The original ghost hunter’s daughter

It’s not just the kids going bump in the night


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  • Alexandra Holzer with her father, Hans Holzer (Photo provided)




  • Alexandra Holzer, far right, and family, left to right, husband Chris Gargiulo, son Matthew, daughters Danielle, Nicole and Samantha. (Photo by Ginny Privitar)




By Ginny Privitar

Alexandra Holzer, intuitive investigator and ghost hunter, journalist and writer, continues her famous father’s research while juggling the everyday roles of wife and mother to four children in Chester. Her husband, Christopher Gargiulo, is the skeptic in the family, but even he admits that there’s something out there that can’t be explained.

Alexandra’s introduction to the paranormal began at her father’s knee. She said that even as a child, she saw ghosts. She is the daughter of Hans Holzer, the famous original “Ghost Hunter,” who, fifty years ago, wrote a book by the same name which is being re-released in a special anniversary edition in spring 2014. According to his daughter, Holzer brought legitimacy to the field of paranormal research. He was the first person to investigate the paranormal in the home later portrayed in the film, "The Amityville Horror," which was based on the book “The Amityville Horror: A True Story," written by Jay Anson, about a family who claimed to have been the victims of paranormal activity after moving into a house in Amityville, N.Y. that had been the scene of a horrific multiple murder a year earlier.

Holzer was a pioneer in the field of paranormal research and taught parapsychology at the New York Institute of Technology. He was a frequent guest on television; a consultant to the TV show “In Search Of,” hosted by Leonard Nimoy; guest on radio shows; and author of over 100 books on ghosts, haunted locations and the occult. He is probably best known for his non-fiction book, “Murder in Amityville,” which gave rise to the film “Amityville II: The Possession” and the novel “The Amityville Curse.” Holzer was asked to come out and investigate the site. He and medium Ethel Johnson-Myers researched the haunted house together. Holzer also researched property records and library resources and talked to local people. He made his own documentary about the case, titled, “Murder in Amityville,” produced by himself and Armstrong Marketing and Media in Manhattan.

Although he passed away in 2009, his daughter credits him with helping her, even today, to investigate paranormal cases. Alexandra, who wrote “Growing Up Haunted,” relates what life was like growing up in the family apartment in Manhattan. The house was filled with her father’s collections, including, but not limited to voodoo masks, vampire remedies, old crosses and garlic bulbs, wooden African carvings, and books and objects of the occult. Celebrities, psychics and “an assortment of other weirdos” visited often, according to his daughter. Alexandra admits her somewhat eccentric father fit a stereotype: “My father was from Vienna and spoke like Count Dracula.” Her mother is named for and related to Catherine the Great. Her maternal grandfather was a genuine count in Russia. In this mix of old world cultures, her upbringing was definitely bohemian. She adds, though, “I’m not as kooky as my father.”

“Right off the bat," Alexandra said, "with a private school background, kids did not want to come over for play dates because our Upper West Side apartment on Riverside Drive looked like a living museum or house of wax.”

Alexandra survived with her sense of humor and paranormal gifts intact. She is someone who investigates the paranormal and helps the living. She describes her family now as “a modern-day Addams Family,” saying all of them have “pale white skin and pitch-black hair.” A visit to her home showed the normal everyday family chaos with family dogs and four friendly, lively, not-quite-so-pale children: daughters Nicole, Danielle and Samantha; son Matthew; and her supportive, practical husband, Chris. She and her husband met and married in Manhattan and moved up here many years ago. When asked what life was like with his wife, husband Chris said, “It’s never a dull moment — that’s for sure. I’m somewhat skeptical of the paranormal. I have not had any experiences myself, so it’s hard for me to relate in that sense. But obviously there is definitely something to it.”

Her kids think it’s cool to have a mom with these gifts. The Gargiulo kids are strong kids, two of whom have had to deal with a medical problem. Daughters Nicole and Samantha are both type-I diabetics and are on insulin pumps. But that doesn’t stop them from leading an active life.

“Nicole, 14, is a typical teen," Alexandra said. "[She's] into singing and music, very artistic and a very good writer. Danielle, 12, is the prodigy of the family. She is a French horn player and very good at math.” She is also an artist who did the illustrations in a children’s book her mom wrote. “Samantha, 10, is very outgoing. She is also a French horn player and draws very well. Matthew is a typical eight-year old boy with a creepy sense of humor. He likes creepy computer games.”

Alexandra is a contributor to the Huffington Post and to OM Times, an online e-magazine, which bills itself as a holistic, green e-zine with a spiritual, self-growth perspective. She has appeared on TV as a commentator and is in discussion with several cable TV networks about a possible reality-based series on her family’s adventures, which will show how the paranormal intersects with the everyday world in her life. She has been described as the genuine article and feels a show with an authentic, feminine investigator’s point of view is missing from the current TV scene populated with shows like “Ghost Hunters” and “The Dead Files.”

The Hudson Valley, with its many stories of ghosts and rich historic legacy would be the perfect venue for a show portraying the family life of a mom who is also very attuned to the spirit world. There are ghosts and unquiet spirits waiting here: Revolutionary War ghosts Claudius Smith, Kitty Wint and General Henry Knox, and others, David Crawford and Cadwallader Bull, to name just a few.

For more information on Alexandra, visit www.alexandraholzer.com.




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