On Monday, Oct. 18, Addison resident Tony Szabelski will present “Ghostology and Ghost Hunting in the Chicagoland Area” with fellow paranormal investigator Jack Chavez at 7 p.m. at the Addison Public Library.
When Szabelski and Chavez visit the library for their program, they’ll talk about the technology that comes along on paranormal investigations and share stories of the places they’ve been. Sign up for the program at www.addisonlibrary.org.
Ahead of their presentation, Szabelski gave the library a one-on-one interview to share his experience as a paranormal investigator.
Szabelski originally hails from the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago and has been living in Addison for over 20 years now. He frequently uses the library to research ahead of his paranormal investigations.
“Usually people don’t know how much research goes into it,” Szabelski said. “I used to get old newspapers through interlibrary loan and look at them through microfilm readers. We’re always looking for stories, for history, to back up the ghost stories and sightings.”
Tony Szabelski’s interest in the paranormal started at a young age. After his father passed away when Szabelski was just 14, he began wondering if there could be life after death.
“At his funeral, I was the only one (near his casket) and I just thought in my head, ‘if he can give me some sort of sign that he’s OK, that I wouldn’t worry about him anymore,'” said Szabelski. “And in that moment, the lights in the funeral parlor went off and came right back on. That was my sign right there.”
It wasn’t until years later that Szabelski met other people who were interested in investigating the afterlife. He started joining some paranormal groups and eventually found a professional avenue for pursuing his interest in the paranormal.
At a paranormal conference in Decatur, he met Diane Ladley, then-owner of a company which ran historic haunted tours of Naperville, and, after going on a few of her tours, he received a job offer from her. He worked for Ladley from 2011 to 2017 as a tour guide, putting his research skills and charisma to great use.
Szabelski now works for Chicago Hauntings and has been exceptionally busy with tours, lectures, and other events in the last year. When he isn’t giving tours, Szabelski enjoys going on paranormal investigations with fellow enthusiasts, travelling to haunted locales in Illinois and neighboring states.
“There are two different kinds of investigations: ones where you pay to go to an old, historic place that uses the money to keep the building running, and ones in private homes where people are experiencing something weird,” Szabelski said. “But for both, you’re looking for the same thing: the possibility of life after death, something still existing there.”
Szabelski has visited a number of famously haunted places in the Midwest, including the Rhodes Hotel in Atlanda, Indiana, Ashmore Estates in Ashmore, Illinois, and the Congress Hotel in Chicago. At each, he’s experienced things he couldn’t explain, like shadow figures lurking across the room and watching colleagues head down a hallway only to for them to disappear when Szabelski followed them. And while these experiences may scare some, Szabelski is unfazed.
“Most of the people I know aren’t terrified by it. We’re curious, maybe even excited by it,” Szabelski said. “The investigation experience varies place by place. You can never really expect anything to happen. You have to go in with an open mind to see what’s going to happen.”
In addition to visiting larger buildings like historically haunted hotels, Szabelski has also done a number of private home investigations, even in Addison.
“Years ago we did an investigation of a lady’s house who lived out near the bowling alley. She was haunted in the place for years, so much so that she always felt depressed when she was at home,” Szabelski said. “We came in and brought a medium who said he got rid of the spirit, and she said she felt much lighter afterwards. A lot of times, with hauntings, it’s more about feelings that affect you than things like slamming doors.”
Whether it’s a tour or lecture through his job or a paranormal investigation done as a hobby, Szabelski gets great satisfaction from his work and looks forward to his program on Oct. 18.
“People want to know if there’s more to this existence than what we see. Did we come from somewhere, are we going back to somewhere when our life is done? With every tour, I hope people come away a little more educated about what we do and a little more open-minded,” Szabelski said. “It’s just a passion. It’s a lot of fun to give the tours and be out there with people and tell stories to them. And it’s always new, always different.”