Ghost-hunting past haunts Alaska board nominee

March 07, 2019 - 8:27 pm

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Past ghost-hunting experiences have come back to haunt a man picked by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to serve on a compensation board for crime victims.

John Francis hasn't shied away from the topic, voluntarily bringing it up during a House hearing last week and calmly fielding pointed questions during a Senate hearing Wednesday. In an interview Thursday, he spoke of a life-changing event in which he felt the soul of a man "go through my body."

Francis said he was somewhat surprised by how much attention the ghost hunting has gotten. He said he expected more questions on criminal activity he was involved in many years ago, which he said included burglary and insurance fraud, though he acknowledged there were time constraints on Wednesday's hearing.

During that hearing, Eagle River Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold focused on Francis' ghost hunting and his thoughts on the paranormal. She said she has been contacted by people concerned about the matter.

"If it's just for fun and all make believe, tell me that. If you're serious and there's investigative process and you believe this is real, I want to know that," Reinbold said. "I really don't want you to glaze over this because I think this is a real serious concern."

Francis, who testified via telephone, explained setting up recorders in people's homes as part of the investigations. He said what is found is almost always explainable and that sharing that provides a measure of comfort for those homeowners.

Reinbold asked if Francis believes in paranormal activities. He said he believed Jesus rose from the dead. Reinbold later told him that she would not support his nomination.

Francis is the latest Dunleavy nominee to raise eyebrows. A Dunleavy Cabinet member resigned after being accused of lying about his business background and a Board of Regents nominee withdrew after facing scrutiny over her social media activity, which included sharing derogatory tweets about former first lady Michelle Obama and two Muslim congresswomen. A candidate for a judicial conduct commission is drawing questions about a recall effort he faced while serving as a school board president.

It's not clear if Francis' ghost-hunting activities will be a deal-breaker for lawmakers who will decide whether to confirm him to serve on the Violent Crimes Compensation Board.

During last week's House hearing, Francis said there was nothing "weird or demonic" about the ghost-hunting group and he saw it as a way to help people.

"We do the opposite of what you see on TV," Francis told The Associated Press Thursday. "We try to disprove any noise or explain any noise or visuals that somebody might see."

He said they would sometimes do cleansings with sage. "We don't run around the house with crosses and stuff, either," Francis said.

He described the ghost-hunting group as inactive.

Francis believes he would be a good fit for the board. He said he has long since turned his life around and supports victims' rights. He said he has a computer business and has been involved with Facebook groups focused on crime and listing of stolen items.

Francis said he had a life-altering experience in the early 1980s, when he said he was involved in unsuccessful efforts to revive a man found on a boat.

"I swear I felt his soul go through my body because I was doing mouth to mouth on him; I was closest to his head," he said, adding that it "creeped me out."

"But I tell you what, that really changed my life," he said. "Prior to that I felt like other people were just objects, not people. But after that, it just changed everything. Everything."

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