INTERVIEW WITH TOM COONEY
Q: My first question I guess is how long have you been involved in the paranormal?
A: Well, that depends on what you mean by being involved. In a sense, I have been involved since birth. I mean that I can remember seeing spirits as far back as I can remember.
Q: Well, letís look at it from the time you started really studying the subject.
A: That would be when I was about 15 or so. You see, when I was 10, my family moved into a house that was haunted. It was a bad one and we had no idea how to stop it so my mother and I began reading every bit of literature on hauntings we could find. We poured through books, magazines, anywhere where we might learn something that would help us. We also watched every TV program we could on the subject.
Q: I donít want to get off the track here but you say that it was a bad haunting. Bad in what way and is there such thing as a good haunting?
A: (Laughing) No, there is no such thing as a good haunting. By its very nature, a haunting sounds bad. To answer your question though, I mean it was a bad haunting in that it was very active and there was a tremendous amount of extraordinary events like levitation of objects, multiple apparitions and the like. It was what I refer to as a ďhaunting with a purpose.Ē
Q: What do you mean by that?
A: Well, in some hauntings, you will have apparitions and the like and they may appear often but there appears to be no intent. It may just be a case of a spirit being held earthbound for one reason or another. When I say a ďhaunting with a purpose,Ē I mean it is something evil that is hell bent, sometimes literally, on hurting the family. That was what we had in that house.
Q: So, youíre saying that whatever was in that house was trying to hurt your family?
A: Yes, it did.
Q: How and why?
A: The why of it we never fully figured out but I do have a theory, which we can discuss later. The how of it was simple: this thing or better still, these things did everything they could to cause terror. I donít mean just frighten, I mean it wanted to terrorize us. It did things like pound in the walls so hard that on some occasions the plaster fell off the walls. It seemed to know when we were vulnerable and it picked those times to turn up the heat.
Q: Turn up the heat in what way?
A: It would wait for opportune times and strike. For example, when we were in school, if there was a big exam coming up, it would do things to keep us up all night. Ditto with work. If you had an important meeting, it was guaranteed that the spirit or spirits would do something. If you were sick or exhausted, the same applied. It would kick you when you were down.
Q: It sound like this thing just enjoyed hurting.
A: To the umpteenth power.
Q: Okay, it tried to scare everybody but noises are not going to hurt anybody. What else did it do?
A: Well, for openers, although noises cannot hurt you physically, they take a mental toll. Imagine lying in bed and suddenly hearing a loud bang on the wall over the bed. You bolt up with your heart beating out of your chest. Then there is another bang on the side of the bed. You cannot help but wonder what will happen if it decides to produce that sound using your head instead of the wall.
Q: Can it do that?
A: Do you want to find out? That is what youíre faced with. It is not just a sound. Something is making that sound. That something is in the room with you and you cannot see it. It could be across the room, it could be right next to you. You donít know what it is; you donít know where it is and you donít know what it is capable of doing. And believe me, you donít want to find out.
Q: Did it ever physically touch anyone?
A: Yes. There would be nights where something grabbed your hands. There were times when objects would fly across the room and hit you with frightening accuracy. It takes a toll on you. It is like terrorism; it has a profound effect even when it does nothing because you never know when it will do something. The fear and the threat are always there. And like I said, it always knew exactly when you were at your most vulnerable.
Q: What was the worst part of it all?
A: To get a true read on the situation, you would have to talk to everyone involved in it because I am sure that everyone has their take on it. For example, my parentís fears were different from mine as a child and my own fears were different when I was an adult from when I was a child.
A: Well, my parentís biggest fear was for the safety of their children. As a child, my fear was for my own safety. As I got older, my fears became more family oriented as opposed to just my personal fear. To answer you question, I think overall, the worst part of it was the frustration and the sense of impotence we felt.
Q: Which was worse?
A: Again, that depends on whom you ask and when you ask it. The impotence was terrible because you felt totally powerless to fight whatever it was that was behind the haunting. You knew that you were pretty much at its mercy and we had known for a long time that it had no mercy. The frustration was horrible because you would have times where after a period of intense activity, everything would calm down. You might go days and even weeks without anything bad happening. Slowly your world went back to something resembling normal. School or work pressures took over, financial worries, health issues, all of the problems everyone faces in life. Letís face it, life has its own problems. So, you would get to living life when bam, one night while you are studying for a test or something, the book you are reading from suddenly flies across the room. Just like that, after your heart races for a while, it sinks because you know that the horror has returned. It is terribly debilitating on everyone but especially for the parentís who feel they cannot protect their children.
