Saturday, 13 August 2016

"I Was Raped By A Demon": Ed and Lorraine Warren on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show (1992)

I'm pretty certain that almost everyone reading this post is familiar with the "Haunting In Connecticut" case investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren back in the early 1990s. The incident was documented in the 1992 book "In A Dark Place" (left) by horror author Ray Garton, who has spent his time since the novel's publication declaring that it was a complete fabrication. Garton tells of Ed demanding that he make the book as scary as possible, even if it meant completely inventing elements of supposed haunting. Garton states:“Elements of Carmen Snedeker’s story clashed with elements of Al Snedeker’s story, and it seemed everyone was having a problem keeping their stories straight. Frankly, I didn’t notice until I had nearly finished all my interviews and began going over my notes, then I started having trouble matching up the details. Ed told me 'make it up and make it scary'”

I highly recommend listening to Garton's interview with MonsterTalk here, it's a doozy. You're also very likely to be familiar with the 2009 film based on the case.  You may even be acquainted with the 2002 documentary produced by the Discovery Channel, also named  A Haunting In Connecticut. But what you maybe less familiar with is Carmen and Al Snedeker's appearance with Ed and Lorraine Warren on 1990s daytime television show Sally Jesse Raphael. The show truly has to be seen to be believed. 

The title alone "I Was Raped By A Demon" should tell you the level of discussion one display here. A major part of the show's focus was the idea that both Carmen and Al were sexually abused, and even sodomised by demons. Ironically, Garton tells us in the above-linked interview, that Carmen hated that feature of his novel and petitioned hard for its removal. Yet here she is the same year, with her husband happily climbing on to a bed to demonstrate and recount in some detail how she was abused. Money talks and bullshit walks I guess.

The show begins with Sally giving a run down of Carmen and Al's story (or Garton's depending on your position I guess) with stock doom-laden music and creepy images. If this gives you the impression that Carmen and Al's account will be accepted wholesale, you're mistaken, The Audience is loaded with local residents who strongly dispute the Snedeker's tale and boy are they going to tell them so! Remember, this is a 90s daytime talk show on US network TV, two factors dominate these shows. Sex and conflict.

In addition to Carmen and Al, the family is represented by son Michael and niece Kelly who lived with them at the time. Kelly, in particular, looks less than thrilled to be present, and there's very good reason for this. I'd actually say she is collateral damage in this whole tale. Carmen's son Stephen, the main focus of both the book and the film, who was said to be suffering from Hodgkins Lymphoma at the time of the haunting. This is hardly a surprise, firstly "Stephen" is actually Phillip, there is no Stephen Snedeker. Also, whilst researching his book Garton says he  was only allowed to speak to Phillip once on the telephone. During the conversation, Phillip revealed he was the first in the house to see ghosts and that these sightings ceased when he began treatment for schizophrenia. Garton claims that the phone was quickly snatched from Phillip by Carmen who immediately ended the call. He was not part of any publicity for the book, film and documentary after this. To my knowledge, to the day of his death in 2012, Phillip had never talked publically about what occurred at that time. Unfortunately, there's a more serious reason for this and his exclusion from the show than his simple failure to toe the line with regards to the haunting.

During the show, Kelly is asked to recount her experiences being sexually abused in the house. Unlike Carmen's claims of being sodomised as she washed dishes and ran down the road, which are delivered rather sterilely, Kelly is clearly uncomfortable and upset as Carmen talks about cold hands under her bedclothes and pulling at her bra, on Kelly's behalf. The reason for this may well be because Kelly WAS sexually abused in the Snedeker household.

Unlike with the demonic assaults that Carman and Al claim to have suffered, there's corroborative evidence for Kelly's ordeal. This abuse wasn't perpetrated by a ghost or any demon though. Phillip (left), the Snedeker's eldest son, was removed from the Snedeker home at some point during the "haunting" by the police. He was accused of sexually abusing Carmen and Al's two nieces, including Kelly, and confessed to the abuse and also attempting to rape his 12-year-old cousin. He was placed in juvenile detention where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.When questioned about her son leaving the house, Carmen claims he was hospitalised, she also claims she had him diagnosed by a psychiatrist. This is patently untrue. 
Knowledge of all this makes Carmen's urging that Kelly "tell her story" on the show, and her then stopping Kelly to tell her version of events for her, even more disgusting. Carmen seems nervous when other memebers of the family talk, and this is most notable when Kelly speaks. In my opinion, she's concerned that Kelly may slip about Phillip's role in her abuse.

