Richard and Debbie Senate, the Original Ghost Hunters

Richard & Debbie Santa Barbara

Debbie and Richard Senate check out the site of a ghostly location in Santa Barbara.

Before Jason and Grant were everyone’s favorite television Ghost Hunters (SyFy) and before Zach and the gang were taking their Ghost Adventures (Travel Channel) on the road, Richard and Debbie Senate were investigating the paranormal in the Conejo Valley and Ventura County region for real. In fact, back in 1982, Richard was featured in People magazine in a piece entitled “Halloween Is for Real in Richard Senate’s College Course in Ghost Hunting,” in which he was profiled for his ghost hunting techniques and student courses.

Richard, a historian and teacher, began is life-long passion when he saw his first ghost. It was in 1978, while working on an archaeological site at the San Antionio de Padua Mission in King City, California, that Richard recalls heading to the kitchen late one evening. “I was walking in the courtyard and saw what appeared to be a monk walking ahead of me,” he said. “I figured he lived there, so I started to walk towards it when, ‘bam!’ it disappeared right before my eyes.”

Up until this moment, he says he had never believed in ghosts. “At first I thought he fell into a hole, but there was no hole.” From that moment on, he was a believer and has since devoted much of his free time to seeking out the supernatural.

In his 33 years of ghost hunting, he has seen 18 full figured apparitions and has gone on to write 23 books, many which cover the ghostly sightings in the area.

Richard’s wife, Debbie, a medium, was a student in his “Ghosts and Ghost Hunting” class at Ventura College when they met almost 30 years ago. She says initially, she didn’t event want to take the class. “I was feeling down at the time, so my girlfriend said, ‘I signed us both up for this course and you’re going whether you like it or not.’ So I did.”


Richard Senate, center, leads people on a ghost hunt.

Debbie began having psychic experiences at the age of six. She remembers playing in a park when a pleasant-looking woman came up to her and began speaking to her. “It didn’t seem paranormal at the time,” she said. “She was telling me to be careful about touching butterflies and not to damage their wings.” It was when the stranger asked the child for a hug that Debbie became frightened.

“So I thought, ‘uh, oh,’ and I stood up and began to scream at her,” she said. “My dad, who was sitting nearby, said he saw me shouting and shaking with nobody around me. As he got closer, he said he could hear the sound of sputtering, like wet electrical wiring. When he went to pick me up, he heard a loud pop.”

From then on, Debbie said she “just knew things” about people and was usually right. Her parents were supportive of her gift but told her to be careful about using it around other people. She says, for the most part, she has kept it under wraps, however, she admits to having made mistakes. “I went up to one lady, gave her a hug and told her I was going to miss her. She looked at me like, ‘what are you talking about.’ … That night, she slipped on an area rug, hit her head and [died],” said Debbie.

Since then, Debbie has assisted the police in crime cases, does readings for charitable organizations and often accompanies Richard on his ghost hunts.


CV Happening editor Susan Pascal snapped this photo at the at the Reyes Adobe during a Halloween ghost hunt in 2011. In the lower left hand corner, you can make out the smoky image of what Richard says is possibly a small child.

Though there’s been a current wave of interest in the paranormal, particularly with the rise in the number of paranormal-related television shows, websites and books, Richard said, in the beginning, he’d receive a lot of threats. “I’d get a lot of hate mail,” he said. “Many people reacted negatively to the ghost hunting.”

But the Senates have endured, having worked with some of the world’s most renowned paranormal investigators like Hans Holtzer. “But Richard is considered one of the pioneers,” said Debbie. “He says it’s because he’s outlived everyone else.”

For the Halloween season, their most popular time of year, the Senates have a slate of upcoming tours and programs (see below). Though they can’t promise a sighting, they said that participants always have a good time

For updated information about the latest information on upcoming ghost hunts, go to or

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