Q: I see your point. How did you stay sane?
A: Who says I did?
Q: I have a feeling we could talk about this all day. At some point, can we do an interview just on that haunting?
A: Absolutely, sure.
Q: I will look forward to that. Now that will make a great interview. I guess that actually answers my next question. I was going to ask you why you do this but it is obvious to me now. After suffering through your own haunting, you obviously decided then and there to help others who are experiencing similar problems.
A: No! God, no! Back then, if you had asked me whether I would go into others peopleís homes that may be haunted, I would have told you that you were crazy and I would have meant it. When we left that house, I swore that I would never as much as watch a scary movie again, let alone put myself through another haunting, mine or anyone elseís.
Q: So, how did you get involved in this again?
A: When we first left the house, I threw away all of my books on the subject along with a lot of notes that we had made. That I regret terribly. When we left, we were so afraid that we would be followed so we thought it best to get rid of everything. Break the link, maybe. However, a few months after we fled the house, I began to feel a need to try to understand what had happened and why. So, I started off by reading books on parapsychology. That was safe for me.
Q: Safe in what way?
A: Well, I refer to parapsychology as the scientific study of a field that cannot be studied scientifically. Parapsychology looks at haunting phenomena as a by-product of our own brains. What I mean by that is that it calls poltergeist phenomena ďRecurrent Spontaneous Psycho-Kinesis.Ē In short, mind over matter. It was not a spirit that levitated the table; it was the power of our own brains. No ghosts, no demons. That made it safe to read. That being the case, I started studying the subject greatly.
Q: Did it answer your questions?
A: No, if anything, it created more questions. You see, there is a lot to be said for ESP, RSPK and automatism. I believe those things are valid. However, what happened in that house just could not be explained in that regard. So, I started reading an occasional book on hauntings from a spiritual perspective while I focused most of my time on parapsychology.
Q: Even though you did not believe in the parapsychology angle.
A: Oh no, it wasnít that I did not believe in the parapsychology angle; I just mean that it did not cover everything that happened.
Q: So, you donít consider that a waste of time.
Q: At what point did you start doing investigations?
A: I reluctantly, very reluctantly did some with a year or two from the time we moved out of that house. The thought of being in a haunted house scared me half to death.
Q: Why did you do them if you were scared?
A: It was always a thing where one friend or another either knew I had lived in a haunted house or that I studied the subject. I would get the line that they had a friend who thought they were haunted. I would argue like hell about getting involved or doing an investigation.
Q: But you did them anyway.
A: Like I said, very reluctantly. I cannot tell you how many times I would say a prayer to God saying something like: ďI swear, if you get me out of this one, I will never put myself in this kind of position again!Ē I thought I would drop dead if I heard a single sound, paranormal or not.
Q: Even though you were reluctant to do investigations, you kept studying the subject.
A: Absolutely. The desire to learn, to understand, was still there. It was like I had to figure out why what happened to us did.
Q: At any point back then, did you ever imagine yourself doing investigations?
A: No way. Yes, I wanted to learn but I had no desire to do anything with that knowledge in terms of using it to work haunting cases. Iíll give you an example. I read the book ďThe DemonologistĒ by Ed and Lorraine Warren. The book scared the crap out of me. In fact, I ended up reading two more parapsychology books right after that. Anyway, in the book, they had a composite character that was an apprentice demonologist. Well, as I was reading that, I kept thinking to myself that it was amazing that people would put themselves into a situation like that voluntarily. Some of the stories in that book were horrific! Then towards the end, you see how he dropped out of the program. That I could understand and identify with. It amazed me that there were people out there like the Warrens.
Q: Did you take any kind of classes during those years?
A: Not really. You are talking about a time before the Internet and it was hard to find much of anything that dealt with the subject. Anyone who talked about the subject was ridiculed.
Q: At what point in time did you begin to think about doing investigations?
A: I cannot give you an exact date. For me, it was a very gradual process. Slowly, I found that books did not bother me so much anymore and I often found myself wondering how I would respond to some of the situations I read about. Rather than feel frightened by those situations, I found myself analyzing them and thinking about alternate ways of dealing with those situations.
Q: Can you give me a time line here?
A: Oh, I guess weíre talking early eighties.
