MUPLUS+   Join Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions! Subscribe Today! LEARN MORE  


Advertise here now!


Making it Look Good: Television and the Paranormal

A good friend of mine, Javier Ortega, recently featured an article at his website Ghost Theory that discusses fakery going on in the world of televised paranormal reality dramas.

The show in question in Javier’s article, Paranormal State, has come under scrutiny based on a letter from a former client of the team featured on the program, who asserts that one individual “play acted at being psychic” on camera. “He was given every bit of information regarding our case,” the letter reads, “and the identity of the ghost of the past-previous owner of our home who died 28 years before we bought our Gold Beach, Oregon home.”

I have heard a variety of stories along these lines that allege fakery on the set of such television programs, but this certainly doesn’t mean that all shows dealing with supernatural themes are bogus. But how is one expected to know the difference?

Just earlier this week, my colleagues with the L.E.M.U.R. team and I were featured on a new National Geographic program called Paranatural which, I’m proud to say, was by far one of the best presentations we’ve been a part of in the eight years I’ve worked with them. The name National Geographic, both in the television industry and elsewhere, is recognized for being associated with a high quality product that strives never to be overtly credulous. That said, I can attest to the professionalism exhibited by the film crew I worked with; the most we were ever given so far as instruction from our producers (who were genuinely interested in the subject matter, and have maintained contact with us since the initial shoot) was “make it look good for the camera.” I don’t feel in any way that this led to any false impressions being construed to the viewing audience, and overall, I was very happy with the shoot.

So one must ask, why would one program adhere to a stricter regiment of accuracy and honest integrity, while others may not? I think the answer is pretty simple: television, no matter what the content, is always meant to be entertainment.

I know from being involved in regular, very involved research of the supernatural for the last decade that seldom, if ever, do first hand encounters and experiences with unseen forces or otherwise strange phenomena occur. Still, I’ve been lucky enough to have brushes in my life with things I’d deem strange, but my relative lack of interaction with strange phenomena has instilled in me a far more skeptical approach to studying the natural world. This, however, is not a bad thing, in my opinion.

If anything, taking a more skeptical approach to my pursuit of the unexplained has allowed me to rationalize the oddities of this world enough that I feel more justified when I do encounter something truly inexplicable. One might even say that by keeping my hopes down, so to speak, I’m all the more amazed when something credible pops up!

However, those who I call “pseudo skeptics” (i.e. the James Randis of the world) will use things like the recent admission featured in Javier Ortega’s article as fodder for lambasting all research of the unexplained, citing it as evidence of charlatanism which, no doubt, might be traced all the way back to the nineteenth century spiritualists (and earlier). It’s very easy to create a peripheral argument like this, citing one moment of weakness occurring on a television program intended to entertain as “almighty proof” that nothing exists beyond our five senses worthy of wasting time and money on. This is sad, of course, because the most revolutionary research that strives to unravel the mysteries of the universe around us gets prime-time television spots far less often than the rank sensationalism that, in many cases, has less truth and integrity behind it.

Therefore, I simply say, if it’s on TV, take it with a grain of salt and be done with it! Credible news sources around the world provide commentary and insight into strange happenings and fringe science every day, and to be honest, I’d rather read twelve of those for ever one television show you could force me to watch, no matter what the content may be.

 TAGS: , ,

  • Spookchild

    I used to be a big fan of these shows when they first came out. I was happy to see people really trying to find answers without sensationalizing the issue. But as the “pioneers” became wildly popular, paving the way for more and more of these shows to flood the market, it seemed as if the pressure to have something dramatic to show on each episode, and to compete with all the other shows out there, “paranormal occurrences” were becoming increasingly dramatic and “TV-worthy”. I began to doubt the authenticity of most of what I was seeing. A lot of it was downright ridiculous. I still believe in ghosts and EVPs, and I believe some interesting things can appear on film that cannot be explained away, but I do not believe that these shows are the best places to see honest examples of this phenomena any more. It's a shame, really.

