Hans Holzer, the world-famous parapsychologist, ghost hunter, and author, was born in Vienna in 1920. Tales he heard from his Uncle Henry inspired young Hans to fascinate his kindergarten classmates—and shock their mothers—with ghost stories of his own creation. They also created a fascination with the supernatural, which was to last his entire life.
Hans wrote one hundred and thirty-eight books, as well as plays, musicals, and episodes of television shows. Most of his work deals extensively with the occult. In pop culture, perhaps his most well-known works are those surrounding the house in Amityville, Long Island, which was the basis for The Amityville Horror. However, he also wrote several books that are immensely important to witchcraft in the 20th century, including Witches: True Encounters with Wicca, Wizards, Covens, Cults and Magick; Wicca: The Way of the Witches; and Powers of the New Age.
Hans received many guests in his apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where he would talk with them about his books, his life, and his outlook on the world. While it would take several books to describe the full extent of his rich and eventful life, the following are some stories that illustrate our friendship and the character of this remarkable gentleman.
Searching the Flea Markets
Hans loved his apartment, where he lived for forty-seven years, from 1962 to 2009. He filled it with incredible objects, whose ultimate origins ranged from India and Egypt to Western Europe., Ironically, Hans found most of these artifacts much closer to home — at the New York City flea markets where he was a regular browser. Whenever he was making plans for me to visit, Hans would not be available on Sunday. That was his day for going to the flea market.
Hans had an excellent memory for each and every one of the beautiful things he owned. If I asked about something I saw in his apartment, he would be able to tell me a detailed history: where and how he found the object in question, what it was and what it meant, how much he paid for it, and even how the process of haggling went! Everything had a story and a meaning behind it.
From Vienna to Manhattan—and Beyond
In 1938, Hans came to America, where his father had lived for several years at the beginning of the century. His grandmother’s brothers owned a garage in the Bronx and provided a connection with which to start life in America. The political climate of Europe had prompted Hans and his brother to make the journey: Hans could see that war was coming, and he wanted to get himself and his brother away from an increasingly aggressive Germany.
When war did break out, the U.S. Army draft board turned Hans down because he suffered anxiety in closed rooms. The OSS, precursor to the CIA, did however offer him a position, but Hans refused, because he had to take care of his parents and he wanted to continue his studies at Columbia University. After the war, he did become a foreign correspondent, a job which took him all across Europe.
By the time I knew Hans, he didn’t talk much about his days as a correspondent. He seemed mostly to have moved on from that part of his life. Witnessing the damage that war left on countries and people clearly had an impact on him. Even near the end of his life, in interviews with both The Witches’ Almanac and Ghost Village, he mentioned disliking violence and war. Hans was very concerned by “mankind’s continuing preoccupation” with such things.
The Amityville Horror
When George and Kathleen Lutz began to talk about their supernatural experiences in an Amityville, New York house, the public grew interested — and so did Hans. In 1977, he took Ethel Meyers, a spiritual medium, to investigate. After viewing the house, Meyers claimed an angry Native American chief had possessed Ronald DeFeo, the man who had occupied the house before the Lutzes and had murdered his family.
The house in Amityville and its history fascinated Hans. He spent a great deal of time walking around the property and talking to the Lutzes about their experiences. Ultimately, he wrote three books on the subject — Murder in Amityville, The Secret of Amityville, and The Amityville Curse — and gave interviews devoted to it to TV and film crews. Murder in Amityville and The Amityville Curse became the basis for the first two sequels to The Amityville Horror film.
Despite the grimness of the subject, Hans loved working on projects about Amityville. When we were talking about it, he often used to say that everything had some reason for happening and that what we called magic was really just science that hadn’t been discovered yet. Maybe the amount of attention the Amityville incident received was a sign to him that we were getting closer to making some of those discoveries.
