Individual/Group Mentoring Available — Custom Group Classes, too.

Just thought to post that besides the regular courses I offer through HCH Institute and the Rhine Education Center (part of the Rhine Research Center), I am also available for the following:

Mentoring/Coaching: Investigators: For individuals or even groups, I am available to help you with furthering your understanding of the paranormal and Parapsychology, to bring your field investigations to the next level, and to be clear on how you should best deal with evidence and your clients.

Mentoring/Coaching: Psychics, Mediums and Sensitives: I have been working with several psychics, mediums and fledgling sensitives for some time helping them find their strengths, further develop their control (of their abilities), and consider ethical and business issues when dealing with clients both for readings and for investigations.

Custom Group Classes: I am happy to create specific seminars and classes for groups, whether in the Bay Area or beyond — pretty much anywhere in the country. These can be delivered in a couple of distance formats, or if you have enough people to warrant it, I can come to you.

Free consultation on Education: Feel free to contact me with questions on furthering your education in the paranormal and Parapsychology. While naturally I’d love to work with you, I can also point you to others in my field, as well as to resources and organizations that will help with educating yourself — some free!

Contact me : Loyd Auerbach, profparanormal@gmail.com or 415-249-9275

 

Ghost Hunting / Advanced Ghost Hunting Courses

This week, I’m starting up the four week “Ghost Hunting: How to Investigate the Paranormal” course. Offered live in the Bay Area and via telephone for people anywhere in the US and Canada, with supporting text, audio, video and more (mailed to you on a disk or available for download), the course is offered by HCH Institute in Lafayette, California, for four Thursdays starting April 10, from 6:30-9:30 PM Pacific time.

If you’re not local to HCH, you can take the course by phone live or listen to the class recordings. Distance students also get some one on one time with me (Loyd Auerbach) via phone or Skype.

Also offered in distance format only right now is a second level, Advanced Ghost Hunting course.

Here are the descriptions of the two courses. If interested, contact me at profparanormal@gmail.com or call the Office of Paranormal Investigations at 415-249-9275.

GHOST HUNTING: $200.00 ($100 for materials alone, which include past recording of the class in mp3): This class is offered by one of the acknowledged leading experts in the field of Parapsychology, Loyd Auerbach.  The course will provide attendees with the skills and understanding for investigation of ghosts, poltergeists, haunted places and related psychic experiences.  The class will include the models of what these things are (from the field of parapsychology), how the scientific and psychic approaches can mesh together, and how to assess a situation, investigate it, and resolve the case to the satisfaction of the people having the experiences (and hopefully to the satisfaction of the ghosts).

Based on the field of Parapsychology’s 130+ year experience with such investigations, the class will cover: Apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists: differences and similarities;           What else can make a “ghost”; The investigative process, from initial call to resolution; Technology & Psychics in ghost hunting; How the techniques of the professionals differ from those of the amateurs and hobbyists (and TV ghost folks); The ethics of paranormal investigating and legal issues that can be involved.

Also important: the deep (and necessary) connections between apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists and other psychic experiences and abilities, and why a ghost hunter or paranormal investigator needs an understanding of the findings of Parapsychology in order to both conduct a thorough investigation and come to at least a range of reasonable conclusions – and to understand the “why” of the phenomena.

ADVANCED GHOST HUNTING: $250 which includes 2 hours of one on one phone/Skype time with Loyd Auerbach (materials alone, $125, including mp3 of last presentation of the course).  This course is a follow up to the HCH Ghost Hunting course and to the Rhine Education Center Investigations course taught by Loyd Auerbach.
In this course, students will:
1) Delve deeper into the field investigations methodologies and models of the phenomena in Parapsychology.
2) Delve deeper into dealing with clients (living and dead) during investigations, resolutions and follow-up.
3) Delve deeper into the investigation of public-haunts.
4) Delve deeper into sorting through evidence, and look at how/when technology, including EVP, and psychics/mediums fit best into both private home and public site investigations.
Note that there are prerequisites to taking the Advanced class, but no prereqs if you just want to purchase the materials.
Happy to send out the actual course outlines to anyone who contacts me for this. profparanormal@gmail.com
To register for courses, or purchase the full course or just materials, contact HCH Institute at info@hypnotherapytraining.com or 925-283-3941.
The Ghost Hunting course counts towards the Certificate in Parapsychological Studies offered by HCH Institute, www.hypnotherapytraining.com/parapsych.cfm

Parapsychology courses in March

I am offering two parapsychology courses in March (2014) for local (Bay Area) and distance (anywhere!) students. If you are interested, please contact the folks at HCH Institute (email info@hypnotherapytraining.com or call 925-283-3941) or email me at profparanormal@gmail.com.

