Let's Talk About Paranormal Shows and TV Exorcisms--From the Supreme to the Suck

Author's note: Thanks to everyone who contacted me about the glitch in this blog post. Took about an hour of redoing all the HTML code, but we're good to go now. Thanks and enjoy!

Nowhere was this title more apt than this past Halloween weekend. From the supreme to the suck, paranormal shows ran the gamut from great to horrendous. 

Thanks to Kate and the Bell Witch legend, along with another, intensely personal and terrifying demonic event I witnessed as a young adult, I have always been very interested in the paranormal. Once television began to create shows like SyFy's Ghost Hunters or Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures, I was pretty happy. I could watch similar experiences to my own happening safely to people I didn't know and hopefully learn as a result. The two shows I just mentioned are two, perhaps, of the best. While both shows have had episodes where I've sat back and thought, "Yeah, right. Your jacket got pulled ten minutes into a live show--because all the shows you've done before tell us how rare paranormal events are and how difficult to capture." both shows have also had episodes where the evidence seemed to be legitimate and inexplicable. So if there can be such a thing, I'd have to place TAPS and the GAC at the top of my list for paranormal television viewing. 

And then, of course, there's the internet. You know as well as I do that about 95% of the "real ghost caught on tape" YouTube videos are crap, and that the methodology and even the makeup of most "paranormal investigation teams" online is laughably similar to the two shows I've named above. But there are paranormal videos/evidence/investigators online who also can teach us things about the supernatural and who, I believe, after extensive vetting, are also legitimate sources of information. ?In fact, "I've created a playlist on my YouTube channel of investigations and documentaries I consider to be useful. LiveSciFi.tv, with its salty and irreverent host Tim, not only livestreams all its video feeds from ghost hunts, most notably at the Sallie house in Atchison KS and the Welles house in Pennsylvania, but also undertakes a lot of folklore rituals like Bloody Mary and the recent Charlie Charlie pencil game *{add in FRAUD here since it was a viral advertising campaign}. Tim also conducts multiple sessions each month, live streamed, where he works with a spirit board, ghost box and Ovilus, and real time EVP burst sessions that have captured ("in my opinion) viable entity communications. Fair warning--DO NOT try to emulate what he does. The internet is also littered with videos of "ouija gone bad" and that personal experience I referred to earlier originated with ouija board communications. Tim may also be battling demonic attention, as the names ZoZo, Beelzebub, Abacus, and Azrael pop up frequently. While you--like me--may be skeptical of spirit board communications, Tim has worked with legendary investigator and demonologist John Zaffis, the nephew of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and they actually have investigated together on LiveSciFi which ups his credibility significantly in my book. A second outstanding paranormal option is the Fourman brothers' Living Dead paranormal group, that produces incredibly professional and entertaining documentaries of its ghost hunts and has captured some extraordinary evidence. Their investigations of Pennhurst, the Monroe (IN) house, and the Glore Psychiatric Hospital are amazing--and terrifying. They seem like the real deal, and present their evidence in a straightforward, non-hyperbolic fashion that I really appreciate. 

Both these groups have channels, which I frequently confess to binge watching. If you want to see what investigators mean about how rare true evidence is, take a gander at one of LiveSciFi.tv's 15 hour DVR videos, that are presented, unedited, from their ghost hunts.

And finally, believe it or not, I have to add in a group/TV show that I used to really laugh at. The UK's Most Haunted show is probably the longest-running paranormal show in the world, and now that they seem to have chucked the mediums and are headed in a more evidentiary direction, they've just released what is most likely the closest video evidence to parallel the Bell haunting. More on that in a bit--and never fear. I'll provide links to websites and YouTube channels, as well as a link to my own playlist of particularly awesome online investigation videos. 

So after all that, let's talk for a minute about "Exorcism-Live!" that was produced by the Destination America channel last Friday night. 

I was very interested in Exorcism-Live last week. First off, it was being shot at the "Exorcist house"--the actual house in St. Louis where Roland Doe was possessed--the source material for both the book and the movie The Exorcist. This location was investigated last year by the GAC guys, and Nick Groff actually had something malicious follow him home. I don't know that's why he left Ghost Adventures, but the timing of the two events makes me a little suspicious. At any rate, this location has experienced documentary paranormal activity since 1949, so I was curious to see what would happen. The Tennessee Wraith Chasers paranormal group (Tennessee boys, which makes me fond of them, naturally) conducted an investigation of the property live--they are the Ghost Asylum show on DA. Chip Coffey, a spiritualist medium that anyone who watched Paranormal State or Psychic Kids is familiar with, would lead a seance in the house using a Ouija board. And then Bishop James Long would perform an "exorcism" of the location to close out the show. 

