SWANTON — It wasn’t a dark and stormy night when Dustin Pari, of the SyFy channel’s Ghost Hunters, spoke about his spooky experiences at the Swanton Public Library. It was just Friday evening, and the weather was as clear as Pari’s affection for the supernatural, an affection apparently shared by the nearly 100 community members in attendance.
Pari, 39, has proclaimed himself “the Paranormal Rockstar” — but said doesn’t take himself seriously. Only his work.
“I don’t try to make people believers,” he explained. “But if you come to an event or if you’ve had your own experience, it really does change the way you think about everything — not even just the afterlife, but this life and the way you interact with each other.”
Forty-eight percent of North Americans are already believers, according to a CBS poll. That leaves 45 percent of Americans who don’t buy it. “Then I made up a fact just to make all the math work and said seven percent probably believe, they’re just too scared,” Pari said.
He began his one-plus-hour presentation on the history and methodology of “ghost hunting” with a poem he discovered in the fifth grade: “Yesterday upon the stair/I met a man who wasn’t there/I hope he isn’t there again today/I wish, I wish, he’d go away.”
It was at that young age that Pari’s spectral interests began. He spotted a shadow figure one night at his home in Rhode Island.
“Usually these things run about six feet tall to two-and-a-half or three feet tall,” Pari said. “They move very, very quickly. They usually don’t offer a lot of evidence. There’s usual audio to record with them. It’s very hard to get photographs of them, but you can sometimes. We’ve had video of them on Ghost Hunters.”
Now he describes encounters with shadow figures as casually as if he were bumping into fans. “The last one that I ran into was in Philadelphia,” he said, “at the American Legion hall, probably a good five or six years back now.”
Here’s how Pari distinguishes shadow figures from their less-refined cousin, the simple shadow: shadow figures have “the wavy-type appearance” of gasoline fumes on a hot day, he said. “They move very quick, and then they just disappear. Now I’ve talked to people who have come up with all these theories — they’re interdimensional travellers, and they’ve come here to warn us — I don’t know about any of that. All I know is it put me on to this path through my whole life.”
That’s not a statement from a grown man giddy he’s paid to chase ghosts — in a twist fit for M. Night Shyamalan, Pari’s mission is not based on the dead, but on doing good for the living. “I’ve had the ability to travel the world. I have this great little platform that’s given me the ability to speak to people all over the place. I started doing motivational lectures. I do a lot of suicide awareness and mental health awareness work. So I like to think I’ve been able to, in some small way, help a lot of people, and it all started because of this one little shadow figure.”
Pari began ghost-hunting as everyone does — on his own, or sometimes with friends. His reputation grew like unexplained spikes on an EMF (electromagnetic field) reader. Soon he had local “fans,” and the amateur spookchaser’s reputation preceded him.
“I would go and hang out in haunted places, and people would come with me,” he said. “I didn’t know there were groups of people that actually investigated. I just was always a little bit weird. People would follow me into the woods, which really says a lot about them…”
Then, one night, Pari — who had worked as a cameraman for CBS and Fox News at the time — turned on the television and discovered Ghost Hunters. He submitted a letter offering his services. “I’d really like to be a part of this,” Pari wrote, “because I keep getting chased out of the woods and I’d really like to be invited into people’s homes.”
There was no reply. So Pari tried again, this time with an eight-by-ten headshot. A woman from the production crew wrote back: she could get Pari a meeting with the Ghost Hunters.
“I had to meet them at Starbucks, which I despise,” Pari said. Perhaps the most chilling portion of his lecture was an effulgent appreciation of Dunkin Donuts. Not only did the Paranormal Rockstar freely admit to having consumed multiple cups en route to Swanton, he also confirmed that he’d appeared in a Dunkin Donuts ad after professing his love for their product via Twitter.
“I need a little go-go juice to make it through a 17-hour work day,” he said, referring to his day job managing maxillofacial surgical centers in Massachusetts and his native Rhode Island.
Pari’s lessons about supernatural taxonomy and methods of interdimensional communication were quick and scientifically levelheaded. “Even as far back as the 1800s, when people talked about spirituality and people talked about communicating with the dead, there were always people who were trying to fake things and put one over on somebody else to make more money,” he said. “It bothers me because I’m such a spiritual person, and I’ve done this for so many years. I don’t like to see all this chicanery and people led down the river with it.”
The underlying message of Pari’s presentation was the importance of something even more supernatural than ghosts — good attitudes. Sure, he began making his point with the line “Don’t make a ghost-hunting team to get on TV,” but his point was more earthly — positive energy attracts positive energy.
“I never chased it, and I just kept getting put back into it,” he said, standing in the dark beside projected ghouls. “You have to do things for the right reasons or it’s not worth it.”