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Day Of The Woman - Michael Kleen

Day Of The Woman - Michael Kleen

© 2010 BJ-C -


There are things that go bump in the night, unseen whispers after dark, and an entire atmosphere that has inspired many movies we know and love. We've told ghost stories around campfires and sleepovers for generations and I think it's safe to say everyone gets nervous in the least a little. Today I interviewed paranormal author Michael Kleen to give us a little insight on what it's like to play with ghosts, and get paid for it. BUT FIRST! Here's some background information on Michael.

Michael Kleen earned a masters degree in American history from Eastern Illinois University in 2008. He is the author of the monthly e-serial Legends and Lore of Illinois, as well as numerous books, including the new Haunting the Prairie and Paranormal Illinois. Michael has also spoken on Illinois history and folklore at the Rockford Public Library, WTVO Channel 17, Charleston Middle School, and the 2007 Conference on Illinois History in Springfield. Michael is also the publisher and executive editor of Black Oak Presents, a quarterly digital journal of Mid-American art and culture. Currently, he is a graduate student at Western Illinois University.

BJ-C: Were you into the paranormal as a child?

MK: I've been interested in the paranormal for pretty much my entire life. In elementary school my friends and I wondered about whether our reflections were really other people in parallel dimensions. I read everything on the subject I could get my hands on and started writing short stories in middle school and high school, most of which had paranormal themes. They weren't horror stories necessarily, but were often more of a romantic (or gothic in the classic sense) view of the subject. Many of my earlier stories explored the consequences of meddling with the unknown and with forces which the characters didn't understand. I didn't start writing about local folklore and ghost stories until college, when I discovered that there were a lot of interesting local places that hadn't been written about.

BJ-C: That sounds like a Twilight Zone episode. Speaking of twists, can you see dead people like Haley Joel Osment?

MK: Who is Haley Joel Osment? Seriously, I thought I saw something dead once, but it was just my social life.

BJ-C: Mine too my friend, mine too. So, what inspired you to write about the paranormal?

MK: I was greatly influenced by the movie The 'Burbs. It was written by Dana Olsen, who lives in suburban Wilmette, Illinois, and satirizes suburban life and its relationship with horror and the paranormal. It's really a brilliant movie. Two of the characters, Art Weingartner and Mark Rumsfield, become convinced that their new neighbors - the Klopeks - are Satanists who killed an old man from down the block named Walter. Their paranoia grows throughout the movie until they finally break into the Klopeks' house to find evidence of the crime. When Walter suddenly returns home, the skeptical neighbor, Ray Peterson (played by Tom Hanks), has a moment of revelation when he realizes that the suburbs have made them all into crazed lunatics.Shortly after, however, it's revealed that the Klopeks really were killing people, confirming Art's suspicions. The movie had a profound impact on me because it portrays modern society as having erected all these barriers to our primal fear of the unknown, but shows that those barriers are not strong enough to prevent the occasional monster from creeping in, whether it be Art Weingartner's book of the occult that he reads in the basement, or the nightmares created by the horror movies Ray Peterson watches before bed. The idea that we grow up in a world where a place like Bachelor's Grove exists - an abandoned cemetery on the periphery of Chicago where all kinds of gruesome things are said to take place, and where people see ghosts and vanishing houses - is fascinating to me. How could I not want to write about that?

BJ-C: I guess if you had some traumatic experience, that might hinder your want to write. Do you ever get scared on paranormal investigations?

MK: No, but there have been plenty of things that gave me a chill. A few months ago I accompanied the Forest City Paranormal Society on an investigation of a mobile home where the woman's brother had died suddenly. She had a mirror in her bedroom that she had draped a rosary over, and approaching the mirror gave me a really odd feeling. It was disorientating. The area also had a high electro-magnetic field from some nearby power lines, so that might have contributed to it. But it was strange none the less.

BJ-C: For as many horror movies as I watch, that sort of thing would scare the living daylights out of me. What is the craziest thing you've experienced "in the line of duty"?

MK: I consider myself more of a writer and adventurer than a "paranormal investigator." I have been on investigations before, but as a reporter and an independent observer. That being said, I have been to at least a hundred allegedly haunted places and I have taken some strange pictures. At St. Omer Cemetery in Coles County (the location of a "witch's grave"), one of my pictures has what looks like a man in a brown derby hat holding a red flower and standing behind one of the monuments. There was no one else in the cemetery at the time, besides my friend and I, and she was standing next to me.

Oh! There was one time that I was driving some friends to Airtight Bridge at night (that's also in Coles County) and we got lost. We drove past a woman and her son standing at the end of their driveway with no porch light on or anything, out in the middle nowhere. They were just staring out at the road. We kept going for a while, then decided that we were heading in the wrong direction and needed to turn around. At least five minutes had passed... and the two were still standing there in the pitch dark. That was pretty creepy. Another time out there, I accidentally drove into a corn field when the road turned sharply over a hill. I didn't see it until it was too late to stop.

BJ-C: Reminds me of an episode of "A Haunting" on the Discovery Channel. Speaking of which, what do you think about haunted house films/tv shows?

MK: Surprisingly, I'm not really a fan of "ghost movies." Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice (does that qualify?) are the big exceptions, ok, you just can't top that. But most of them have been terrible. They are usually slow and their twist endings are obvious. I need a struggle with some subtext, not just a bunch of special effects. However, I liked The Others because it referenced a lot of Victorian gothic culture. I used to watch those "haunted-so-and-so" TV specials all the time when I was a kid, but not since they started featuring these ghost hunting groups. I care about the story. I don't want to see some guy watching a view screen for an hour until a grip pulls the string attached to a lamp and everyone freaks out.

BJ-C: Do you believe in possession?

MK: Yes, with qualifications. The Roman Catholic Church has thoroughly documented possession cases all over the world, and they adhere to very strict guidelines when it comes to determining a genuine possession. But I don't think that "possession" has to be some dramatic thing in the vain of the Exorcist. Have you ever seen the movie Session 9? I think that's much more realistic. There are malevolent forces in the world, but I think most of the time their work is much more subtle.

BJ-C: I LOVE Session 9, I could talk for days on its brilliance. This is about you though, I'm pretty sure my readers are tired of hearing about me at this point. How many books do you think you'll write?

MK: As many as I can! I'll never stop writing, be it fiction, philosophy, opinion columns, you name it. I get burnt out on certain subjects, then I move on to something else for a while. Right now I'm totally drawing a blank when it comes to my social/political writing. I got a lot of that out last year. Right now, the paranormal is working for me and so I'm going to put my energies into that until I'm exhausted. Then the cycle begins again...

BJ-C: The film-Paranormal Activity: Discuss

MK: I have never seen that movie. I stopped watching American horror movies about 10 years ago after Scream 2 killed the genre (not that the original Scream wasn't a decent horror movie). The Canadians are making better horror movies now (Ginger Snaps, anyone?). Canadians! Please, give me something more than just a bunch of loud noises and one-dimensional characters.

BJ-C: Wow, you might be the only person on the planet who hasn't seen it. Take my word, see it on DVD, not the internet's horrible ending...Finally, what are you afraid of?

MK: Right now? I am afraid of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and the idea that we might have to choose between Obama and Sarah Palin in 2012.

Find out more about Michael @ (personal) (Legends and Lore of Illinois)