There's a reason for the quotes there. The "Exorcism" Bishop Long conducted is actually the minor rite, the one used to cleanse houses, things, places, and so forth--not people. Also, Bishop Long is not a Roman Catholic bishop, but an Independent or Old Catholic bishop. "Independent Catholics separated from the Roman Catholic church over doctrinal differences, mostly dealing with papal authority. And while their orders are acknowledged by the Roman Catholic church for the most part, they don't exactly have a hotline to the Vatican. Does that make a difference really? 

Well, I don't know. 

I do know that the St. Louis archdiocese released a strong statement against the show last week, The statement reads in part:

St. Louis, Mo., Oct 30, 2015 / 03:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News)- A television show’s promise of a live exorcism rite is more dangerous than it thinks, the St. Louis archdiocese warned on Thursday. 
“Any attempt to use the solemn Rite of Exorcism as entertainment exposes all participants to the danger of future hidden satanic attack,” Bishop Robert Hermann said Oct. 29. “We cannot play games with Satan and expect to win.” 
Bishop Hermann, an auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, said no exorcism can take place without the authority of the local Catholic ordinary.St. Louis’ Archbishop Robert Carlson has not granted permission to any priests or bishops for the event.

In my PERSONAL opinion, that makes a difference. The Catholic church has strict tests that are applied to candidates for the rite of exorcism. That's why few people actually get permission to receive the rite of exorcism, and only a few priests are permitted to engage in them. Without the official backing of the Roman Catholic Church, I find it difficult to believe that a rite like exorcism can be successfully performed. We're not talking about smudging a house with sage here. We're talking about spiritual warfare, using consecrated objects like holy water, a crucifix, the priestly vestments and performed by a consecrated priest who is trained in the rite by the church who actually has a demonology institute in Rome where both priests and laity can be trained in the ritual.

So even before the show began, I was very skeptical about what we would see. But, you know, I could be wrong. So I watched and hoped for the best.

I did not get it.

 The Ghost Asylum guys, God love 'em--they did their best to conduct a real paranormal investigation--something almost impossible to achieve in an hour stuffed full of commercial breaks, interviews with a very cheesy host, social media checks by a radio host who would read a question and never answer it, a full contingent of multiple film crews, and actual protesters howling down the street. There's no way their evidence is uncontaminated, and even if the investigation was conducted live the evidence couldn't possibly have been analyzed with any degree of thoroughness under those circumstances. Sorry, guys--it was a bust. Totally not your fault, either. Hopefully, you got to investigate AFTER the show was done. I'm sure whatever lingers in that house was well and truly pissed off about 3 am and you got some great evidence then.

And then we get to Chip Coffey's ten minute seance.

Seriously, dude? Are you kidding me? I don't play with ouija boards--although I have used them in the distant past--and even as a giggling thirteen-year-old at a sleepover I knew that the session MUST BE PROPERLY CLOSED. This session was barely even opened when Chip asked one question--Is there a darker entity trying to take over the board--allegedly received an affirmative answer (impossible to determine since their hand completely obscured the entire board)--and then they all got up and left WITHOUT CLOSING THE BOARD for a cheesy one on one with the cheesy host and a conveniently timed commercial break.

For someone who makes his living allegedly communing with the other side, this was such an obvious mistake that Twitter exploded under my fingertips even as I typed BULLSHIT. Even Tim from livescifi.tv tweeted "What a joke that ouija session was lol" while the first commercial was playing.

So at this point, there was less than ten minutes left before the show ended, and the world was treated to the kind of exorcism ritual you might get at Sonic if they conducted religious rites there. The show went a few minutes over, but Bishop Long and his assistant Chip Coffey emerged from the house and triumphantly announced the exorcism was successful.

Now let's stop and think about that for a second.