The United Kingdom and the Craft
In the 1960s, Hans went to the United Kingdom to meet and interview prominent witches there. During this period, Witchcraft was just beginning to get public attention and Hans met some of the most important figures of the time, such as Alex and Maxine Sanders and Sybil Leek. He recorded many of those interviews on film, as well as some ceremonies that he was able to witness. The footage has since come to me and I am currently working on a project involving this film. The recordings show, among other things, images of group prayer during rituals, people riding on brooms, and an initiation ritual. It’s fascinating material and I’m very excited to be working with it.
Hans himself was initiated during his time in the UK. During his work with Alex Sanders, King of the Witches and founder of the Alexandrian tradition, Hans became involved in the Craft, eventually receiving his Alexandrian degrees from Maxine Sanders, Alex’s wife. Hans would go on to write four books specifically about Witchcraft, in addition to his numerous works on general spirituality and parapsychology.
A Man of Many Languages
As a young man entering the University of Vienna, Hans had already learned Latin in addition to other modern languages. However, when he decided to study ancient history and archaeology, Hans found out that the program required him to know Greek—a language he’d never learned—so he found a teacher and began to study. In six months, Hans had learned enough Greek to enter the program; more than half a century later, he still knew Ancient Greek.
When impending war in Europe brought him to America, Hans enrolled in Columbia University, where he studied Japanese for three and a half years. He also studied music—composition in Europe and conducting at Julliard—and ended up conducting musical comedies and writing a number of songs. In an interview with The Witches’ Almanac, Hans said that “you never know when you can use it.”
Hans seemed to apply that attitude toward knowledge of all sorts. Perhaps his study of different forms of communication—both spoken language and music—is one of the things that led to both his interest in and his success at investigating the paranormal.
A Family Legacy
Hans married Countess Catherine Buxhoeveden in 1962. The two divorced in 1986, but Hans stated in a 2009 interview with The Witches’ Almanac that he and Catherine were still friendly and that he looked back fondly on the time that they had spent together. They had two daughters, Nadine and Alexandra, and five grandchildren.
Hans’s daughter Alexandra continued her father’s tradition of spiritual investigation, as well as involvement with the Lutz house in Amityville. She appeared in the third installment of Shattered Hopes, a documentary film exploring the murders that took place in the house and served as a psychic consultant for the film. Alexandra has also written Growing Up Haunted, a memoir, and a science fiction trilogy called Lady Ambrosia: Secret Past Revealed. The UK’s Daily Telegraph, when printing Hans’s obituary, mentioned that he had sent his posthumous thanks for their interest through one of his daughters and Alexandra seems like the likely candidate.
Life as a Vegan
When Hans was eleven years old, he stopped eating meat; when he was forty, he adopted a completely vegan diet. At the time, such eating habits were highly unusual, and there were almost no restaurants where you could be sure you weren’t eating any animal products. It took a great deal of commitment and willpower to be vegetarian, much less vegan. Nonetheless, Hans remained a vegan from the age of forty until he died at age eighty-nine. Toward the end of his life, when he was no longer able to cook for himself, he still had his caretaker prepare vegan food for him daily.
Hans credited a lot of his good health to his diet. In a 2005 interview with GhostVillage, he said that he hadn’t even had a cold in 15 years and also that he never took prescription drugs or had any kind of injection. In fact, at eighty-four years old, he still went to bed at midnight and remained active in swing dancing.
Knowledge Conquers Fear
Hans dedicated his life to scholarship and the pursuit of knowledge. He applied a very scientific, fact-based approach to the work he did with the occult and used to say that he didn’t believe in the supernatural, only in natural laws that humanity hadn’t figured out yet. He rejected the idea of using technology, such as Geiger counters and instruments to measure cold spots, when investigating hauntings. Ghosts to him were nothing more or less than human beings, best dealt with by talking to them through a good trance medium.
Likewise, Hans didn’t believe in the devil, monsters, or other supernatural races. “There is nothing out there,” he said, “that isn’t one way or the other human.”
And, although his quest for knowledge took him to places with grisly pasts, Hans said he was never frightened. “Fear is created by not understanding something. You bring on the fear. There is no object to fear,” he said.
