Years ago, a woman sought help from John Zaffis for a ghostly problem in which figurines she had collected kept moving around by themselves.
"She kept finding them in different places," said Zaffis, 55, a Stratford resident and well-known paranormal investigator.
He said when he researched the matter he discovered there were reports going back hundreds of years of haunted objects and artifacts, which were either possessed by spirits or imbued with powers or curses that triggered paranormal activity.
After amassing a private collection of hundreds of such haunted items, Zaffis now has his own reality television program, "The Haunted Collector," on the SyFy Channel, which also hosts the popular "Ghost Hunters" reality series.
On the program, Zaffis leads a team of investigators that include his son and daughter, Chris and Aimee, and two other associates from his organization, the Paranormal Research Society of New England (PRSNE), to scrutinize reported spooky doings that might be associated with artifacts found at the site. He said the SyFy Channel has ordered up a second season of episodes, which is scheduled to start next June.
For Zaffis, paranormal investigating is a family business. He is the nephew of Ed and Lorraine Warren, famous demonologists who investigated the Amityville Horror and Haunting in Connecticut cases. Ed, Zaffis' mother’s brother, passed away in 2006, but Lorraine still lives in Monroe. The PRSNE was originally started by the Warrens.
Zaffis' first paranormal experience occurred when he was 16. He woke to find his late grandfather standing at the foot of his bed shaking his head. His mother told him that was a characteristic gesture of the man while he was alive.
A few days later, Zaffis' grandmother died. He believes his grandfather's spirit came back to help her cross over after death.
For decades, Zaffis has collected haunted items like the woman's figurines, an early acquisition. His collection is so big he has constructed a small building behind his house to contain it, which he refers to as the John Zaffis Museum of the Paranormal.
Since he was downsized out of his job as a pharmaceutical quality control inspector six years ago, he has seen a huge increase in popularity for all things paranormal.
"Over 80 percent of our population today believes there are things out there that we can't explain," said Zaffis. "It's actually fashionable these days to be a paranormal investigator. Back when I started you couldn't even talk about it."
But since the first season of "The Haunted Collector" aired, he has given numerous talks on the topic. He said he can't comply with the many requests he receives for tours of his haunted collection because private museums are not allowed in a residential zone, but he has considered opening it as a museum attraction at a different location.
He did show it to a visiting reporter recently. "The creepier stuff is on this side," he said. That included a carved idol that acquired a demonic presence when a teenager used it for a black magic ritual. Zaffis said the boy began hearing voices telling him to kill himself. It required an exorcism, and the boy's parents asked Zaffis to remove the thing.
About those figurines, Zaffis said he told the woman the spirit of their former owner was still with them. She had angered the spirit when she sold off part of the collection.
"She told me, 'take them, get them out of the house,’" he said.