Hans Holzer, RIP

Ghost hunter Hans Holzer died last Sunday, on April 26, 2009. He didn’t like being called that so I apologize, but that’s how everyone thought of him. He’s in my book a little bit, but I ended up cutting most of him out, just because he’s so far afield from what they were doing at Duke. I kept him in mostly to contrast their experiments with the more 19th century seance thing he was into.

I interviewed Holzer when he was clearly at the end of his life. He had trouble getting around, and remembering things, and he wasn’t happy at my shock when we started watching an old tape of his and I said something stupid like, “Look at you all dapper and young.” I meant it as a compliment, but he looked stricken and asked if he looked all that different and I immediately felt like an ass. I liked the guy. His cat was with us the whole time, which I enjoyed. At one point he said, “Life is better with a cat,” and it is. Nothing wrong with a guy who knows that.

I have fond memories of reading his books when I was an adolescent, and just learning that there were people who believe in ghosts. Thank you for the memories, Hans. Here is the section I removed from the book.

Ghost investigator Hans Holzer sees the spirits who linger in places like the Morris Jumel Mansion as trapped souls, and he believes it’s both his job and moral responsibility to help these poor souls move on.  This is accomplished by using a trance medium like Ethel Johnson Meyers.  “A trance medium is somebody who can slip out of their physical body,” Holzer explains, “and let the spirit or the ghost slip in and use them to talk.”  When this happens Holzer becomes something like a therapist for the dead.  He gently tells the ghost that they have passed on and they must call on loved ones who have already died to help them move on to the other side.  It may be that for many, getting to the other side is not an unpleasant trip.  Ernest Hemingway had an out-of-body experience once when he was wounded in World War I.  He wrote that it “was as if a silk handkerchief had been gently pulled from a pocket by a corner.”  J. B. Rhine kept a file on Hans Holzer, and occasionally added articles about his exploits.  But Holzer’s work of helping people move on was pretty much as far from Rhine’s parapsychological world as one could get.   No one at the Lab considered Holzer a scientist. [I’m sorry, Hans.]  

For Hans Holzer, the survival question is not even a question.  Life goes on, and on the other side there’s a well organized society with a strictly defined caste system which has been outlined to him by those who are already there.  “The first level is a very dark place,” Holzer explains.  “This is where the bad guys go.  They need to be educated and shown the error of their ways in order to rise to go to next level.  This is what religion calls Hell, but there are no devils or fire.  

“Most people are on the second level.  This is where everybody goes.  They have a timeless existence and if they are happy there, if they don’t want to be a baby and be reborn, they can stay there.  They have a normal life.  

“The people on the third level have special skills that could be used further for the benefit of humanity.  Engineers, technicians.  They will help someone in the same category over here, if they need help.  

“The fourth level is where groups form, like groups of doctors who work together in unison, to heal.  They are spirit healers.

“The fifth level is where the leaders are.  Jesus, Buddha.  The great spiritual leaders.  

“The sixth level is where the government exists.  They are the angels.  The government runs the whole show.”  Holzer questioned the entity who was explaining the different levels via a trance medium about the final two levels. 

“How many are you?”

“There are nine of us.  There used to be ten, but one has left.”

“Who’s in charge?”

“My name is Michael.” 

“What do you call yourselves?”  

“We are called the beings of light.  We don’t like to be called angels.”  (“They don’t like the term angels because they are not messengers,” Holzer adds.)

“What’s on the seventh level?  Is that supposed to be God?”  

“All we can see is an enormous power source, an enormous light.  That’s all we know.”

Nobody knows, not even the angels (or beings of light) who or what is at the very top.  When asked if he believes in God, Holzer answers, “I don’t say I don’t accept the existence of a higher power, but the higher power is not just one person, it is an energy field.  I’m still working on that.  I want to know more about the nature of this seventh level.”

[The photograph is from the New York Times obituary.]

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