It wasn’t mournful howling or swirling mists that convinced Chad Calek. Instead, it was the knocking. Not polite knocking like the rap-rap-rap of an old-time séance – but a fierce throbbing, like a heartbeat welling up from the bowels of the house, chasing him to his brother’s room and then down the stairs.
That was the thing that convinced him, the moment he came to believe.
Almost three decades later, Calek has made a career out of documenting ghost sightings on film – and then touring the country to show off his footage, like a paranormal P.T. Barnum of the digital age.
So when the 41-year-old visits the House of Blues Saturday, he’ll be bringing a ghost with him – or at least what he says is proof of one.
An Alvin native, Calek is breezing through the Bayou City to show off his latest work, “Sir Noface,” a film he says features footage of a full-body apparition captured on camera in an abandoned Australian naval base and prison.
Though his latest footage hails from half a spin around the globe, Calek’s own ghost story starts much closer to home.
As a kid, Calek was raised an atheist and a skeptic in a family full of them. But then in 1986, his father was badly burned in an industrial accident at a now-defunct Alvin concrete company when stray sparks from nearby welding work flew into an oil drum, sparking explosive flames.
“He was not supposed to live,” Calek said. “We said our goodbyes to him several times. We were told he wasn’t gonna make it.”
But he did.
Calek was only 10 at the time, but he clearly saw the change in his family.
During his long, halting recovery, Calek’s father – once a devout skeptic – began speaking of new spiritual, almost supernatural connections with his wife.
“He claimed he could literally feel her touch healing him,” Calek said. “Not metaphysically. But literally.”
Still, Calek himself wasn’t a believer, not yet.
The fire left heavy scar tissue all over Calek’s father’s body, a condition that raised the risk of heat stroke and forced the family to relocate to cooler climes. So the Caleks decided to move to Persia, Iowa. Population: 363.
And the first step? Finding a new home.
“My parents had heard of this house that looked too good to be true,” Calek said. “And I remember pulling up and I didn’t want anything to do with it. It just felt unwelcoming.”
Just like in the movies, the problems didn’t start until after they moved in.
“I hate to tell this story because it sounds so effing crazy,” Calek said, before relating that at first, it was just his parents who witnessed the weirdness. Flying objects. Spontaneous fires. Signs of possession.
“To be completely honest, I thought they were crazy,” Calek said. But then, as the walls started pulsating around him one night, he ran downstairs to safety and saw his mother speaking in a gravelly voice – “almost like Cookie Monster” – and his father reading scripture. His mother was violent, and seemed far away.
“She would eventually come out of this and had no memory of it,” Calek said. “I remember thinking, ‘There’s no way I can tell anybody this, they’re gonna think I’m crazy.’ I knew it was earth-shattering, I knew it would alter me forever.”
His family wanted to seek help from the Catholic Church – but found out that first they needed documented proof of the paranormal. So Calek, then in his early teens, went hunting for evidence – and a ghost hunter was born.
He left the spooky house when he ventured off to college at 18, but his parents stayed another couple years before finally seeking out a haunt-free living space.
For more than a decade, Calek pursued a career in filmmaking and kept his ghost-hunting activities to a hobby. But eventually he grew tired of directing music videos and decided to make a movie documenting paranormal encounters. One thing led to another and a film spurred a TV series (“The Ghost Prophecies” on A&E) and more films. Later came the speaking events and cross-country movie tours, including the current one for “Sir Noface.”
The film chronicles ongoing investigations into the paranormal phenomena at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbor. Though it won’t be available for download until sometime next year, “Sir Noface” made its debut in Austin on Wednesday. This weekend the tour stops in Houston at the House of Blues.
His own best hype man, the Los Angeles-based Calek offered a hefty promise for fans: “The ‘Sir Noface’ documentary will blow your mind.”