I wonder if Carmen actually managed to persuade this young woman that it wasn't her son that abused her, but the black mass that she describes. During the show, and a subsequent investigation by Joe Nickell (more on him in a moment), further details of Phillip's activities emerged, including drug use and criminal behaviour including breaking into neighbour's homes.

Carmen's demeanour during the whole interview is off somewhat, she seems angry and defensive from the offset and as a sceptical audience member points out, both her's and Al's stories seems highly rehearsed, for example, Carmen frequently refers to her son Phillip as "the eldest boy" careful not to name him. She's also very quick to interrupt other family member's accounts to elaborate or correct them. Throughout the interview, she clutches rosary beads. She handles the audience questions with abject and outright hostility. When questioned if she sought medical attention after being raped by a demon, Carmen snaps "No. Why would we?" Why indeed? Carmen also contradicts herself at several points, For example, she insists she sent Phillip to a psychiatrist because she didn't believe his story, yet she too claims to have not only seen spirits by this stage but to have raped by them!

Legitimate concerns with the Snedeker account are raised by residents of the area, including the present residents of their home. Carmen laughably pounces on the current residents, insisting they too had an exorcism, which they deny. She then has them confirm that there are hardwood floors in the building, which they do as if this somehow confirms the Snedeker's story. Carmen tells the couple to dig into the walls 12" to discover "exorcism metals" and "other stuff" which will prove their story is true. The most common complaints brought to the Snedeker's are that stories of problems with the home, including the "demonic presence" and claims they were unaware of the home's history as a funeral parlour, only arose when the Snedeker's fell behind with their rent. Also, the quite ridiculous idea that despite being frequently raped and sodomised by demons, Carmen and Al remained in the house for almost two full years!

One neighbour, rather brilliantly, has kept a log connecting the events that the Snedekers reported to the papers and local events occurring in the neighbourhood.

It's now time for Ed and Lorraine Warren to appear. This is when Ed makes one of the most disgusting claims I've ever heard made concerning the paranormal, the reason for this haunting was that bodies had been subjected to necrophilia whilst the house was a funeral home. The funeral director who had operated in the home was a well-known and much-respected member of the local community. Many of the local resident's loved ones had passed through that home at one time. Ed cared nothing for this or the potential upset and harm that could've arisen from this completely false and disgusting allegation. When people ask me why I loathe Hollywood's portrayal of Ed and Lorraine so much, I frequently point to this show. Ed is an absolute bully of a man, completely without class. There's none of the quick wit or charm displayed in Patrick Wilson portrayal of him on display here. He shouts down critics of the Snedeker's story, even going as far as accusing them of being "paid off" be the owner of the house, and claiming money and fame as their motivation for attending the show. One sharp young lad responds to this by asking Ed if he is there in the studio for free, which fails to silence him for even a moment, he continues to bellow. 

You often judge people by your own standards, is it any wonder Ed prioritises money as a motive before any kind of reverence to the truth?

Ed claims that a priest conducted an exorcism at the home, as if that is any real validation of the events having actually occurred, but refuses to name him other than calling him "Father A". When a neighbour asks him to provide more information he angrily shouts "Why should I? Father A is the name I give you." as he angrily gestures at the young man in question.Perhaps so your account can be somewhat corroborated Ed?

 Ed's response to almost all this criticism is "were you in the house?" He laughingly attempts to invalidate the questions and opinions of anyone who wasn't in the house, and therefore isn't complicit in the hoax!

