Paranormal researcher and TV personality Brian Cano


LINCOLN — Some people assume, falsely, that paranormal investigations became popular around 2004, when shows like “Ghost Hunters” explored the paranormal realm on television.

Paranormal researcher and TV personality Brian Cano knows that’s not the case.

“As a species, we’ve been telling ghost stories as long as there’s been recorded history. It’s part of our culture, part of our DNA, though it only recently became a hobby or vocation,” he said. From the beginning of time, people have been fascinated and repelled by the afterlife.

Paranormal investigating has its roots in the 1800s during the spiritualist movement, especially after the American Civil War. “People were wondering what all this death was for, and whether they could still connect with the dead,” Cano said. That idea is not a modern invention.

Cano, a featured analyst on the Travel Channel’s “Paranormal Caught on Camera,” will bring his History of the Paranormal traveling exhibit to Lincoln’s Hearthside House this November, sharing his 20-plus years of knowledge about paranormal investigating in the 1800s and today.

Television shows about the paranormal are a great way to introduce people to the subject, Cano said, but don’t offer much information about the evolution in investigative methods, inventions or theories over time.

“To move forward, we have to look back at the history,” he said.

Paranormal TV shows “opened the door” to the paranormal world for everyday people, who had until then been made to feel “crazy” for saying they believed in ghosts.

“It was for many years considered the ‘occult’, not the paranormal, and it was scrutinized and put under a microscope. You couldn’t stand and say, ‘I believe in ghosts,’ because you’d be put in the lunatic asylum,” Cano said.

If the shows open the door to the paranormal world, Cano’s waiting to hand you a roadmap.

“The early shows told everyone it’s OK to believe in ghosts,” he said. The problem is that while people don’t watch a show about surgery and then attempt to operate, amateur investigations have been inspired by TV, but lack the tools or knowledge needed to do their own proper investigating.

Cano’s exhibit helps people to develop a foundational understanding, from the names of the earliest investigators to the people who invented certain investigative technologies.

“I’m looking to demystify the process,” he said.

He got his start in paranormal investigating while exploring abandoned and reportedly haunted locations on Staten Island with his friends. Cano was still quite skeptical about the supernatural, but a series of experiences helped change his mind. What started as urban exploration morphed into paranormal investigations as a result.

“If each paranormal experience was a grain of sand dropped at my feet, by itself it’s not much … but as the years went on, one day I looked down and I was metaphorically standing on a beach,” he said.

He approaches each investigation with a fresh set of eyes. Often, people come to him convinced their house is haunted by a demon, but he warns them that a patient doesn’t tell the doctor their diagnosis before the checkup.

There’s a wealth of knowledge about paranormal investigating out there, and TV shows only scratch the surface. “I’m making this information easier to access,” Cano said. “And I want to be responsible in how I present this information.”

Though he’s not a skeptic anymore, he said people should be skeptical rather than naive, but careful not to be “so blocked off that they stunt their own growth.”

Many people are afraid to open the door to the supernatural. It’s a bit freaky, Cano said, thinking about the fact that we’re constantly surrounded by spirits.

Twenty years in, he still scares sometimes. Investigating the Grand Midway Hotel in Pennsylvania was among his most memorable experiences, and he said he feels confident that he experienced his first and only demonic entity there.

He joked that while most people respond to stress by fighting or flying, he freezes.

Next weekend’s events will be the first time he has visited Hearthside House. He said he seeks places rich in history and culture for his tour, and that the places should complement the exhibit.

Kathy Hartley, president of the Friends of Hearthside, said volunteers at the historic house “live harmoniously together” with any spirits in the home, which has a “positive energy.”

The exhibit, which costs $15 to access, will be open from noon to 4 p.m. on Friday Nov. 12, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13, and from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 14.

At night, Cano will be joined by demonologist and former Ghost Hunters investigator Carl Johnson and Elise Giammarco Carlson (Panorama Paranormal) to run a full-scale paranormal investigation at the circa-1811 Hearthside House.

There are two investigations scheduled for Friday night starting at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., and a four-hour deluxe investigation set for Saturday night. Tickets to Friday’s investigations are $50 and include access to the exhibit, while Saturday’s hunt cost $150.

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