The two courses and dates/times are as follows (descriptions below):

The Search for Evidence of Life After Death: 3 Tuesdays, March 11, 18 & 25, 6:30-9:30 PM Pacific time.

Perception, Deception, Illusion & Reality: 4 Thursdays, March 6, 13, 20 & 27, 6:30-9:30 PM Pacific time.

Descriptions as follows:

THE SEARCH FOR EVIDENCE OF LIFE AFTER DEATH: Do we survive the death of our bodies? Is there Life after Death? What is the best evidence?

This seminar will cover the search for evidence of Survival of Bodily Death from the earliest psychical researchers to parapsychologists of today. With an eye towards the evidence garnered – and the research and investigations methods to gather it –  the class covers topics such as ghosts, mediumship, near death experiences, electronic voice phenomena, out of body experiences, reincarnation and psychic experience says about whether we/our consciousnesses live on in some fashion after the deaths of our bodies.

ome time will be spent discussing the recent research of Drs. Julie Beischel and Gary Schwartz, working with psychic mediums at the University of Arizona and subsequently at Windbridge Institute, and the work of the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia in Reincarnation and Apparition research.

The importance of ESP and PK in any model of Survival will be discussed. The class will also look at the debate regarding evidence for Survival vs. the Super-Psi hypothesis from the perspective of the Survival proponents.

Cost $150. Students receive mp3 recordings of all sessions, mp3s of the last course offering lectures, as well as extensive text materials on DVD-rom and additional mp3s. Distance students — who are unable to attend the actual live classes by telephone — are also entitled to one-on-one phone/Skype time with the instructor (Loyd Auerbach).

 PERCEPTION, DECEPTION, ILLUSION & REALITY: These days, there’s a lot of “bleeping” focus on the question “What is Reality?”  Whether from the standpoint of Physics or Metaphysics, this question captivates us as human beings – as it should.

But there are two ways to look at that question right off the bat:  “What is Objectively Real?” and “What is Subjectively Real?” which leads to the overriding question about Reality in general. How much of what we see, hear, smell, etc. is Real (and what does that mean) and how much is affected by our perceptual processes? How can we perceive differently from others? How does consciousness process what our senses pick up and how is it affected by that same information?

This special session taught by parapsychologist & psychic entertainer (and former magician) Loyd Auerbach, will delve into the relationship between our Senses, our Perceptions, Consciousness and Physical Reality- as well as information and influences that may come from outside what we consider normal physical reality. Students will learn about the Psychology of Perception and more importantly, the Psychology of Deception, and how shifts in sensory data can lead our perceptions down very different paths – essentially causing us to perceive something that is not really “real”.

We’ll consider theoretical physics concepts such as the uncertainty principle, the possible existence of parallel universes (the Multiverse) and underlying concepts of the universe such as String Theory and Quantum Entanglement, especially as they apply to both Reality and how Consciousness interacts with it, and what researchers are trying to play at (such as the recent success with quantum teleportation). The place of psychic and other non-physical input in the process of Perception will be discussed, especially in relation to Entanglement.

Ultimately, this class is about how we can play with our Perceptions to open us up to a greater Reality.

Finally, Loyd Auerbach will illustrate a number of his points with findings and anecdotes from several fields – including Parapsychology – and entertain with stories and a bit of Magick.

No prerequisites for this seminar! This is not part of Parapsychological Studies Certificate Program, and can be taken on its own whether you have taken any of our other Parapsychology courses or not.

It is highly recommended for ghost hunters and paranormal investigators, whether or not you have taken previous courses from Loyd Auerbach (either at HCH or the Rhine Research Center), or anyone/anyplace else.

Cost: $250. All students receive mp3 recordings (and video!) of each of the class sessions — due to the visual nature of some of Auerbach’s demonstrations, we will be video-recording those demonstrations (and we’re hopefully going to be able to set up Skype video for them as well) for download. Students will also receive text materials and an additional video lecture. All students are eligible for some (free!) one-on-one phone/Skype time with the instructor (though this is especially important for distance students who are unable to attend the live sessions via telephone/Skype).

Parapsychology Courses Starting Soon — Online!

Want to learn more about the Paranormal? Want to do it online?

There’s still room in both online courses offered by the Rhine Education Center, starting next week (January 27th).

I am teaching “Investigating Apparitions, Hauntings and Poltergeists.”

Dr. Nancy Zingrone and Dr. Carlos Alvarado are team teaching “Introduction to Parapsychology.” Both are 8 weeks, both adult ed. For more info, go to http://www.rhineeducationcenter.org/edu/ and check out Nancy Zingrone’s quick video about the courses at http://youtu.be/dv1RAmgYPDY

Not to say we’re old or anything, but we each have more than three decades in Parapsychology!

