Well, the still active race for the para-reality show sweeps has washed a new one up on the beach – Travel Channel’s The Dead Files.

The premise is actually quite appealing – a self-professed psychic medium investigates claims of hauntings, while a retired New York detective digs into the location’s background. At the end (I guess commonly referred to now as “the reveal”), they come together (having not communicated during the entire exercise) and trade notes with the proprietor/homeowner.

The psychic in question, Amy Allan (who has been spied a number of times in various roles on ghost hunting/investigation shows – we first saw her on an early episode of A Haunting, playing herself in a re-enactment walkthrough) consistently relies on her “expertise” and “hundreds” of investigations during her walkthroughs and reveal sessions…but somehow, at least in all the episodes we’ve seen so far, seems to continually find something that she’s never seen before, or sensed before, usually playing up the fact that this case has something more evil, more uniquely dark, than all her other experiences.  She also grimaces and knots her fingers during her walkthroughs a bit like a middle-schooler unexpectedly called up to recap a previous night’s homework she didn’t bother to study. Gotta give it to the girl – she’s got the body language down.

The cop in question, Steve Di Schiavi, plays his part well, digging into home records and newspaper accounts relating the property in question. Apart from the somewhat needless and over-dramatized shots of him nodding with ominous affirmation at the information he receives during his interviews with historians and medical professionals, he seems straight-up and the real deal.

Inevitably, of course, the research sustains and affirms the impressions Amy gives out during her walkthroughs (filmed by an apparently skeptical camcorderist), and at the end of the reveal, she delivers advice (and sometimes warnings) to the behaunted.

The unspoken theme of the series is that Amy’s gifts can be validated through shoeleather research – something that medium-skeptics often (and rightly) complain is too often lacking in IR-lit ghost investigations. The problem, of course, is that Allan can’t help but over-dramatize pretty much everything, playing up the channeled sensations of violent death or the pure evil of her quarry. Demons, angryangryangry male figures, death, murder, suicide, rage…C’mon, aren’t ghosts ever there by choice, largely indifferent to the affairs of the living, in a good mood one day or a bad mood the next? For us, this is all playing up the sheer terror involved in these alleged hauntings, and that reeks of ratings.

Look…we don’t know if Amy Allan is the real thing or not. And maybe squirming and wincing and playing out channeled physical contortions is merely her way of expressing genuine psychic impressions. But the more she plays up the drama and horror-film creepiness of her investigations, the more the show comes across as a low-cost thrill ride, and the less we believe the alignment of Di Schiavi’s research with her impressions. For all the foibles of Ghost Hunters or GHI (and they ain’t perfect either), they are at least relentlessly in the moment, and the fact that some of their episodes are lethally boring suggests they are largely immune from cheap sensationalism, and merely all about evidence. (It is interesting that Allan always seems to catch the truly sinister, malevolent hauntings, and GH/GHI uniformly counsels their customers that there’s really nothing there to be afraid of. It’s also intesting to note that the Ghost Plumbers actually gather evidence of the paranormal, thin as it may be sometimes - neither Allan nor Di Schiavi ever do that. All we have is the customer’s claims of doors slamming, stuff moving, shadows, etc…and Allan’s validation that somethng is really there.)

As far as the strength of the Dead File’s premise, it relies on the fact that we are also expected to take it on faith that the whole thing isn’t pre-scripted;  but let’s be honest, we can’t hold that against either of the principals. We struggle to imagine a ghost hunting TV show that can fully and completely endorse itself free of cheating or scripted shenanigans. There is always a suspension of disbelief involved for TV shows, there has to be. For our money, The Dead Files strains it needlessly, perhaps merely because they work from a premise of actual validation of mediumship, and then play up the Holloywood.

There’s a decent story and an interview with the principals here, check it out.

We’ll continue to watch, skeptical that our concerns about its honesty can really be dispelled.  And hope that Amy Allan can actually find a ghost that’s just…a ghost.

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111 Responses to The Dead Files?

  1. Jason says:

    Ok, I see two things going on in The Dead Files; one thing is that they, or ‘she’, Amy, is using classic improv techniques. Improv is essentially the ability to write and act a scene at the same time. You see her doing things, like repeating herself and making whimpering/whining noises, that is to eliminate dead air, until she comes up with the next line.

