Dan Aykroyd channels his real-life love of the supernatural in new series Hotel Paranormal
'I think we can accept ... that the invisible world is real,' says Ghostbusters star
Dan Aykroyd is likely one of the most familiar faces when it comes to dealings with the paranormal. His role as Ray Stantz in the 1984 classic Ghostbusters ranks among his most-loved character portrayals.
But for Aykroyd, his interest in the supernatural is no mere act.
"I think we can accept — or maybe half the world can accept — that the invisible world is real. It's real. And interest in it is very genuine, and has the backing of science over time," he told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.
Aykroyd narrates Hotel Paranormal, a new series that debuts this week on T+E TV that dramatizes the stories of people who say they were visited by ghosts, or had a supernatural experience, while visiting hotels and motels around the world.
"I believe these people. I do. And I've seen the evidence on video. And I just hear their testimony and go, there's something going on here ... that's not false."
He says he was convinced to join the show because of the "compassionate" way it presented the stories and the people who shared them.
"The trauma that people go through in some of these incidents is quite shocking, and it stays with them. And sometimes, religious intervention is needed or psychiatric or psychological intervention," he said.
A family history of ghosts
Aykroyd conceived Ghostbusters out of his own love for the supernatural — something he's been fascinated by from childhood. And that interest has run in the family for several generations.
"My great-grandfather, Sam Aykroyd, was a dentist in Kingston, [Ont.,] and he was a part of this spiritualist community … where we believe — and I guess it's my religion — that you can speak from the other side — that the consciousness survives," he said.
Aykroyd says his mother told him stories about how his great-grandfather hosted large gatherings at their family farmhouse in the 1920s and '30s to hold seances.
"My great-grandfather would be the impresario. We had a medium named Walter Ashhurst here. He was a local motor mechanic from Kingston who walked up to my great-grandfather one day and said: 'I think I have a gift to reach the other side.' And it was entertainment every Sunday," he recalled.
Aykroyd's father published a book called History of Ghosts based on Sam Aykroyd's papers, an exhaustive study of mediums and the spiritualism movement.
Aykroyd even continued the family tradition by enlisting the aid of a medium to contact the spirit of his late friend and Blues Brothers co-star John Belushi.
"I had a medium work with his spirit to cross him over. And you know, that medium said: 'What does the word Nunya mean to you?' [I said,] 'Nunya? I don't know what that means,'" he recalled.
Jim Belushi, brother of John, told Aykroyd that "Nunya" was the name his late brother called his grandmother.
"So John spoke through his medium to me, to make sure that I knew that he'd gone across," Aykroyd said.
Entertainment value first
Beyond Hotel Paranormal, Aykroyd is set to return to the Ghostbusters world in the upcoming sequel, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, along with fellow co-stars Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver.
Originally slated to hit theatres this July, its theatrical release has been pushed back to next March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite this deep connection with the subject matter, however, Aykroyd says he approaches works like Afterlife and Hotel Paranormal as an entertainer, first and foremost.
"To me, it's immensely entertaining is what it is," he said.
"And then boy, what if there is a possibility that voices from beyond, those we've loved, can reach back and help us in this lifetime now? And God knows, we need it at this moment in history."
Written by Jonathan Ore. Interview produced by Pedro Sanchez.
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