John Tenney 

Bizarre Expert

John Tenney
Bizarre Expert

If the average paranormal investigator had a resume half as interesting as John E.L. Tenney’s, there would undoubtedly be more articles of this type — and paranormal investigation itself would get a welcome boost in a withered arm. As it is, we’ll merely sum up a curriculum vitae with such tidbits as: born and raised in Royal Oak, schooling at Oakland U and Wayne State, proprietor of a Japanese toy store in the mid-'90s, active member of several local bands, an ordained minister, a 2001 mayoral candidate in his home town, the published author of numerous columns and articles and a senior advertising designer at HOUR Detroit.

At some point during this odyssey of self-discovery, Tenney also became a genuine polymath — a Renaissance man whose eclecticism and open-mindedness have gained him a broad degree of recognition and respect. He founded Weird Lectures?! as a public forum for his findings and his October gatherings have since become a seasonal event.

We caught up with Tenney recently and broadsided him with a few queries about “the paranatural.”

When did you reach a point where you felt assured enough to deliver lectures?
I’ve always felt comfortable speaking to people about unusual topics. Since I’m discussing areas of interest where it’s impossible to “know” everything (ghosts, UFOs, conspiracy theories) it allows me a certain freedom that most people don’t have when they are discussing their field of specialty. My lectures also tend to become a semi-controlled discussion with the crowd since I allow people to interject whenever they have something to say. The audience is just as integral a part of the lecture as I am.

Are the paranormal vibes stronger in Detroit than elsewhere?
Every city has its folklore, Detroit is no different. Since so many people are constantly moving to and from Detroit, it’s hard to build up a useful history of anomalous happenings.

People now acknowledge you respectfully as a legitimate authority on these topics. Has that changed your personal life? Has it played havoc with other things — say, political aspirations?
I’ve never denied or disassociated myself from my interest in heterdoxical concepts. When I ran for Mayor of Royal Oak in 2001, some of my opponents tried to make an issue out of my research but it backfired in that newspapers and organizations wanted to write about what I did, which actually gave me more press. I still think about running for public office, but I don’t think I will anytime soon, I just don’t have the time right now. My personal life and the people in it are just as weird as the topics I discuss. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Have you personally ever experienced a haunting, etc?
Over the past 15 years, I’ve been in hundreds of “haunted houses” and “haunted cemeteries” and have been witness to maybe 10 to 15 “unexplainable" events. Personally, I know that when I experience a situation (ghost, UFO) that so radically alters my perception of reality, my mind does everything it can to explain it as something other than it is. If these things do exist, in the manner that we tend to believe, the ramifications they have on human existence is mind-blowing.  | RDW

John Tenney • 10/26 • Barnes & Noble, Ann Arbor • 10/27 • Royal Oak Public Library
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