Today I’m welcoming Paranormal Genealogist, Shannon Bradley Byers. Thank you, Shannon for stopping by!
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
This is always difficult for me because I never know what people would really like to know! I was born in South Carolina, but my daddy worked for the pipeline, so we moved around a lot the first eight years of my life. In 1976, we finally settled right outside of Atlanta and I have been here ever since. In 1993, I had daughter, who is my only child, and in 2003 I met my 2nd husband, David. We married in 2005 and we spend our time on some amazing adventures. I have a passion for good old-fashioned bodice ripping romance books, especially ones by Victoria Holt. In 2006 I was introduced to the time travel romance worlds penned by author Lynn Kurland and each year I look forward to her newest book. A big guilty pleasure of mine is the supernatural romance books by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Team Ash!).
I was given a project in school in 1981, when I was 13 that introduced me to the addicting world of genealogy. I was supposed to write about a “family story” that had been handed down, and interview family member to see what kind of facts I could find about it (remember, this was before the internet!). On my daddy’s side, there was a bare bones story about a civil war soldier that had had enough of the war and decided to quit and walk home, from Virginia to mountains of North Carolina. When he was just a mile or so from home, he was shot and killed by the home guard. That was the beginning of my passion for genealogy. I love it so much, I have spent the last 36 years working on family research for just about anyone that asks me for help. As a side note, if that story sounds familiar to anyone, it would be because my cousin wrote a book in the 90s called Cold Mountain, which was later turned into an award-winning movie where Jude Law played my 3rd great uncle. The book and movie are complete fiction, with almost no resemblance to what really happened. Anyone interested in knowing the real story can visit my website and read all about.
Genealogy aside, I am also on the preservation board and historian for the Wynne-Russell house, a local historic home in our city. I work very closely with our local police as a board member for the citizens police academy and I am a member of our county’s archaeological society.
In what little spare time I have between all of the above and my paranormal pursuits, I work with other people like me who need help understanding their gifts and haunt antique markets looking for old medical equipment.
How did you become a paranormal investigator?
When I was 8 years old, we had a book fair at school and it was then that I first laid eyes on the book Haunted Houses by Larry Kettelkamp. I decided right then and there I wanted to find a ghost on my own. Now keep in mind this was 1976 and my exposure to looking for ghosts was limited to the television show In Search of.., things written by Hans Holzer and books like the Time Life series.
My parents were big on our summer vacation spots being “historical” in some way. I spent a lot of time on St. Simons Island taking pictures at Christ Church Cemetery and the Bloody Marsh battlefield. All in the pursuit of that holy grail of paranormal evidence… a picture of an apparition, only to be disappointed weeks later when the film was developed to find out I had not. In a way, I miss film cameras, but I definitely do not miss the “wait” time of film developing.
When David and I met, we found out quickly that we both had a huge interest in the paranormal, so it was only natural that we start looking for ghosts together. This was 2003 and there was a lot more out there in the way of paranormal research, but it was still before the multitude of television shows. We went to as many historical places, cemeteries and spooky places as we could and conducted our own experiments.
In 2010, I started trying to join other groups of likeminded people, thinking that a historical researcher would be an asset, but no one would ever get back with me. In 2013 we spent a couple of months with a friend that was forming a group, but para-drama got in the way and David and I decided that we would just keep doing our own thing like we always had. The problem was, because groups of “ghost hunters” were misbehaving, historical places did not want to let us in without a resume. That was when we decided to “organize.” We came up with a name, joined the wonderful world of social media and I spent all my time sending out letters practically begging places to let us investigate and filling in the gaps with private residential and business clients around the southeast. Now, with the references we have, it is much easier to get into places that most cannot, so we just keep doing what we love as a husband and wife team.
You’re the “Paranormal Genealogist”. Tell us about that?
Many years ago, I saw an episode of one of the paranormal shows that highlighted a true crime that I had studied since I was a child, the Pearl Bryan murder (I have always had a morbid fascination with Victorian murders). Well imagine my shock and surprise when they started presenting “facts” that I knew to be untrue. Before that time, I had not realized that we were being fed a line of untruths on these shows in the way of the history they presented. That was when I really started looking into the real stories of places like Bobby Mackey’s Music World, the Old Charleston Jail, the Exorcist House, Waverly Hills Sanitarium, Sloss Furnace, etc. I used all my genealogy research skills to tract down information on the people, town, and structures that could be backed up with documented facts. I had been doing that kind of research on my own cases anyway because I am a FIRM believer that you cannot conduct an effective investigation without knowing the history. I quickly found out that most of the information we were being fed on television shows and movies was misappropriated or just plain made up so, in the interest of getting the real information out there, the Paranormal Genealogist was born. Now, I spend my time giving lectures and seminars on the real histories of these places and how you go about tracking down the information. It is my opinion that giving false history on the people that died (or did not die) at these places shows a level of disrespect that is unconscionable.
