When Nick Groff was 8 years old, he fell out of a tree and into a life of fascination with the paranormal.
"It was a near-death experience," Groff says of the accident at his home in Salem, N.H.
He remembers telling his mother he loved her before blacking out and coming back to consciousness with faces surrounding him. There was no supernatural experience at the time, no "walk into the light" moment, he says. But two years later, he was home alone when he saw a ghostly black figure.
"Was it my imagination?" Groff says. "Or was it something from my accident that made me more open to that world?"
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That day, 10-year-old Nick ran out of his house to a neighbor's yard.
Now, he has made a career of being locked into scary, reportedly haunted locations for the Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures. The show and a few new endeavors have made Groff one of the marquee celebrities at this year's ScareFest horror and paranormal convention at the Lexington Convention Center.
A fascination with the paranormal has turned out to be a good career for Groff, as long as he can avoid being possessed by the "dark energy" that he considers his greatest occupational hazard.
"Dark energy scares me more than anything, because that can hurt your health; that can hurt your family," Groff says. He says he and co-stars Zak Bagans and Aaron Goodwin plan how to respond if one of them becomes possessed and "starts lashing out at the others."
He says he thinks this did happen once during an investigation, at the Moon River Brewing Co. in Savannah, Ga. He also had a frightening encounter with a ghostly woman at Linda Vista Community Hospital in East Los Angeles.
Ghost Adventures started because Groff and Bagan wanted to visit and investigate some of the nation's great haunts. That plan resulted in a documentary film that was shown on SyFy. The series started in 2008, and the premiere episode focused on Bobby Mackey's Music World in Wilder, in Northern Kentucky. It bills itself as "the most haunted nightclub in the U.S."
"It loves to torment us whenever we're there," Groff says of the club.
The crew's modus operandi is to be locked into the places they investigate to avoid any interference.
"Some locations are redundant — OK, another mental hospital," Groff says. "But there are times I still get nervous, and it's human nature to jump when you see the figure of a woman you didn't expect to see."
Besides putting himself in scary situations, at least in haunted houses, Groff has recently expanded his career to include music and publishing, both of which he will premiere at ScareFest this year.
His book Chasing Spirits: The Building the Ghost Adventures Crew, written with Jeff Belanger, comes out Tuesday, but it will be available this weekend at ScareFest.
Then Groff and his band will perform at ScareFest's first concert, on Saturday night, which will also include former Misfits member Michale Graves.
"I wanted to bring it to ScareFest, to have the book release and perform our first concert there," Groff says. "We have a lot of video cut to go with the live concert. I wanted to make it very interactive so people would feel it. We're also going to be filming the whole show.
"Like with everything, I love to go above and beyond."