Interview with Author William Hart

Tell us a little about yourself.

     I wanted to be a writer from childhood, but didn’t think of myself that way until after college, when I decided to become one. Tired of school and knowing poets don’t earn much, I began supporting myself, my wife and our daughter as a commercial sheet metal worker on grain elevators in Wichita, Kansas, my hometown. In my thirties I did grad school in English, finishing at the University of Southern California, where I met my current wife, a filmmaker from Calcutta, India.

     My wife and I taught college writing for twenty years, then retired early to pursue our creative careers. I write novels, memoirs, stories, and poetry collections. I also help Jayasri make her documentary films, two of which have played nationally on PBS. My writing has appeared in several hundred literary journals, commercial magazines, newspapers and anthologies, and fifteen books.

What was your first experience with the paranormal

     I had one ESP experience over fifty years ago, which I discuss under question 8. The book I just published, My Friend Richard, is a narrative memoir describing in detail my second experience with the paranormal, which has been transpiring off-and-on for over a decade now, ever since a close high school buddy came in his spirit form to live with my wife and me. When Richard arrived, I had an open mind on the subject of ghosts, partly because my wife tells a vivid story about her grandfather, who in the days after his death came to see both her and her cousin, his favorites among his female grandchildren. My wife is an unusually rational person, truthful to a fault. If she says her grandfather’s presence came to say good-bye accompanied by the heavy rose scent of his funeral ceremony, then it happened. 

What is one misconception people have about the paranormal that you want readers to know?

     Most of us watch Hollywood movies, and the most powerful of them help shape our thinking. One problem with that is we can end up with many unfounded notions about, for instance, the paranormal. I believe films vastly exaggerate the drama of paranormal, usually to scare us out of our pants. The truth is calmer and more mundane. To me the paranormal is as normal as regular existence. Richard, once my living friend, and now my spirit friend, I’m convinced is as real as me. He’s just in a different state. I’m a living being, composed of both body and spirit. He’s a spirit without a body, having lost it to death. Both of us are natural, and real, and neither of us is more real or more natural than the other. In other words, the “paranormal” is a generally unacknowledged part of the normal.

     Richard has shown me that our laws of physics are woefully inadequate, because they omit entirely the spiritual components of our universe, which are as genuine as the material components, though less substantial. There is a whole other world of spirit alongside (or within) our world of the living. It was my luck to be contacted by a being from that other place, who had a favor to ask. He has become my guide in the zone where his world and mine intersect. Our continuing friendship has made me an explorer of the other side.

Are there any haunted locations that have fueled your interest in the paranormal field?

     Definitely. In 2013, my wife and I visited the good ship Queen Mary, permanently docked in Long Beach Harbor and functioning as a hotel. We attended a ghost presentation by one of the ship’s officers, a true believer in the ghosts aboard his vessel. His lecture on those ghosts, which he and other ship employees have witnessed, along with film and stills taken of them, convinced my wife and me that the Mary is haunted by a number of spirits—men, women, and some children. I suspect not all ghost houses are real. But I think a ghost house running overnight on the Queen Mary would give you a decent shot at experiencing the real thing. And, if ghosts congregate on the Mary, they likely gather in other similar places.

What is the biggest takeaway you have from your experiences with the paranormal as expressed in your book? 

     My friend has proved to me I will have an afterlife, as we all will. There can be no doubt in my mind, because I’ve seen and interacted with someone whose afterlife is now over fifty years old. I doubt all ghosts continue in their spirit state as long as Richard has. Most of us I think, after a time in our ghost manifestation, move on, though I don’t know to where or to what. Perhaps our spirit moves into the body of another being, like many Hindus believe. All I know for sure is that we all have afterlives, whether brief or long or forever. Richard leads me to believe we may to some degree get to choose for ourselves what that afterlife will be.

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If you could travel to one haunted location and investigate it, where would it be and why?

     I don’t have to travel. The ghost I know best has lived with us for twelve or thirteen years at least, and apparently has no intention of changing residence. He seems to have settled into our master bedroom closet. However, he hasn’t been active since the first of this year, when he threw a temper tantrum, breaking a ceiling panel in our kitchen and stealing our new 2022 kitchen calendar. We haven’t found the calendar. 

How much influence and power do you think people give to spirits or ghosts?

     Hollywood gives ghosts a lot more power than I believe they actually have, simply to up their terror factor. Lacking a body limits an actual ghost in what it can do physically. I also believe ghosts are bound by rules, imposed by whom or what I don’t know. For example, I think spirits aren’t allowed to harm humans to any significant degree. When I asked Richard not to bother me for a while, he obeyed. He obeyed so well I thought he’d left us. Then I offended him with something I wrote (and he read) and he retaliated on New Year’s Day in our kitchen.  

Besides ghosts, what other paranormal fields interest you?

     I’ve experienced ESP and am curious about it. My daughter was 150 miles away when she was seriously assaulted. I was busy at work when it happened, but I felt the attack powerfully in my gut and knew it was my kid afraid and hurting. I didn’t learn what happened until later. This experience convinced me humans have psychic powers. I’ve seen that Richard has psychic powers too. It’s made me want to find out more about ESP. How many psychic powers are there and how can they be explained? I’d like to know more. 

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About the Author

William Hart is a novelist and poet living in Los Angeles. After earning a doctorate in English from the University of Southern California, he taught college writing courses in LA and wrote. Now he writes–fiction mostly–while helping produce the documentaries of filmmaker Jayasri Majumdar, his wife. Hart’s work has appeared in several hundred literary journals, commercial magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, and fourteen books. A pair of one-hour documentaries from Hartfilms aired nationally on PBS, the latest receiving Emmy nominations. 

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