  • SgtRon

    I enjoy the shows but being a 20 year vet of the military and in the OPS world. One thing blows me away and no one has thought of this. Why would a highly intelligent alien species come to earth and only deal with the US government and or military,I.E. doing all this crap that is about the stargate etc? They would be the first to realize that the US is ran by the worlds biggest idiots with corruption, lies, and you get elected by wealth not intelligence ( the golden rule, those with the gold rule). They cannot balance a budget, or stay within the rights of the people, and their way of welcoming these aliens would be taxing them then providing an intern under every desk for their “Oral Office” ! The non intelligent species on this planet want to kill off the US leaders just imagine what a far superior group would do.
    I laugh everytime I hear about the Government is behind all this stuff. Thy wish they knew what most people know. We would see the same stuff as everyone else and have no idea and had no Men in black or secret agents come threaten us. We were the “Operations Guys”
    I will admit we did play with the population from time to time with aircraft or a new product we were trying out and allot of people would freak out and call the news. hahahahaha
    Hey great show! I love it. you guys are the best ! remember this about government

    POLITICS = POLY- means many TICS – are blood sucking creatures

  • Tikki

    Great article!

    I've seen many episodes of Paranormal State, and was quite interested in that article. Paranormal State (much like other shows about the Paranormal), rely mostly on entertainment value, and the publics misinformed knowledge of science. Whether PS is staged, edited to make better TV, or is the truth, I think this genre of TV will ALWAYS be questionable- regardless, I'll still love it!

    Unfortunately, this TV often gives the public/skeptics a misinformed idea of the paranormal science.

    On a side note…my major beef with shows like Ghost Hunters and Destination Truth (which is awesome), is that they should NOT be filming the people/hosts but what they are seeing!! stop with these strap on cameras that gives us a face view of the people…if it were me, I would totally have camera glasses- yes, I said it! All these shows, people are seeing things, and I want to see them! If they were wearing camera glasses…we would! S'all I'm saying. These ghost hunters show rock the camera glasses.

  • Debbie

    I read the “rant” from Kelli Ryan. It sounded more like someone who wanted their 15 minutes of fame and failed. She claims PRS is nothing but fakes, then why did she contact a TV SHOW to “help” her with the “evil” spirit. She CLAIMS she is some big psychic, and as she puts it, a “medical hypnotherapist” in which this position is a term she made up. She also tries to “brag” about being in a Who’s Who, which MOST know ANYONE can be in and they send in their OWN information. (BTW she lists herself as a ballerina) Anyone who watches these shows know it’s for entertainment. Yes, sometimes paranormal activity happens. PRS, unlike other shows, try to take the clients at their word. Kelli’s letter (book length rant)  alone shows the REAL fraud. There have even been PRS episodes where they realize the client has psychological issues and even PAY for the psychologist to come.
    This is the ONLY item that has been written by a client making these claims against PRS. Why is this? It’s bad enough someone who PRS attempted to help did this. What’s worse is supposed “paranormal” sites like this one and Javier Ortega’s site Ghost Theory attack others that attempt to understand paranormal activities.
    It’s sites like this and Ghost Theory that give interest in the paranormal a black eye. The jealousy is showing loud and clear. It’s not only the “big psychic” Kelli, but this site and Javier’s too. I’ve looked all over the PRS site and I have YET to see ONE negative word about ANY other paranormal site.
    Why didn’t Kelli contact you or Javier? Why a TV show? She must have wanted the appearance fee she received from A&E.
    I’m still wondering why her “spirit guide” didn’t want her to pass on the message her ghost “Bill” wanted.She didn’t have to worry, not everyone in that town “loved” her as she claimed.
    And for the record, this is the reason Ryan Buell broke his contract with A&E. Ryan wanted to help others where A&E wanted sensational television. Ryan and the team just wouldn’t do it. Get your facts straight before attempting to slander.
    And “professional” jealousy has no place in this field. A group of college kids got together to try to help. A television show came along and said we’ll pay for everything if we can film. Of course they joined up. They have my respect when they walked away instead of sensationalizing, unlike some other shows. Have a business you need air time for? Just call Ghost Hunters. Who DOES NOT get respect is websites who slander and berate others in the same field.