I’ve kind of grown comfortable with the idea that I probably won’t ever have the answers. I may have the answers on the other side; I believe in the afterlife, and I hope that part of that is some things are explained to us. So maybe I’ll get them over there.
But you talked about burnout, and whether it’s paranormal podcasters, paranormal authors, paranormal investigators, I see a lot of people come, and then I see a lot of people go, and I think a reason or that is just what you put your finger on: the question of burnout and frustration because the answers are so elusive.
CHAD LEWIS: I couldn’t agree with you more. When I started out, a lot of colleagues started out with me, and like most people in this field, when you start out you think, “I’m going to solve this. I’m going to figure this case out. This will be no problem.” I think if you maintain that approach year after year and those answers do not come for you, it is easy to burn out. A lot of my colleagues quit researching. Luckily, early on I shifted, as I mentioned before, from trying to solve the problem and find the answers to seeing more of it as a greater piece of folklore and the significance of that, collecting these stories, trying to sort fact from fiction but also enjoying the legend for what it is.
You mentioned the Roadhouse case on your podcast, one of your most popular. It’s one of my favorites you’ve done as well. This woman shows up at this Wisconsin Roadhouse in the middle of nowhere and goes inside, and apparently it’s some sort of time warp. She sees people in the bar and she looks over and they’re on the mural there, and comes out and finds the bar is closed. She was really never there.
I was there. The bar is there. The mural is just like she described it. The bar is exactly like her recollection. Again, what can you do with that? You can’t prove she didn’t have that experience, and yet at the same time, it would be very hard to prove she did have the experience. But you can piece together that yes, the Roadhouse is there. Yes, the mural exists exactly the way she mentioned it. All the other details fall into place. Now there’s only that one X factor, and that’s whether it happened or not. But to her, it happened.
JIM HAROLD: I’ve got to say, that was an interesting case, because I actually went up to her home and interviewed her in person – which I don’t do. I’ve never done that for the Campfire, but that case was so compelling, and I wanted to go do that. After I left, I believed her even more. I don’t want to let out any personal information, but she was of a respected profession; she and her husband were great folks, very welcoming. She was – I hate to use this word, but normal as anybody, if any of us are really “normal.”
I just said, “This woman’s telling the truth.” And the story never changed. I believe she’s telling the truth. I’ve gotten the feeling – and I might sound like a broken record to the regular listeners and the regular viewers, but one thing I’ve taken from all of this stuff, Chad, is that the nature of reality is far stranger than we realize. If you take a drop of water and you just look at the drop of water, it looks like a drop of water. There’s nothing going on. But then you put it under a microscope and there’s all kinds of stuff going on. I think that’s kind of what our world is like. There’s so much stuff that we don’t understand about the nature of reality. What say you?
CHAD LEWIS: I’m always a little surprised by researchers who do not want to get involved with stuff that’s kind of out there, because I always state that when you’re dealing with the weird, what is too weird? Where do you draw that line? I think if you draw that line, sometimes you lose out on some really cool cases and some really cool legends. When Chupacabra sightings first started cropping up in mainstream media, that sounded like something that couldn’t possibly be true, but yet here are the accounts. So I think if you cut yourself off from this, you’re missing out on quite a bit.
One thing recently I’ve been driving my friends and family crazy with is the fact that – just thinking about the expanse of space. When you’re talking of billions of lightyears away, and my mind can’t comprehend more than a couple seconds of a lightspeed, that distance, and you’re talking billions of years – it’s really hard to think that there’s not a lot more that we just don’t understand.
JIM HAROLD: Chad, are you ready for some questions from our audience?
CHAD LEWIS: Oh, this’ll be great.
JIM HAROLD: It’ll be a lot of fun. I love this part when we do the livestream. By the way, if you have a question, pop it into the chat. Put a “Q” in front of it because I’m my own producer here, so we’re just picking them out as we go.
Sandy had a question that’s kind of reminiscent of something I asked, but maybe you can expand on it. Oh, wrong – see? I’m my own producer and not a very good one, folks. Okay, Sandy says, “Have you had any personal experiences with the paranormal?” I asked you before and you said you could count them on one hand, but maybe tell us a little bit about one or more of those.
