This article originally appeared on Ghostvillage a few years back, after Dr. Holzer’s death, and was picked up by a few media outlets at the time.
In any field it is hard to remain relevant generationally. Influence is passed from age to age in stories, like a father telling his son about a man who once was great. Very rarely do they look at the same person and say he defined each of their times, and when it happens, the figure takes on a timeless quality. If it is hard to catch the spotlight, it is harder to remain there for decades, with each person learning a fresh lesson from a new lesson taught. Dr. Hans Holzer was beyond influential. He remained relevant.
After sixty years at the forefront of the paranormal, Dr. Hans Holzer passed away this Sunday, April 26, 2009, at the age of 89. He was born in Austria in 1920, but moved to New York in 1938, shortly before the darkest days of World War II. While so much of his early life was influenced by his time in Europe, he became a New Yorker at heart and stayed there until his death, often using the city as a base of operations for his investigations. His education might have seemed like a mixed bag to someone looking in from the outside, but it helped him carve out the name he would carry with him into a profession many people with his degree of education frowned upon.
Over the next half century he worked on some of the most recognizable cases in the paranormal world, including the case in Amityville. Authoring more than 130 books on the supernatural, he was prolific and also delved into plays, screenplays, and works of fiction. “He was so comfortable with the audience, speaking to them as if they were all old friends,” remembers fellow paranormal writer and research Brad Steiger, “He exuded a natural charm. He seemed genuinely happy in his work, and he maintained a high-level of enthusiasm for investigating the unknown throughout his life.”
Holzer was the transition from the old giants of the paranormal community to the new, but in many ways his work never went out of style, even with the advent of technology he sometimes frowned upon. His work was about documentation and observation and getting your hands dirty, but he believed spirituality and the human’s ability to communicate were as essential a tool as a piece of equipment. With these ideas he laid the foundation many investigators build on today, and to know about ghosts usually means having read at least one of his books.
Dr. Holzer had the unique ability to have one foot planted in the past, reaching back to the giants like Harry Price, and still be able to communicate with the newer generation. Over the past sixty years, there have been few who have managed the public face of the paranormal better. He was not only a mentor to those in the field, be became the funnel through which the general public learned about the work of paranormal investigators.
Part of Holzer’s appeal lay in his approach to the paranormal. His career spans shifting ideas, often conflicting with one another, on ghost hunting. From parlor room chic to outside the lines to the scientific movement of today, his methods remained rooted in a genuine place and transcend trend. A mix of research, investigation, and psychic evaluation his techniques have proven to be almost a necessity for modern investigators. Even if his ideas were in conflict with a person’s belief, and those ideas were strong and specific enough to cause conflict, the ghost hunter still referenced his words.
In an interview with Jeff Belanger of Ghostvillage, Dr. Holzer once said, “Fear is the absence of information. Fear is created by not understanding something. You bring on the fear.” His passing marks a transition for all who knew him and all who found comfort or influence in his words. We understand more having been touched by him and his work, and even in his passing he has taken a bit of the fear away.