A Natural Storyteller
Those who knew him well got to hear many of his stories, which he always loved to tell. Sitting in a big armchair in his Manhattan apartment, he’d start a tale about his experiences, always keeping an eye on his audience to see their reactions. When he knew that something in one of his stories was going to be funny, he’d lead up to it and tease it out: he’d drop a few hints, spin off to a related subject, come back and work up to the funny part a little more, then dance around it again, drawing out the story while you waited on the edge of your seat. Then he’d drop the punch line, look you straight in the eye, and wait to see your reaction.
Hans had a great sense of timing and content, of what worked in a story and what didn’t and he could really apply that knowledge on the fly. His writing process showed it: he dictated many of his books onto tapes; he used a typewriter for his whole life even though he was writing well into the computer age and he never edited or rewrote his book. “I write it correctly the first time,” he told The Witches’ Almanac.
A Path to Happiness
Throughout his life, Hans believed that he had a very definite purpose: to investigate what most people think of as the “supernatural” and, through the entertainment industry, let the world know what he had found. He saw patterns in his career and the people he’d gotten to know that all pointed to this mission and decided early on to let those signs guide him. The path he found brought him great happiness. At 85, he said that he was doing what he loved to do and that he felt no need to retire.
Hans’s life was a rich and exciting one. He could talk for hours about all of the places he had been and the people he had met: I found it fascinating just to sit and listen to him reminisce. It would really make you envious to hear about all of his adventures and the joy he took in remembering them.
Anyone who met Hans and listened to him would be reminded of many amazing things a person could do in his or her lifetime. He had an incredibly full life and left an extremely important and enduring legacy in both the Craft and the wider world. Anyone who talked with him would think that, if they could have the kind of life he did, they would feel like they had accomplished a great deal. Certainly Hans’s accomplishments will live on with all of us.
Features contributed to The Witches' Almanac:
Sex and Psychic Awareness, The Witches’ Almanac 1978, p. 41
Wicca and Christianity -— A personal perspective, The Witches’ Almanac 2007, p. 118
Pagan Manifesto, A (from The New Pagans), The Witches’ Almanac 2017, p. 54
Ghost Hunter, Bobbs-Merrill, 1963.
Ghosts I've Met, Bobbs-Merrill, 1965.
Collectors' Guidebook to Coins: How and Why to Collect, Stories behind Famous Valuable Coins of the World, All American Denominations, Maco, 1965.
Yankee Ghosts, edited by Jennifer Adams, Bobbs-Merrill, 1966.
The Lively Ghosts of Ireland, illustrations by Catherine Buxhoeveden, Bobbs-Merrill, 1967, reprinted, Ace Books, 1982.
ESP and You, Hawthorn, 1968.
Ghosts of the Golden West, illustrations by Buxhoeveden, Bobbs-Merrill, 1968, published as Westghosts: The Psychic World of California, Swallow Press, 1980.
Predictions: Fact or Fallacy?, Hawthorn, 1968.
Psychic Investigator, Hawthorn, 1968.
Star in the East, illustrations by Buxhoeveden, Harper, 1968.
Life after Death: The Challenge and the Evidence, Bobbs-Merrill, 1969.
Psychic Photography: Threshold of a New Science, McGraw, 1969.
The Truth about Witchcraft, Doubleday, 1969.
Window to the Past: Exploring History through ESP, illustrations by Buxhoeveden, Doubleday, 1969.
Born Again: The Truth about Reincarnation, Doubleday, 1970.
Gothic Ghosts, illustrations by Buxhoeveden, Bobbs-Merrill, 1970.
The Psychic World of Bishop Pike, Crown, 1970.
Houses of Horror, Leisure Books, 1970.
Charismatics: How to Make Things Happen, Coward, 1971.
The Aquarian Age: Is There Intelligent Life on Earth?, Bobbs-Merrill, 1971.
Psycho-ecstasy: How to Awaken the Secret Powers of Your Inner Self, Nash Publishing, 1971.