Read Barry Taff’s Latest Post on Unreality TV

Dr. Barry Taff has been a friend for several years, and a colleague for longer. Like myself, he’s been on numerous television shows, some which turned out good and others which missed the point (or even took a wrong turn in the way methodologies, theories & models, and actual investigations have been represented).

He’s just posted a blog that everyone who follows “reality” TV in general, and paranormal “reality” TV specifically needs to read.

http://barrytaff.net/2013/12/messengers-of-deception/

In support of Dr. Taff’s content here, let me add that if you find it at all hard to believe that many TV production companies are using release forms including not only restrictive clauses (non-disclosures that prevent any discussion of the show) but statements that the person signing “understands” that he/she might be misrepresented, slandered/libeled, humiliated, etc. — even on purpose, this is absolutely accurate. I’ve received several such releases over the last few years. I did not sign them unless they were significantly altered (and a couple I have not signed at all). I did, however, share them with my attorney, my uncle (who has been a TV director and on the Board of the Directors’ Guild), and others connected to the industry who were appalled by the wording.

You might also read my older blog http://mindreader.com/2013/08/07/unreality-tv/

 

 

Truly interested in the paranormal?

There are many legitimate sources of information and research on psychic phenomena and experiences (a.k.a. the Paranormal). Investigation and research has been going on since the 1800s, but unfortunately there are too many bad / inaccurate or plain false sources (both for and against the existence of things paranormal).

For the truly curious, for those with a real interest in psychic/paranormal experiences and phenomena, there are indeed easy to find resources of a more scientific nature (and none of the TV shows fall into this group, by the way).

Unfortunately, the funding for legitimate research and investigation is underwhelming, and many legitimate organizations rely on membership and/or donations to be able to conduct research and more importantly, to continue to be free resources to the public. But they also rely on word of mouth (and word-of-internet) to spread the word of their existence and services (again, may of which are free).

The Rhine Research Center, such a major part of the US history of Parapsychology and studies of the Paranormal, is one organization that deserves the support of everyone interested in the paranormal and related psychic (and non-psychic) subjects.

The Rhine Research Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is primarily funded through memberships and donations. Please consider becoming a member of the Rhine Research Center or making a donation at www.rhine.org. All donations are tax deductible and will be used to perform research, to sponsor events and other educational opportunities, and to support the daily operations of the center.

There are wonderful personal benefits to becoming a member. Joining the Rhine as a member gets you access to a vast library of video and more. Becoming a Rhine Sustainer shows you truly support legitimate inquiries into this mainstream-controversial subject (and again, there’s that tax donation).

Now for the language that is sure to rub people the wrong way (and if it does, perhaps a little self-examination is in order).

You can’t say you’re a serious “paranormal investigator” or “ghost hunter” if you don’t support the kind of work — and the historical importance — of organizations like the Rhine Research Center.

As it is, I’ve met or heard from people who profess being “serious” or “professional” or “scientific” in this area, and at the same time have never heard of the Rhine Research Center, it’s predecessor the Institute for Parapsychology, or even the man who the place is named after, the late Dr. J. B. Rhine. Many cannot connect the dots between paranormal investigation/ghost hunting and Parapsychology (the former is what field investigators in Parapsychology/Psychical Research have been doing since the 1800s).

Many such people, some even acting as “experts,” are making plenty of $$ by speaking at paranormal conferences, and may ask for your monetary support for haunted places (which themselves charge people to conduct “investigations”), while totally missing the organizations and foundations that do real research and provide free informational/educational and other services to the public.

So, if my statement above raises your hackles, tough.

If it makes you rethink using such labels, and look into what you don’t know, that’s exactly why I made it. The serious people recognize they don’t know everything (and even recognize what they don’t know). They seek out more and more (beyond the TV shows, please!!).

Finally, I want to explain the use of the phrase “support the kind of work” …

This includes spreading the word about actual parapsychological work, whether at the Rhine or elsewhere. It includes simply taking time to educate yourself (yes, learning IS a form of support).

I’ve heard pleas from many people to “save” this historic (haunted) site or that one. But how about some love for those representing the actual scientific research?

Join or donate. Spread the word or simply learn something from them.

But go to http://www.rhine.org/ Now!

New Interviews with Loyd Auerbach

Links to Halloween 2013 articles featuring Loyd Auerbach:

Barnidge: Ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night” by Tom Barnidge, Contra Costa Times columnist, October 30, 2013

As Halloween approaches, why people like to be scared” by Angela Hill in the Daily Democrat, October 30, 2013

Interview with Director of Paranormal Investigations, Loyd Auerbach” by Robin Punsalan in Sarasota Today, October 29, 2013

“Ghost Stories: The Science Behind Sightings” by Glenn McDonald in Discovery News, October 29, 2013

Art Bell’s DARK MATTER (Sirius XM Radio), October 14, 2013 YouTube Preview Image

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Just wanted to wish everyone (living and dead) a Happy Halloween, with lots more Treats than Tricks!

