Chad Calek Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts
This July, filmmaker Chad Calek hits the road with a national tour to “deliver what all other paranormal documentaries have failed to produce – authentic paranormal evidences that proves the existence of ghosts.” Calek is visiting 17 cities on the Paramerican Tour, which will feature Q&A sessions, paranormal presentations and the premiere of the new film, Sir Noface, the “documented true story” of Craig Powell and the team of Australian investigators who tried to debunk his claims of paranormal activity at Cockatoo Island, which served as a former convict prison before reopening as a state park. Prior to the screening of Sir Noface, Calek, who served as co-star and director of the hit A&E Network reality series, Paranormal State, is hosting a paranormal evidence presentation and giving fans a first-look at his upcoming documentary, Blacksheep. He spoke to us via phone from his Los Angeles home.
You started exploring paranormal activity when you were 12. What fascinated you so much about ghosts?
With me, it wasn’t something that I was excited about or knew anything about. I grew up in a family where it wasn’t spoken about. I was a complete atheist. I had no belief in the other side. I put out a film called American Ghost Hunter last year. It was released on Hulu and was the most watched documentary for 12 weeks. It’s my life story. I lived in a small town in Iowa. My father got burned in an explosion in Texas. He miraculously healed but when you heal from a burn injury, you never really heal. He had a ton of scare tissue and he couldn’t live in a hot climate because he couldn’t sweat. We had to move to a cooler climate. We moved into this tiny town of 336 people. My parents found a great deal on a house that was a way from the public. We heard from the gentleman who sold it to us that it was haunted. That meant nothing to us. We thought, “Tell it to go away. Who gives a shit?” I quickly learned the reality of a haunting. I was the last person in my family to experience anything. At first I honestly thought [the rest of the family was] going crazy, bro, I really did. Then I had a series of traumatic events happen to me. It’s not something you brush off and keep moving on with life. In the beginning it was about trying to validate my own experiences and know that I wasn’t crazy.
Talk about what it was like to investigate the Waverly Hills Sanatorium.
It’s extremely intense. We did it before anyone else knew about it. It wasn’t a household a name. We were in the same circle of hardcore enthusiasts that knows the hotspots. I had never been on an investigation to that point that had that much activity that consistently. There were things going on nonstop. You could hear what sounded like the footsteps of a nurse that would follow you around. Crazy things happened with the lights and black shadow figures moving through the hallways. It’s all been filmed by multiple people since. It’s a big place. It’s 180,000 square feet and five stories.
What is it like to take on the roles of writer, producer and director for a film?
Extremely difficult, especially in American Ghost Hunter, which was about my family. You have to be honest about everything, knowing that sometimes honesty hurts people. That was the commitment. I was proud of everyone who took part in it. When you’re on the screen and behind the screen, it’s always shared. It was the same thing with Paranormal State. It’s a difficult process but it’s rewarding. For me, there’s a lot of fakery in this business so to know that I’m putting out something real is very, very gratifying for me.
As a filmmaker, do you have other directors you see an inspirations?
There are a few guys I think are incredible. When it comes to visuals and music, I’m a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson. Everything he does is so epic. He has a way of making everything seem larger than life. I’m a fan of Oliver Stone’s editing style. People have said my editing style shows that. I am a fan. When you like things, you have a natural tendency to borrow from them and make them your own. Those two are big ones. The most obvious comparison that has been made before is Stanley Kubrick. I’m into the ultra-spooky. He can take a single piano note and have it linger over a scene for two-and-a-half minutes and have it chill the shit out of you. It’s very special and minimalist. Before I edit, never during, I will revisit some of my favorite features to get into the mood. Once I start editing, I listen to Pink Floyd’s The Wall. That album puts me in a place. It’s like a drug for me.
How’d you happen upon the story of Craig Powell and the things he saw at Cockatoo Island?
It is the most definitive footage ever captured. It is unbelievable. Craig was a fan of my work. I was on tour in Australia. Craig came to the tour. We became friends. He didn’t throw any of the evidence at me or hit me up. It wasn’t like that. We had a friendship that developed and I wanted to go back to Australia a third time, but I wanted to do events. He told me about the island. While I was there doing the event, I was doing an evidence presentation for the crowd and since it was his place and he had his own team, I told him to do an evidence presentation with us and bring his team. He did. I did mine, which I’m proud to say is one of the better ones out there. I thought he was intimated by what we were doing, but he starts playing the most mind-blowing stuff I’ve ever seen. It was like lightning bolts going off in a room where there’s no power. It was happening on call. Finally, he showed me this footage of an apparition. He showed it to me, and I was floored by what I saw. I had to think about it for a long time. When you’re a documentarian, your reputation is about making sure that when you say something is real, it is. I had to make triple sure that the stuff was real and put it through testing and debunking. I put it through every possible way that I could debunk this thing. I hired experts and specialists. The animator who created Transformers, the CGI expert, I took it to him. We couldn’t disprove it in any fashion.
Talk about the current Paramerican tour.
The tour has been mind-blowing. People show up skeptical, as they should, but they leave as believers.
Are the locations on the tour all haunted?
Not all of them. We do a presentation and if we have to go offsite to find paranormal activity, we will. Each tour stop has a ghost hunt.
On this tour you give fans a sneak peek at your upcoming documentary, Blacksheep. Talk about that.
When American Ghosthunter came out, I had no idea it would do as well as it did. It just really took off. I refer to it as my life story, but it’s not my life story. It’s my paranormal story. I don’t wake up every day and say, “Let’s see what the ghosts are up to.” It was weird having a story out there that is only one small part of what I do. There’s a bigger story that involves interesting things, specifically the ones around a near death experience I had on July 1 of 2014. It’s about what led to that and what occurred during that moment. I read these stories about seeing a warm light. I didn’t experience the light or any of that. I don’t know if that means I’m going to a bad place or what. I don’t know. It’s a film that fills in some of the blanks that are left open in American Ghost Hunter. It specifically takes me to the point where I almost die and shares some of the inspirational things that helped me bounced back. It’s a difficult thing. I want to talk more about it but I’m not there yet. I’m not ready yet.
What’d you think of the new Ghostbusters film?
I have not but I got to be honest, I’m not feeling the trailer very much. It’s not because it’s all females. There was an authenticity to the original and the new one already feels a little commercial. Dan Akroyd is a huge paranormal enthusiast. He’s really big in the UFO community. Even though Ghostbusters was a hilarious comedy, there are very real methods that ghost hunters use that are in that film. There was an authenticity. I’ll reserve judgment until I see the new one. Of course I’m going to see. I hope it’s good. I really do, but I’m skeptical right now.