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Ghosts of Dallas

Obsessed with ‘The Haunting of Hill House,’ We Chat Up Dallas Ghost Hunters: Part 3

J.J. Jensen was chased out of her 1800s Victorian house by what she believes was a demon. Now, she's helping others reclaim their sanctuaries.
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Anyone keeping up with this ghost hunter mini-series (read Part 1 and Part 2) may have noticed there was a bit of a gap since I posted the last interview. A person reason: my husband was out of town and I could not bring myself to even think about, much less edit the story of, J.J. Jensen’s bone-chilling paranormal encounter that occurred when she was home alone with her son—an incident that drove her family out of their 1800s Victorian house. Jensen now helps people find peace in their homes with TexPart Paranormal, a team of paranormal investigators. Her group also leads ghost walks around the McKinney town square, which they have studied extensively. You’ll find that Jensen has a bit of a different take on the paranormal than others. In her experience, family dysfunction breeds spiritual mayhem.

D Magazine: So what did you think of The Haunting on Hill House?

J.J. Jensen: I think that in some ways it represents a haunting fairly well, of course, from a more theatrical perspective. But about 95 percent of our cases, people come in and say, “Yeah, I’ve got a haunting. I’m scared. I need your help.” What’s happened is, okay, they had something occur. And then they tried to self-diagnose. Got themselves scared, escalated the situation because now you have a lot of fear. Well, I used sage and I used this, and they’re trying to fix it themselves, and it’s just a mess. And then you’ve got the ones that are skeptical and don’t really believe that anything at all is going on, that makes the others mad. And what ends up happening is you’ve got more of a family haunting than a real haunting.

D: Can you give me an example?

Jensen: We had a family in McKinney that called us in that had a lot of things going on in their house. As we kind of dug down a little bit deeper, we found that the wife had had the twins and had a near-death experience. And the two-year-old son, who they thought was being disturbed by someone at night, and talking to no one in the middle of the night. Well, he was feeling, I think, kind of neglected, because those two babies took a lot of time. And then on top of it you had a grandmother living in the home who was dying of cancer.

So when we sat down and kind of delved into what was going on, we called a priest in to do a general blessing on the home. And then the priest sat down with them and kind of counseled them because a near-death experience will cause a lot of things in a household. Once we kind of tore apart that fear, that anxiety, and kind of got down to the nitty-gritty, everything went away. There was no more haunting. And it was fascinating. And so, yeah, The Haunting of Hill House kind of represents the family and, in a dysfunctional way, that a lot of that can be caused by location or it can be caused by the family.

D: So do you feel like in that case it was more an issue of family under extreme stress rather than spirits?

Jensen: My theory has evolved over the years. I actually created TexPart because I had an extreme experience in a house up in Iowa that literally chased us out of our home. After four years of putting a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of love into that house, and we just couldn’t live there anymore. So when I moved to Texas, I decided I didn’t want that to happen to anyone else. So my theory has evolved over the years in that I’ve learned a lot about my own haunting through other people’s. And like I said, about 95 percent of the hauntings that we have are what I call familial-based. It’s not necessarily where they’re located. It’s not even really the home. It’s the stress and the anxiety that we have in families nowadays.

So when we start pulling that apart and helping them get the help they need to kind of deactivate that stress or that anxiety, things start to calm down. Now does that mean there is no such thing as a haunting? Absolutely not, but what I believe is since we’re all energy-based human beings—I mean, we’re all just atoms and particles and vibrating sources—I think that when that vibration raises, or lowers in the case of depression, you attract things. And those things come in, and you amplify that by feeding them with your fear. So, again, it’s sort of a human psyche thing versus nature.

D: You mentioned an experience in Iowa. What was happening in your house?

Jensen: Well, I’ve had paranormal experiences throughout my life, so really ghosts and stuff don’t bother me because I absolutely know there are residual hauntings and things that happen. Land-based as a matter of fact. When we lived in a small farmhouse, we lived on the Mormon trail. So Mormons came through to go to Nauvoo, Illinois, and they came right through our farm. So seeing a little boy dressed in Mormon attire and he just disappears really wasn’t that unsettling. That was just the land.