Ed also makes the claim at this point that they have "the proof" of the occurrences in the home. That's a question which Ray Garton also asked Ed during his research for "In A Dark Place". Ed told Garton that there were videotapes of "evidence", but they had rather inconveniently been destroyed. Presumably, why we see not a jot of evidence on the Sally show. 
Don't worry though, Ed has brought along an eye-witness to the occurrences in the house. Unfortunately, he fails to mention that this "eye-witness" whom he refers to as "that gentleman" is well-known to him, it's his apprentice and nephew, John Zaffis.
Zaffis has since made a killing, and career, on the Connecticut case. He has authored a book with Chip Coffey regarding the story and has worked with Carmen Snedeker, now Reed, in retelling her experiences in book form. Zaffis is often, also credited with being the lead investigator on the case, but it's clear from his appearance here that he has no real sway in the case. Ed refers to him only to offer back up and corroboration and he is never made a part of the main dialogue.
An audience member comes to the Snedeker's aid asking why they would fabricate this story when there are other ways of making money, a ridiculous argument, imagine that being deployed as a defence in a bank robbery case: "Your honour, why would my client rob a bank. There are other ways of making money!" The truth is, the Snedekers were following the advice of Ed Warren, who admits moments earlier he urged them to write a book. Ed and Lorraine were always envious of the success enjoyed by George Lutz and the Amytiville case, they'd attempted to cash in on that case and when that failed, had attempted to emulate it repeatedly. This was their latest and most successful effort. I believe the Snedeker's started this nonsense as an attempt to blackmail their landlord into dropping the arrears in rent they owed. When they involved the Warrens, the blue touch paper was lit. Secondly, Carmen had tried to make money other ways, as the book was being written she was, according to Ray Garton, running an illegal interstate lottery scam, which she was, understandably, keen he not mention in the text.

Now we come to the final five minutes of the show, or as I like to call this point: And now a word from our skeptic. TV shows rarely give skeptical voices much air time, and Joe Nickell's contribution here is also burdened by the fact that Ed Warren constantly shouts over him. Ed clearly does not want Nickell to be heard, and even urging from the shows host cannot curtail his angry shouting. The exchange is actually immortalised in the Conjuring 2, with Nickell (left) replaced with a pudgy balding "scientist". Of course, Ed comes off the better in that fictional exchange, but Nickell takes him to the cleaners in the real version, correctly decrying Warrens as a loud-mouth. 

Nickell also has to deal with the hectoring of Carmen Snedeker, who seems to believe that denouncing Nickell as an atheist is a blow to his credibility. "This man doesn;t even believe in God. What would he know?" she cries, somehow winning the argument that exists in her own head.
Whilst being hectored, Nickell makes excellent points about the case, highlighting it's inconsistencies and it's similarities to the Amityville Horror amongst other cases and it's scheduling for release around Halloween.  Of course, one thing Joe misses possibly due to time constraints or even the fact that this wasn't common knowledge at the time, that killer blow to the credibility of this tale is the fact that the book's author is absent from this promotional appearance, for reasons we are now all too aware.

I see this 48 minutes of schlock television as somewhat important in view of the current reference in which the Warrens are held. Ed comes off as a brutish bully, unable to express any ideas without aggression, In fact, he frequently gestures right in Lorraine's face as she sits and blankly stares ahead. Lorraine simply doesn't speak. She actually seems apart from the debate raging around her, so much so that I have to wonder if she was medicated at the time of the show. The show also leaves little doubt as to how we should view the Snedeker's claims. Local residents simply demolish their story. Many elements of the show were seized upon by Nickell in a subsequent investigation into the case which is essential reading for skeptics and believers alike.

Friday, 12 August 2016

A Look Back At Ralph Sarchie's The Demon Files.

The Demon Files... a show that is as exploitative, sensationalist and potentially dangerous as any other paranormal show I've ever seen, barring perhaps Chip Coffey's utterly deplorable "Psychic Kids".

I decided to take a look at the first episode "The Mirror" aired on Destination America, Sunday 1st November 2015. The Demon Files is predominantly a vehicle for ex-cop turned Demonologist,  Ralph Sarchie. You may be familiar with Sarchie from his book "Beware the Night" and the Eric Bana film based on his story "Deliver Us from Evil". I wasn't, meaning I came into this with a completely fresh perspective.

One thing is immediately and abundantly clear: this is Sarchie's show. Sure there's an introduction to the team at the beginning,  and the group shots in the promo material, but this is all about Ralph.

Sarchie is quick to point out in the introduction that he is not a paranormal investigator and not a "ghost hunter" he's a demonologist. Me thinks the lady dost protest too much, especially when much of the "evidence" on display here is collected in the tried and tested (and failed) methods used by most ghost hunting TV shows: 

EVP? Check. 

Orb videos? Check.

Investigations in the dark when clearly an investigation in the light would be more feasible? Check.