CHAD LEWIS: As I mentioned, the things that happen to me are always very subtle. One that stands out in my mind that’s just kind of odd is years ago, I was at this alleged haunted cemetery in the middle of nowhere. Had a few colleagues with me. It was dark. We had already been there during the day, but we were going back at night, just walking around. I was walking and I had something in my hand – I don’t recall; a flashlight, some piece of equipment. I’m just walking, striding, and all of a sudden my hand with the equipment hits somebody and I say, “Oh sorry,” thinking it was my colleague right there, and I turned around and nobody was there. But my hand hit somebody’s thigh or their hip area. I was convinced I had struck somebody, but nobody was there.
But what do you do with something like that? It was weird, but was it haunted activity or a spirit or something else? Who knows? Things are always very subtle like that. Might capture some weird fog or mist on a photo at an alleged haunted place, or hear some voice on our audio recording that wasn’t there or at least wasn’t audible to the naked ear. Things like that. But for me, it’s never been anything where I stepped back and said, “That was amazing, that was 100% supernatural, very cool.”
JIM HAROLD: Daniel wants to know, when choosing a site or case, what are some ways to prepare to go into the investigation? Also, if it’s an owned property, how do you ask for permission? I think Daniel said he’s starting his own group, so sounds like he’s asking for a friend.
CHAD LEWIS: Daniel, the second part is the easier part for me because when I started doing the books on haunted places of where to go, no matter where it was, whether it was a restaurant, a hotel, a theater, they’d say, “Don’t put us in the book because if people find out we’re haunted, nobody’s going to come here.” But then they said, “Go ahead, put us in your book. Nobody’s going to read that thing anyway.” And now it’s completely flipped.
JIM HAROLD: Yeah, it’s like, “Please put me in your book because everybody reads your books, Chad. I want some more people to come to my hotel.”
CHAD LEWIS: Yeah, now it’s “Give us the publicity. People love these stories. People come here specifically for it.” So I think that’s changed quite a bit. People that own these properties are more open to it with the idea.
But I’ve always tried to find common ground with somebody. When I go to places and start talking to them, it’s usually about the history of the building or the architecture. I’m assuming you’re talking hauntings here; most people that own historic old places do so out of the love of history and owning these places. All of a sudden you start talking to them about the history, who lived here, what happened, all that fun, fascinating stuff, and then you start easing into, “Any odd experiences here? A place like this must be haunted,” that type of thing.
If you show up and immediately say, “I want to check your building out for ghosts or hauntings. Tell me all your stories,” you might get a door slammed in your face. Whereas if you meet people where their interest is, that goes a very long way. Also helps if you’re not 18 years old. They’ll see you’re not some teenager running about, but you’re serious into the research or into the building itself.
But for me, finding these places has always been interesting because I’m looking for mostly public places, because I write about these things. I don’t want people to show up to someone’s home, honking the horn – which we’ve had cases of people doing, knocking on the door, “Can I come in and check out your place?” But I also love places that have a long history of odd activity. It might not just be somebody saw something 20 years ago and never again. A long history and multiple witnesses, I always look for.
Those are some of the things that stand out to me about choosing a place. And now that I’ve done it for so long, I tend to find myself gravitating to the really unusual. It has to be something that sticks out because when you’re getting hundreds of reports every week from people around the country, you obviously can’t do all of it.
JIM HAROLD: Phil wants to know, what do you think of alien abduction? Is it actually happening, or was it actually happening?
CHAD LEWIS: I’ve spoken to and interviewed a lot of abductees, or experiences, as some of them refer to themselves, and some that consider it a good thing – that it put them on a path of enlightenment, if you will. All of a sudden they became involved in the environment and new age type lifestyles. Others feel it’s the worst thing that has ever happened to them. But again, it comes down to that I can’t prove these people were being taken against their will by what they believe is an extraterrestrial biological entity of some sort, or something not of this realm or plane or existence. But most of the people I’ve spoken with were really rational, down-to-earth people that truly believe that something was happening to them beyond their control.