But when we moved into this old 1800s Victorian, it started out simple. Like the keys would move or things would come up missing and pop up somewhere else, or you’d hear doors slam and all the doors would be open when you went upstairs. You’d hear people calling your name. I couldn’t keep workers in the house because their tools were always coming up disappearing. They’d fight with each other.

But it started out kind of simple and almost silly. At that time, my husband lived in Arizona, because he was off site. He would do contract work here and there. And when he came home, he was not a happy man. They had basically sold out the company, so he lost a lot of the stock. And long story short, he was very bipolar as it was, and things really escalated badly.

They went from being silly little occurrences to being very malicious and frightening things. We’re not small people, and something would pick us up at night, both at the same time, and drop us on the bed. And things would like fly over our faces. Huge, big swooshes, you know. It got to the point where one day I took my husband to the airport, he was working out of Philadelphia then. And so I dropped him off at the airport, and so it was just me and my son for that evening.

My son and I did our usual, we played games, and nothing really out of the ordinary happened at that time. Put my son to bed, and I was going to bed myself, and the door to my bedroom clicked open, and out walked my husband. Well, my husband was in Philadelphia, which I knew for a fact because I took him to the airport. And it very quickly turned into a big, brown very frightening-looking gargoyle-type creature. And all I can think of is it was a demon, and it scared me to pieces. When you see something like that, your mind goes in a million different directions, and you cannot make your body move. It kind of went back into my bedroom. And I took that moment, I was going to get out to grab the doorknob and get my son.

About the time I went to grab that doorknob my son, who was about eight, yanked the door right out of my hand. I could hear him screaming in there. My master bedroom was attached to his bedroom by a closet. The thing had come through his closet and was standing beside his bed when he was awoken by it. He grabbed his blanket and he was out that door. Ran and, like I said, yanked the door out of my hand, and we almost ran into each other. And we were out of the house. We stayed at a friend’s house for the whole weekend. Because at that point we just couldn’t sleep there anymore.

I told people at that time, well we were just moving because my husband lost his stocks, and we didn’t have the money to finish the home like we wanted. Which that was partially the truth, but I didn’t tell people, because it was a town of like 199 people. So I didn’t want to leave the town going, “Yeah, my house is haunted and I can’t live here anymore.” When I moved to Texas about a year later, after we sold the house, I decided I’d like to help other people stay in their house.

D: So when you were leaving, were you afraid that people were going to think you all were crazy?

Jensen: Yeah. I made the mistake of—there was a TV show called A Haunting, and so they reached out to us. They wanted to focus on, Why do you think it happened? And I said, “Well, I think some of it was residual, some of it was tied to the house.” Again, that wasn’t frightening. I said, “But what happened with the demon that I saw had to do with my husband. He was so volatile at that point, and he lost three jobs while he was living at that house, because he screamed constantly. He’d yell, he’d get angry, he’d scream at his bosses. So nobody could tolerate him. And so I think that, in that case, it was a familial-based problem.” And they didn’t want to hear that, so they had to make it into something else.

D: So the producers edited your story?

Jensen: It made me so upset. The guy that built the house, his name was C.S. Stearns. He was sort of a community hero in that they had a lot of money, but they didn’t flaunt it. They benefited the public. Like they had a little racehorse and when she won some races, they built a hotel for the town. So they were really good people.

The producers asked if there was any rumors, and my son said—of course he was eight when this happened—and he said, “Well, I think the kids told me this just to scare me because I was moving into an old abandoned house,” he said. “But there was a rumor that the original owner had an affair with one of the maids and gotten her pregnant. He pushed her down the stairs and killed her.”

And they took the spinoff on that and made it his fault; that’s why the house was haunted was Mr. Stearns, you know, and, oh my God. I’m like, “That’s not true at all.” So then I really was a kook to the town. Now I can’t even go back to Garden Grove, because they’re not ever going to like me again. So anyway, I guess I understand when people say, “I don’t want to talk about this because I feel crazy.” So at least I understand, you know, I get it.

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