Dan Aykroyd explains how his lifelong belief in the paranormal led to 'Ghostbusters': 'This stuff is real'

Dan Aykroyd narrating 'Hotel Paranormal'
Dan Aykroyd narrating Hotel Paranormal. (Photo: T+E)

Dan Aykroyd is arguably pop culture’s most prominent proponent of the paranormal.

Ghostbusters — the 1984 original classic that is still spawning new movies today — was born out of Aykroyd’s deep fascination with parapsychology. And the Ottawa, Canada, native’s connection with spirits dates much further back from that.

“It started with my great grandfather. It's a family business, really,” Aykroyd, 68, tells Yahoo Entertainment.

Aykroyd’s great-grandfather Simon was a dentist in Ontario, Canada, who became a mystic with the launch of Spiritualism around the turn of the 20th century. Simon witnessed and documented the work of several mediums in the hamlet of Lily Dale, N.Y., near Buffalo, and passed his journals onto the actor’s grandfather, who passed them onto Dan’s father, Peter Aykroyd Sr., who eventually published the book A History of Ghosts.

“Most places in Canada you'd see Look magazine or National Geographic or Life magazine all stacked up,” Aykroyd says. “In my house, it was the American Society for Psychical Research magazines, Fate magazine, British Society for Psychical Research, all of these publications that studied the paranormal. So I just grew up with it. … There was no way out of it.”

Aykroyd’s steadfast belief in the paranormal hasn’t faded a bit, evidenced by his new gig as narrator of the Travel Channel series Hotel Paranormal. Through reenactments, interviews and sometimes real footage, the series depicts incidents of spine-chilling paranormal experiences at one specific type of venue where they frequently occur: hotel and motel rooms.

“These are events that really actually happened to these people, traumatized them in many cases, scared them,” Aykroyd says. “And here Travel Entertainment offers them a forum to talk about that, to talk about the occurrences so that they can get it out of their minds and out of their souls and off their chests, and to have a sympathetic audience who understands that this stuff is real. And that it’s happened to people hundreds of thousands of times in the history of our planet, where there's a vivid evidence of the fact that there is survival of life and consciousness after death.”

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Dan Aykroyd arrives at the Opening Night Of Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood on September 12, 2019 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)
Dan Aykroyd arrives at the opening night of Universal Studios's Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood on September 12, 2019 in Universal City, Calif. (Photo: Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)

Of course, not everyone believes in ghosts — and Aykroyd admits part of the reason he enlists in projects like Paranormal Hotel is to convince the skeptics.

Aykroyd describes the paranormal experiences he’s encountered in his own life as simply “little kinetic things.” And then he starts to list them all…

“My wife and I were in bed and her jewelry did little dance next to our bed. She saw it [too]. … She had bracelets there, a pearl bracelet and a metal bracelet and all the sudden it was like they were doing a little mini cyclone.”

The house they previously resided in the Hollywood Hills, one that Cass Elliott from the Mama and the Papas also once lived in — 7708 Woodrow Wilson Drive to be exact — had “some things going on” as well.

“Something got into bed with me one night, I believe, when I was alone there. The door was closed but not locked. And it opened. And I felt a chill and then I felt something compress next to me on the mattress. And what am I gonna do? I’m tired, I’d just come from work. There's no one there. So I just snuggled up next to it and I went to sleep. … I had a good night's sleep, actually.”

They continue: “My daughter saw a red-haired man with a red-haired girl walking at the end of the hall. And the rumor was that somebody had died of a drug overdose in the house and was buried in it in the hillside. It was also Mama Cass's house. One of our friends, an ex-Army boxing champion, scared of nothing, he said he saw a huge black mass moving across the stairway. We used to hear the StairMaster going on [by itself]. … Numerous people said there was stuff going on in that house.”

Hotel Paranormal premieres Saturday, July 11 on Travel Channel.

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