A couple of recent news articles mentioning me…

Property Inspector: How to tell if your house is haunted,” TheMoveChannel.com, 10/31/2013. Article and Podcast interview.

Barnidge: Ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night,” Contra Costa Times, 10/30/2013

Ghost experts explore society’s fascination with the undead,” Santa Fe New Mexican, 10/25/2013

 

Guest Post: Dave Manganelli re: Television

My friend and colleague Dave Manganelli had some additional comments on my posts on TV, but first a few words about him:

More than 30 years ago, Dave Manganelli saw his first haunted house through the viewfinder of an Arriflex 16mm film camera, and some claim he hasn’t been the same since.

Through his long career in the film/TV industry, Dave has done it all, working as a cameraman, editor, director, and producer.

As a Broadcast Producer in the advertising industry, he’s produced over a hundred broadcast TV commercials (many of which involve creating things that really aren’t there). In the corporate world, he’s produced and directed several hundred films & videos for Fortune 500 companies, even winning a Gold in the New York Festivals for his work, along with a few Telly and Monitor Awards as well.

He served as the Paranormal Consultant on the premiere episode of MTV’s “Fear: Moundsville”, and was one of the featured investigators forThe History Channel’s MonsterQuest “Ghosts: The Lizzie Borden House” episode.

He’s often called upon by fellow investigators for analysis of — and opinion on — possible paranormal photos & videos, and is well-regarded for his no-nonsense, practical approach to evaluating those images.

*****

As Loyd points out in his great postings about paranormal reality shows, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes in paranormal shows than is ever apparent to the average viewer.

Here are a few more real world observations about paranormal reality shows:

The economics of reality shows are this: they are relatively inexpensive to produce (at least compared to the scripted comedies & drama that also populate our TV channels), so they are very manageable risks for the producers & networks. And those networks need stuff to show.

Many of these shows will launch and not succeed, but the ones that do succeed will be relatively darn lucrative for the producers & networks. As long as that continues, these shows will not be going away anytime soon!

Next: to this day, there continues to be absolutely no shortage of people who audition to be in reality shows — so there is an endless supply of people who will gladly do whatever the production companies/networks need them to do in exchange for being on TV. Frankly, even the producers of these shows remain somewhat amazed that people want so desperately to be on TV. That’s definitely a defining characteristic of our current age. When I first started looking into ghosts & hauntings over 30 years ago, most people with possible paranormal problems generally avoided publicity at all costs (for fear of being regarded as “kooks”). Not today, boy – talk about the pendulum swinging the other way!

So that endless supply of subjects is fabulous for entertainment goals, but generally not so fabulous for serious paranormal research goals.

Why? Because, as a producer, you really don’t want to have a show where nothing truly spooky actually happens while cameras are rolling – which, in my experience, is the unvarnished truth about the bulk of the time spent on paranormal investigations. (When I first started looking into the paranormal back in 1980, that was the most common observation I found as I started to meet other credible paranormal investigators. That continues to be true to this day — except on current TV shows and certain places on the internet, where it seems almost everyone comes away with some sort of anomalous evidence as long they spend at least, say, 6 to 8 hours looking for it. Doesn’t seem quite possible that evidence should suddenly be so amazingly abundant, in my humble opinion, but I’m generally quite demanding when it comes to video/audio evidence, so maybe it’s just me. It’s alright, don’t worry… I’ll take a walk, and then I’ll calm down eventually).

After all – you wouldn’t want to watch a horror movie in which nothing actually happens, and there’s no monster to be experienced!

And therein lies the key to the staying power of modern paranormal reality shows: historically, they accomplished one thing that paranormal shows in preceding decades couldn’t (because either there was a scarcity of compelling actual case footage, which remains true to this very day, OR because what you saw was understood to be a dramatic recreation done with actors): the reality shows — for better or for worse — finally provided the viewer with a spooky, real-time “You are there and experiencing it as well” paranormal experience. Didn’t matter if even a lot of viewers kinda knew they were being manipulated (and a lot of them do, I find) — watching is the equivalent of stepping into haunted-house ride at an amusement park; of course, the whole point is get spooked and thrilled while you’re there.

All of these shows are essentially descendants of two influential media creations (and, to be completely clear, I have nothing but respect for these two): MTV’s “Real World”, and the movie “The Blair Witch Project”. You may ask: “What’s the ‘Real World’ go to do with it?” Well, “Real World” invented a general format & flow for reality shows so amazingly durable that it continues to be copied now, some 20 years later…. I still see the approaches and the techniques used in every modern reality show.

And then “The Blair Witch Project” came along in 1999 and established a whole new mode for how scary stuff could be presented in a horror movie (i.e, apparently real amateur footage, low-budget production techniques, night-vision video, average-person protagonists, etc.)… and that mode promptly became the basis of paranormal reality TV.

