Do you believe in ghosts and spirits?  Do you believe in haunted houses?  Do you believe children are able to see paranormal people and communicate with them?


There are a couple of television shows on American networks that deal with “child psychics” that see hauntings and communicate with the dead.

On one show, a pair of adults — one a former child psychic — visit with these children to help them through the difficulty of seeing things other children do not.

You cannot help but recognize the rising stink of another snake oil drama playing out before your eyes as you see these “special” children — obviously delusional and terrified — make up stories of things they think they feel and see.  When they have those irrational experiences authenticated by their parents and by visiting, self-certified “experts” assigned to save them, the rest of us shudder. 

The real terror is in the disconnect between adult reality and childhood invention.

Some of the children relish their special status and weave long stories and personal histories of the undead — the dead, not the devil, is in the details — and the fact that several stories mirror plotlines for “Ghost Whisperer” creates a laugh and a chortle as one works to find pity and sympathy for those children that have lost line bright line between television and real life while appearing on television.

The hucksterism of these television shows makes John Edward, James Van Praagh and Sylvia Brown look like amateurs as the children are pressed forward as truer and more natural examples of psychic vessels ready for filling and for the pouring out of imagination instead of experience.

On a different show, a child psychologist appears to evaluate the children.  The psychologist obviously appears in an attempt to provide a sense of scientific authenticity for the children’s claims, but one cannot escape the notion that the psychologist is appropriately skeptical of the phenomenon the children are extolling, but she also believes the children believe what they are seeing — and that is vital, because verification of the dead, and then dealing with children that believe they are seeing the dead — are definite and opposite ends.

Why are we so fascinated with the beyond and preoccupied by the undead instead of the living around us?  Is it because we know our lives are temporary and not eternally temporal? 

When we see children relating stories of dead strangers they cannot know, yet still colorfully describe in excruciating coached detail, does that rather sick and curious fantasy give some of us hope in some small way that we will not be forgotten?

We must always remember that just because someone says something is so doesn’t mean that it is true — but we must always be mindful of the power of invented belief and dealing with those living in the realm of the unreal is a challenge for the steady-minded, because shattering belief in order to restore order and cognition may render the truth unrecognizable and unknowable. 

12 Comments

  1. Hi David,
    loved that “former child psychic” bit!
    I guess, when people are told from birth that they must take some things as is, like their faith in God, even if there is no evidence of it, it’s probably inevitable that they will swallow a few other things as well.
    the line is real blurred right about here!

  2. Dananjay —
    I do think there’s a certain danger in the indulgence in this sort of “I’m special because I see dead people” way of making a living on television. I understand they might believe that what they are claiming is real, but I’m not sure what greater purpose it serves beyond entertainment. If these are performance artists, they should be identified as such, and not be admired as some kind of endowed messiah with ethereal gifts.

  3. Exactly David,
    I think the audience is just as culpable as the perpetrators.
    Isn’t Obama also struggling with the same in a way? The exaggerated confections of his adoring crowds and the mass media. Even if he didn’t want to, he has been put right up there. And for all that, he’s managed to not get carried away by it.

  4. If ever there was a case for Encyclopedia Brown to debunk, this would be it. I could just see him deducing all of the flaws in the logic here. 🙂

  5. Dananjay —
    There is a creepy fascination with communicating with the dead. I don’t really understand it and while I have had strange experiences that might be considered “undead” — I don’t put value on those moments of the mind as real or outwardly verifiable interactions.
    History is pocked with these evangelists that claim to bring forth the voices of the dead and not one of them has been proven to be real.

  6. Gordon!
    Yes, that’s one way of working it — but Encyclopedia Brown also invented the “Ghost to Ghost Network” — so he may be more on their side than ours.
    What disturbs me most is that many of these children placed on television are terrified of these undead sightings and they do not know what to do. So instead of taking them for medical evaluation, they are encouraged by their parents to “explore your delusions” and make them even more real and worthy of conversation. That seems to me to be quite the wrong thing to do because it feeds the terror and paranoia instead of stanching it. Instead of getting medical help, the parents bring in adult wackos who then encourage the children to interact with their demons even more… “Talk to them. Ask them what they want from you.” What a terrible thing of terror.

  7. I remember the “special child” conversation David!
    In most of the horror movies it’s the children that see the supernatural/unnatural things…
    I guess it’s an eternal debate – ” the egg came first or the chicken”?
    i.e. – the trend became popular becuase of those movies or people strted making movies because of this emerging trend?
    Are we running out of subjects for entertainment or people are really serious?

  8. Yes! Faith is required, Dananjay, and that’s how these things get into our culture — people are asked to “believe” and if they do not, then they are socially scarred by only believing in some unexplainable things instead of everything.

  9. I think the idea of using children as vessels for the otherworld, Katha, is that it appears they have no interest in telling a lie — they are more pure than adults with vested interests — but many of these “paranormal” children are made by their prodigal parents.

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