My Appearance on the TV show "Paranormal State"
I've been asked a number of questions about my appearance on the TV show "Paranormal State" on the A&E network. Since some information is reasonable to provide to the public and people plan to make investigative web sites about the show, including information from me, I am answering these questions here.
Q: How/Why did you appear on the first episode of Paranormal State?
A: I first became interested in the question of whether paranormal experiences were real while working at Penn State. I had completed my masters in the Adult Clinical Psychology program and was working on my dissertation.
While reading up on this topic I came across the Penn State Paranormal Research Society(PRS) at Penn State. This seemed like a convenient and easy way to potentially explore this question or at least learn what a university group was doing to explore it. Since I was staff at the University I agreed to function as the groups advisor for the University. I went on investigations with the group and met a number of people with complaints of what they felt were paranormal problems.
I had worked at an outpatient psychological clinic for three years and then at a state correctional institution as a psychological services specialist for two and a half years. I had done hundreds of psychological evaluations and seen most of the severe psychopathology that people can manifest.
Soon I grew to suspect that there was something to the complaints of paranormal activity as I had experienced some of it for myself. Doing my masters on brain organization changes with hypnosis I was fairly aware of the brains ability to trick us and generate false perceptions. Some of the cases went beyond subjective experience into objective data observed by multiple people and/or recorded.
On two cases that involved what I believe to involve demonic infestation and transient possession I experienced what I believe are demons. This changed my perspective on the endeavor to explore the paranormal. Over a few months and talk with new clergy friends I came to feel that at least part of the paranormal world is governed by religious theology and is very serious.
During this time PRS was working toward making a TV show about their organization. As the actual filming of a pilot for the show came near I became surer that this work was, for me, a spiritual task and not something I wanted to portray on television. I agreed to be part of the pilot since I had been a part of the group during their negotiations with the TV producers and it seemed like it would be unkind and disruptive to drop out at the last minute.
Very shortly after the pilot for the show was filmed I cut ties with the group, removed myself as their advisor under the University, and went into working only with clergy and as a consultant on serious cases for a number of well established research groups. Since then my feeling that paranormal research is potentially serious and dangerous has grown more firm and I don't advocate young people getting into this field. I certainly don't advocate people becoming involved in demonic cases.
A: I have a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology at Penn State, which allows me to practice as a psychologist under the supervision of a licensed psychologist in the state of Pennsylvania. The title "Psychologist" is generally reserved for licensed psychologists (which I am not), but there is an exception if you are working at an academic institution. This exception is probably in place because all psychologists go through training work as part of their degrees while in grad school. So to the best of my knowledge the term was not misused. I wasn't aware of the restriction on the use of this term at that time, looking back now I think the term "Therapist" would have been more appropriate but its water under the bridge now.
Q: Why can’t we verify your employment or academic records with Penn State?
A: Because my records are bound as confidential at my request. This service is offered to all Penn State students. Once made confidential people can’t simply use a computer to get your current phone number, address, class schedules, etc. I fully realize that motivated people can find out anything about anyone, but I want to keep this to a minimum for two reasons: I worked in a state prison and I am on a national TV show. One person planning to verify everything about “Paranormal State” requested verification so I told the university to release partial information to him. I won’t do this every time someone wants to verify information about me, but will limit it to legitimate reporters or others who seem to have reasonable need for verification.
Q: What about ______ regarding the child in the show?
A: I will never speak about people's private lives or their cases publically without their express permission. I can say the following that relates to most of the questions I get:
I was not functioning as a mental health professional during the investigation. I don't think you can objectively work as a mental health professional on cases involving the paranormal. The mental health field doesn't formally accept paranormal experiences as legitimate; therefore you would have to dismiss all claims of paranormal experiences as illness only. My purpose is to be an investigator and interviewer. Having done hundreds of psychological evaluations and interviews helps me in these non-clinical interviews.
My training is in Adult Clinical Psychology, not child psychology. I would never claim to formally evaluate a child, nor treat them. I can talk with children and had some training in child psychology, but it is not my expertise.
I would never entertain the paranormal hypothesis in a case unless a person was already under the appropriate mental and medical health treatment by licensed professionals, and they had ruled out mundane hypotheses. I will not discuss what evaluations the child in this case may or may not have had as that is confidential medical information.
A: I have not seen the episode but I'm told this is part of it. There was the sound of breathing coming from the kitchen during what the group calls "dead time". It sounded like a large animal, like a lion, breathing and became gradually louder over time. I went to see if I could find an explanation for it and it stopped. There was nobody there that could have been making breathing noises in the kitchen.
A: No, I've never worked with, or even met, them.
A: That is private information that is the property of the family.
A: I will not comment on anything about the show outside of the information provided here or make comments about people; it is not my place to judge.
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