Written by Christina Persaud
January 26, 2023
Robert Pryor is a New Orleans resident and paranormal investigator for over seven years. Known to friends as “Oz,” Pryor has developed a knack for ghost hunting, having led countless groups of amateur ghost hunters through some of the most haunted streets in America.
I had the fortunate opportunity to take part in one of Robert Pryor’s ghost hunts (offered by the New Orleans Paranormal Society) and was bursting with questions once he agreed to let me pick his brain. I hope that you enjoy this interview, and thank you to Mr. Pryor for his insight and ongoing contributions this fascinating field.
AH: What started your interest in conducting paranormal investigations?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: I first got interested in the paranormal thanks to the first haunted location I lived at, which was an apartment in New York back in 2002. I didn’t really have much belief in the paranormal until then. I moved into this new place, but it turned out to be crazy haunted. Guests were seeing shadow figures, getting touched… I had friends who would stay over and actually see full-on apparitions, so it got pretty crazy. And so, by word of mouth, I was able to find a medium and actually sat down and had a conversation with the spirits. I was like, wow, this stuff is real? So that sparked my initial interest, but I didn’t start hardcore investigating until I moved to New Orleans in 2016.
AH: I want to dig a little deeper into the group you work with. Can you tell me a little bit more about The New Orleans Paranormal Society and the work that they do?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: Sure. There are quite a few of us that are in the group overall. There are only four of us that do the public hunts, but there’s a much greater network that we draw from when we’re actually doing investigations. Like there is the voodoo priest and psychic, Claudia Hunt, who also helps us out. For those of us that practice magic and are part of the team, her occult shop is a valuable resource. We have other resources like the shop Hands of Fate. Other primary investigators are Chris Tally and Michael Bill. So depending on what’s needed for a particular investigation, if it’s just a preliminary one, it might just be Chris and Jen that go out or me and Michael. But when it becomes a bigger thing, and we feel that there’s definitely something there and we should address it, then we would go in with a much bigger unit, and usually, we’ll bring in at least one medium with us.
AH: What drives you to continue to seek out evidence of the paranormal, especially now that you no longer live in your former apartment?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: It’s more about the discovery and the thrill of research, being involved in the unknown and trying to learn more about this phenomenon. And we’ve got better tools and things to use out in the field – cause I’m not a psychic or medium – but I work in IT in audio and video, so I’m able to bring that skill set in with the equipment that we have nowadays. What drives me is [making] discoveries in this groundbreaking field.
AH: When you go into a location with a group, what do you find is your main role? I know you’re more tech-oriented. Is this what you lean into?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: Yes. I usually handling the full spectrum cameras, setting up audio for EVP… It depends on how we’re going to tackle a particular investigation. I’ll go through and do the initial EMF sweeps, making sure all of the Wi-Fi is off and that we have a clean environment. It’s a variety of roles, but yes, I handle mostly the technical.
AH: Let’s talk a little bit about the technology side of things. What kind of methodology do you and the group use when going into a private investigation?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: The first thing we do is interview people that were involved with that particular building or home and what they’ve experienced, get any history we can find on it, and decide what are we going to collect even before we get on site. Once we get on-site, the first thing we want to do is turn off anything like Wi-Fi, power, fans, and anything that will create manmade EMF signals [so we] can get a scientific baseline reading in the house and know anything beyond it can be paranormal. Then, we start setting up cameras. We run several kinds – cameras that are night vision, full-spectrum that can shoot in any kind of light, and SLS cameras. We’ll start doing initial sweeps to see if we pick up anything. If we know of any triggers like a name or objects involved, we’ll start using that to see if we get any communication. And then, we’ll start doing spirit box sessions, EVP sessions, and [use] a whole bunch of other tools. We’ve got laser grids to track motion if something passes by. It’s a lot of technology that we bring into the field. From then on, the investigation will evolve on its own depending on the activity that we get.
AH: With private investigations, do you typically stay within New Orleans?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: We haven’t gone very far outside of New Orleans because of logistics, but also, we just haven’t really been asked to. Would we do one farther away? Sure, if we could get everyone coordinated. We don’t make a living from working with the Paranormal Society. We all make a living from our day jobs.
AH: So, the private investigations are pro bono?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: Right. When people call us for an investigation, we do those for free. The public hunts are how we fund that.
AH: From all of the investigations that you’ve done, what would you say is the wildest, coolest piece of evidence you’ve ever captured?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: That would be at the Andrew Jackson Hotel. So, we had the Andrew Jackson Hotel for 48 hours, and the only people there were staff, our team, and people who booked to ghost hunt with us for two days. I got the most amazing anomaly objects on camera. It was the first time I ever heard a disembodied voice where a spirit spoke out loud as we were going upstairs to one of the rooms in the back. We saw objects move on cue and got them on camera. It was a pretty crazy place. Unfortunately, we can’t go that in-depth when we do our public hunts, but when you have access to that entire property all night long, it’s crazy stuff.
AH: To cleanse a location, is that mostly the medium’s doing?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: No, we’ll call on the religious official of their (the client’s) choice.
AH: Are there any precautions you take during an investigation to protect yourself spiritually? Like charms, prayer, holy water?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: Yeah, we do. I have one amulet that I wear that Claudia, the voodoo priestess, made for me. I’m not overly religious in any way, so I’m happy to take whatever anyone’s gonna give me. I have a couple of other holy relics that I’ll bring along. We’ll use more voodoo-magic items like Florida Water and things like that that you’re able to put on to prevent something from attaching to you. And any one of us that is particularly religious will say prayers in whatever religion they practice, but that’s pretty much it, at least from my end. Everyone is very individual in what they do for their own preparation.
AH: So then, can things latch on when investigating?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: Yeah, they can latch on. Now, you would see that in a place that has a more aggressive, more negative haunting situation. The places we bring the public to, we know those places are safe. Nothing has ever left there. Nothing’s ever followed us. We’re quite confident everyone is safe and fine. Fortunately for me, nothing’s ever attached to me, and I’ve never brought anything home.
AH: Has anything ever attached itself to one of your teammates?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: Yes. We’ve had one of our mediums attacked with scratches down her back.
AH: Being in New Orleans with a strong voodoo presence, does it have a larger part to play in your investigations?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: It’s (New Orleans) just a very active area for a variety of reasons. Voodoo is just like any other faith. It’s not necessarily good or bad. It’s just very common here. So is Catholicism. I don’t think it has anything to do with any particular thing there, it’s just a very spiritually, magically active place for some reason. I don’t have any evidence to tell you which way or the other and why. New Orleans has been a crazy hive of murder and mayhem and tragedy for 300 years, so it’s gonna produce a bunch of ghosts.
AH: If someone was interested in conducting a paranormal investigation for the first time, what kind of advice would you give them?
Robert “Oz” Pryor: Do lots of research on the web on what it’s like for people that have gone out to do it. Do not go out on your own. See if you can find a group within your area that you can meet up with, learn [from], and get introduced to. If you want to look into your own home and start experimenting, there are simple devices you can pick up, like a basic EMF meter, an audio recorder (make sure you turn off a noise reduction), and a video camera. You can find those pretty cheaply. Definitely find a local team you can learn from and work with, so you’re not going out on your own.
To learn more about the New Orleans Paranormal Society or to book a tour, visit their website.
And while you’re in New Orleans, take a look at Hands of Fate, a store specializing in all things spiritual.