The truth is that the only real difference here is this show is far more upfront about its "demonic" agenda. This is just a culmination of a change that's been occurring in American paranormal shows for a while, demons are replacing ghosts simply because the idea is scarier. Demons are always evil, always inhuman, and never mean well. These aren't placid spooks that will be ushered gently into the light. Someone's gonna get fucked up messin' with a demonic. 

Or not. Again the difference is a superficial one. These demons manifest in the same way as common garden spooks apparently, just check the above list.

So the concept of a "demonic" is presented here simply to up the tension and sense of danger. A cheap move in lieu of any actual tension. That would be my explanation for the laughable disclaimer the show begins with:

 "...May be due to ghosts or darker entities..." WOW. The way they've phrased that there almost makes it sound like someone has actually proven an evidential link... or even that paranormal activity, ghosts and dark entities ACTUALLY EXIST!

Oh and don't attempt exorcisms without "proper training" presumably proper training means buying some impressive looking equipment, some religious paraphernalia and declaring one's self a "demonologist". Oh, and getting a TV show commissioned of course.

In this first episode, Sarchie travels to Fayette, Pennsylvania and meets Leigh-ann, 23, and family. Ralph tells us they have been suffering "violent attacks" indicative of demonic activity. But when the family recount their experiences there doesn't seem to be any violence involved. Their encounters range from the mundane and explainable to the actually quite scary, but still explainable. scratching noises, for example, would be easily explained by vermin, something Sarchie never checks for.... he's not an investigator as he told us after all. And the "feeling" of being pinned in their beds experienced by Leigh-Ann and her mom explainable by sleep paralysis, still terrifying I'll attest, but explainable.

Leigh-Ann's mother goes on to describe her and her husband's history of substance abuse, domestic violence and Leigh-Ann's suicide attempt. Are these really the people that should be exposed in a paranormal TV show? I'd argue not. The family clearly have some very real problems, the stress of believing they are living under demonic oppression cannot be healthy for these people. Having Sarchie and a TV crew come in to confirm this is potentially very harmful. 

There's already more than a whiff of exploitation about the show and we're less than ten minutes in.

Sarchie begins his tour of Leanne's home. He seems keen throughout the show to remind us he was a cop, he states frequently "As a cop..." or "A cop deals with..." In this scene, he is carrying a large torch with him during his snooping, despite the house being well lit.

In one bedroom he finds an old mirror which he decides is a part of the investigation, and linked to the demon, for absolutely no discernible reason other than it looks the part!

Throughout his initial investigation Ralph's world-view becomes painfully apparent, he hangs crucifixes about the home, consults his Bible, and makes frequent references to the holy trinity, god's love and Satan. Whilst there isn't anything intrinsically wrong with him holding this world-view, he clearly isn't objective. He is looking for confirmation of his world views and one shouldn't be surprised when he finds it.

When he tell's us initially that he isn't a paranormal investigator he's being too modest. He isn't worthy of being called an investigator of any kind. He made his mind up long before he walked into that house. Hell, if he hadn't we wouldn't have a show, would we?

At around 9 minutes in we get our first "paranormal event".

Brace yourself. It's a doozy.

Whilst rooting through Leigh-Ann's closet, filmed by his film crew, in an extremely cramped room, a stack of DVDs fall over.

And one of the DVDs has the word "Devil" on the cover, Well actually it doesn't. It's a copy of Ralph's own "Deliver us from Evil" movie (available from all good stockists, eh Ralph? Was this contractual or what?) which has title laid out in such a way that it looks like "Devil".

Following this event, Ralph laughably shouts to his team "We've just had phenomena up here!" Really? A falling stack of DVDs is phenomena? Sarchie explains that these aren't just DVDs, they are DVDs about the devil. So that one on top of his film with the light blue cover, lady in scrubs and the hot pink title is "about the devil"? Has Satan moved into the lucrative "chick-flick" market? It is evil....

Investigation over, Ralph now wants to begin his "religious provocation". This involves him shouting insults into thin air in order to provoke the demon to attack him. It's become something of a staple of certain paranormal shows lately.

Before the provocation can begin however, Sarchie has the important job of turning the screws on the family in order to up the tension for the audience. Now this is what I call exploitation...

Sarchie essentially tells the visibly shaken family three things:

1, They have a demon, not just in the house but attached to them, meaning they can't just flee the house essentially.