When you start looking at some of the early abduction research and seeing all the good research that was going into it and finding the similarities of thousands, if not millions of people around the world, all reporting similar things happening to them, I think you have to look at it at least out of respect of maybe it is paranormal, but maybe there’s something else. Maybe there’s something with the brain or perception, and that deserves being looked at as well.
I’ve just talked to so many people that have had something bizarre happen, UFO-based or alien or other entity, that I think there has to be something there. But what that “there” is, I don’t know.
JIM HAROLD: Serena wanted to know – and we talked a little bit about this – what are the native indigenous Minnesota legends and lore in regard to paranormal? I guess we talked about the Wendigo a bit. Is there anything you’d like to add?
CHAD LEWIS: Of course, Pepie, the sea monster of Lake Pepin. The first native people were the first to experience it. There’s also a place in southwestern Minnesota called Pipestone, and there’s a national monument there, a sacred area. It’s where the native people get the stone, the quarry to get the red stone that they used in their ceremonial pipes. They believe, many of them, that it’s red literally from the blood of their ancestors.
But amongst all these stories of it being a sacred area and having haunted spirits there, they believe that it’s inhabited by little people – gnomes, fairies, goblins, trolls, sprites, whatever you want to call them. They refer to them, every time I’ve been there, as “the little people.” They believe these things are trickster type characters. They’ll often rattle pipes in a back locked room, or stone carvers that are working there as cultural ambassadors will feel like a fly lands in their hair, but when they go to look, nothing’s there. They think it’s the little people tugging at their hair. They believe this is a sacred area where the little people share it with them.
It’s the same thing where they don’t want to talk about it, and they advise people, whatever you do, don’t call out for the little people, and bring an offering when you go there. So you have these native legends of the little people, you have the Wendigo, you have sea serpents.
You have the native legend of the Devil Moose, this gigantic hodgepodge of different creatures combined into this gigantic moose-like creature; the native people up in the North believe that if anything was to come of harm to it, it would mean disaster for the community. Of course, when the community heard about this, they said, “Let’s go hunt it!” In 1904, they went out on several Devil Moose huntings. They luckily did not find it and kill it. Many believe the moose is still up there.
Every legend that didn’t come from the ancestors, it was an indigenous legend here in Minnesota.
JIM HAROLD: Tara – and this may be related – “What do you think are the origins of the Hodag?” I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that correctly.
CHAD LEWIS: I can’t tell you how many people contact me every year saying, “Where can I go to see a Hodag? I want to hunt for one. I want to try to capture one.” I say, well, you could; you’re just about 150 years too late. Eugene Shepard out of Rhinelander, Wisconsin created the Hodag based on a Native American legend of this – and if you google “Hodag,” you’ll see it looks like this giant lizard-dragon-like creature with huge horns, spikes on its back, scales, and tusks.
Eugene Shepard claimed that he saw these out in the big lumber camps of the Northwoods. And not only did he claim to have seen them, he actually claimed he captured one. He would bring it on parade at carnivals and circuses. This is late 1800s, early 1900s. He would bring it around where people could pay to go see it. Of course, it was a hoax. He had hoaxed it, and once it was discovered that he had hoaxed it, like the trickster he was, he said, “Of course I hoaxed it. They’re too dangerous to actually capture! I couldn’t capture one, so I had to hoax it.”
You can go to Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and their team mascots are the Hodags. They have a Hodag Festival. They have statues of it everywhere. People love the Hodag. But it was based on a Native American legend of a real belief in a creature that looked very similar. And whether Eugene Shepard knew this or not, I don’t know, but he created the Hodag, and ever since people have been looking for the Hodag.
He would also sell tourists perfumed moss in his backyard that had this beautiful fragrance to it because the night before the tourists got there, he poured his wife’s perfume all over the moss. He would sell it to them as a perfumed moss. So he was quite the character. He might’ve been the originator of Paul Bunyan legends as well. He was certainly one of the earliest tall-tale-tellers about Paul Bunyan in the United States. Some people believe that Eugene Shepard created the Hodag and Paul Bunyan, which would be a terrific resume to have.
