Do you watch spooky reality shows? Ghost stories? Ghost hunting? Paranormal investigations? Paranormal reenactments? In the ever growing genre of reality shows about things that go bump in the night, there is one show you are probably not watching, and it is so goodbad that I had to write a post to tell you about it. It’s called The Dead Files, and it airs on Travel Channel.
I don’t pretend to enjoy paranormal reality shows with ironic detachment. I just like them, okay? I may not believe in all of the hocus pocus, but it’s fun to pretend. That’s entertainment, kid. But! I’m also not oblivious to the fact that these shows can be very bad indeed. If you ever watched Zak Bagans bro out and challenge an unseen entity like he was talking to a playground bully you know exactly what I’m talking about. The Dead Files is a whole other kind of bad that is so satisfying I cannot stop watching it.
Where to start? First, the premise: separately, a psychic medium and a retired detective investigate paranormal events, usually in a home; they convene at the end to discuss their findings with the homeowners. The retired detective is Steve DiSchiavi. He worked homicide for the NYPD, and he looks every inch the part. Either that or an extra from Goodfellas. Srsly, did they get him from Central Casting?
“I gotta go see a guy about a thing.” Or whatever it is a wise guy says in his thick New York accent. It’s always a laugh riot when Steve is investigating a case in, say, rural Kansas. Fish out of water much? So Steve interviews the inhabitants of the allegedly haunted home (or in some cases it’s a business), gathering as much information as he can. Just like a real detective! Steve is concentrating very hard on what you are saying.
Or he wants to shoot you in the face and leave you for dead. Steve finds your story somewhat unbelievable.
Or he’s going to shank your ass! Anyway, he interviews the subjects during the day. Frequently his investigations take him to local historical societies, historians and libraries, and that is always the most genuinely interesting part of the show.
The psychic medium on The Dead Files is one Amy Allan, and her investigation involves a blind walkthrough of the allegedly haunted home. Always at night! Because that’s the only time spooky shit happens. Amy makes some really funny faces over the course of her investigations.
If you ever suspected that psychic mediums are full of shet, Amy is not going to be the one to change your mind, she will pretty much just validate your suspicions. She pulls those ridiculous faces and generally sounds — a lot of the time — as if she is just making shit up as she goes along. Sometimes she feels a ghost’s pain and has to drop down like she’s about to lay an egg.
Never fear. Soon she’ll be upright again, wearing the most laughable expressions this side of rubberfaces.com.
The most cringe-worthy thing about Amy is that she doesn’t call entities “ghosts.” She calls them “dead people.” As in: “I see dead people.” Srsly, she literally says that in the show’s opening: “My name is Amy Allan. I see dead people. I speak to dead people. And they speak to me.” Oh brother, Amy.
Also, Amy’s not alone on her walkthroughs. Well, obviously she’s accompanied by an unseen camera crew, but then, inexplicably, there’s also this guy Matthew Anderson following Amy around with a handheld camcorder. Sometimes we cut to his footage of Amy, but most of the time the unseen camera crew films Matthew filming Amy. Whut?
Another reason Matt is there is to enter a home before Amy and take down or cover anything that would give clues about its inhabitants. Here’s Matt pulling some hideous family portrait off a wall.
So he covers up pictures and then follows Amy around with his handheld camcorder. He leads her on with tons of questions while she makes her funny faces and pretends to communicate with the dead. Amy is that annoying friend of yours who says vague shit just so someone will ask her to elaborate, and Matt is the dude who feels bad for your loser friend and always asks her to elaborate. It usually goes something like this (please note what follows is an imagined exchange):
Amy: “I don’t like this room.”
Matt: “Why? What’s wrong with it?”
Amy: “There’s something bad in here.”
Matt: “Something bad?”
Amy: “A man who wants to hurt people.”
Matt: “Why does he want to hurt them?”
And it just goes on and on until Matt pullllllls all the information from Amy. Real talk: Matt is the main reason I started watching this show. I know you’re shocked. I saw him for a brief second in a preview for the show, and I was all: “Who is that?!” I mean come on, look at this guy, he’s rill cute:
So naturally I did some light stalking and discovered that he and Amy are married. Now it all makes sense. How very dare they? Oh well.
At the end of Amy’s investigation she sits with a sketch artist and describes one of the “dead people” she encountered on her walkthrough. Srsly. Every time — and I mean every single time without fail — the sketch artist shows Amy the finished drawing and asks: “Is this what you saw?” Amy then makes one of her funny faces and says: “Yes!” Come on, Amy! Never even a slight change? Never just a, “Well his chin was a bit pointier…” or “The bridge of the nose was thinner…” The sketch artist (and it’s not always the same one) always gets it exactly right? Every time? EVERY TIME?
At the very end, Matt is gone, and I crey. Steve and Amy sit with the homeowners and discuss their findings. Amy pulls more crazy faces and talks about the “dead people.” Steve tells what he discovered, and there’s usually a dramatic reveal of Amy’s sketch. Sometimes they have a real photograph of the person to match it against, and even when it only marginally resembles the photo everyone acts as if the sketch is eerily accurate. It’s embarrassing. In a fun way.
Finally Amy tells the homeowners what they have to do to get rid of the ghosts. You know, sprinkle some salt or burn some sage or get a blessing or some shit. In the show’s opening, they make a big point of saying that Amy will tell them “if it’s safe for you to stay or time to get out.” Amy never ever ever tells anyone to move. Could you imagine the lawsuits Travel Channel would be knee deep in? “That rubberfaced medium said we had to moooove!”
The Dead Files airs Fridays at 10pm Eastern/9pm Central on Travel Channel. Set your DVR!
All images screen captured by the author.