You could describe Chris Gibbons as eclectic. He’s a well-established attorney in Grand Rapids (Dunn Gibbons) and a father of four. He has a side project in Morris Avenue Publishing
, a venture he founded to self-publish his poetry. He is the muse and bodhran player behind the Five Leaf Clover Band
, a traditional Irish band that features his four children. In his spare time, he is an avid home brewer, bike rider, and barbequer (he claims to make the best barbecue ribs in Grand Rapids).
However, it is Gibbons latest adventure -- authoring and publishing his first novel, Trespass
-- that has had some very unexpected consequences. As Gibbons’ marvels, “It’s been like Mr. Toad’s wild ride."
To summarize the novel, Gibbons explains it this way: “Trespass
is the story of a spiritual battle that I was foisted into when I bought a house in Heritage Hill in 2004 that was occupied by a former owner who had long since died. He did not appreciate our presence in the house. The book deals with how that struggle ensued, the various strategies I employed in attempting to resolve the issue, and the ultimate resolution of that problem. The novel is non-fiction. There was a ghost in the house.”
Without giving up too much of the plot, it can be said that after numerous encounters between the malevolent spirit, he was able to employ the aid of family, friends and a local shaman to exorcise the ghost from his home.
As life returned to normal on Morris Avenue and time moved forward, Gibbons turned to the pen to chronicle his experience, which he felt was more about the power of forgiveness than a ghost story. With his publishing company in place, Trespass
was written over a six-month period.
Gibbons admits he was flying by the seat of his pants after he published the book. “Once the story was done, I began wondering, 'what am I going to do with the book?'” He wanted to share the story with others, so he ended up sending copies to his friends and using social media channels to spread the word.
Within weeks, he began receiving positive feedback and was encouraged to share his book outside his own personal network. “I ended up sending the book out to a paranormal group in Kalamazoo and they went nuts for it," he says. "They have a club. They do investigations. They asked me if I would come down to a conference for ghost hunting outfits [called] Paracon. So last fall, I went to the conference and had a good time."
Gibbons describes the Paracon
community as a cross section of Americana. “You could see your grandmother there. Housewives, business owners -- they are regular people.” The common denominator, he adds, is that they are "seekers."
"Anyone who has a question, who doesn’t take their life at face value, you see at these conventions," he explains. "Many of them are looking for scientific answers. Many are very skeptical."
After the conference, Gibbons’ book began circulating in the paranormal community and soon, things got even more interesting. “I got an email on St. Patrick’s Day from someone who read the book. It said I should contact this particular person because she is working on a show called "A Haunting,"
and she would be very interested in it."
On the following Monday, Gibbons went to his office and followed up on the email lead. He called New Dominion Pictures,
the production company for the Discovery Channel series, "A Haunting.
" After a brief phone discussion, Gibbons sent them a book. "Within a week, we were talking about doing a show. I thought this was cool," he says. Several phone conferences later, they reached an agreement to share Gibbons’ story with a broader audience by turning the book into an episode of "A Haunting." It was about to get even cooler.
Their production company visited Grand Rapids in May and conducted a series of interviews with several of the characters in the book, and also took a variety of city shots to be used in the episode.
Gibbons recalls what happened next. “I was in Cincinnati. I was driving back and got a call. They said they were going to produce the dramatic part in June, and wanted my family to come to the studio in Virginia," he recalls. "I have four kids. They are busy. I said, 'we’ll take the little ones and leave the older kids at home with my wife Kay.' Then I got another call, saying they would like it if I could bring the whole family and make the band part of the show. They wanted to use the music as part of the show! That was a Thursday at 6:00 p.m. We are hauling out on the next Monday." Describing the filming, which was done in a historical neighborhood in Norfolk, as both chaotic and fun, Gibbons and his family met the actors playing their roles and had several recording sessions that would be used in the episode.
With production now finished, Gibbons’ story is scheduled to be shown on the Discover Channel sometime prior to Halloween. In the meantime, the wild ride continues. He keeps busy speaking at various paranormal conferences and programs, including sessions on Darkness Radio
and the UPPRS 3rd Annual Paranormal Conference, and has plans to attend Scarecon in New York in mid-September.
Gibbons admits that writing a firsthand, non-fiction ghost story has elicited some interesting responses. When first hearing of his experience, Gibbons’ reports that “half the people sit me down and jaw my ear off about their own ghost. The other half look at me like ‘yeah, c’mon!’ I’ve had people tell me I am stressed out, or they just don’t just believe. I don’t really care. It is my experience. I am free to have it anyway I want as far as I am concerned."
John Rumery is the Innovation and Jobs Editor at Rapid Growth Media.
Photography by ADAM BIRD