    The other thing, that I can’t prove, but it seems to apply in principal, is that she used John Edwards type technique, called Cold Reading. She may not have talked to Steve, but that’s an intentional misdirection(as is the “removal” of personal effects in the house), because she is likely allowed to ask general questions, she comes to obvious conclusions that we all would have reached, were we given the same info. For instance. if she were allowed to ask “Have you experienced anything?” The person might tell her “Yeah, I saw a woman in white, with dark hair(you know, the old cliché)” Then she might be told that SOMEONE hanged themselves, somewhere in the house. Now, she get’s to pick the room it likely happened in and she’s going to “See a woman in white and she’s VERY angry, very angry, she hates you, she wants you out.” Since it’s the only part we see and because of the misdirection’s, we think it uncanny and amazing! “Wow! Amy is the real deal!” Nope…nope… it’s magic and acting, folks.

    Don’t take me wrong, I’m a believer. I have seen my fair share of apparitions, but I would rather call BS on the thousands of fakes and be counted as one of them, rather than have people get taken as fools by these charlatans.

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  4. Courtney says:

    The Dead Files actually filmed my Aunt’s house in Florida. The episode will air in the Fall of 2016. From what I hear, they implore you to speak nothing but the truth, and even then- to be cautious with your words and to not sensationalize your experiences. They are 100% not scripted.
    Amy has got a solid respect for the dead and cares, maybe too much, about the living that she helps. She is the real deal… Of that, I am sure. And I’m a Bible Scholar!!

  5. april says:

    I have to laugh at people saying A Haunting is Hollywood entertainment. A Haunting is made by a tiny ….and I mean tiny film company in Suffolk. VA…more known for being the home of Planters Peanuts than anything else. The locations (houses) used in the show belong to local residents, mine was used in the episode The Forgotten. Not Hollywood at all and certainly nothing someone would seek out as a huge acting job.

  6. Enjoyed the article. You all should listen to the Paraskeptix Podcast!

  7. jack says:

    Ghost Adventures is pathetic. How could anyone take Zak Bagens seriously with those stupid glasses he wears? He and his frat boys make faces and gasp at fake noises and it’s not even amusing anymore. On the other hand, the Dead Files maybe the real deal. Steve is actually a retired NY homicide detective and Amy has that goth look going on. I don’t think Steve would be involved in this show if Amy was a fraud.

  8. Lisa says:

    I can totally beleive these paranormal shows yeah maybe they’re dramatic at times but I’m sure what they experience is exciting and unsettling. Having had my own paranormal experience in broad daylight in the company of others we were watching a movie and for no reason at all something came through the living room moved the picture hanging above the tv and I watched feet only walk up the stairs it’s unexplainable and ridiculous but it happened. I’ve seen spirits of family also seemingly watching over me. So while to those who’ve never had a paranormal experience it all seems a bit far fetched I believe there are things happen beyond our realm an comprehension!

  9. Trisha says:

    I have seriou doubts about any television show that’s all about ratings and notirioty (yes, you Zak Bagans, the lead investigator and creator of Ghost Adventures) and all the copycat shows, and re-creation shows (Paranormal Survivor). But, I have to say that I truly believe The Dead Files’s Amy Allen is the real deal and this is why-
    1. She is very respected (and has been used in dozens of cold cases) by police departments throughout the United States. She has used her gift to solve years, and even decade long cold cases.

    2. I am a sensitive (not a psychic medium). Buy,I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, Amy is the real deal. When she reacts to energy, she responds to it the same eay as me.,Even though she has stronger psychic abilities as me she reacts almost exactly like me, and for the record; I have never met, spoken to or corresponded with Amy in any way. Not ever.