Some of you may not know that “Blair Witch” was an utter sensation when it premiered 14 years ago at the Sundance Festival, and generated HUGE word of mouth before it even got to wider release to the general public. Because there have been so many variations of it in paranormal TV in the years since, the impact & freshness of the film has been diminished for those seeing it now for the first time. I saw it with a group of filmmaking colleagues when it came out, and we were blown away by how effective it was. A lot of that had to do with seeing it on a big-screen in a theater, because you got sucked into the paranormal experience with the characters in a way that hadn’t been done in movies to that point. And it used a ghost-story setting that was centuries old: people lost in a dense forest! Unfortunately, the movie loses its original power when seen on TV – the small screen and constant interruption by commercials work to blunt the desperate atmosphere of the film. But it absolutely deserves all the praise it’s ever received.

The more recent “Paranormal Activity” (also extremely effective) added another basket of tricks that have also been picked up by paranormal reality TV (most notably, using extremely long stretches of surveillance camera footage in which nothing happens…. and then when you finally relax and figure nothing will happen, it does. Very cleverly done).
So paranormal reality shows found an economical way to provide endless “paranormal experience simulator” rides in a wide variety of settings and contexts, something predecessor shows never could do (because the “paranormal reality” genre hadn’t been invented yet). Much as I sometimes hate to say it, the new ones found an effective and affordable “spook you out” formula. They are mini horror movies, and there’s a new one to watch every week.

Though it’s tempting to wish the shows would “clean up their act” or be “more genuinely scientific”, that’s not going to happen with most of them, and here’s why: the creators of these shows always knew they were making paranormal reality entertainment, not scientific documentaries on the reality of paranormal phenomena. And, in entertainment, there has to be a monster (in our case, a that would be a ghost), AND something has to happen – you have to deliver on those 2 things. And, oddly enough, most shows deliver on those 2 things! See how that works?

There was a time prior to reality shows when programs and documentaries on the paranormal at least made the attempt to be more straightforwardly documentarian, clearly maintaining a line between the documentary footage and the dramatization footage, but that line got blurred and crossed about a dozen years ago and has not moved back. It will not move back as long as the current shows are popular, and as long as the TV channels need that programming.

There’s also little chance that anyone who stars in these shows is going to have a change of heart, come forward because their conscience is bothering them, and then blow the whistle on anything that may have fabricated for the purposes of the show. Why? Well, they can’t – as Loyd said in his posting, they have already signed extremely onerous legal agreements that, among many other things, forbids them from saying anything detrimental or out-of-line about the show. In fact, financial penalties for doing so are built into a lot of those contracts, so you’d have to weigh the consequences of being out a lot of money for speaking up.

As Loyd explained so well in his posting, many of these contracts are so skewed against any consulting paranormal investigator that a number of us just stopped agreeing to do any of the shows anymore. Even when the show’s producer starts out with the best of intentions, the paperwork then arrives, and it’s like: “Holy Bleep, no way am I signing this thing!” You’ll note that that hasn’t stopped the flow of paranormal shows in the least.

To that point, most people aren’t aware that – less than 10 years ago – there was a dust-up over paranormal monkey-business going on in a British show, “Most Haunted”. There were complaints about things that were misleading and what was allegedly being faked, but the British Television Regulator Ofcom ultimately ruled that the show contained “a high degree of showmanship that puts it beyond what we believe to be a generally accepted understanding of what comprises a legitimate investigation”. In other words: sorry, everybody, but this show is considered entertainment, so creative license is allowed. You can read about all that in more detail here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/4500322.stm

That many of these shows still thrive actually speaks to the power and timelessness of ghost stories (which were here long before any of us). I have no problem with that, as I always love a good ghost story.

Unfortunately, the shows have also done a fair amount of damage in spreading misconceptions, setting wildly false expectations (especially when it comes to video and audio evidence), and in promoting maybe-not-so-experts, some of whom seem to have utterly no knowledge that there is a history to paranormal investigation that stretches further back than, say, 12 years ago. Just sayin’.

Personally, I think that 9/11 had an effect on what viewers seem to want to watch — the very legitimate horror of that seemed to spark a very widespread fixation on death in our culture. I think (again, just my own opinion) that’s a key reason that procedural murder-investigation shows AND paranormal reality shows — AND now zombies — have had such staying power in the last decade. I mean, it seems a bit weird to have so many popular shows themed around graphic police inspections of the newly dead, the reanimation of the recently dead, AND then the supposed spirits of the definitely dead.

But that’s our culture as it is now… it will be interesting to see how historians look back and evaluate this particular period.

In closing, I want to thank Loyd – who has remained the most sane, reasonable, and credible voice for serious paranormal investigation throughout all the craziness — for giving me this space to share my viewpoint.

