Three years ago, in the wee hours of the morning at a Victorian mansion near St. Augustine, Fla., Melody Bussey encountered a ghost. No cold hands grasped her neck; no heinous voice shouted "get out." Instead, the polite ghost offered Bussey food and coffee.
"I was staying at my publicist's house in a room that used to be an old porch," says Bussey. "It was 4:30 a.m., and I smelled the strong scent of coffee. I heard a voice say, 'Do you want breakfast with your coffee?' I said no; I wanted to get back to sleep. I heard a heavy sigh and footsteps down the hallway.
"About 20 minutes later, I heard, 'Do you want breakfast with your coffee?' I said, 'No, I told you before when you asked.' My publicist said, 'No, I didn't ask you before.' And then she started stomping her feet saying she was mad, that the ghost showed up for everyone else. ... The ghost was a nanny. Bums would sleep on the porch, and she would feed them and bring them coffee. So she thought I was a bum and offered me breakfast!"
That experience was the beginning of a new path for Bussey, ultimately leading to the recent publication of Ghost! magazine.
As editor in chief, Bussey is a member of Tucson-based JusDus Productions, LLC. The periodical began online October 2003 at ghostmag.com. Its first print version premiered earlier this month with 2,000 copies. The magazine will continue online each month with print versions each quarter. The next print edition, due out in December with a 10,000-copy circulation, is expected to be available at all major bookstores.
It was inspired thinking that got Ghost! off the ground. Bussey put her head together with fellow writer Chris Rod, and the two came up with the idea of a magazine for the ghost-hunting enthusiast. Bussey met Rod, the executive editor, at a writing conference four years ago.
Says Rod, "We describe ourselves as a focal point. The magazine allows the scientist, casual observer and the die-hard ghost hunter a forum in which they can all come together and express and share their experiences.
"When society dwells a lot on facts and science, you have people believe ... in one hard science, but yet when it comes to ghosts, it isn't brought into a science fold but is still considered a pseudo-science. That's what we are trying to do with the magazine--allow the ghost-hunting community to explore that information, take it out of the pseudo-science realm and (bring it) into the science arena."
The desire for such a magazine was strong.
"About two issues in," says Rod, "we were getting about a call or e-mail a day asking 'When can I take this off my screen and take it to my couch? I want to have this magazine in my hands.' After constant bombardment, we said maybe we should try this."
The magazine blends scientific exploration with a touch of entertainment. Flip through its pages, and you'll find an interview with Dr. Hans Holzer, a paranormal expert and former producer of the series In Search Of ... , results of paranormal investigations, book reviews and even a joke page.
"We kind of make it a cross between Discover and Maxim. You have the edgy entertainment side, but then you have the hardcore science associated with it," says Rod.
One of the scientific contributors is William Everist, adjunct faculty instructor at Pima Community College. Everist has taught paranormal psychology at Pima for 10 years.
The magazine "is an incredible opportunity for both the scientific community and ghost groups that do it for amusement to get together," says Everist. "We can both learn from each other. Hopefully, they will pick up on some of the professional aspects of the field, and we can find out locations to investigate. The magazine brings both together pretty well."
The magazine also brings light to truths about investigations and investigators. You won't find the typical Hollywood version of either in Ghost!
"They think you dance naked under a full moon with a chicken," says Bussey. "It's nothing like Ghostbusters. It's very tedious work, like watching the paint peel."
Adds Everist, "Hollywood, God bless them, makes it more exciting than it is. ... You won't be chased around the room. ... But investigations are always fun. It's an academic pursuit but also an adventure."
While Bussey and Everist have had their share of ghostly encounters, Rod--a licensed civil engineer--is considered the skeptic of the group.
"My skepticism comes from the fact that I do not believe that everything seen is a ghost. I believe there are ghosts out there, but not everything reported as a paranormal activity can be said for certain is a ghost. ... I have an open mind about it, but am not going to allow my mind to conjure up what I want to see," says Rod.
Everist agrees it is common for people to conjure up ghosts.
"A lot of people think the phenomenon they experience is justification for saying there is a ghost. You really have to analyze the environment before making that judgment. ... If your toilet keeps running, it may not be a ghost. Maybe you just need a plumber," he says with a laugh.
With all of the long nights in dark rooms at investigations, field trips to cemeteries and delving into paranormal phenomena, one might think Bussey, Rod and Everist might consider death mysterious. Not so.
"This work has validated what I was taught. Life goes on after the death of the body. You do survive," says Bussey.
Adds Everist, "I always believed in some sort of afterlife. This has just refined it a little."
Surprisingly, skeptic Rod has the most faith-based beliefs.
"I believe there is something out there that I can't explain. ... I would say I am a religious person. ... I can't say I don't believe in ghosts and then say I believe that an angel appeared to Mary and Joseph. It's impossible to make that separation," he says.
But separation isn't what Ghost! is about. It's a publication that brings together skeptics, believers, scientists and everyday ghost seekers. It blends entertainment and learning, faith and science. And in its glossy pages, the living and the dead come together as one.