The Rumpus Mini-Interview Project #40: Chelsea Biondolillo in Conversation with a Ghost Hunter

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My sister is six years younger, and as kids we never got along. In high school, I went through a phase that involved a lot of sneaking out to drink coffee and do pink-hearts with my friends. I had to creep past her room and, I always worried that she was going to wake up and sound an alarm. She never did.

As an adult, I have seen her struggle to find a “passion” and when I heard she may have found one, I sat down to talk to her about it.

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Chelsea: What do you call what you do? Do you prefer “ghost hunting,” or what?

Brianne: We are “Paranormal Investigators.” So, what we do is we go into a place [that] people think might be haunted, and we try to rule out everything before we say that it’s haunted.

Chelsea: And this is a group you started?

Brianne: Right, I was one of the founding members.

Chelsea: Was I the first ghost you ever saw?

Brianne: YES. [laughing]

Chelsea: [more laughing] Why don’t you tell me about that?

Brianne: So, living at the end of the hallway, with my door open, being that I was only seven years old [interviewer’s note: actually, she would have been ten], and seeing this shadowy figure in black walk by. And nobody believed me.

Chelsea: Sorry.

Brianne: And then, we’re sitting at dinner at Poncho’s and talking about ghost stories, and I come out with this. You start laughing hysterically, saying “That was totally me in my leather jacket, sneaking out every night!” Mom was like “You’re grounded,” at 21.

Chelsea: Which I totally was not.

Brianne: Right.

Chelsea: The first ghost you ever saw turned out to have a rational explanation. How do you think that has shaped you as a paranormal investigator?

Brianne: We want to believe that everything we hear is real and we want to assume there are ghosts, but we have to figure out scientifically if it’s true or not. I mean if there is no other rational explanation, then it’s possibly a ghost.

Chelsea: What makes up a good experience investigating?

Brianne: It’s always really interesting just to learn about the buildings and mine shafts and the places we’ve seen. But a really good investigation definitely, is evidence. Catching that evidence is very difficult, and it doesn’t happen every time. So, seeing something on video that you can’t quite explain, or hearing something on the audio that you know wasn’t there when you were there, is always very exciting.

Chelsea: When you told me that this is what you were doing you seemed preemptively defensive.

Brianne: You can’t tell everyone that you’re a ghost hunter because people will laugh at you and they’ll assume that you’re just going around with these crazy devices, I mean I’m not out there to say “hey something is in your window, a shadowy figure, you’re totally haunted!” you know? I want to know for sure, I want proof.

And all this equipment we have, it all has a function, a scientific method for reading energy, and it’s just sad when people are doubters. Even my husband is a huge skeptic. He thinks I’m crazy. [But] I’m doing this! Because it is something I believe and I want to know what’s out there. I know it’s not just us.

Chelsea: Maybe it’s a gothic teenager sneaking out to get high. [Both laughing.]

Brianne: You suck by the way for doing that when I was so young. Everybody fucking laughed at me at the dinner table. I swear to god, “Oh, there’s totally a ghost!” And you! Just start laughing!

Chelsea [unable to stop laughing]: …

Brianne: Like that! That’s when it started, I’m telling you. That’s why I’m defensive. YOU STARTED IT.


Chelsea Biondolillo is the author of The Skinned Bird and two prose chapbooks, Ologies and #Lovesong. Her work has been collected in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016, Waveform: Twenty-first Century Essays by Women, and How We Speak To One Another: An Essay Daily Reader, among others. She is a former Olive B. O'Connor fellow at Colgate University, and is a current Oregon Literary Arts fellow in nonfiction. She has a BFA in photography from Pacific NW College of Art and an MFA in creative writing/environmental studies from the University of Wyoming. She lives and works outside of Portland, Oregon. More from this author →