The Ghosts That Walk in Washington, illustrations by Buxhoeveden, Doubleday, 1971, published as The Spirits of '76: A Psychic Inquiry into the American Revolution, Bobbs-Merrill, 1976, and White House Ghosts, Leisure Books, 1979.
The Prophets Speak: What the Leading Psychics Say about the World of Tomorrow, Bobbs-Merrill, 1971.
Hans Holzer's Haunted Houses: A Pictorial Register of the World's Most Interesting Ghost Houses, illustrations by Buxhoeveden, photographs by author, Crown, 1972.
The Handbook of Parapsychology, Nash Publishing, 1972.
Phantoms of Dixie, Bobbs-Merrill, 1972, reprinted as Hans Holzer's Dixie Ghosts: True Recent Southern Hauntings, Donning, 1990.
The New Pagans, Doubleday, 1972.
The Habsburg Curse, Doubleday, 1973.
The Power of Hypnosis: How Mind-to-Mind Communication Works, Bobbs-Merrill, 1973.
The Witchcraft Report, Ace Books, 1973.
The Vegetarian Way of Life: How Proper Foods Determine Your Outlook, Health and Fulfillment, Pyramid Publications, 1973.
Possessed!, Fawcett, 1973.
Beyond Medicine: The Facts about Unorthodox and Psychic Healing, Regnery, 1973.
The Alchemist: The Secret Magical Life of Rudolph von Habsburg, Stein & Day, 1974.
Haunted Hollywood, Bobbs-Merrill, 1974.
Patterns of Destiny: A Primer on Reincarnation, Nash Publishing, 1974.
Directory of the Occult, Regnery, 1974.
The Truth about ESP: What It Is, How It Works, and How You Develop It, Doubleday, 1974.
The Human Dynamo, Celestial Arts, 1975.
The Psychic World of Plants, Pyramid Publications, 1975.
The Great British Ghost Hunt, Bobbs-Merrill, 1975.
Astrology: What It Can Do for You, Regnery, 1975.
The Ghost Hunter's Strangest Cases, Ace Books, 1975.
Handbook of Parapsychology, Woodhill, 1975.
The Ufonauts: New Facts on Extraterrestrial Landings, Fawcett, 1976.
Psychic Detective Number One, Woodhill, 1976.
The Psychic Side of Dreams, Doubleday, 1976.
How to Cope with Problems, Pyramid Publications, 1976.
Dreams: Gateway of the Unconscious, Woodhill, 1977.
Some of My Best Friends Are Ghosts, Woodhill, 1978.
Elvis Presley Speaks (from the Beyond), Woodhill, 1978.
The Powers of the New Age, Woodhill, 1978.
Word Play (humor), illustrations by Katherine Weiderhold, Strawberry Hill, 1978.
Hidden Meanings in Dreams, Dale Books, 1979.
Star Ghosts, Nordon, 1979.
Signs of Love and Glory, Woodhill, 1979.
There Is an Afterlife: A Scientific Evaluation, Woodhill, 1979.
In Search of Ghosts, Woodhill, 1979.
Wicca: The Way of the Witches, Woodhill, 1979.
Pagans and Witches, Woodhill, 1979.
Super Seduction, Woodhill, 1979.
Psychic Healing, Woodhill, 1979.
Demonic Possession, Woodhill, 1980.
More Than One Life, Woodhill, 1980.
Inside Witchcraft, Woodhill, 1980.
Houses of Horror, Dorchester Publishing, 1982.
Best True Ghost Stories, Prentice-Hall, 1983.
The Ghost Hunt, Donning, 1983.
Where the Ghosts Are: Favorite Haunted Houses in America and the British Isles, Parker Publishing, 1984.
Life beyond Life: The Evidence for Reincarnation, Parker Publishing, 1985.
The Secret of Amityville, Leisure Books, 1985.
(Co-author) Yonghon kwaui taehwa, Soul T'ukpyolsi: Soum Ch'ulp'ansa, 1990.
Ghosts, Hauntings, and Possessions, Llewellyn, 1990.
Great American Ghost Stories, Dorset Press, 1990.
