Research & Musings on Paranormal Television

| November 23, 2010

Paranormal reality television shows such as Ghost Hunters, Ghost Labs, The Haunted, and Celebrity Ghost Stories, to name a just a few, have grown in popularity in recent years, with some claiming to be “probing the afterlife.” Recent polls indicate that a notable number of respondents express belief in the existence of activities considered to be paranormal—including telepathy and ESP, ghosts or apparitions, communication with the dead and out of body experiences. With program content that includes personal anecdotes of paranormal activity, psychic mediums channeling messages from the spirit world, and investigation teams attempting to document anomalous activity through measurements and recordings, paranormal reality television may seem a far cry from scholarly subject matter. Yet over the years, esteemed scholars and scientists have attempted to explore these phenomena objectively, or to make connections between scientific discoveries and possible links to non-physical realities.

Diane Dobry, current TC doctoral student in Cultural Studies whose research is focused on paranormal reality television, explores some historical and current research and musings behind the paranormal and the afterlife. On Monday, October 25th, Ms. Dobry discussed the early research of William James and other notable scholars, including some from Columbia University, following their efforts to determine whether human consciousness survives after death and whether communications made by mediums can be studied under controlled conditions. She  examined the research of near-death experiences, reincarnation, and apparitions to address the ideas presented in paranormal television programming.

Diane Dobry is a public relations/media specialist and writer who is researching audiences of paranormal reality television and the possible relationship between viewing and using these programs to understand death and the afterlife. Diane served for many years as Director of Communications in the Office of External Affairs at Teachers College, and went on to work as Director of Marketing in TC’s Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation. She was also an instructor of media studies at Queens College and an importer of Hungarian wine for several years. (Yes, her areas of interest, in addition to the media, are wine and “spirits”). Diane’s other academic interests have included the experience of college students voluntarily giving up media for a week, activities and views related to television of different generations in a Hungarian family, and wine labels as popular culture.

Stay tuned for Death in Popular Culture, a second talk in which Diane will explore how media represents human mourning, judgment, near-death experiences, communication with the dead, and reincarnation. Using film clips from movies like Defending Your Life, Beetlejuice, My Girl, Ghost Town, Sixth Sense, and television programs such as Six Feet Under, Ghostly Encounters, and John Edward Cross Country, Diane will discuss the possible ways that media presentations contribute to ideas about death and the afterlife.

Referencing Our Guest Speaker Diane Doby on Research and Musings Behind Paranormal Television, Monday, 10/25

Video by Michelle DeLateur