Dan Aykroyd on Busting Out Ghost Stories on ‘Hotel Paranormal’
The Ghostbusters writer and star shares thoughts on growing up as a Spiritualist, and his own stories of checking into a haunted hotel.
When it comes to paranormal stories, you should listen to Dan Aykroyd. The actor, writer and filmmaker is best known as parapsychologist Dr. Ray Stantz from Ghostbusters, the 1984 movie he co-wrote. But the origins of Aykroyd’s belief in the paranormal goes back to his upbringing as a Spiritualist in Ottawa, Ontario.
Raised with the philosophy that communicating with the dead is a positive practice, Aykroyd’s Spiritualism is a family matter; his great-grandfather Sam was a prominent member of the religious movement, and his father Peter is the author of A History of Ghosts, which explores the rise of the public fascination with Spiritualism. Moreover, Aykroyd is a UFO enthusiast, and previously hosted the Canadian paranormal series Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, co-created by his brother Peter Aykroyd, Jr.
Now, Dan Aykroyd brings his love of the unexplained to Hotel Paranormal, the new Travel Channel series where the erstwhile Dr. Stantz presents stories of strange happenings occurring in everything from roadside motels to luxury spots across the globe. Airing Saturdays at 10|9c, the series features chilling accounts, alongside re-enactments and eyewitness footage from those who check into a hotel, and believe they are sharing a room with someone, or something that never checked out.
In the interview that follows, we discuss his family’s connection to Spiritualism, as well as his own Hotel Paranormal experiences, the potential ghost of John Belushi, and what he thinks about that psychokinetic Twinkie in 2020.
I think it’s interesting that you, like your father, are telling these stories from a believer perspective on Hotel Paranormal.
Aykroyd: Well, Sir William Crookes worked on the cathode ray and was a physicist, and he saw the medium Daniel Dunglas Home levitate, and saw ectoplasm produced. And Crookes said, “I didn’t say it was possible, only that it was true.” You know what you saw, people know what they see. I believe skepticism is a religion, and I am not going to question anyone’s religion. You can believe and say whatever you want. I am convinced, and I know what I believe, and I believe the accounts of the people in the show. Why would they make up these stories to torture themselves?
Skepticism is an interesting and important thing. I tend to shy away from dogmatic belief or cynical non-belief, but think there’s a sliding scale, a middle ground of skepticism and open-mindedness in between.
Aykroyd: My great grandfather Sam was a local investigator in Eastern Ontario, and part of that was the marriage of skepticism and being open-minded. He was exactly a proponent of that. You have to be a skeptic to sort out the hoaxes from the real stuff. How are you going to know if there were wires, or that medium was in a cabinet, or hands weren’t handcuffed, or he had helpers? But I don’t question skepticism if that’s your religion.
Speaking of Spiritualism, this was a very positive movement your family was a part of, and one involved in promoting civil rights…
Aykroyd: Sam was a dentist and a member of the Chautauqua Lily Dale Society Spiritualist movement founded after the Fox Sisters had those experiences in the mid-1800s in upstate New York. Spiritualists embraced women’s rights, embraced tolerance, they were a stop on the Underground Railroad, and my great grandfather was a part of that movement. As well as having belief in mediumship and survival of the consciousness after death, there is a humanist strain that runs through Spiritualism. Because it gives one hope there is positive energy that can guide us to the light on the other side.
Spiritualists also place importance on mediumship. Can you share why you believe in the use of mediums?
Aykroyd: Faith is a large part of why we pursue our interest, but many convincing stories and events, and occurrences verify the consciousness exists, and can reach back into this dimension, and communicate with us actively on a level that we can understand in this life — as far as reaching further knowledge of how souls survive, and cross over. And as far as reliving memories with spirits we’ve known before, and revisiting things only you and that spirit can know about? That’s what makes mediumship so convincing. You sit there with the medium, and a name or place is mentioned when the spirit reaches across, and only you and that spirit would know, or only a deceased friend would know what the medium is referring to. How would a stranger know about me and my friend working on cars together? That’s one of the little stories I like to tell [with a medium]. “Gene, Gene, Gene is trying to reach you.” “I don’t know a Gene. Gene Hackman is still alive.” “No, Gene, Gene…he says how are the water pumps?” No! It was my friend Jean, and we used to work on old Buicks together installing water pumps, and everything else. Water pumps were always the bane of what we were working on. How would the medium know that in upstate New York when we did this in Quebec? It’s the little convincing things like that.
As an actor, and musician, you’ve traveled the world and stayed in many hotels. What have been your own Hotel Paranormal experiences?
Aykroyd: I’ve not had any hotel experiences… Well, the Chateau Marmont has a lot of stuff going on, and I’ve stayed there a lot. Things have come off the wall, and I had an out-of-body experience there once that I was flying around the dining room, and the lamp broke [after] my friend said he saw the lamp above him start to shake. That was just before John died. [John Belushi died at the Marmont two weeks later]. Actually, I had a friend who was a sensitive, and went to the place where John died, and he said he saw him. John appeared to him at the Marmont.
So, if people are in a supposedly haunted hotel, what is your personal recommendation?
Aykroyd: Get out your camera. Do you have a camera on your phone?
It’s not even a phone anymore, it’s a computer in my pocket I can make calls on.
Aykroyd: That’s what I say. It’s not a phone, no. So, get that out. Try to record it, try to get some audio. Also, try to get a witness! I am fascinated by some of these cases, like where a woman and man are in the room, and she’s experiencing everything, and he’s sleeping! I love those stories.
Because you are likewise a student of UFO phenomena, do you think some of these Hotel Paranormal stories could be extraterrestrial in nature, or even interdimensional?
Aykroyd: I believe spirits and ghosts can be interdimensional. I think the alien thing is a parallel set of occurrences but not necessarily interlinked generally. Ghosts are from the closer dimensions than the farther dimensions. Ghosts are right next door in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth dimensions. Some physicists talk about 23 different dimensions. And beings, creatures, inhumanoids with advanced technology — as [alien abductee of Fire in the Sky fame] Travis Walton calls them, the “people from over there” — are not ghostly in nature. They use technology to get around, dimension to dimension, star to star. But ghosts are somehow able to flip in and out and be seen. They can be on a loop, they can appear one time, they can be repeated, they can be dispatched.
There are some stories on Hotel Paranormal that suggest something demonic in nature. Do you believe in ghosts of evil people, or in demonic forces within these tales?
Aykroyd: There have been people born into this plane of existence that are straight-up evil from their first seed to the end of their miserable lives. I think entities in some of these stories have origins in the murderous and evil people and are origins of some of these ghosts. As far as demonic, and evil thoughtforms, there is much to be said for how we continually fight back against the dark.
There is so much negative psychic fluid that wants to flood in, and ruin our dreams, and lives. Where does it come from? Does it come from demonic entities? The devil, and that classic conception? There is so much that wants to drag us down, and it is a continuous struggle against the dark. As humans, as a species, within ourselves, the effort to tip to the good, and flood our lives with the good must be something we never let go of. We must always try to put positive energy, and positive visualization out there for ourselves, and those we love.
Finally, let’s talk about the Twinkie comparison in Ghostbusters. Do you think the pandemic and global events have amped up the normal psychokinetic activity of the world into a P.K.E. equivalent of a Twinkie 35 feet long, weighing approximately 600 pounds?
Aykroyd: I think you’ll see regional eruptions. There’s going to be disturbed spirits unless someone does cleansing. Wherever you had people die, there will be evidence of crossovers.
Hotel Paranormal is all-new Saturdays at 10|9c.