Over the last two decades paranormal research has become more popular, whether it be from TV shows or personal experiences.
Gary Hawkins is more than familiar with the world of the paranormal. Over the last 23 years, Hawkins has researched and experienced strange phenomena.
“I’ve had interest in this kind of thing all my life,” Hawkins says. “It was a matter of too many things happening that had me thinking, ‘ah, that’s interesting.’”
Hawkins saw his first full-blown apparition six years after he began hosting haunted tours in Alton.
“That’s one of the most interesting things about it,” Hawkins says. “This is something that is as solid as you and I whenever they do happen. I remember turning the corner and seeing a little old lady. There she was and I chased after her as she vanished.”
Hawkins has seen six of these types of apparitions throughout his time as a paranormal investigator and each time, he never fails to chase after them.
“What we do tends to make you go after them,” he says. “I would kick myself if I never chased after them.”
Of course, paranormal research has its skeptics. Whether it be people who don’t believe in the paranormal or older people who just want to learn what lies beyond, the skeptics will always be out there.
“There’s a diversity throughout the haunted tours,” Hawkins says. “There are kids who are 15 years old who are just interested in this kind of thing and I have had someone who was 70 years old go on a tour because he ‘didn’t believe, but I am getting close to that age that I want to know which way I’m going.’”
Hawkins also is interested in the historical aspect of the paranormal.
“During the haunted tours, I like to incorporate the history as well because Alton has so much of it,” he says. “I’m a huge history buff, so I get to kill two birds with one stone.”
Besides the tours, Hawkins enjoys other opportunities this job has brought him. He had the opportunity to shoot a television show pilot.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have the funding to air it, but it was a blast traveling around to shoot for the show,” he says.
However, Hawkins did get his moment on TV when he appeared on “Ghost Hunters.”
One of the things Hawkins wants people to know the most is “a ghost cannot hurt you, period. They can, however, cause you to hurt yourself if they jump out at you and scare you, causing you to trip and fall down the stairs. If it is a negative ghost, they have accomplished what it set out to do. And then you have people playing it up, saying that the ghost pushed them down the stairs.”
Hawkins will host A Haunted Afternoon with Gary Hawkins Saturday, Oct. 10, at the Six Mile Library in Granite City. During the night, Hawkins will host a presentation featuring photos and video clips of his experiences.
For information, visit www.altonhauntedtours.com.