I Want To Believe: An Investigators' Archive, by Jason Hewlett and Peter Renn

Reviewed by Ashley Knibb

Jason Hewlett and Peter Renn are both individuals that are familiar with the paranormal, the media and social media too. Hewlett and Renn have certainly had their fair share of paranormal investigations throughout their lives all around the world. They really know the subject matter inside out, but this book is less about haunted locations and very much focuses on the experiences of their fellow investigators within the field.

I must admit that when I first picked up I Want to Believe: An Investigators’ Archive to read, I was initially somewhat sceptical. I thought perhaps that the book was only going to contain some elaborate subjective ghost stories, which we had already heard many times over in one form or another. However, I was quickly asked to question that thought process as I read ‘A Few Words from Peter Renn’

Over the years I have met many people from different realms of paranormal investigations who are all unique, and each hold credibility in the field. Each one has a different story on how he or she got into the profession and have experiences that have kept them continually chasing their passion.

I am honoured to be one of their peers, and even more honoured that these people are my friends.

I hope you enjoy their stories and experiences. This is the foundation on why we do what we do.

These words reminded me that people out there with an interest in the paranormal often have a story to tell. These stories always vary, from the short fleeting experiences that sparked their interest to those more involved experiences that evolved that interest into a passion, maybe even an obsession. Important stories to each one that happened to experience them, but perhaps equally important to those the stories were shared with too as that is how those experiences are shared and interest grows. Something we are beginning to see a lot of in the paranormal field.

Hewlett and Renn open the book with a chapter on Ciaran O’Keefe, someone whom I am sure many will recognise. If not for his time on the TV show Most Haunted, then certainly for his contributions to parapsychology over the years. The chapter outlines a little background regarding O’Keefe, then begins to tell the story about how his interest in the paranormal evolved over the years to where it is now. Something which I found quite interesting, as it provides a great insight into who O’Keefe is and his paranormal journey.

One thing I really agreed with though, is that O’Keefe highlighted that above all things, the key piece of equipment that all ghost hunters should have with them is something to record the events of the investigation. This could be from a camera to something as simple as a pen and paper. This is a philosophy that I completely agree with and practice myself. Far too often have I seen ghost hunters venture into a purported haunted location with nothing, but their fallible memory to record the events that may unfold.

Chapter two moves onto another reasonably well-known paranormal investigator, this time from the popular TV show Ghost Hunters International; the ‘tech guy’ Paul Bradford. Now I must admit, Bradford’s story surprised me somewhat. Mainly since his story appears to outline an individual that appears to have fallen into ghost hunting, quite by accident. He soon found his inner nerd taking over and began to create different types of ghost hunting equipment, which he also sold online through GhostStop.

Ghost Hunters International gave Bradford the unheard-of opportunity that most investigators never even get close to, which is the option to investigate some of the most famous haunted locations from all around the world. Some of these investigations, perhaps even a few of Bradford’s favourites, are included in the chapter.

However, Bradford provides a little more for the reader. He provides a realistic viewpoint and outlook of the field; and how the TV shows cover those investigations. Bradford also explains that being on a paranormal reality TV show like Ghost Hunters International does not necessarily bring the fame and fortune that many new to the field may believe it does. Especially if you are unwilling to be possessed by demons for the camera. That said, Bradford admits that his time on paranormal TV shows did help his creative side flourish, and led to a lot of ‘Indiana Jones’ style adventures.

The book goes on to include the stories of twenty more people that have a distinctive passion for the paranormal. Each of their stories tells us a little about who they are, why they found the paranormal to be an interest that they would pursue throughout their lives; and, a little more on how they go about understanding more about the paranormal today. Their interests vary across the entire scope of the paranormal field. There are of course ghost hunters, we heard a little about Bradford already. There’s a parapsychologist or two; O’Keefe kicked off the book. However, there are also a few people that approach things from a more spiritualist angle, some with interests in UFO’s and even a cryptozoologist or two as well.

The stories that both Hewlett and Renn bring us regarding these individuals are fascinating to be fair; some of their experiences being quite remarkable. Some may wonder why they would continue to seek an understanding of the paranormal when their initial experience had been so terrifying. Still from my own experience, I guess if your mindset is one that desires to understand more, then you cannot help but seek more information.

The book is pretty much what it says on the cover, an archive of investigators stories. Each chapter captures those stories in what I would call an interview type format, where their stories has been captured by our authors and written up in an easy to consume format that allows the reader to read at a good pace.

It may be tempting to disregard this book as an ego booster for those included, but I would argue against that, after having taken the time to digest and think more deeply about those stories. After all the paranormal field most likely arouse due to the campfire stories we shared between family and friends. Something which over the centuries grew to become a staple part of all the cultures around the world.

The stories within the covers of I Want to Believe: An Investigators’ Archive certainly add to that tradition of storytelling and sharing of experiences that most likely change our minds, our viewpoint on the world itself.

If you are looking for a nice easy read that provides you with some interesting insights into the experiences of some passionate paranormal investigators, then this is a good book to read. It is also good as a source of experience information in my opinion. Are the stories true? I think that will be for the reader to decide, they certainly come across as relatively genuine and it does not seem as if there would be any value in making them up.

Sometimes capturing the experiences in a simple format like Hewlett and Renn have done is a great way to communicate to the readers what these investigators have experienced. As such the result is a nice group of stories about the paranormal, which are varied and diverse. Oddly I think it is this simple honest delivery and wide-ranging subjects that makes this book interesting.

This is most certainly an easy-to-read book, perhaps in places it does push the boggle factor a little, but it is still an interesting read.