In this exclusive interview about strange true stories, podcaster Jim Harold sits down to discuss his popular podcast, The Paranormal Podcast & Campfire. Most paranormal podcast stories seem strange, weird or even at times funny and those retold by witnesses in interviews with Jim fall into many of these categories.
About Jim Harold and The Paranormal Podcast
Combining his love of broadcasting, technology and the paranormal, Jim Harold created The Paranormal Podcast in 2005. Only a few years later, The Paranormal Podcast has already been featured in the "Top 25 Science Audio Podcasts" on iTunes, and just last month one of his latest podcasts had over 90,000 downloads. Read on to learn how it all began and get some of Jim's own personal views on the paranormal.
In His Own Words: An Online Talk Show Host Shares His Views
LTK: What was the primary focus of the show when you first began?
JH: Well, in terms of the show, the focus really was what it is now - finding folks who are experts and authors in the paranormal and kind of just getting the scoop on their theories and the books they've written. It's kind of their viewpoints about the paranormal.
LTK: You cover a very broad range of topics then?
JH: In fact, if anything I want to even venture out more. I want to do more on cryptozoology and those kinds of things. I always kind of felt that the paranormal was perceived like this, "Oh ha, ha - isn't this funny?" I wanted to do a show that was a little more serious, where we could just say, "Okay, here's this author's theory on the Bermuda Triangle, and let's discuss it." At the end you, the listener, make up your mind whether you buy that particular theory or not, but at least you know about it.
A Background in Broadcasting
LTK: Your website mentions that you originally did some work in mainstream media?JH: Yeah, my training in college was in broadcasting. For most of my career, my day job has been in traditional media - mainly in radio - working behind the scenes on the business side. I always had that internal broadcaster wanting to get out because I knew I could do it.
LTK: Do you see the Internet as a better medium for this type of topic?
JH: Well, I think it's just the opportunity to get distributed. You know, I'd love to have a five day a week radio show. If I ever did get a chance to do this in the mainstream media, I would never let go of the podcast because I think that the Internet media is a huge part of the future. Before, if you wanted to be on the radio or you wanted to be a media star, you had to get somebody's permission - somebody's permission who had a lot of money who owned a big tower that cost a lot of money. With a podcast, the barrier to entry is not there for the average person who has some talent, or thinks he has some talent. The only barrier is your ability to execute the programming and to promote it.
A Healthy Skepticism
LTK: When you come across a far-fetched paranormal claim or story, do you consider yourself more open-minded or skeptical?
JH: In general, I consider myself to be what I would call a skeptical believer. My philosophy of the paranormal is that there are things that we can't explain that probably have some kind of supernatural origins, or possibly a science that we've not yet achieved. I would say if, for sake of argument, ninety-seven percent of it is not true - still, that means there's three percent out there that can't be explained. That turns out to be thousands and thousands of people and thousands of cases.
JH: I guess to some extent, I'm skeptical of anything I hear to a degree, but I look at this journalistically. My job is to interview that person, get him to share with us what his theories are and what his beliefs are, and let the audience decide. For example, we had a psychic on, and she did a reading of my wife on the show. She dead nailed something that she would have had no way of knowing. I'd be silly not to say, "And, by the way she really nailed this one thing." On the other hand, I'm not going to overly promote one particular theory or be overly skeptical. One thing I do like to do is say, "Let me say what I think the skeptic would say and how would you reply." Sometimes I think they're great responses and sometimes I think some of the people on the show, frankly, have copped out.
Favorite Guests and Personal Experiences
LTK: Of all of the guests you've had, do any stand out as being more memorable for you?
JH: I think some of our better, and more compelling guests are people like Stanton Friedman, the ufologist who's probably the best known person out there in terms of UFO studies - a very credible guy. Jeff Belanger who has done several ghost books and has his own great site, GhostVillage.com - he's fantastic. I think he, in many ways, treats this the same way that I do. The only thing is he does it in writing and I do it in podcasting. He's very journalistic about what he does. Also, the episode where my wife was told by a psychic that a friend was coming through and she named the first name of the friend.
LTK: Have you ever personally experienced hauntings or ghost activity?
JH: Not personally, but my wife saw a vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, the night that my mother-in-law passed away. My brother, who was quite young, passed away in 1999 - he was autistic. Of all things, he loved the Lawrence Welk show. We were coming home from his funeral driving through a rural area, and we were dialing through and picked up this old station. All of a sudden I heard a song and afterwards the DJ comes on and says, "That was Lawrence Welk with his big hit from 1960." And I thought, that was my brother trying to tell me that he was okay. Because, I mean, what were the chances I'd be driving through that part of the country, and let's face it, even ten years ago, how often did you hear Lawrence Welk on the radio?
Elevating the Paranormal Field
LTK: So, you advocate more of a scientific approach to the paranormal?
JH: Yeah. Here's an example I've used in the past. Just because fifty years ago people didn't understand DNA didn't mean that it didn't exist. It's just that we've finally caught up with it and figured it out. A lot of the things that we experience in terms of the paranormal, be it UFOs, ghosts, whatever - these may be things that are very explicable; it's just with future science not the science of today.
LTK: That's a great example.
JH: Yes, and I guess my issue with one hundred percent skeptics who disbelieve in everything is just that - they disbelieve in everything. What I hear from a lot of the "skeptics," is that none of this is true and none of this is possible. But, you can't really prove a negative. You can't really say that none of the UFO sightings out there are inexplicable or that everybody's a liar or a hoaxer.
LTK: What will the Jim Harold's Campfire series be about?
JH: Well, we've done some audience participation over the last few months where we had people call in and we got a really good response off of that show. Just last month we had over ninety-thousand downloads, which is really good for a podcast. We're going to keep the paranormal podcast, but also add a second podcast called Jim Harold's Campfire. Basically we get maybe four to six listeners every week, tape those calls and put together a call-in show. It's really been very well received. The thing I like about this is that if people have had an experience, they don't need to feel that they're alone.
LTK: What do you think investigators could do to help elevate the field of the paranormal?
JH: Well, the thing that annoys me and is one of my pet peeves is when you have a national TV broadcast, like a major news station or something, and every time there's a story about a UFO they have to throw in the spooky music and start acting silly. But the flip side of that is - don't go around and have your cameras on night-shot going, "Oh, I've found a ghost!" and run around like a bunch of idiots doing these weird ghost hunt setups. I'm not saying that ghost hunting is necessarily bad because you know there are people who approach it in a much more scientific way. It's just that some of the stuff I see just looks so childish, and you can't do that if you want to be taken seriously.
LTK: Great, thank you very much talking with us, Jim.
JH: Thanks! It was great talking with you.
Be sure to share your reactions to this interview or your opinions about the paranormal in the comments section below!
Interview contributed by Ryan Dube, LoveToKnow Paranormal Site Editor