Being an empath, have you always known that you had this ability? And would you consider it a gift or a curse, or maybe even a little bit of both?
No, I have not always known, but looking back, I should have. Metaphysical things were not taught in my household when I was growing up so I had absolutely no understanding of what an empath was. As a young child and into my teen years I was described as “tender hearted” or having the ability to relate to others in a weird way, but that did not really do a whole lot in teaching me that being an empath was a “thing.” I am a southern girl, and during the time I was growing up, we still brought the dead home and laid them out in the living room so being around death never bothered or affected me other than being sad that person was no longer physically in my life. Several years ago, I lost a close friend and it was the first time I had felt complete and utter devastation by a loss. It was at that time I sought out help to understand things I had always “known” but did not understand. This was when I learned about being both an empath and a deadseer. My mentor made me realize that many things I had never understood as a child made perfect sense. For some unknown reason, I had a very hard time with my 47th birthday. As a birthday gift, my mother wrote me a long letter that detailed our lives together. That letter meant a lot to me on different levels, but there is a portion where she talks about when I was around 18 months old and she would get up every night and find me sitting up in bed talking to the “angels in the corner of my room.” It was like a flood light had been turned on for me and where maybe before that I had looked on my abilities as both a gift AND a curse, I realized what a precious gift it is IF I work with it as it was intended to be. Since that time, I have never referred to it as a “curse.”
What was the inspiration behind writing your book, “How Not To Be A Ghost Hunter”?
In 2016, a colleague and I were lamenting for the hundredth time about all the groups out there posting on Facebook and the web about their “ghost hunts” and “evidence” they had captured. A few things have bothered me for years about groups that have popped up since the television shows became so prominent. First is the fact that they think they can watch these shows and know exactly how a paranormal investigation should be conducted. Another problem is getting them to realize that their “evidence” is nothing but normal occurrences (again, thanks to television). They simply do not realize the damage they can cause and the dangers for themselves, their clients, and the spirits they may encounter. One of my biggest gripes are the people that go to a location to experiment and then just leave with no follow through for either the client or the spirit(s) who many times, are just wanting help.
My husband and I are on the preservation board for a historic home in our city, and we have been investigating there for years. To raise money for the never-ending things that have to be repaired, we hold history/paranormal tours and in the fall people can donate to investigate with us, (100% of their donation goes to the preservation fund). During the summer of 2016, we decided to hold a workshop fundraiser for the house, similar to the talks we give at DragonCon, a kind of “normal paranormal” class. Because I loathe being called a “ghost hunter,” I came up with the class name of “How NOT to be a Ghost Hunter” and wrote a 60-page book to give to the participants. I shared the book with some other colleagues and the feedback was incredible. The consensus was that I should write it as an actual book and publish it. I spent the fall rewriting, tweaking, and having it edited so I could release it in January of 2017. It does not included anything “metaphysical” because the focus was for people to understand just what it is to be a paranormal researcher and how different it is from television.
Where can readers get their very own copy of your book?
What’s next for Shannon Bradley Byers?
I am constantly working on research to debunk the haunted fakelore of locations featured on TV, but along with that, I have two more nonfiction books in the works as well as a fiction one that I have been working on for years. Unfortunately, with a full time job and my non-work related schedule, finding time to write is extremely difficult… OR when I do have time to work on them, I get hit with a case of writers block! The next few months are going to be busy between private investigations, an archaeology dig, and teaching another paranormal class as a fundraiser. As of right now, my next big “event” is The ScareFest in Lexington, KY this fall since I have decided to forego speaking at the 2017 Dragon Con. If all goes according to plan, my next book will be out in September 2017.
Any advice for future paranormal investigators?
Before you get your first piece of equipment, come up with a catchy name, or buy your t-shirts, the first thing you need to ask yourself is “why do I want to do this?” The answer to this question will determine many things. If it is just for thrill seeking, you might want to rethink your decision. As in all things, thrill seeking can have detrimental effects on yourself and others. People have been trying to use science to prove the existence of the afterlife for centuries and you are going to have to be comfortable with the fact that it will never be a recognized “science.” There is just no way to come up with a hypothesis and test your theories because you cannot get the same results every single time you do an investigation, and consistent verifiable results is the basis of science. There will always be roadblocks along the way. People will tell you that you are wasting your time, or that you are nuts or that you are going to hell for talking to dead people. Just remember why you decided on doing it in the first place. I hope that your reason is to help.