America's Haunted Houses: Public and Private, Longmeadow Press, 1991.
ESP, Witches, and UFOs, Llewellyn, 1991.
America's Mysterious Places, Longmeadow Press, 1992.
Long Before Columbus: How the Ancients Discovered America, Bear & Co. Pub., 1992.
Love Beyond the Grave: True Cases of Ghostly Lovers, Barnes & Noble Books, 1992.
The Psychic Side of Dreams, Llewellyn Publications, 1992.
America's Restless Ghosts: Photographic Evidence for Life After Death, Longmeadow Press, 1993.
Window to the Past: How Psychic Time Travel Reveals the Secrets of History, Carol Pub. Group, 1993.
Han Holzer's Haunted America, Barnes & Noble Books, 1993.
Healing Beyond Medicine: Alternative Paths to Wellness, Longmeadow Press, 1994.
Life Beyond: Compelling Evidence for Past Lives and Existence After Death, Contemporary Books, 1994.
The Directory of Psychics: How to Find, Evaluate, and Communicate with Professional Psychics and Mediums, Contemporary Books, 1995.
Prophecies: Visions of the World's Fate: Truths, Possibilities, or Fallacies?, Contemporary Books, 1995.
Real Hauntings: America's True Ghost Stories, Barnes & Noble, 1995.
The Secret of Healing: The Healing Powers of Ze'ev Kolman, Beyond Words Pub., 1995.
Where the Ghosts Are: The Ultimate Guide to Haunted Houses, Carol Pub. Group, 1995.
(Revision, Updating) 10, 000 Dreams Interpreted: A Dictionary of Dreams by Gustavus Hindman Miller, Barnes & Noble, 1995.
Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond, Black Dog & Leventhal, 1997.
Are You Psychic?: Unlocking the Power Within, Avery, 1997.
Psychic: True Paranormal Experiences, Smithmark Publishers, 1999.
The Psychic Yellow Pages: The Very Best Psychics, Card Readers, Mediums, Astrologers, and Numerologists, Carol Pub. Group, 1999.
Also author of The Primer of Reincarnation, Harper, Speed Thinking, Pinnacle Books, How to Win at Life, Pinnacle Books, An Exorcist Deals with the Possessed, Dale Books, and a catalogue, Coins of the Greek World, 1969.
The Zodiac Affairs, Universal, 1970.
Heather: Confessions of a Witch, Mason & Lipscomb, 1975.
The Clairvoyant, Mason/Charter, 1976.
The Amityville Curse, Tower Publications, 1981.
The Entry, Tower Publications, 1981.
Murder in Amityville, Dorchester Publishing, 1982.
Also author of Star of Destiny, Stein & Day, and Circle of Love, Dale Books.
RANDY KNOWLES DETECTIVE SERIES
The Red Chindvit Conspiracy, Universal, 1973.
The Alchemy Deception, Universal, 1973.
The Unicorn, Universal, 1974.
OTHER Author of screenplays, including "Heather" (based on novel Heather: Confessions of a Witch), Charles Fries Productions, "The Clairvoyant" (based on novel of same title), Sascha Films, "Murder in Amityville" (based on novel of same title), American-International Productions, "The Ufonauts" (based on book The Ufonauts: New Facts on Extraterrestrial Landings), Avco-Embassy, "Mars in the Eight House," Krypton/Elvin Feltner, "Secret World of Magick," Krypton/Elvin Feltner, and "The Amityville Curse" (based on novel of same title). Author of revues and stage productions, including "Hotel Excelsior," 1956, "A La Carte," 1958, and "Adam and Evenings," 1963. Author of bi-weekly column and feature articles for National Examiner and Midnight Globe; drama and music critic, Sporting Review, 1949-60; theatre columnist, Dance, 1952-55; former columnist for Psychic News. Contributor to periodicals, including National Enquirer, Family Weekly, Gentleman's Quarterly, Penthouse, Cosmopolitan, and Argosy.
Hans' Wikipedia entry can be found here