I now return control of your television set to you.

 

TELEVISION — ON THE PLUS SIDE (Mostly)

TELEVISION: ON THE PLUS SIDE (Mostly)

My lengthy blog last week – which many have correctly called a rant — was perhaps a bit tough on paranormal TV shows, but rightly so. However, I want to underscore a couple of things said in the article, which perhaps people may have glossed over, related to the positives of TV and people I’ve worked with over the years.

Having read that blog, some might feel I’m mighty down on television. While that may be true with regards to most of the paranormal “reality”(unreality, in my mind) shows, there have been occasional shows that at least tell a good ghost story, and that don’t seem to have screwed with the story or the interviews with witnesses.

One that I’ve enjoyed from time to time has been Ghostly Encounters on BIO, which at least appears to allow people with all sorts of ghostly experiences (good, bad and neutral) to tell their own story, with re-creations happening on screen under their own narration. I don’t know for sure that the editing hasn’t screwed with the stories, but at least they fall more into the range of the experiences that parapsychologists have had reported to them for over a century.

On occasion, there’s a good portrayal of a medium or psychic at work, though all too often these days the show devolves into one where the camera is more interested in the non-psychic activities of the medium/psychic and her/his family. They also give the impression that these folks can walk up to anyone on the street and start giving a reading, no matter how intrusive – and I’ve had a number of people (viewers) tell me how off-putting that seems.

Those folks and everyone reading this should be reminded that almost anyone these days backed by a TV camera crew can walk up to just about anyone on the street, and often someone from the crew makes sure it’s “okay”(after all, the person does have to sign a release).

I’ve met a few of the psychics/mediums who do those shows, and none of them (they tell me) would walk up to someone on the street, in a market, etc. and start a reading uninvited without a TV crew to smooth the way.

Frankly, this isn’t much different than a street magician (a la David Blaine) walking up to someone saying “want to see a magic trick?”No camera crew, most likely the people would walk away – and that I’ve seen in person (I used to be a magician myself).

On to Positives…

Television has the ability to bring good information to the masses. It has the ability to educate while it entertains. It has the potential to be a tool to introduce concepts and experts to many millions of people, and the potential to push them to question all sides of a subject or issue.

As mentioned in that last blog, having grown up in a TV production family, I’ve been around TV people all my life, and absolutely through my formative years. My first appearance on TV, I was told by my parents, was when I was 6 months old and my mother was visiting the set of a NY talk show my father was working on. I worked as a “runner” (okay, a go-fer) for NBC Sports at a bunch of baseball and football games when my father was a producer, and ended up on camera a couple of times playing catch with Joe Garagiola. Had a great time as an extra on All My Children back in the early 80s (only one day, unfortunately).

I love television, and have known great people over the years, both through my family connections, and ever since I had my first job in Parapsychology at the ASPR. Some of the folks I’ve worked with – whether for actual shows or pilots or for proposed series – are still people I’d jump for the chance to work with, and a few of them have become good friends.

There are, in fact, people with real creativity and integrity working in the industry who have either a genuine curiosity about the phenomena and experiences, or even an abiding interest. But there are also folks who think the paranormal can make good television, yet want to make it“right” and have respect for the knowledge, experience and even creative ideas of the experts and the witnesses. They respect the ghost story and they respect the base of what’s actually known and the questions we, the researchers and investigators, ask. They might suggest new technology and new methods, but respect our reactions – positive or negative – to such suggestions.

In my experience, sometimes the right question that needed to be asked in a case that was being shot for TV actually came from a member of the production crew, and not from me or people with me. TV crew members should always be reminded to ask questions and even make observations (though some directors have gotten a little testy when a sound guy or production assistant points something out or asks a question, regardless of whether I’ve thought it was a good one or not).

WHAT TV NEEDS

There are three very important things to keep in mind when working with television.

First, it’s important to always remember television is a visual medium. That’s why producers are always looking for a way to “get something happening on camera.” TV is not just “Tell,” it’s Show and Tell.”

After the release of The Amityville Horror (the original film, ), and after Poltergeist (1982) in the 1980s, the media somehow got the idea that we could take a reporter or TV crew to places where they could pretty much get phenomena happening. Mainly, they thought they would see/record things moving of their own accord any time, as if what was on the screen was an actual representation of what really goes on. I still get people asking the same thing today – and my response is the same as back then: “If we could find places where phenomena happened all the time, or on demand or request, do you really think parapsychologists would be so under-funded (or non-funded) as we are? Or that the field would have little or no acceptance academically?”

