The Dead Files (on The Travel Channel)

help-me-dead-filesI have mixed feelings about this show, yet I’ve managed to catch every episode. I like the concept: former cop does the legwork, researching facts and interviewing witnesses of paranormal activity, while a medium offers any impressions she picks up in a given location. We are told that the medium shows up in the dark (no pun intended), with no prior knowledge of the occurrences or history there. Given the nature of television production and the number of people staffed to make it happen, it seems unlikely that the medium wouldn’t overhear something, no matter how hard she tried to avoid it. Television is much like a magic show with structure, repetition, and many people behind the scenes. But I give it the benefit of the doubt.

Mediumship is a tough sell to most people. Folks with any sort of unusual ability used to be institutionalized and feared. Often still are. People have been burned as witches for far less than talking to dead people. Amy Allan seems to see things that no one else has dared to speak of on television, describing in great detail ghoulish creatures, demons, poltergeists, and people who died decades, even centuries ago with absolute conviction and belief. Some are sketched out for clients to see for themselves. But she also seems to have encyclopedic knowledge of these things are and what sort of actions they are capable of. Where does she acquire her information?

I love that Steve (former cop) does the face time with the clients. He probes like a skeptical detective. He’s the digger that gives the show its credibility.

I have some pet peeves. One is Matt, Amy’s husband, who “cleans” the location of personal items and photographs that might lead Amy in the assessment of the energies. This is necessary, but the slow-mo of him doing this is not. What purpose does it serve for him to film Amy with a handheld camera while a professional camera crew films him filming her? Had I held fast to the suspicious nature of my youth, I would suspect his feeding her data. Then I listened to an interview with him on the website. He’s a skeptic and goes to great lengths to keep information from her.

“It’s bad. Really, really bad,” Amy says, with wide eyes and a scrunched face. “I don’t like it here.” What is bad about it? Tell us, please. The sketch scene in nearly episode tries my patience. This is wasted screen time that could offer so much more. I’d be much happier if they used the time to provide more detail of what Amy is seeing and feeling, along with her perceptions of what she thinks she might be connecting with. Show the sketches, but only in the reveal.

In the opening sequence of every episode, Steve and Amy say that they never communicate with each other during an investigation, yet in three episodes they broke this rule on cases they found to be ultra-sensitive or dangerous in some way, especially if a child is involved. I get it, but why not change the opener to say, “For the most part, we try never to communicate until the end of the investigation, unless there are extreme or dangerous circumstances?”

If the goal of this show is to entertain, more editing could decrease the lag time. It doesn’t create the suspense they’re going for. But if the goal is to educate, they might try to ditch the formula, including the supposed tension building sketches, slow-mos, and long close-ups on Amy’s contorted face, and instead have her share her internal impressions in greater detail. I would love to know how long it takes Steve to dig up all the data on the location, how many people it takes to put all this together, and his thoughts after the reveal. Matt, being a skeptic as well, could really put the audience in his shoes if they would allow it. Being logical, analytical team members, I want to know their point of view. What changes have occurred in Steve’s thinking since the inception of this partnership? A wrap from the skeptic would go a long way helping the audience along.

I have learned some things from this show, but I want to know where Amy gets her data to fully accept it. How she learned to trust impressions would be great to know.

Professional ghost hunters don’t employ mediums for many reasons.

  1. Lack of physical evidence
  2. Verification of the same
  3. Relative Interpretation

If evidence can’t be duplicated and analyzed in a scientific setting, the physical world and its inhabitants will never fully accept it.

This show has room for improvement, but my hat is off to Amy for putting herself under such a huge microscope. That takes more guts than most of her critics collectively have. I admire anyone willing to openly expose their truth. That is a big draw for me. So are the great stories behind the locations. It may not be the slickest paranormal show out there, but it is unique, even if it sometimes leaves the audience with more questions than answers.

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