JIM HAROLD: Sounds like a P.T. Barnum type, for sure. This is a good question from Creepy Acres. I hope you’re okay on time; we have a couple more. We won’t be able to get to all the questions, folks. But if you’ve got a few more minutes, we can hit a couple more. Creepy Acres asks – it’s a good question – “West Virginia has Mothman and New Mexico has Roswell. Does Minnesota have a definitive paranormal story?”
CHAD LEWIS: Creepy Acres, thanks for the question. If any of your listeners or viewers have not seen Creepy Acres, it’s a paranormal puppet show, adult-themed. Not an adult puppet show, but adult-themed. Don’t let your kids watch it, but it’s not one of those types of adult shows. Very cool, very fun, and very weird. I love it.
Anyway, I don’t know. Minnesota has so many. I think the Wendigo because there are several sightings of it in Minnesota from Lake Wendigo, but also Ross up near the Canadian border by Warroad and Roseau. And those are rare in other states, so a lot of people vow on that.
Believe it or not, First Avenue, which is in Minneapolis – it’s a music venue, a small club for musicians, and it was made famous mainly by Prince, obviously. He played there all the time in his younger days, and up until the end as well. There are a lot of hauntings about First Avenue. So that’s kind of an iconic Minnesota legend.
Pepie is one, the sea serpent, because of the reward that’s attached to it. But I don’t think there’s one that overrides all the other ones, like the Mothman of Point Pleasant or the Van Meter Visitor of Iowa or some of these others that you think of. Lake Champlain, Champ. When people think of Lake Champlain, they think of Champ, obviously. So I don’t know if Minnesota has the definitive one, but I would put Wendigo, maybe Pepie, and then First Avenue for hauntings just because everybody knows First Avenue.
JIM HAROLD: Android Purity wants to know, “Has Chad heard of the Minnesota haunting on a paranormal show of a lady who bought a house, saw apparitions of herself, and later learned she had an unknown identical twin, I assume, who grew up at that same house and died?” Have you ever heard that story, Chad?
CHAD LEWIS: I haven’t. That’s a fantastic story. I’d like to hear more. Contact me. That’s the beauty, Jim. I’m sure you feel this way as well; after doing this for so long, it’s amazing to always learn new stories and new legends. I’m always learning.
JIM HAROLD: That’s the thing about Campfire. I’ve done that show since 2009. I’ve done probably thousands of stories at this time, and every probably two weeks, every other week, there’s a story that is something like nothing I’ve ever heard. There’s always something new because it’s such a wide, wide world that we live in with so much mystery.
I’m so grateful that we have somebody like Chad Lewis, who investigates those mysteries and reports back in books like Paranormal Minnesota. I’m trying to get the glare out of there. We’ll put it up on the screen so people can see it. Paranormal Minnesota: Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs by Chad Lewis.
Chad, the question is, sir: Where can people find the book, find your website, find you on the socials, connect with everything you do? Because you do so much. And if you’re watching this, you can already tell – if you’re not following him already, Chad is a guy you need to follow and get his books, this one included. Chad, where do we go to do all of that?
CHAD LEWIS: Easiest is just my website, chadlewisresearch.com. Or think of the weirdest legend you can think of and then head out there, and that’s probably where you’ll find me.
JIM HAROLD: Thanks for listening to this edition of the Paranormal Podcast. As you heard, we were doing this on livestream. We plan on doing more livestreaming as time allows. I’m not going to make any specific guarantees because I’ve done that in the past and I’ve not been able to fulfill them. But rest assured, we do plan on doing more livestreaming where we can get audience interaction. I just love that piece.
Thank you so much for tuning in. Please rate and review wherever you listen to the show, and also please follow or subscribe in your favorite podcast app. We thank you so much. We’ll talk to you next time on the Paranormal Podcast. Have a safe and great week, everybody. Bye-bye.