There are a lot of books out there on the paranormal, and it sometimes seems like there’s a new one coming out every day. Because of this, you really need to have something a little different going for you in order to stand out from the crowd. Fortunately for Policing the Paranormal, author Paul Hope is attempting to bring that something a little different.
Paul’s background covers time spent living both in the U.S. and abroad, a stint in the U.S. Army, working as a law enforcement officer, and working as a contractor overseas. Out of all of that, the focus of this book comes out of the time he spent as a law enforcement officer working in and around some of the most famously haunted locations in the Commonwealth of Virginia and on not only his personal experiences but the experiences and testimonies of the many law enforcement officers who have also walked those same haunted grounds and haunted halls for many a year now.
What does that mean insofar as what the book has to offer for the believer?
You’ll have, as Paul states in the interview below, stories of the unexplained from people who are, by career choice and by nature, generally skeptical and tend to work rather hard at finding a rational or logical answer for unexplained events that have happened to or around them.
What does that mean insofar as what the book has to offer for the nonbeliever?
You’ll have some well-written and entertaining tales about ghostly encounters and the unexplained that are set in some of Virginia’s most well-known buildings and locales.
So, without further ado, a brief interview with Paul Hope about his upcoming book, Policing the Paranormal.
Q: Your bio has you growing up on the Isle of Man, British Isles and having your first experiences with the paranormal there. What experience(s) there really hooked you on the paranormal, and what ranks as your favorite or most memorable experience from there?
When I was a child, in the late 70’s & early 80’s, my parents worked at a hotel/bar called the Douglas Head Hotel, situated atop a 400ft cliff overlooking the entrance to the island’s main harbor. The location also supported a historical stone tower called a herring tower that predates lighthouses and served as a navigational aid to mariners. The hotel dated back to 1869 and, as most buildings that old do, boasted its own ghost stories. My mum often recounted stories of hers and others’ experiences with the ghost of the “White Lady”, who was often witnessed haunting the old concert room adjacent to the tower or even the managers’ living quarters. During that period, there was not a soul who worked or resided there that wasn’t aware of the hotel’s eerie resident. For some reason the stories always stuck with me, and even as I grew up and visited the long since closed hotel I would still peer through the windows in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the specter.
I believe it’s these stories that first established my interest in the paranormal back when I was a child. And believe me, in the Isle of Man there is no shortage of ghost stories and folklore. It’s an island steeped in ancient superstition, and the people there have a healthy respect for the supernatural. It is a part of the culture, and as far back as I can remember, I recall even my school teachers telling us ghost stories – even often detailing their own personal experiences.
Although I don’t ever remember personally witnessing the presence of the White Lady, she remains a favorite of mine due to the amount of witnesses who claim to have seen her, including my own parents, and also because of the location itself. The old hotel, with its castellated walls and ancient stone tower perched high above the rocky entrance to the harbor, definitely provided an appropriate setting for such an eerily supernatural tale.
I did, in later years, before leaving the Isle of Man for the U.S, have a personal experience with a ghost. It happened when I was 18 or 19 years old, and I was working as a personal trainer in a gym located in an old building. While alone in the gym one morning, and without prior knowledge of a haunting at that location, I witnessed a tall dark figure appear right next to me and disappear through a wall. Quite an experience and one I’ll never forget!
Q: When you ended up in Virginia and found yourself surrounded by some of Virginia’s more famous haunted buildings, did you find that having grown up in an area with a longer and more deeply rooted cultural tradition and history of ghosts and the paranormal caused you to look at some aspects of it differently than many of the people you were working with or around?
I guess that coming from the Isle of Man, and having experienced the paranormal first hand, I already possessed a very open mind to the paranormal. Being exposed to the Manx culture of ancient mystical folklore and Celtic tradition definitely opens your mind to the realm of otherworldly possibilities. So, when I did begin serving as an officer with the Virginia Capitol Police (VCP) and began hearing of the paranormal activity associated with the area, I didn’t initially dismiss the claims as the result of overactive imaginations or hokum. Instead, having an open mind to the possibilities, I relied on personal experience to confirm the authenticity of the reports. And it wasn’t long after beginning my tenure with the VCP that personal confirmation occurred.