This location was, in 1949, the site of a long-running, extensive, and extremely intense MAJOR rite of exorcism--where multiple priests conducted spiritual warfare with demons for a teenaged boy's soul. If the house is still infested by demons in 2015, then OBVIOUSLY THOSE EXORCISMS CONDUCTED AT LENGTH, BY MULTIPLE PRIESTS IN TANDEM, OVER DAYS, WEEKS, AND MONTHS DID NOT WORK. And now Bishop Long, Chip Coffey, and Destination America would have us believe than ten minutes of standard Catholic prayers, some holy water, and the participation of a few cameras managed to rid the house of an infestation that has persisted for almost seventy years? When a Ouija session had just been conducted by ONE OF THE ASSISTANTS OF THE EXORCISM and the session left OPEN by him just a commercial break before?And how did they KNOW that it worked? Especially considering that in most cases of demonic infestation, it's well documented that the house might be quiet for a few days, but then the attacks return and actually worsen?

You can't finish an exorcism, walk out the door, and announce, "Okay, we won! Yay for us!" The fact of the matter is that you don't know--can't know unless you freaking check. EVP session, EMF scan, K2 reading--something. The only thing that was successfully concluded with Bishop Long's proclamation of triumph was the show, thank God. Anything else is nothing but bullshit.

Exactly. Embrace the suck. I couldn't do anything after the "exorcism" ended. I just kind of sat there, staring at the TV, wondering if television executives really think the American public are that stupid.

Evidently, the answer is yes.

See, I had an advantage. I've witnessed demonic occurrences and I can tell you 100% that a ten minute recitation of basic prayers and a holy water spritzer aren't going to do anything with a true demonic entity except annoy it. I saw a friend of mine, who was demonically oppressed, suffer as three burns the width of his thumb rose for no apparent reason on his skin. They started below his left ear, went all the way down his neck, the center of his chest, and terminated on the right side of his torso. I have seen the rage of a devil, and that drive-by Hail Mary wouldn't affect it in the slightest.

So we have to ask ourselves--how far will we willingly suspend our disbelief?In stark contrast to the absolute idiocy of Exorcism-Live...? (punctuation change mine) stood two paranormal shows I watched this weekend. First was the Ghost Adventures investigation of Deadwood, SD--and if you weren't creeped out by that, then you're not going to be creeped out by anything. For the Ghost Adventures episode, obviously, there isn't a YouTube link that I'm aware of but I'm certain that the Travel Channel will replay the two-hour show this Saturday night.And second, oddly enough, was the Most Haunted investigation of 30 East Drive in Pontefract. This show explores a case that as best I can tell most accurately reflects some of the occurrences in the Bell Witch haunting. The location is billed as the site of the most violent poltergeist activity in the world and has been since the 1960's. When you watch it, think back to the story I just related about my friend's burns from nowhere--and you'll instantly understand what I saw.

The link is on my Scariest Paranormal Investigation videos playlist, along with several other videos you might like and that I feel are worth watching. I'll be constantly adding to that playlist, by the way, as I run across new things.

Whenever you are confronting questions about the paranormal, it pays to be skeptical. A good healthy skepticism is the advantage of a logical mind. While it may be easier to just believe in everything, it's not always smarter. You can, if you choose, watch paranormal videos for just the entertainment. Many people do.

But, take this little nugget with you and ponder: any paranormal group, show, author, psychic medium, inventor, or religious individual who makes grandiose claims about CURING or EXORCISING or CLEANSING or ELIMINATING any kind of paranormal threat is more than likely full of it. And if you're experiencing a traumatic paranormal event, the worst thing you can possibly do is to be taken in by a charlatan--something I very much fear happened Friday night in St. Louis.

Whether intentional or not, Destination America, Bishop James Long, and Chip Coffey delivered a promise that they were patently incapable of keeping. There wasn't an Exorcism--Live! on TV Friday night. There was a parody of epic proportions--the kind of thing that sets back sincere, realistic paranormal investigations light years.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Great post! And thanks for the guidance!

I truly need to pay more attention to TAPS. Honestly, I've only watched a couple of episodes. With GAC, I think the interaction of the personalities is almost as entertaining as the paranormal aspects of the show. I also need to check out LiveSciFi.tv and Fourman brothers' Living Dead. (I'm hardly an expert and hadn't heard of these folks - Thanks!)

Exorcism Live: "I'm sure whatever lingers in that house was well and truly pissed off about 3 am" Hahahahaha! So true and great show overview!

YIKES on your demonic story! Would love to hear more about that occurence!

EXCELLENT POST!!!
John

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