Q: Did you still do investigations during that time?
A: Yes, a few.
A: Yes, but less so. In fact, I started to find myself looking forward to them. The fear was slowly being replaced by curiosity.
Q: Were you still frightened?
A: Yes but that too started to change. I remember being in a house in New Jersey that I had been to once before. The initial time I went, I had to sit down in the basement, seemingly forever. I remember that I jumped every time I heard a noise. Well, on that second occasion, I turned out the lights, put my flashlight by my side and stretched out on a couch that was down there.
Q: Were you frightened at all?
A: A little but not terrified as I had been on so many other investigations.
Q: Okay, it is obvious that you lost much of that fear. Did that happen all at once?
A: No, that was a very gradual process. I couldnít begin to measure the process.
Q: How did you overcome your fear?
A: (Laughing) I have absolutely no clue. It seemed to happen on its own. I found myself going over old cases and seeing them in a different light. Also, I started picturing different scenarios and how I would respond to them.
Q: Was there a turning point or defining moment, a point where you knew that you had lost most of the old fear?
A: Yes, actually there was. What happened was that I had a very unusual experience take place. Iíll try to keep this short. I had just moved into my mobile home. I loved the place and it always felt good to me. I never sensed anything bad. Well, one day I went outside to change the oil in my car. When I came back, I went down the hall to my bedroom to change clothes. I was about two-thirds of the way when I smelled what I was sure was blood.
A: Yes, blood. I donít know if you ever smelled it but it has a very distinctive smell to it. You only have to smell it once to understand. Anyway, I entered the room and was shocked to find blood spattered all over my bed. The bed was a mess and there was a lot of blood.
Q: What did you do?
A: Well, my first reaction was panic because I thought something had happened to one of my animals. I certainly wasnít thinking anything paranormal. So, I checked my dogs, my cat and my ferret and was relieved to find that they were all okay. It was only then that I began thinking that maybe something paranormal had taken place. To make a long story short, I had my mother and brother come over to witness the mess. It was then that my brother pointed out that the blood was circling the bed on the floor. I had not really noticed that and of course, I had plodded through it. I screwed up the crime scene, my brother told me. My parents and brother all suggested that I not stay there that night.
Q: Did you? Before you answer that, let me ask you this. Could someone have snuck in and done that?
A: No. My car was in the driveway by the front door so no one got in that way. The windows were all locked and the back door was dead-bolted from the inside. Besides, no one would have gotten past the dogs quietly.
Q: Did you stay that night?
A: Absolutely. For one, I was not going to leave my animals alone there. My parents told me to bring them with me to their house but my feeling was that I was not going to leave my home. I was very defiant about that. I was paying a lot of money for that trailer and no one or no thing was going to throw me out. Besides that, I had already been haunted and terrified and I was not about to become a victim again. They had their fun with me already. They werenít going to do it again. That was when I realized that something had changed in me.
Q: You say ďthey.Ē Who were they?
A: I mean spirits in general.
Q: Okay. Did you start doing investigations then?
A: Yes, any that came my way and I even began looking for them.
Q: And you were not scared?
A: Amazingly enough, no. I really wasnít frightened anymore.
Q: Did you start getting cases?
A: Oddly enough, I did. It was like one person would ask me about something strange that had happened to them and I would try to explain to them what I felt had happened. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in their house. Then someone else who knew that first person would mention someone else and it took on a life of its own. I also began to devour every book on the subject I could find.
Q: Are there many out there?
A: Not as many as I would like. I prefer case stories of people who have been haunted and you donít see that many of them. Of course, in a sense, that is probably a good thing.
Q: Do you still read books on parapsychology?
A: Absolutely. I read books on everything to do with the paranormal. I read books by authors I agree with and I also read books by authors who I disagree with. There is always something to be learned. Believe me, I have been studying the field for far more years than I care to remember but I am always amazed to find there are things I still donít know.
Q: Of course, you still love movies about hauntings?
A: Oh yeah! There are precious few good ones but I love them. I will watch some of them over and over and over.
Q: You can probably get up and do it with them.
A: Yep. Itís funny though: that is how I got over the movie ďThe Exorcist.Ē
Q: Got over?
A: Yes. When that movie came out, I was living in the haunted house. My mother told me not to see it because she knew that it would frighten the hell out of me.
Q: Did it?
A: Big time! I doubt I slept at all for two or three nights. That movie bothered me years. If I so much as heard ďTubular BellsĒ I was awake all night.
