Friday marks the second season premiere of The Dead Files, a Travel Channel reality show giving you a front row seat to paranormal investigations of a unique flavor.
These days Ghost Hunters is so popular that it’s made the supernatural inspection show its own subgenre of reality entertainment, but The Dead Files proves there’s room for something different. Whereas Ghost Hunters sends a team of people to research events, The Dead Files just sends two: retired NYPD homicide detective Steve Di Schiavi and medium Amy Allan.
The pair investigates the same place separately — Steve questioning residents just like he would in a police case, and Amy walking through to sense spirits mentally — before they compare notes at the episode’s end and draw conclusions about what ghosts are doing there.
Friday’s episode has our dynamic duo taking the case of Lizzie Borden, the woman who was accused of murdering her father and stepmother in 1892. The infamous Massachusetts home where the crime occurred is now a bed and breakfast, and Steve and Amy journey there to get to the bottom of things.
If you can’t wait until the end of the week to see what happens, check out the interview the pair had with me about their work on the show and what it’s like to chase ghosts in front of the whole world. The partners have a playful banter that comes through at times, even when they’re the ones being questioned.
Hilton Collins: You’ve both done investigations in private during your careers. How does it feel to do them now in front of a camera?
Steve Di Schiavi: When I was on the job, I actually got a taste of it because ABC did a documentary called NYPD 24/7. I had cameras following me for almost 18 months, so I got kind of used to it. I was uncomfortable with cameras being around me, but you get to a point where you don’t even realize the guy’s there. And that’s actually how I wound up getting into TV is from that documentary. I was the featured detective on the first show.
Amy Allan: I grew up with cameras around me. My uncle always had a camera around, so cameras just don’t phase me, and plus, when I’m doing a walk, I’m kind of in a different kind of reality, so the living tend to kind of dissipate.
HC: Now that you’re in your second season, do you feel more comfortable doing it than you did in the first season?
SD: I think it was a little bit tough for us the first season. I was working full-time, so it was tough filming and working full-time at the same time, so I think now it’s more scheduled, and it makes things a little bit easier. As far as being comfortable with each other, I think that kind of happened in the first season. We’re really good with each other, and it just gets better as time goes by, obviously.
AA: Yeah, I would say the same.
HC: Amy, does having cameras around impede your ability to get readings from the dead?
AA: No, because I’m just in another space, so the cameras don’t even really exist to me.
HC: Steve, how does a paranormal investigation differ from a “regular” homicide one?
SD: The only difference for me is, I don’t have a dead body in front of me. I’m really kind of conducting my investigations almost like a cold case, where you’re talking to people about stuff that’s happened in the past, and I’m doing more research than actual witness investigation.
HC: What are your fan encounters like?
SD: It’s funny because when I’m back home in New York and people stare at me, I tend to get my Brooklyn up and, tend to be like, “What are you looking at?” I keep forgetting that I’m actually on a TV show, and people recognize you from that. And it’s humbling actually.. Like, being in the mall and somebody turns around and says, “Hey, you’re the guy from the show.” I’m like, “Yeah, thanks for watching.” It’s kind of odd, getting recognized by being on TV. It’s something I’m not used to. And Amy don’t wear makeup when she’s out, so nobody recognizes her.
AA: [Laughs]. I don’t get recognized.
SD: She gets recognized, but not as much. When she has her makeup on, she does.
AA: Yeah, when I have my makeup on, I get recognized, and that’s nice. I like to meet new people and talk and hang out, so it’s good. I’ve only had positive experiences when I’ve been recognized.
SD: Me too, as well.
HC: Amy, you have a unique background as a medium, so when you’re not doing the show, what is your career path or lifestyle as a medium like?
AA: I just follow my passion. Working with the dead is something that I have to do, and then I have other interests, like alternative medicine and I can practice that. I really love to help people, both living and dead, find peace and happiness, so I do a lot of the practicing the alternative medicine, writing… I’ve just always found success with following my passions.
