Volume 20, Number 50 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | April 27 - May 3, 2011

Darci Bielenda, a Sturges Paranormal associate, cops to being “skeptical about the paranormal stuff.” She was, however, able to suspend her disbelief long enough to enjoy the film, noting that as pure entertainment, “It was very good…comedic and amusing before it turned into a perpetual, nightmarish lockdown. I thought the special effects were done very well, especially after learning they didn’t outsource them to someone else. The ghosts were super creepy. Their images were in my head when I went to sleep. I’m intrigued that they’ve kept the filming location a secret.” Bielenda’s comments about the effects and asylum location, by the way, are references to what we found out during the post-screening Q&A. For more about that, click here.

Real paranormal sleuth on fakery in film, TV

BY SCOTT STIFFLER

Like the morons who ignore a zoo’s warning sign not to tease the animals — then end up regretting it when a tiger jumps the moat and mauls them good and plenty — those who wake the dead for fun and profit should see their own destruction coming a mile away.

So when a fiction film like “Grave Encounters” shows you raw footage of an exploitation-minded group of paranormal investigators locking themselves inside an insane asylum during the “peak hours of dead time,” there’s genuine pleasure to be had from watching them slowly lose it as they’re stalked by spooks.

Flip channels on any given night, and you’ll come across at least one “Reality TV” program that follows paranormal investigators (of wildly inconsistent skill and sincerity). They bait and bully the dead, run around with night vision cameras like a group of laser tag nerds on a company-sponsored outing, and generally get all jumpy when the slightest thing goes bump in the night. So we thought it would be fun to invite a sober and responsible real-life paranormal investigator to see “Grave Encounters” — and we were right!

Readers may remember Dan Sturges from this scaredy cat reporter’s October 2010 visit to a Sturges Paranormal (www.sturgesparanormal.com) investigation of Manhattan’s genuinely haunted Merchant’s House Museum.

Downtown Express: How often do occult rituals unleash paranormal activity upon a shape-shifting insane asylum, resulting in the gruesome deaths of all inside?

Sturges: Never.

DE: Really…not even occasionally?

Sturges: Never.

DE: As horror movies go, what did you think of “Grave Encounters?”

Sturges: It was pretty good. I loved the concept of spoofing the current crop of paranormal shows and then picking off the cast members one by one. The Vicious Brothers did a great job — but being young filmmakers, they’ll learn that they don’t have to throw the kitchen sink at you. The movie could have done with a little editing. Instead of ten pretty scary bits, why not have five really scary bits?
 
DE: How are those ghost hunting TV shows regarded by paranormal researchers?

Sturges: I get a kick out of them. Some are good, and some are just plain ridiculous. They give just a small look into what happens on an actual investigation, minus the creepy music. I have met most of the people on these shows, and all are really great, nice people who know how to conduct a proper investigation. These are entertainment shows, not science documentaries. The people who take this field serious, the real parapsychologists and field investigators, for the most part, find these shows amusing — and probably a little helpful. I know I have stolen an EVP question or two!
 
DE: Electronic Voice Phenomena; supposed ghostly voices picked up on digital or analog recording devices.

Sturges: I liked that they showed an analog recorder to use for capturing EVP. They gave the TV explanations of the equipment, which is cool I guess, because that’s who they were spoofing. The other stuff, residual and intelligent hauntings, they were correct about. They showed the night vision camera shots because it’s what the TV shows use. They use night vision because it’s a lot scarier than just having the lights on. Any true investigator will tell you that you don’t need to turn out the lights. How else are you going to see what’s going on if you’re in the dark? I’d rather not be tripping over or bumping into things all night long.

DE: The “Grave Encounters” crew was seen paying witnesses to give false testimony and faking stuff. Is that standard practice in the world of Reality TV?

Sturges: I do think there is a lot of re-creating going on. Anyone with a good eye can easily spot something fishy. These shows have to deliver, otherwise they get canceled. Could you really imagine people tuning into a show that has its cast sitting in a room for hours at a time and nothing happens? Welcome to the world of paranormal investigations.

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