2, If the demon is provoked it WILL hurt them.

3, He's off to provoke it.


I'll do some provocation of my own now, just to the producers of this show now and the FUCKWITS at Destination America who allowed it to be vomited onto their network:

Did any of you, stop for one second to consider the potential effects of telling all this to a family with a history of substance abuse, mental health issues and at least one suicide attempt between them, not to mention a clear obsession with the paranormal?  At all? Did any of you say "wait guys... could this HARM these people? Is the resulting sensationalism worth that potential harm?" And if none of you did, FUCK you. And if you did and decided to proceed anyway... FUCK YOU!

I suspect that this "provocation" of your ethical sensibilities is as wasted as Ralph's attempts to provoke demons.... AS NEITHER THING ACTUALLY FUCKING EXISTS!

Anyway... Ralph's provocations are cringingly  bravado fuelled, he describes them as "Basically giving the devil the finger". The gems include:

"Come and get some!"

"Manifest you coward!"

And "Beware the night jerk -off", which is the name of Sarchies' book (minus the "jerk-off" obviously). Available at all good retailers.

Sarchie visibly revels in his macho routine, one suspects his warnings to the family simply serve in his mind to make his scene more impressive. It doesn't, it makes it sickeningly crass.

During this process and the following investigation, Ralph's team are supposedly collecting evidence that will confirm this is a situation in need of an exorcism. A foregone conclusion for Sarchie already we can be sure.

The collected evidence 
1. Video's of "orbs". One of which Sarchie states cannot be dust as it changes shape as it moves. Well, orbs aren't dust, they are light reflecting from dust (and other particles) hitting a camera lens. As they move the angle at which the light hits the lens so the shape clearly does change and often disappears, Sachie also finds it remarkable that as he and a colleague open a door several "orbs" rush past them. This is easily explained by Brownian motion.

2. Temperature variations throughout the house. At no point does Sarchie consult an actual measuring tool to measure these claimed changes. Also, there's no evidence that any base-line readings have been taken, meaning no one can legitimately say whether these fluctuations are out of the ordinary.

3. Some of the weakest EVP you'll ever hear. Seriously even with the captioning on the screen, I couldn't make out what was being suggested to be. Steve Huff would be outraged.... then sell them an app.

4. Subjective feelings from the team "psychic" Shaun. Lots of "I feel..." and "I sense..."

At one point a window shutter bangs scaring Shaun out of his skin. He claims as it happened he was receiving a terrifying vision of a "lizard-demon" . Funny he looked pretty relaxed to me before it happened, not someone experiencing a "terrifying vision"

5. Leigh-Ann's suicide attempt. Yep... you read it. Ralph presents this young woman's attempt to take her life as prime evidence as the presence of a "demonic". The show returns time and time again to this. Physic Shaun has the taste of pills in his mouth. Leigh-Ann's drawings of a lizard-demon that she believes she saw as she was unconscious is trotted out, seemingly matching the vision Shaun had as he was falling asleep.... sorry conducting EVPS.

The mirror is cursed because Leigh-Ann was looking into it when she tried to kill herself.

It just goes on and on.

All this is just so tasteless. Attributing attempted suicide to the actions of a non-existent fairy tale entity in order to strengthen the case for an exorcism that has to happen for there to be a TV show.... I'm sure that Leigh-Ann receives a lot of therapy after this incident, all this BULLSHIT not only cheapens that genuine help but threatens to undo it.


Sarchie has the balls to describe the utter guff I've listed above as "spectacular evidence". He's wrong on both counts. It is neither spectacular nor is it evidence.

Needless to say the exorcism, he concludes, must go ahead.

Sarchie sits down again with the family. He tells Leigh-Ann that she is responsible for inflicting this terror on her family by drawing an anarchy symbol on her bedroom wall in sharpe marker when she was thirteen and allegedly dabbling with the occult. As this brings her to tears, he tells her:

"You are the devil's now."

To a young girl... quite obsessed with the paranormal.... who has previously attempted suicide.

Excuse me for a second.....


We get our second disclaimer now. This one even more bombastic and sensationalist.

