By Daniel Silliman
By day, William Lester works a normal job.
He drives from his Jonesboro home to an Atlanta office. He goes through stacks of things to do. He answers the phone. He gets a cup of cold water out of the big, blue water cooler in the break room.
At night, though, he becomes Dr. William A. Lester, Jr., Esq., and he turns to the paranormal. Looking into shadowy things, unexplained phenomena and long-running mysteries, Lester researches the paranormal and publishes a quarterly magazine called "Shadow Zone."
It's a small, special-interest publication, specializing in the "strange and bizarre," printing articles on UFOs, ghosts, demons, monsters, and conspiracies.
Speaking from his office, with the door closed and the staff told he had a "really important phone call," Lester said the quarterly publication was "just something that I do for a really small fan base."
There's a segment of the American population fascinated by the rumors, reports and legends of things that only come out at night, that are only heard of in the shadowed edges of accepted knowledge. Lester writes for these people.
Lester is one of these people, one of the ones who talks about ghosts even when it isn't nearing Halloween. One of those people who believes in ghosts -- and aliens, big foot, demons, the walking dead, and other paranormal creatures.
"Think about it," Lester said. "There was a time in history when man feared the changing of the weather, because they just didn't understand it. I think the fear comes from the unknown. There's just so much that we don't know, and typically, historically, what we don't understand we shroud in fear. One thousand years from now, no one will think twice about what a ghost is, because maybe at that point we will fully understand."
As the publisher of "Shadow Zone" and a slew of books on paranormal subjects, as a researcher and the founding professor of the American Institute of Metaphysics, Lester is working toward that understanding.
"My big objective is just to be a truth-seeker," he said. "Is there life after death? Are we alone in the universe? Those are some of the most important questions we can ask. Those questions are up there on the list."
Those questions are questions that Lester has been asking since he was a child. Growing up in the Atlanta area, the son of two school teachers, he spent a lot of time watching TV shows like "The Twilight Zone," and "The Outer Limits." He learned to read with a book about cryptozoology's monsters -- Sasquatch, Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster -- which he now calls "my Dick and Jane book for the paranormal." He loved Halloween and he spent a lot of time listening to his grandmother tell ghost stories.
"She would always swear up and down that it was true, and of course, when grandma tells you something, it must be true," he said. "So all that kind of swirled together in a soup. It became a part of my reality, that this stuff is real. I never had a problem accepting the reality of ghosts, and UFOs, and monsters and these other things."
Though the subjects are marginalized and paranormal writings relegated to the Internet, micro-magazines, unaccredited institutes and a few, late-night radio programs, Lester believes there's an increasing acceptance for paranormal ideas.
"If you slow people down, I've found that, almost without exception, they're very interested in one or more of these things," he said. "We all kind of know that this stuff is for real, but we have to live our lives. We all know that the government has not told us the truth on a number of things, but we've got to pick up the kids, and we've got to watch the game and continue with our lives. [But] for me, the bottom line is, what is the truth?"
As he looks at new Internet photos, purportedly capturing Big Foot, reads recently released government documents, interviews people who claim to have seen ghosts, and researches the possible connection between UFO information and the John F. Kennedy assassination, he is continuing that truth-seeking quest.
"Ex mysterium, scientia," he said. "From the mysteries, knowledge."