Q: So how did you get over it?
A: What I did was I watched it on tape every day for weeks until it got to the point where I had almost memorized the script.
Q: When was that?
A: I donít know. I would guess 1980 or 81.
Q: So, it doesnít scare you anymore?
A: No, I love to watch it now.
Q: Do you still watch it?
A: Every once in a while I do.
Q: I would think you would grow tired of it.
A: No, I really havenít. It is still a good movie to me.
Q: Have you ever attended a real exorcism?
A: Yes, two in fact. One was done on a house; the other was done on a person.
Q: That must have been frightening!
A: No, not at all. You have a very definite role and that is what I focused on. It was not at all frightening.
Q: I find that hard to believe.
A: Itís true.
Q: Oh, Iím not saying that I donít believe you. I just mean that I cannot imagine something like that not being frightening.
A: Itís strange because I should have been frightened but I wasnít. Again though, you have a definite role and you focus on that.
Q: Were these church sanctioned exorcisms?
A: Yes, they were.
Q: Wow! Would you attend another one?
A: Sure. If I were asked to work one, I would do it in a minute. I might also get scared half to death too, for all you know.
Q: After having already been through two of them?
A: Sure. Every situation is different and you never know what will happen. Just because I did not get frightened on the ones I went to, it doesnít mean that I wouldnít on a different one. You just never know. That is how it is on cases too. You just never know. There is no way to predict what will happen or how you will react.
Q: Having been through a bad haunting, does that help or hurt?
A: Oh, it helps. There is no question about that. So many things happened there and it desensitizes you to some extent.
Q: Why do you work in this field?
A: I can give you all the clichť answers. I want to explore the mysteries of life. I want to learn. It is a calling. All of those things are true but there is something else, something I donít even understand. It is just something I am drawn to. The best reason is that I want to help people who are being plagued by forces they donít understand. Hell, itís probably more accurate to say forces that no one understands.
Q: Why did you start the FSSP?
A: There are several reasons. Most important, I wanted to have a place where people who are experiencing frightening or unusual phenomena can come to for help. I also wanted to have a vehicle by which people who are interested in the paranormal can learn. Another reason is that I want to learn things myself and one way to do that is by having a site where people can send me their stories and experiences.
Q: So the FSSP is just about hauntings?
A: No, I want it to be much more than that. Sure, haunting are going to be a huge part of it because that is where I have experience or expertise, if there is such a thing in this area. Anyway, I want to go beyond that too. I want to look at all areas of the paranormal.
Q: Such as?
A: Well, things like near death experiences. Astral projection. The power of the mind, philosophy, religion and so on.
Q: Pretty much anything goes.
A: Yes, pretty much.
Q: Can you accomplish all that?
A: Hopefully. There are a lot of stories out there, a lot of experience and knowledge. My biggest fear is that I wonít have the time to explore all of the areas I would like.
Q: So, when you retire, you will be plenty busy.
A: If I live long enough to retire, hell yes.
Q: What is your biggest passion? Is it investigating or writing?
A: Writing is my biggest passion. Doing investigations is my next biggest passion. The joy in life is to be able to merge the two. Being able to write about hauntings does that.
Q: So, you will you continue to do investigations?
Q: Let me ask you this. What is the ultimate goal when you get involved in an investigation? Is it to do research or to learn?
A: The ultimate goal in any investigation is to stop the problem if that is whatís called for.
Q: What do you mean when you say: ďcalled for?Ē
A: Well, if someone comes to me because there are frightening things happening to them or they are being threatened, the goal is to stop the problem. If someone comes to me to help them understand what is happening, the goal is to do that. You donít try to get rid of a spirit just because it is there. It has as much right to exist as anyone living. However, if it is doing things that are hurting people, it has to be stopped.
Q: How do you stop it?
A: That depends on what type of spirit it is. Human spirits can be dealt with in several ways. Inhuman ones must be dealt with differently, usually through religious means.
Q: You mean exorcisms?
A: Yes although there are other rituals that are effective when dealing with lesser inhuman spirits.
Q: Okay, suppose you donít believe in religion? What do you do there?
A: Well, for openers, religion is spiritual; so are hauntings. I have never met anyone who was haunted that did not believe in religion. They may not have believed in it before the haunting but they sure did during it. What is that saying? There are no atheists in foxholes? Well, there are none in hauntings either.