HC: Do you have a website or anything?
SD: Why not?
AA: I’m going to get one. I have a Facebook page for everyone. It’s Amy APR Allan.
HC: Steve, I’ve read that you’re a skeptic. Has doing this show made you a believer?
SD: I’m a believer in Amy 100 percent, so I can’t say that I’m a believer in the paranormal because I’ve never seen or experienced it, but I can’t deny what she’s seen and what she’s uncovering. There has to be something else going on, so I can’t deny it. I guess an open-minded skeptic.
And I hate using that word, “open-minded skeptic” because I believe in Amy so much. I can’t consider myself a skeptic anymore. I wouldn’t be doing the show if I felt that way. I’m a skeptic of people, just from my background alone. When people talk to me, I don’t know if I can believe them 100 percent, but when it comes to Amy, I believe her 100 percent.
HC: Amy, do we all have a medium side to our brains?
AA: I think everyone is born with it, and basically, it depends on what happens to that person in regards to if they stay open or not. As far as re-accessing abilities, I think it can be done, like for some people, they’re struck by lightning [or] they’re in a car accident, and it triggers it. For other people, they kind of go on a spiritual journey to reawaken. It just depends on the person, the place, the timing, all of that.
HC: How did you both become involved with The Dead Files originally?
SD: Well, Jim Casey, who created the show, knew both of us independently and he thought that us working together would be an incredible way of doing an investigation with the venues that we have, my background and Amy’s background. I was a skeptic when he first approached me about it, but then once I met Amy and we did the first pilot together, I was sold.
If you would’ve told me a few years back I would be doing this, I would’ve said you were crazy. To Jim Casey’s credit, he had a vision and the best part about that show is, Amy gets to teach, and we actually get to help people, which I didn’t really get to do too much [before]. On the job, it was a little tough. You didn’t bring closure to a lot of cases, but with this show, we’re able to do that.
HC: What do you mean by “teach?”
SD: Through TV, she’s teaching people what they should not be doing and what they should be doing. You’ve got a lot of people out there that are just playing with fire. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing.
HC: Like in this season’s first episode, Amy, where you told the residents of the Borden house that the spirits in there didn’t like the Ouija board.
AA: Uh-huh. That’s right.
SD: I grew up in an Italian household where that was, like, “Don’t you even dare think about using a Ouija board,” but people use it like they’re taking out Monopoly. It’s not to be played with. If you would’ve told me I would’ve been saying that two years ago, I would’ve been like, “Yeah, well, whatever.” It just gives Amy a venue to, on a wide scale, tell people what to do and what not to do. And I think people are really interested in that kind of stuff.
HC: How long does it take you to film a season?
SD: We started filming the second season the first two weeks of December, and now we’re just at the next to last episode for this season, for a total of 14, including the Alcatraz episode. It’s been a long a five months, I can tell you that. April 21, we’ll be home.
HC: So you’re technically still doing it?
SD: Yeah, we’re in the middle of next to our last case. We’re on location now. We’re in the middle of the Pacific Northwest, so we have one more location to do, which I can’t tell you because Amy’s sitting right next to me.
AA: [In playful, high-pitched voice] I don’t know where I’m going…!
SD: She doesn’t know where she’s going, and we had a total of maybe three weeks at home within the last five months, so it’s kind of tough on us and our families.
HC: It’s like a long semester at sea or something like that?
SD and AA (Simultaneously): Yeah.
SD: We travel every eight days, unless something unusual happens during the case. It’s every eight days we’re traveling to a new location. We’ll do four episodes, go home for a week, do three episodes, go home for a week, do four episodes, go home for a week — that type of thing. It’s every taxing physically and mentally.
HC: Anything to add?
SD: I appreciate our audience. We have a special group of people out there that watch our show.
SD: And we’d both like to thank them if we could and let them know that it doesn’t go unappreciated.
This article’s original version was published on the Word of the Nerd on April 15, 2012.