    3. Steve DeShaw – Retired Police Officer – 99.99% of police officers do not believe in the supernatural. For a respected, NYODv retired police officer to believe Amy Steve must have witnessed some pretty incredible evidence that seems to have made him a believer. I am sure he has seen and interim at plenty of liars, frauds and cheats as a PO. When I watch his reactions during Amy’s unveiling sits down with s client after her walk-through – well, nobody can act that good.
    4. Her knowledge – I know how a fake (aka Sylvia Broen) works. Amy never predicts the future, solves mysteries or any other hocus locus. She does give advice regarding remedies and let’s a client know what she thinks will work. But never promises anything. For this reason she deserves more credibility.
    5. Follow up- the team follows up on whether or not a client took Amy’s advice and what the outcome was. That’s what cops do and that’s what a true psychic medium does if they are worth a grain of salt.
    6. She hates paranormal groups (Ghost Hunters, etc.) and she should. They are not helping anyone, dead or alive. If you get a rush by “hunting” ghosts get help! Why would anyone want to hunt a spirit, find evidence and then not help it go roward The Light? It’s a sick joke. They don’t need Ghostbusters, they need salvation. Amy doesn’t just help homeowners, she helps the dead too.
    7. (I had to add a number seven because of my superstition about the number six. So, I leave you with this tidbit… She has cats. Lots of cats. Cats have been known to have psychic abilities since The Egyptians. The Egyptians reversed cats as sacred animals who came from their Gods.
    If ANYONE ever tells you that they can help you financially, or with your love life, or how long you are going to live RUN! Run as fast as you can and never look back. Any true, God loving psychic knows this goes against God’s will. You know, like a certain show (GHOST ASYLUM) that thinks it’s cool to build a ghost trap then blow it up. It sickens my stomach. If viewers truly understood the pain, sadness, loneliness and mistreatment these souls were dealt in life, why in the world would anyone want them to hunted and trapped like s wild animal in death? I find it sickening.
    So, go ahead and watch The Dead Files knowing that this is one of the very few (VERY FEW!) shows that Amy and Strve are doing incredibly loving acts for all parties. She tries her darnedest to rid any demonic entities by using the right spiritual people and tells people what they don’t want to hear. Sadly, she has to tell a family that they need to get out, find a new home and never look back.

  10. Bandot says:

    In 2004, psychic Sylvia Browne went on national television and told Amanda Berry’s mother that her daughter was dead. Now that Berry has turned up alive after 10 years in captivity, Browne is facing calls to stop offering her services to victims’ families and detectives. Are psychics ever actually useful in missing persons investigations?

    No. Academics have repeatedly tested the abilities of psychics to provide any useful information in a crime investigation, and the results are damning. A British study published in 1996, for example, pitted self-proclaimed psychics against undergraduate psychology students. Each participant was handed an item that was involved in a solved crime, such as a scarf or a shoe, and the subjects simply uttered whatever notions popped into their minds. They were also given a list of statements about the crimes, only some of which were true. The psychics were no better than the students at making predictions, and neither group performed better than chance. Those results have been replicated in dozens of studies.

    There’s one finding that comes up in nearly all of the studies: Psychics make lots of predictions, far more predictions than the control groups. That’s no coincidence. After the facts of the test cases are revealed, the psychics typically ignore their inaccurate predictions and emphasize their more relevant guesses. The more predictions you make, the more likely you are to get a random hit. But, taken as a whole, psychics’ visions are true just as often as anyone else’s.

    While not especially good at making predictions, psychics are typically quite skilled at self-promotion. At the conclusion of the 1996 study in England, the psychics gave themselves high marks, even though they fared no better than the students, who admitted their performance was poor. Weeks later, one of the psychics told a television interviewer that the researchers were stunned by his psychic powers—an utter distortion of the results. Many psychics are quick to advertise any tenuous connection to the more legitimate world of academia. They usually selectively report their performance or totally fabricate the results.

    Why do police consult psychics, then? In fact, the use of psychics in official investigations is much rarer than media coverage might suggest. (A Google News search for “police psychic” returns 16,000 results in the past 10 years.) Many police departments prohibit psychic consultations altogether. Those that allow the use of psychics often do so only when the victims’ family requests a consultation. Detectives might also call in a psychic to unnerve a suspect: If they know he’s superstitious himself, the mere mention of a psychic during questioning might cause him to confess.

    There are a few detectives, however, who really believe in the abilities of psychics, or at least a particular psychic. Profilers seem to have an affinity for psychics, perhaps because they feel there’s an element of mysticism about their own profession. Former FBI profiler Robert Ressler is largely responsible for the fame of psychic Noreen Renier. He claims she predicted Ronald Reagan would be shot in 1981, convincing him of her abilities.* Ressler farmed Renier out to other law enforcement agencies and arranged for her to speak at FBI headquarters.

  11. admin says:

    I’ll add some additional comments a little later, but I do want to point out that Sylvia Browne passed away two and a half years ago.

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