Q: What was your first experience in Virginia that maybe made you think that some of the stories were more than just fun tales for the tourists and fodder for the local ghost tours?
Let me first start by saying that, although I have a healthy respect for the paranormal and believe wholeheartedly that there are things that exist in our world that are beyond the limits of our understanding, I do remain skeptical of a lot of claims. I don’t believe all claims of paranormal experiences but will entertain the possibility, especially when so many credible witnesses claim to have experienced similar events. When I first became an officer at the Virginia Capitol, I found the local ghost tales very entertaining and actually considered that a lot of them could have been fabricated for the entertainment of the local tourist trade. But I also believed that there was no smoke without fire, and considering the Capitol area’s location and history, it wasn’t too difficult to consider that there may be some truthful foundation to the tales. So, keeping an open mind, I went about my duties as a police officer, patrolling the allegedly haunted locations during the midnight hours. Of course, it wasn’t long until I had my own personal experience that helped solidify the Virginia Capitol’s reputation of playing host to the supernatural. And the experiences continued throughout my duration with the VCP, becoming increasingly varied in their nature, from simple unexplainable moving shadows to disembodied voices, footsteps, cold spots, and the acute and unmistakable sensation of being in the presence of something unearthly.
Q: Your book is called Policing the Paranormal, and a part of the official bio on the sales sites emphasizes that you were a police officer working in and around these haunted locations. How much of a different take on some of these matters do you think you’re offering by coming at the paranormal from that angle?
Police officers are, by the nature of their profession, skeptical human beings. We are not easily convinced of the truth and generally consider that everyone is attempting to deceive us. We also rely heavily on evidence and don’t just take things for granted. Therefore, when a police officer says he witnessed something paranormal, they do so with an additional level of credibility. After interviewing a large number of police officers about their personal paranormal experiences and hearing their first-hand testimony, I can honestly say that I have no doubt that these people, some of whom I trust and worked with for several years, wholeheartedly believe that what they witnessed was indeed paranormal and has no other explanation. Like myself, police officers will instinctively try to find a rational explanation for everything, but we have to admit that sometimes, only sometimes, things happen that are beyond conventional explanation.
With that in mind, I believe Policing the Paranormal offers a unique angle on the topic of the paranormal in that it not only details the eerie experiences of police officers, but includes the personal testimony of those officers – testimony that was previously kept secret from those outside of the law enforcement community. The experiences, I believe, will not only cast new light on the ghostly goings-on in and around central Virginia, but will provoke excitement within the paranormal interests community due to a level of alleged activity far beyond what is commonly experienced within other purportedly haunted locations throughout the U.S.
Q: Keeping it short and sweet to not give away too much from the book, what’s your favorite story in the book?
Although I enjoyed writing the entire book, I have to say that I did enjoy researching and writing certain events a little more than others. One of those certain events details the alarming experience of a young female employee of the VCP who, while alone in the middle of the night in one the Capitol area’s most famously haunted historical buildings, was visited by its ghostly resident. I actually remember talking to the young girl a day or two after the incident, and she still couldn’t talk about it without tears in her eyes and genuine fear in her voice. What an experience that must have been!
Q: Was there a story you wanted to have in there that didn’t make it, and, if so, what was it?
There was a short story submitted to me from a friend after the final manuscript had been submitted to the publisher, and so unfortunately didn’t make it into the book. I actually prepared a draft of it for the manuscript in case I could manage a last minute submission but was not able to. So, as it won’t be featured in the upcoming release, here’s the rough draft as a little preview to the book:
In May of 2012, I was contacted by Officer Brian Alexander in reference to an event that had occurred only recently within the haunted executive mansion. According to Brian, one of the groundskeepers employed at the mansion grounds reported to him that only a couple of weeks prior, a new maid had been working within the residence and had experienced an occurrence that left her so traumatized she considered quitting her job.
