Syfy has been touting a new reality show in its ghostly genre called “Paranormal Witness”. The concept is not really new—it presents the true stories of everyday people who have paranormal encounters. Even so, I’m a sucker for shows like this, and the idea of stories newer than the ones I’d seen and heard over and over put this on my list.
The iO9 blog had a post reviewing the premier episode, saying that Syfy “finally” had a paranormal show that was actually scary. Ghost Hunters and its related franchises have always been the big ratings grabbers, but it really hasn’t been scary in years. They’ll have to forgive me for this—but honestly, most people I know put the show on in the background while they’re doing something else. It’s become very formulaic. They always go to a high-profile place (you don’t see them going to Joe Blow’s house anymore), and the team falls into their roles in the same way, like a band that has rehearsed and is “tight” but has no spontaneity. It doesn’t have to be bad, but it does lack something. In every GH episode I’ve seen in the last 2 years, not much happens. They claim to hear sounds and see things, but the evidence review is not very impressive. And as my sister pointed out, it doesn’t seem like they really “help” people too much—they collect their evidence, give their opinion, and that’s it. It rarely solves anything for the people involved. Nothing really beat Season 2 and 3 of that show, in my opinion.
As I no longer have anything but basic cable in my house, I no longer get Syfy, so I’m pretty reliant on their streaming full episodes online. Naturally they’ve removed all Ghost Hunters episodes, and charge $40.00 for a season pass on iTunes. The first Paranormal Witness episode was posted, and the season pass was only $16.00, so I went for it. Maybe it’s not a huge bargain—there may not be as many episodes. But I can tell you it’s money better spent, after seeing the first episode.
First, I should mention that I am one of those who puts on the new GH episode and ends up wandering away to do something else. It just doesn’t hold my attention. If I hear something that sounds moderately exciting, I’ll pay attention again, and I usually like to watch the evidence review, but otherwise it’s pretty dull. Not so with Paranormal Witness. I think I sat on the edge of my chair for the entire episode. It did not disappoint—it was creepy and scary.
The episodes are said to be true accounts of paranormal experiences. I have to take that with a grain of salt. I don’t doubt that these things really happened to these people; I’m just not sure how the production crew has spun the story. Nonetheless, good storytelling has its value, and these are very well told.
The first part of episode 1 deals with a family that moves into a haunted house. Their daughter begins to communicate with “Emily” a little girl who they believe is just an imaginary friend. Ensuing events show them that not only is “Emily” not particularly nice (and she hates the parents), Emily may not be Emily at all. When a medium visits the house, it seems clear it is a male spirit. But from what I could see early on, the “Emily” haunting had all the hallmarks of a demonic case. I understand that these things are overwhelming, and that people go into denial. But when a spirit tries to make your daughter jump out the window, I don’t think I’d worry about the mortgage and the bills—I’d pack up and move right then, and call somebody to figure out what’s going on—either a spiritual person (an exorcist of some variety) or a paranormal investigator. Calling in a medium did not seem very sensible, nor did it appear that this medium helped them at all. They also succumbed very quickly to fear; an investigator, religious or not, would tell them that this is the worst thing to do, even understanding how scary it is. Nothing feeds a negative energy more than your fear of it. After all, in some respect, it IS you, even though it’s also external to you.
The second part was about an episode in Florida, where a mother drove to church with her daughter and their Pakistani exchange student. The teenage daughter refused to go into the church, staying outside with the music blaring and the windows down. When the mother came out and they were driving home, the daughter saw a young girl at the side of the otherwise desolate road. It seemed to be getting dark, which I thought was weird—how could you have gone to a church service—which is usually held in the morning—and have it be getting dark already by the time you’re going home? Minor detail, really. But the daughter convinces the mother to turn around and look for the girl—they see her again, but then she disappears. They start driving home again, but then the girl reappears on the road two miles ahead. At this point the daughter (the real daughter, as they were being interviewed, and it alternated between this and a re-enactment) starting freaking out a bit, and she realized there was something unnatural about this girl. I don’t want to say any more about the story—you should watch it if you’re able. You can watch it here for now.
So, my review—this show lives up to the hype so far. Hope it continues to be as good throughout the season.