Q: You are Catholic, right?
Q: How do I put this? Do you have to be Catholic to do this work?
A: Of course not. I believe in my faith. I donít always agree with the Church. However, I donít try to say that the Catholic religion is the one and only correct religion. That is an arrogant belief. I donít think any one religion is 100% right and every other one is 100% wrong. I will leave that to the theologians to fight over. I know what works for me and that is what I focus on.
Q: How so?
A: Letís say that I am working with someone from the Jewish faith. I tell them to pray in their manner. I believe there is one God. Theirs is mine and vice versa. So I tell them to do things their way. But I also tell them that if things get hairy, I am going to use my prayers and my tools, be they crosses or holy water or whatever.
Q: What do they say when you use holy water?
A: You know, itís funny. I have done work for people of many different faiths including Jews and Muslims. I have also worked with people who claimed to have no faith. No one has ever asked me not to use holy water. I have found that when people are terrified, they want it to stop and they will do whatever it takes.
Q: Does the holy water work for them?
Q: What does that say about religion.
A: It says that holy water works. I leave the interpretation of that to the individual and the under worked theologians to figure out.
Q: How do you respond to critics?
A: (Laughing) That is how I respond to critics. I donít. I donít have either the time or the inclination to argue with people who do not believe in the subject and will not regardless of what I say.
Q: Isnít that a copout?
A: God, I havenít heard that word in years. No, itís not. I am interested in the people who either do believe or have an open mind on the subject. I enjoy a good discussion of the subject and you certainly donít have to agree with me. However, when you have people say something like: ďThatís all a bunch of hooey, there is no such thing as ghosts,Ē I donít bother to argue with them because they have made it clear that nothing I or anyone else says will make them believe in it so why waste your time saying it? To scoff without taking the time to look into something is the ultimate copout! Boy, what a word.
Q: So you are not going to use the website to try to convince people of the existence of the spirit world?
A: No, what I am doing is putting the information out there for whoever wants to read it. You can believe it or not. That is your choice. These are my experiences, the result of my study. For those who want to learn, the info is there.
Q: Let me ask you a few questions about investigations themselves.
Q: You go into a house and you talk to the family. While you are sitting there,
letís say your coffee cup moves along the table. Does that frighten you?
Q: How can it not?
A: You have to understand two things. For one, you get desensitized to some extent just from exposure to the field. If you do it enough, you see so many things that a simple movement doesnít do much for you. It may scare the hell out of the residents but it really doesnít bother the investigator. The second point is that movement of objects and the like are what I am there for in the first place. It is what I expect to see. Therefore, it is not a frightening phenomenon to me, it is an example of an outward manifestation, a piece of evidence.
Q: To you, maybe. It has to bother the victim.
A: Sure, most of the time. Sometimes though, they are relieved when it happens because they feel validated. It makes them feel comfortable because now they feel that I believe them, even though I already did.
Q: I am going to jump around here a bit. Do you believe in reincarnation?
A: I donít want to.
Q: Why not?
A: I do not want to come back and have to do this again. No way. Once is enough for me.
Q: But you didnít answer my question.
A: Another copout, huh? I donít believe in it although I have to admit that there is evidence to support the theory. However, partly because of my religious beliefs, I donít believe in it.
Q: Well, you can conceivably apply religion even with the idea of reincarnation, right?
A: I suppose you could to a small degree but I really prefer to think that when my sentence is up here on earth, I will move to a place where a loving God will welcome me home. Maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part.
Q: You must believe in the concept of heaven and hell?
A: Yes, although I donít think it is necessarily the way we were taught. I am not sure if I believe there is eternal damnation. I have to think that a loving God will eventually forgive your sins.
Q: Purgatory, in other words.
A: Maybe but again, I doubt it is exactly the way we were taught it was. Again, it may just be wishful thinking on my part.
Q: I want to wrap this up now. Any last thoughts?
A: No. Just kidding. I am hoping that the FSSP will grow and I hope that it offers people information they are searching for and if things really work out, I hope to find from others information I am looking for. We are all on this journey together, searching for a better way.
Q: Do you think we will ever find a better way?
A: I hope so but so much of the fun is in the trying.
Q: Okay. Well, I want to thank you and again, promise me that we can do another interview on your haunting alone. That might prove to be very helpful to others who are suffering from similar experiences.
A: I will definitely do the interview. Donít worry there.
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