John Zaffis on Season Two of 'Haunted Collector'

The Haunted Collector team. From left: John Zaffis, Aimee Zaffis,
Chris Zaffis,Gates, Cano, Brown. Courtesy Syfy

He is called the "Godfather of the Paranormal" because of his knowledge as an investigator, researcher and expert on religious demonology. And yet, it might be more appropriate to call  John Zaffis of Syfy's Haunted Collector the American picker of the paranormal.

Premiering its second season tonight, June 6, at 9 p.m., Haunted Collector follows lead investigator Zaffis as he tracks down and examines haunted objects and possessed possessions which may be the source of ghostly activity. The task is uniquely suited to this paranormal pack rat who has  - over the course of nearly four decades in the field - acquired enough of these items to establish his own haunted museum near his Stratford, Conn. home. Within the museum, he stores the items to keep their alleged powers at bay, and does so with the help of items buried in its foundation which supposedly neutralize their negative energy.

Of course, none of this is news to those within the paranormal community where Zaffis and and his museum have become pretty legendary. But non-ghost hunters also became familiar with Zaffis last year after the first season of Haunted Collector scored the network its most watched reality debut of 2011. 

Now Zaffis returns for another season of investigating claims of the paranormal. But this season, he expands his investigations to include previously unheard-of locations and utilizes new gadgets. In addition to airing 12 episodes compared to last season's 6, there is also a switch up with the HC team. While his adult children Chris and Aimee Zaffis return - along with tech specialist Brian Cano - new additions Jesslyn Brown and Jason Gates will join the haunted collector as he attempts to answer questions of the unexplained and assist terrified clients, and maybe even pick up a few new items along the way.

In tonight's season premiere, Zaffis and his team head to Warsaw, Ky, where two steamboats crashed in 1868, killing more than 60 people - and a woman whose house stands near the crash site says she's suffering hauntings as a result. Then the team travels to Huron, Ohio, where an abandoned grain silo is scheduled to be destroyed in 48 hours, sending them on a race against the clock to identify and remove any potentially dangerous energy. 

John Zaffis spoke with Paranormal Pop Culture about the new season of Haunted Collector, as well as about the changes he has seen in the paranormal community and if there are any famous objects he'd like to collect (after the jump)...

Q: How is this season different from last?

A: Well, we have a lot of new equipment that we’re actually using and implementing into the investigation. I’m looking at it from the perspective that the investigations we are doing in this season are locations that really haven’t been investigated before; they’re brand new. So we’re able to dig into more history of the geographic locations and some of the items.

Q: And you have two new investigators with you this season. Was it difficult training new people to adapt your style and welcoming them into the group, or were they just natural fits?

A: Actually, there were a pretty good fit. Especially Jason. He’s really involved with it. He’s really interested in the technical end. He’s very much interested in digging into the history of a lot of the things that are going on. Jesslyn is fitting right in. She’s had a lot of personal experiences in things. So again, it’s the process of pulling in and working and getting involved with them. They were both very excited about the opportunity to work with me. They would ask a lot of questions. And that’s what’s important about it. They’re trying to get a good understanding of how I investigate in some of the different things I do because, Aaron, let’s face it, I believe in looking at things from a spiritual perspective. But I also believe that if we can get some type of evidence, if we can get EVPs or cold spots, hot spots, or EMF off something in a particular area, that’s important to focus on.

Q: You’ve been involved with paranormal investigations for so long, and there’s a lot of new technology coming out all the time. Is there any type of new toy or gadget that, even after all the years that you’ve been doing it, you’re just impressed by?

A: Actually, it’s this helicopter. It has a whole bunch of cameras that is attached to it. And we’re able to use it on a couple of investigations. I’m hoping that it makes it into the episode. It was hysterical as they were unpacking the equipment and pulling things out. I see Chris and Brian putting this helicopter together and getting everything set up on it. I’m like, ‘Why are they flying a helicopter around? What does this have to do with anything?’ But once they explained it to me … with especially a big piece of property where there’s reports of shadow figures and anything like that, and it’s winter time and you can see down through the trees, and everything … I was extremely excited about using that.

Q: Do you ever just long for the days of simpler low-tech investigations?

A: Well, not really. The reason for that is, Aaron, I still investigate the way I always have. I keep it very simple. Going through an area - am I gifted or psychic? No. But you can usually feel if there’ something weird in a room. It can feel heavy, it can feel light. And again, those are the areas I will always recommend the guys go in and set equipment up and everything. I get very excited when they do capture something with the EVPs or cold or hot spots or they are getting high EMF. And I think it’s important …

When you can actually get something and get it documented in an area where people are telling you, ‘there’s a sighting of a shadow form’ or ‘something moved over in this area and this is where we’re having a lot of activity,’ it really ties in. I get very excited by it when one of them will pipe up and say, ‘John, we actually got something in this area where the reports are taking place.’

Q: After doing investigations for so long, is it ever difficult for you to maintain that amazement or ‘gee whiz’ factor? Do you ever just sort of approach the paranormal as ‘ho-hum’- not as exciting as it once was?