Sarchie warns us after this how dangerous the ritual is. The devil, he says "won't go down without a fight" which leads one to wonder why the family are still in the house when it occurs? In fact, why have they been left there throughout the whole process? Because the audience need to see someone scared to aid catharsis, and Ralph's ego won't allow him to be the one who is in the vulnerable position. They are his sacrificial lambs, literally at one point, when Sarchie sends Leigh-Ann and her mother, both already terrified, to their beds to "lure out" the demon!

This becomes deliciously ironic when Sarchie points out the potential physical and psychological threat to the family during the exorcism. This is the first time I've seen even the remotest regard for the families well-being in about 36 minutes. It's a hollow gesture given what has gone before. Another hollow gesture is waiving the potential physical harm (not that I believe there actually is the potential for physical harm here. Not unless Ralph drops his massive crucifix on his toe) by saying Mike and Mark will be with the family and they are "fully police trained". I presume this includes restraining lizard demons?

Ralph pushes on with the exorcism, conducted by errr.... himself. It seems that like most demonologists, Sarchie has decided that title qualifies him to do virtually anything on a whim, except speak Latin apparently. In fact, the whole ritual is sans Latin, this sentence contains more Latin. And then it's over.... despite all the warnings... the disclaimers... the dramatic music.... NOTHING HAPPENS. 

Ironically at the end of the show, Ralph tells us he's taking the cursed mirror to John Zaffis, He's having the nephew of the Warrens recycle his old shit after spending 42 minutes recycling theirs!

And that's it, the devil goes down, it seems, without so much as a whimper...

And that's the problem here. Throughout the whole thing, to quote Del Amitri, nothing ever happens, Nothing happens at all.

And that's my experience of paranormal programming in general. Take away the dramatic music, the scared punters, the disclaimers and there's nothing.

In light of this, can one really be that angry that during a three-hour live Most Haunted episode, someone ensured at least SOMETHING happened, even if it was fake?

Ironically at the end of the show, Ralph tells us he's taking the cursed mirror to John Zaffis, He's having the nephew of the Warrens recycle his old shit after spending 42 minutes recycling theirs!

Examining Chip Coffey's Psychic Kids.

I recently came across a seemingly harmless article on Week I Weird, which I thought may make some amusing reading: "Gone Too Soon: The Five Best Paranormal Reality Shows That Should Never Have Been Cancelled "  Unfortunately, the article left me rather pissed off when I saw the image  which heads it.

Why? In the top left of the image is a representation of Chip Coffey's "Psychic Kids". The person clutching their face in terror, a common image in paranormal TV shows, isn't an adult. It's a child. Also, that isn't simulated fear we're seeing there, that's a child placed in an extremely tense, scary situation in a state of absolute terror.

The show ran for three seasons between 2008 and 2010 and its basic format  was as follows: Coffey and his team met with children who claimed to have psychic abilities with the aim of "training them" or enabling them to "cope" with their experiences in some way. Usually, this involved taking them to some haunted location to "face their fear". Many of these children were clearly vulnerable and Coffey pushing his bullshit beliefs on them could potentially have done an untold amount of damage in their lives.

Perhaps the easiest way to demonstrate why I find Psychic Kids so utterly repugnant is to talk through an episode as I did in the past with the recently cancelled Ralph Sarcchie vehicle "The Demon Files". For the sake of fairness, I'm actually going to look at three episodes, Demon in the Mirror, The Ghost of Georgie and the main episode I'll focus on, season one's The Demon House. 

Needless to say, before the episode, we are met with the usual disclaimer distancing A&E from a show that they are airing, and in this case, also produced. This disclaimer is the television executive's answer to a "protective white light" it sounds good but it remains to be seen if would actually protect them from anything. In this case, legal action presumably being the concern rather than evil spirits or some such hogwash. The show begins properly, with various soundbites of some of the "psychic kids" describing how scared they are of the paranormal entities and phenomena they believe they experience. It's clear from the get go, front and centre that this show is specifically designed to exploit the fear and anxiety of the children involved to invoke catharsis from the audience. Of course, the audience is sat at home and can turn the TV off if they so chose, the "psychic kids" aren't so lucky.

After the credits, we meet the two girls who are our psychic kids for the episode, Hayley and Alexia and their mothers. Alexia is the main focus of the episode, as it is her old home in which she allegedly saw demons which the team will investigate later. The most striking thing about the segment isn't the girls themselves, who repeat the same paranormal stories we frequently hear, it is the mother's fear and distrust of mental health professionals and the whole scope of health professionals in general. 

