Sen. Lora Reinbold was loaded for bear when Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s ghost-hunting pick for the Violent Crimes Compensation Board appeared in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Wednesday.
John Francis, who the Anchorage Daily News described as “a small-business owner, redeemed burglar and ghost hunter,” faced a withering barrage fielded by the tough-on-crime Eagle River senator during a roughly 25-minute confirmation hearing. He participated over the phone.
“I just have several concerns,” Reinbold said. “First of all, can you state if you’ve had any paranormal experiences, I found several things on you—an ADN (story), all over the place—and that’s a red flag.”
Francis, who owns a computer repair business in Wasilla, told the same story outlined in the ADN article.
“I did have an experience when I was in the Coast Guard in 1982 … when a man died in my hands and it’s a very personal experience to have someone die on you and it changed my life forever,” he said. “One of the things my wife and I started to do about 10-15 years ago was we created a small business that investigated paranormal places like graveyards. We weren’t one of those crazy goofs you see on TV.”
Noting all the specialized equipment they use to do things like record voices, Francis added “We had some decent results like that, we’ve been on TV.”
Reinbold was not impressed by any of it and after some questioning, she dug in even more.
“This to me is very serious because this is part of the Violent Crimes Compensation Board. I want to know: Do you believe you can talk to the dead? Do you see spirits? I’m trying to get information, or do you believe because you used investigations you can sort out the truth,” she said. “This has been brought to me by multiple constituents, multiple people are very, very concerned about this. If it’s just for fun and all make-believe, tell me that. If you’re serious and there’s an investigative process and you believe this is real, I want to know that.”
Francis went into a lengthy explanation of his ghost-hunting activities, again failing to convince Reinbold.
“Do you believe in paranormal activities?” she said. “And if so, can you describe what they are?”
“I believe there is a Jesus Christ,” he said, “and I believe he did rise from the dead.”
There was a long moment before anyone responded as committee chair Sen. Shelley Hughes attempted to get things under control and the line of paranormal questioning wrapped up. Reinbold summed up her closing comment on the appointment as follows:
“This is the Violent Crimes Compensation Board … and I think this is the wrong board for you,” she said. “I will make it very clear: I will be a no vote.”
The Violent Crimes Compensation Board is set up to review claims by victims of violent crimes under a 1972 law that allows people to apply for funding to help them cope with the impacts of the offense—covering such expenses as relocation, medical costs, lost wages and transportation. Those funds can come directly from the offender but are in large part funded by the dividends those offenders are no longer eligible to receive.
The questions about his ghost hunting were not the only questions Francis faced on Wednesday. He also was asked about his prior convictions in the 1980s for burglary and insurance fraud.
“When I was late in high school, I got involved with the wrong people,” Francis said. “It was the worst time of my life.”
He said there was no violent element of the crimes but acknowledged the insurance fraud.
“I had some stuff stored at my house for a friend and he arranged to have it stolen while I was at work,” he said. “And we filed an insurance claim on it.”
He did say that since moving to Alaska he has been a victim of burglary himself.