A: I still pay very close attention if I’m walking through an area and people are telling me that they have reported activity, and then we bring equipment in and things are occurring and we’re getting things documented and getting a piece of evidence. I still get very excited. A lot of times these people think they’re crazy, they think they’re nuts because they are experiencing these things. But when you can actually show them some type of proof on what’s happening or what’s occurring, that makes a person feel better.

And I still get excited, especially when working with new people because they are intrigued, they’re interested, they’re trying to figure the field out. And they’re trying to get a better comprehension of why things occur, how they occur.

The HC team watches on as their investigation
site implodes. Courtesy Syfy
Q: In the first episode, you investigate a building scheduled for demolition in 48 hours. It’s like a deadline investigation. That’s sort of a new concept, as far as I’m aware of, for these shows. Was that new for you?

A: I’ve never been to a point where there was that type of a crunch. I’ve been restricted, especially when you deal with businesses and you can only go in at night, but you’d have multiple times that you’d be able to go back. In this situation, it was 48 hours. That was it. We did not have that window of opportunity of that building still being there once it was imploded. That was it. It was done and over with. So we needed to figure out what the heck was happening as quick and fast as you could possibly think of. So we were spending a lot of time in there. A lot of people were digging into research and history. There was so much going on. It was extremely fast and quick. And what’s interesting about that is we were in there investigating, we went back the next day and staircases we gone. So many things were already removed because they had a deadline. They had a schedule they had to stay on. So the pressure was on and it was probably one of the most unique environments and investigations that you’re going to see.

Q: It seemed like an intimidating challenge. Did you have to remind your investigators, even yourself, to not get so rushed that you start getting sloppy with the investigation?

A: No, because everyone was really much on the same page. It was where everybody basically knew that we had to get in there, we had to do our baseline sweep. We had to try and figure out and target where some of these areas were where they were claiming a lot of the workers were petrified to go in … everyone went in with that perspective that we had 48 hours to come up with some type of conclusion for why some of these things were occurring.

So Jason and Amy really were digging into the history to see what they could find out. And the information, as it was flowing, it was coming in quite quick. People were volunteering very easily to give us information. So a lot of it fell into place very quick and very fast. … And finding out some of the information about the land itself, the only thing that kept going through my mind is, ‘Is this one of these situations where we are going to have multiple locations within that site where the activity occurred and there could be substantial reasons that it occurred?’ That was one of the key things that kept going through my mind with that investigation.

Q: We are at this point now where people have seen so many ghost hunting shows and maybe are out there investigating on their own. When you encounter a client, is there a concern that they may know too much about the paranormal investigative process, and think they’re experts, and that they know the right things to say to get you and a TV crew to investigate?

A: Absolutely. Today, due to all our TV shows and the radio shows, and all the paranormal conferences and everything that goes out there, a lot of people are more knowledgeable - but it’s like a double-edged sword. With that knowledge they can figure things out and get a better understanding of what might be happening in their home. But on the other hand, we have to be extremely careful. That’s why our research is so important. Digging in to finding out anything we can about the property, the home - and finding out about the people because a lot of people are interested in just being on TV. People view it a lot differently today. Years ago, people didn’t want to talk about their hauntings. Today, people are very open and very honest about what is happening in their homes or their businesses

Q: Syfy is also home to Hollywood Treasure. Think any of those items could be haunted?

A: Well, there’s a lot of memorabilia that I’d love the opportunity to investigate. I’ve heard from many different people that do collect these types of items that there is paranormal activity associated with some of the items. One of the classic things that I always go back to the Hope Diamond, and that predates us being on TV with any of these collectibles or things like that. Energy can attach to these items. It can remain with them. And can it pick up energy from a prior owner? Absolutely. There’s no doubt about that. I mean, look at a lot of the items that people collect from the movies and movie stars. Have I heard stories? Yeah.

Q: Anything that’s on your investigative wishlist from the Hollywood world?

A: Oh, gosh. I particularly like Hollywood Treasure. I was very intrigued with Debbie Reynolds’ collection - Marilyn Monroe’s dress and things like that. I’d be very intrigued to see if there’s any type of energy associated with those items … I’m sitting here trying to think of items and there’s so many things going through my mind. I would love the opportunity to be able to check out James Dean’s car. They say that’s cursed and there’s a lot of energy associated with that … I would be very interested in the opportunity to go in and investigate them and see what’s actually attached to them. Are there remnants of the person - energy of the person - that is still associated with some of those items?

Q: And speaking of the Hope Diamond, if you had the opportunity would you like to investigate that despite the really infamous curse associated with it?

A: Absolutely. Absolutely. Just to see if there’s anything actually getting recorded off it. Being able to do EVPs around it. Setting up the EMF detectors. Doing a lot of the different things from our experimental perspective around items like that. Yes. Because I’d be very intrigued to see if there is anything actually associated with some of these things.

Q: You have your own museum of haunted objects, and we see a little bit of that on the show, so is there any museum you’d like to investigate or that you’ve heard is just crazy with paranormal activity?

A: Well, most of your museums are. You have to remember with a lot of the artifacts that are brought in, they continuously, continuously have activity in most museums out there. But I think that if it ever presented itself and I had that opportunity right at this point in time, what I’d like to see is Ripley’s Believe it or Not museums investigated.