The event had transpired one afternoon while the maid was alone and in the process of cleaning an upstairs bedroom known as Sarah’s room. Going about her duties, she had closed the bedroom door behind her, but upon glancing back she was shocked to observe the door’s deadbolt turning and locking itself as if being manipulated by some invisible presence. Startled, she immediately grabbed the door handle and attempted to unlock the deadbolt, but it refused to move. Sheer panic set in, and the maid banged furiously on the door with her hands while yelling loudly for help. Her beating on the heavy wooden door and hysterical cries were heard by other members of the mansion staff who quickly ran to assist the new maid. But, after several attempts to unlock the door from the outside, it became apparent that the lock was jammed and it wasn’t going to open. By now, the maid was severely distressed by such an unnerving predicament, especially after witnessing the deadbolt turn and lock by itself, effectively confining her to the interior of the room in the company of whatever malevolent presence she perceived responsible for the locking of the door.
It eventually took the summoning of a locksmith to free the unfortunate maid from the room. By then, she was clearly in a state of shock and expressed her wish to resign right then and there. But, after calming her down, the staff were able to persuade her to continue her employment at the mansion – although, she adamantly refused to ever again enter Sarah’s room alone.
Note: Although the story isn’t first-hand testimony of a police officer’s own experience, I considered it appropriate for the book in that it is an exciting and unusual event that reflects the nature of the activity that so often appears to haunt the stately residence of Virginia’s First Family.
Q: The book is getting published both in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom with most U.S. sales showing a January 18, 2014 release date. I thought that I read somewhere that there may be an earlier release date on the horizon or an opportunity to get some copies earlier than that. Did I read wrong, and is there going to be a way for people to get their hands on it before next year?
Originally, it was thought that the book would be released on or around Halloween 2013. But, due to an already busy and full publishing schedule, the book’s release was put back to January 2014. Although, the marketing will take place prior to and during Halloween, and I’m told that advanced copies will be available shortly thereafter for purpose of official book reviews. As this is the first time having a book published, the process is still somewhat of a mystery to me, but thankfully I have a wonderful editor to steer me along the way. Also, the book is available right now for pre-order through most major bookstores (Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, etc.) and websites, as well as Amazon.com.
Q: You grew up in the U.K., you saw time in other countries with the U.S. Army as well as being stationed in various states in the U.S., and you’ve now spent time as a contractor in Afghanistan. With all that travel and all those opportunities to hear about or experience some of the local haunts, are there any plans for a second book that looks at some other haunted locals from around the globe?
Hey, don’t forget Kosovo! 😉
I have actually considered writing another book, as I really enjoy writing. Right now, I’m very busy here in Afghanistan and simply don’t have the time, but after I return home to the U.S. for good I intend to concentrate on the writing again. I have a few ideas for a new book, following the same topic, but exploring new concepts. Just ideas right now, but hopefully something will materialize in the future. First, though, I have to quit traveling and finally settle down in one place long enough to commit to another project.
Q: Your words and however you want to do it- Tell us what this book means to you and why you think that everyone out there will enjoy it.
When I began working in law enforcement I never intended to write a book. I surely never intended to be part of the midnight shift with VCP and happen upon paranormal activity and the experiences of others. It just kind of happened – as did the experiences of my childhood. But, for some reason, after experiencing what I did and hearing the testimony of other officers and colleagues, I felt compelled to share the activities with others. Like most people, I enjoy watching the occasional ghost hunting show or reading books on the topic of hauntings, but after experiencing the amazing level of activity within the historic Capitol Square of Virginia and realizing that, although occurring quite regularly, it was kept secret from the public, I felt that the paranormal interests community was losing out. Although feeling quite privileged to be privy to the personal paranormal experiences of my fellow police officers, I also felt that they shouldn’t be denied to other interested parties simply due to the customary veil of secrecy that shrouds the law enforcement community.
Finally, I hope this book provides a unique insight into the exciting and often shocking paranormal activity experienced by the men and women sworn to serve and protect one of the most politically and historically significant locations in the U.S. – The Virginia State Capitol – where serving and protecting may not only pertain to the policing of the living, but the paranormal too!…. Enjoy!
Policing the Paranormal is available for preorder now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers in the U.S. and the U.K.
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