Post Poltergeist, and especially post Ghostbusters (1984), there was this expectation that we had an arsenal of technology. Back then I had to remind them that Steven Spielberg had a much bigger budget for pretty equipment than we ever have had. That and “None of that stuff in Ghostbusters was real, guys.” Of course, once environmental sensors became reasonably available (and priced), we did have toys to use on camera – though for a long time some producers moaned about them not having pretty lights or sounds.
The reality is that while phenomena might happen during a shoot, it’s as likely as not to happen behind the camera, or simply out of frame from where the camera is pointed – if it happens at all.

Well, I totally understand the issue and desire of the producers and their networks to have visuals on camera. Hence reenactments/acting out of some of the stories with actors and even occasional special effects during the reenactments. If done well, if representing the story and reported phenomena correctly, this can be quite compelling and even of use to the investigative process.

There are other ideas along those lines which have yet to be done on TV which I’ve shared with a couple of producers who have been trying to pitch shows – but unfortunately networks see their shows as “too different”from the current crop of crappy ones (which still get the ratings).

Then there’s the need for dramatic events in the shows, especially around the phenomena.

But if there’s no phenomena, and you’re not willing to fake it (there’s the integrity thing), you have to get your “drama” from the people– who have to be able to tell a good story, and the story itself ought to be interesting. The experts need to be able to relate to the story, to the location, to the witnesses and above all, to the viewing audience.

To me, one of the reasons to dislike so many of the“investigation” shows currently on TV is that they’re missing the actual ghost story. And unfortunately, most of the shows that focus on the ghost story and reenactments have again and again been shown to play fast and loose with the actual story – even editing the witness testimony to give a particular focus or element to the story that was not actually reported by the witnesses.
Not that there’s always an easy fix to make a ghost hunting show interesting, visual, and accurate. But it is entirely possible, if the producers are willing to learn about the phenomena and science (Parapsychology) AND the experts are willing to learn something about the needs of television.

Now, the second point: TV people are often ignorant of the paranormal/parapsychology or have the same misconceptions as the viewing audience because what they know came from other TV shows.

I cannot possibly calculate the amount of time spent on the phone with producers, directors and production staff answering their questions about the phenomena, research and investigation methods, and findings– as well as misconceptions. In my last blog, the final point made was about getting paid. Yet other than extremely rare circumstances, I’ve not gotten paid (or asked for payment) for time spent educating TV folks about the basics and what they can and cannot reasonably expect. Just as I don’t charge average folks to consult (basically) with me – though I do charge for classes, and for mentoring people beyond the basic conversations.

It’s always been part of my mission in this field is to help educate the public, which is why my first job in the field, as “Public Information and Media Consultant” in the Education Department of the American Society for Psychical Research was so apropos. Even though there’s so much misinformation and misconception –crap – out there in the Media, as the late D. Scott Rogo told me just after I finished my Masters’ degree in Parapsychology, if there’s even one good, credible story in the middle of a lot of bad ones, someone will recognize the good from the bad, and follow up on that. If I and others don’t try to educate and correct the misconceptions, what chance is there that any good information will get out there?

So, I work with the Media, always hoping that the time spent informing and discussing with the production people will lead to occasional bright spots in the darkness that is unreality TV (and even TV news coverage of the subject).

People in TV, until they are assigned a topic or story, or get a request to develop a show, or even a contract for a show/series, may have no personal interest in the paranormal. Consequently, one cannot fault them for not knowing anything, especially how to separate the good info and experts from the oh so big pile of crap that’s out there on TV and the Web.

Most of them are open to what my colleagues and I have to say, even if they can’t follow up on it due to the constraints of the show/series as it has been pitched to a network, or as the network dictates. I’ve had great conversations with producers I’d love to work with on other projects, just not the one they’re calling me about (again, because of what the network wants/has dictated). Some of them have even gone back to the network with what they’ve learned to try to sway them in a different direction (usually fails given the network folks having their own ideas about what “works” without any clue as to what’s actually possible for credible coverage).

Some got so interested in the “real paranormal” that they contact me every now and again for updates, and even try to sell a decent series idea every so often.

In other words, not all people in television fall into the areas I covered in my “Unreality TV” blog.

The third point: What’s on the screen is a result of network executives/personnel ordering the results or intervening directly as much as or even more than what the producers had in mind.

Television is a business, and there are advertisers to be placated, ratings to be had, and politics and personal preferences within the networks. The production companies are in business, and the more the networks like their product, the more shows they sell – or they go out of business.

I totally get that. After all, my father worked for a network (NBC) and then was out on his own. No orders for programming means no business and no money.

Television does not purport to be educational in general, though naturally PBS has strived to be that, and some of the cable networks have claimed to provide educational programming (and some do) besides news programs.

But there’s much more to this. Even educational programs on PBS need sponsors, though we hope they don’t have a say about the content. Educational programs, such as they are, on cable networks do depend on ratings for continuation, and as with all programming, no ratings = no sponsors = no shows.