"I can't take her to a psychiatrist... who is going to help her? An ear, nose and throat specialist?" 

Hayley's mother scoffs, as if those are the only two types of medical professionals that exist, and seemingly doesn't even consider that care workers and teachers could possibly help her child. Of course her mother never even tried a medical intervention, nor did Alexia's.

 This distrust and dismissal of the mental health industry and the general paranoia at how the outside world will deal with the kids "powers" is a common theme throughout the show, it's touched upon in every episode I've watched thus far. At one point Hayley's Mum states that if she takes Hayley to a doctor, the social services will "take her away". Hayley, displaying more common sense than anyone I saw during the three episodes states "No they won't mom." Her mother emphatically puts down this attempt at rationality.

The look of distress on Hayley's face when her mother says this is genuinely upsetting.

The other parents featured on the show express similar ideas and the general mistrust of the medical and social establishment. Likely this is encouraged to create the narrative that the heroic Coffey is the only one who can help these children, but it's an irresponsible and worrying idea promoted with perverse glee in the show. The most disgraceful thing about this permeating attitude of fear and paranoia is that the show features a trained, and well-qualified psychologist. Dr Lisa Miller (left in final image below) is Coffey's partner in crime on the show and is also a trained clinical psychologist from Columbia university. Later in the show when the mothers meet Miller they repeat their fears that their daughters will be taken away or heavily medicated if they seek professional help to her. And Miller, a qualified mental health professional, a PhD associated with a well-respected university, the director of clinical psychology no less, sits and fucking nods in agreement! One of the mothers actually suggests that her child would be given electric shock therapy, a treatment that is no longer employed anywhere in the treatment of mental health.... AND MILLER NODS!

At no stage does this doctor, this woman of science, correct the mothers about their misrepresentation of the profession in which she makes a living. I've screen capped the sequence above, is the look on Miller's face in the final image reflective of the dilemma she's faced with? She either allows the show's narrative to continue or she defends here profession from blatant and public misrepresentation. She has the opportunity here to publicly dismiss some of the stigmas that blight both mental health professionals and those that suffer from mental health issues. She chooses to allow the show's narrative of Coffey being the only person who can help these girls to continue. Now, you may be thinking that Miller could well have offered these parents legitimate help off screen, that's a possibility, but it doesn't help the audience, some of whom may share these misconceptions. Some may even have children dealing with these issues, or worse, and Miller's silence endorses the idea that they should avoid medical and social care.

Let me be clear here. Dr Lisa Miller Ph,d. You are, in my humble opinion, an absolute disgrace to your profession. Your silence during this scene is complicity. I sincerely hope your superiors at Columbia become aware of your inaction and what you helped promote on this show. You're shameful.

Miller also clearly indulges the fantasy of psychic abilities the girls have developed. At no point does she suggest any kind of testing of the girl's abilities. In the "Ghost of Freddie" episode she actually partipates in the calling forth of evil spirits!

She also thinks that placing the children in a stressful, potentially oppressive environment is a fine idea, and never issues any words of caution at all. This is all relayed in a conversation that is bizarrely filmed from in a bush and behind a tree, possibly in an attempt at creating an impression that this was filmed without Coffey and Miller's knowledge, which is clearly nonsense as they are obviously micced. So Miller thinks this experience would be helpful to the girls, is that her professional opinion? Is she prepared to stake her reputation on it? I doubt it. Probably why she insisted on being filmed from the shrubbery.

On to Coffey. One thing I notice is Chip seems to have a thinly veiled disdain for his charges in the show. His relationship with them is cold, he shows little warmth or affection towards them. As a side note, I find this is often the case with self-proclaimed psychics. Chip claims he is going to teach the girls methods to protect themselves but actually teaches them.... well nothing. All he seems to do is accept the paranormal claims they throw out and agree with them, never elaborating on what is offered and responding as monosyllabically as possible, often mumbling "Ahmm" as an answer. Never mind communicating with the dead, from what I see over the three episodes I watched, Coffey can barely communicate with the living!

The image above comes from a scene when Coffey takes Alexa to a dock near her home to "test her power" by detecting  spirit she has supposedly seen there. Everything she throws out Coffey simply confirms, it's quite laughable:

Alexa: It's gone cold....

Coffey: Freezing...

Alexa: I feel him in my stomach...

Coffey: I feel  it in my gut...
Coffey: I feel  it in my gut...

This is supposed to confirm Alexa's abilities, but that's only valid if we assume Coffey also has these abilities. There's no attempt at verification and the whole scene simply appears as a grown man indulging a child's fantasy.

Of course, Coffey's role is greater than that. When the children are placed in stressful and frightening situations Coffey amps up the anxiety by warning of things such as "negative entities". The general approach of the show is also driven towards the aim of ensuring the children involved are as scared as possible. As with most ghost-hunting TV shows all investigations are conducted in the dark with night vision cameras. This is despite most of the children clearly describing having experiences in broad daylight. The reason for this is clear, the participants in the show must be afraid, or the audience won't be afraid. This is the basic premise of catharsis, if these children aren't afraid, why would we, the audience feel the thrill of fear?

The third act of the three episodes I watched all revolved around one of the children involved "facing their fear". We're told this is necessary for the kids, but we're never actually told why it's necessary.  So it's the  third act when the kids are exposed to high pressure, tense and particularly scary environments. It's these sections that expose Psychic kids as pure exploitation. In "Demon House"  Alexa is being taken back to her old home where she believes she has encountered evil spirits to confront them again. This confrontation must, of course, be conducted at midnight and in the pitch black. She seems visibly shaken returning to the house, but repeats she has to do it for "reasons". I think that Alexa, despite her fear, enjoys the attention of being the focus of this narrative, Hayley less so.

At the house comes the only example I found of Chip disagreeing with one of his charges when Alexa suggests that a noise is just the wind. "No it wasn't!" he snaps in an admonishing tone. Coffey won't tolerate any attempt at rational thinking.

Alexa corrects her error by immediately "sensing" a laughing figure. Coffey reacts by shouting "whoa" at apparently nothing and the girls flee the house in terror. Chip remains in the house, looking around with the blank expression more befitting a ventriloquist's dummy than a man who has just terrified two teenage girls, while Hayley consoles a seemingly genuinely upset Alexa.

When Coffey finally comes out to console the girls, he does so by suggesting to these already scared and vulnerable children that what they encountered was a demon.

The kids agree this is a demon, and Chip drafts in two self-appointed experts, Linda Isbell who claims to have been a demonologist for 26 years and Beth Roberts who doesn't tell us how long she's been an expert in things that don't exist... sorry... a demonologist. Their role is to "cleanse" Alexa's old home. The episode goes out with a whimper rather than a bang, with the girls returning to the house with Chip and the crew. Alexa declares the demon cannot hurt her anymore and we're done.

Bizarrely, all three episodes end in this exact way. In the episode "Demon in the Mirror" Coffey acts out a role play in which one of the Psychic Kids is physically dragged in front of the titular mirror to banish a "demon lady". It's a weirdly uncomfortable scene and one that gives a very clear picture of Coffey. As he stands in front of the girls, arms crossed giving orders in militaristic tones, it's very clear he is enjoying the control he has over the situation immensely. He strikes me as a rather pathetic little man, probably the ideal choice for a show like this, who else would be so desperate for affirmation that they would have to seek it by exploiting potentially vulnerable children?

I hope I've demonstrated how exploitative this show actually was. It certainly wasn't just harmless paranormal fluff like other psychic and ghost hunting TV shows. As parents and Aunts and uncles, and brothers and sisters we work tirelessly to protect our children from being placed in unnecessary stressful and frightening situations. Making a child who believes in demons go into a "haunted house" at midnight, one which holds horrible memories for them, be they false or otherwise, or physically forcing them to stare into a mirror in which they believe they have seen a "demon" is unspeakably cruel.

I'll leave you with this. The three children (below) featured in "Ghost of Freddie" episode are twelve, eleven and eight years old. At the end of the episode, Coffey sits in a room with them calling forth "evil spirits" with Dr Miller. These aren't adults. Not even teenagers. I don't ever want to see children subjected to such ideas and conditions for my amusement. Psychic Kids should not come back. it should have been commissioned, it's a blight on the careers of everyone involved. If you think that show was in any way acceptable, that it was justified in placing minors in a position in which they are so scared, then you need to have a serious think about the about the amount of suffering you think is acceptable for entertainment's sake.