I have little problem with shows that at least admit to be attempting “entertainment,” but real problems when the folks representing the shows – producers, talent, network people – claim it’s all “real” or “as it happened” or “a true story” when it’s very clearly been edited or otherwise put together in a way that is not real, not a representation of what happened (or the order in which things happened), or a story that’s been altered in the writing or editing. Saying events represented on the show have been “edited for time” is fine, as it lets the viewers know something vital (and as long as the events are still presented in a fair representation).

I have a problem if the show utilizes naysayers who clearly have not looked at the actual evidence, or yea-sayers who accept everything happening as paranormally real, without question.

I don’t have a problem when a show spoofs the paranormal, parapsychology, psychic phenomena/abilities, psychics or ghost hunting. As long as it’s an honest attempt at comedy, even if I don’t find it entertaining, I can appreciate the effort.

It All Boils Down to Ratings

The most credible show we could come up with would still need to get decent ratings to stay on the air, though we’d have to get on the air in the first place, and hope the network sees the potential.

On the plus side, I’ve worked with many producers and writers who had great ideas or really wanted to portray this stuff correctly within the context of trying to build an entertaining show.

On the negative side, getting those shows past the network “deciders” is tough, since almost no one in the management of TV networks seems that interested in trying something really “new” – they don’t want to be first to fail, and consequently even if they think a new idea is a great one, they’re often unwilling to take a chance on that in favor of a retread of something they know does get ratings. They have to think bottom line, with little regard to credibility.

Can it be done? Absolutely. I’ve been involved in numerous show concepts that have real centers of good information and stories, presented in a variety of entertaining contexts.

Can it be sold? There’s the rub: how do you sell “credible” when it’s unclear that “credible” can get ratings and clear than non-credible (in-credible) does indeed get ratings (although as we’ve seen, not always).

If it’s sold, will they give it a fair chance? This is a problem in and of itself with networks. I’m sure all regular TV viewers reading this can recall at least one example of a new show they liked being bounced around the network schedule week after week, giving viewers no real chance to consistently even find the show, let alone watch it to help its ratings.

There have been several pilots or specials or single episodes – not just ones on the paranormal — for cable networks being scheduled in such a time period that it’s unlikely anyone would find it (unless they did a search of their cable provider’s schedule) if they even knew in advance the show was coming up. Network doesn’t want to give a show a fair shake? Schedule it at 1 in the morning on a weeknight or early to mid morning on a Saturday or Sunday and don’t do any promos for it. Series have been cancelled by being moved to the worst time slots so ratings would drop (remember the third season of the original Star Trek – moved to a network “death slot” of the 1960s, Friday nights at 10).

I’ve met and worked with and become friends with many in the television industry of good heart and great ideas when it comes to covering the paranormal – and here I’m talking about all facets, from ghosts and haunting to ESP and psychokinesis, from field investigation to laboratory studies, from psychics and mediums to the psychic experiences and encounters of “normal”people.

Great people, with lots of integrity.

Even met people at the network level with the same.

But the unfortunate reality is that such people in the industry are few enough, most especially at the network level, and often can’t get past the biases and expectations of others in the industry who have the buying power or decision-making ability for their networks.

If there were sponsors out there willing to put their money into advertising only on credible shows, we’d have a chance.

One Final Thought….

I came to my interest in psychic phenomena mostly from being a comic book and science fiction fan, with a little bit of the TV/movie watcher fascinated with ghost-infested comedies and dramas – NOT from the horror/scary side of things.

To me, and why I got into the field at all in any serious way, psychic abilities and apparitional phenomena indicate there is way more to human beings and our potential than what we might currently believe. Humans have potential to exceed what we are now, both when we’re alive and when we’re dead.

Too bad that the network named after science fiction, SyFy, has chosen to focus on scares and chills, rather than wonderment and inspiration, for its coverage of the topics involved. I love many of the dramatic and adventure shows on SyFy. But the only “wonder” their paranormal shows inspire in me is wondering why they consistently choose to buy and produce shows that hit almost all my “crap” points (from my last blog).

The Paranormal, when presented properly, can activate the Sense of Wonder! It can inspire!

Psychic phenomena is cool!

There are TV people who get that. Isn’t it time they get a chance, too?

*****

To any network people or sponsors reading this: Get in touch. I know great people in the industry who can put out a phenomenal (pun intended) product and know how to promote it to draw an audience, to give them awe and wonder, to keep them coming back.

Take a chance on credibility and real psychic experiences, research and investigation. Reach out to the majority of people who believe in this stuff (but who rarely watch your current shows) and make them feel wonderment at their paranormal experiences and attitudes about them.

Guaranteed it will get them talking more. It will make psychic experiences more “normal.” It will expand the potential audience exponentially.

More viewers = better ratings = more money.