Psychic Kids: Children Of The Paranormal

Posted in Hollywood, Parapsychology, Pop Culture, Psychology, Television, Thinking Critically on  | 6 minutes | 23 Comments →

As I was writing yesterday, I overheard a trailer for this show about kids experiencing paranormal phenomena. Since I've had more than my fair share of interesting phenomena occur throughout my life and have dedicated a substantial amount of time to reading and independent thought about the subject, I anticipated its 10:00pm debut on A&E. The show turned out to be both about as good and also a lot worse than I expected, and I do not mean to eschew or denigrate the families or producers. Contrary, I side with the parents in their estimation that what is happening to their children represents an authentic phenomena, but I think the methods used by the producers to present such a controversial subject to the general public are subjective, confounded and devoid of any substantive scientific value.

The show, which is an hour long, introduces us to three presumably psychic girls. Faith, age 8, is repeatedly visited by a spirit named Freddie Stuart who allegedly died in 1886 and had a mother named Catharine. Later in the show, Faith also mentions a related spirit named Sarah. Jillian, age 12, is visited by a female spirit named Emily that is very controlling and domineering with her. Jillian, who is at times allegedly thrown out of bed by an unseen force, also shows signs of being a strong clairvoyant. Ahli, age 11, sees auras and experiences unexplainable migraines, said to increase in the presence of sad or troubled individuals. All three of the girls experience disruptions in their daily lives because of these phenomena, and their mothers equally realize the dangers at hand. Although anecdotal, some of the accounts are in fact persuasive, but again, the evidence and methodologies used are questionable.

We are given a brief background of each girl, then a plot twist of the show is revealed. The three girls will be staying at the Story Inn with alleged medium Chip Coffey and University of Columbia professor and psychologist Dr. Lisa Miller. Of course I'm giving the authenticity of the conditions the benefit of the doubt in this particular example, but I was genuinely impressed with Jillian's drawing of a house that appeared to her while dreaming the night before. The sketch bore more than a passing resemblance to the Story Inn, which was built in 1851, very much in line with Jillian's off-the-cuff remark about a house "…built in the 1800's."

Later in the show, Lisa and her researchers reveal documents indicating that indeed a man named Freddie Stuart was counted in a local census, listed as being born around 1872 to a mother named Catharine, with a family friend named Sarah Dolan. The spelling of the surname Stuart was exactly as Faith had first described it. At this point, Chip looks sternly at the poor girl, and tells her in a very direct voice: "Can I tell you the truth? You're haunted." I do not think those are responsible words to tell an 8-year-old girl in Faith's condition. Already suffering from related sleep difficulties, later that night, Faith reported extreme disturbances coming from Catharine, whom she felt was angry at her for revealing Freddie, but is this not arguably attributable to Chip's subjective, irresponsible, ad hoc conclusion forced upon the troubled girl?

This is my major point of contention with the show and others like it, namely that the researchers often co-opt the subjects' experiences and attempt to both control and interpret them.

There is another particularly unconvincing scene where Ahli and Tiffany Johnson have an aura-drawing experience while studying a mutual subject. They both come up with the colors blue and red, and Ahli verbalizes a context of joy. The subject then reveals that he'd received an affirmative call earlier that morning about his dog who had recently underwent surgery. The producers would like us to accept this as evidence. However, the chances of the subject being in a "joyful" mood that day are pretty good to begin with. If it wasn't the dog, it might have been that he won $50 on a scratcher or got some hot chick's phone number at the grocery store. Also, anyone familiar with aura reading knows that a standard range of colors are typically said to describe auras: white, black, blue, green, purple and red, for example. I don't too often hear fuschia, magenta, maize, teal or salamander used to describe auras, and there is legitimate statistical possibility that Tiffany and Ahli's conclusions were the result of chance. Although I understand the difficulty of fitting a controlled scientific study into a one-hour television episode, I don't think the difficulty provides ample ground for attaching a stigma of scientific validity to a process science is struggling to even accept, let alone explain.

There is another scene where Tiffany has Ahli do a psychic reading of Tamera, Jillian's mom. Ahli reports 'warm' areas over Tamera's right knee and chest, and Tamera reveals that she has had a recent flare-up of asthma and trouble with her right leg, and again, unanswered questions remain. For example, were there other areas of trouble in Tamera's body that Ahli failed to properly identify? If so, these instances would weigh against the interpretation sought by the producers, and it's very plain to see the presence of confounders and other scientific problems in these examples.

I find the complete lack of male personality aside from Coffey noteworthy. From what I've read, women are statistically much more amenable to psychic phenomena. I don't know if each of the families are divorced – that would be an interesting coincidence – but I feel the presence of a dad, uncle or older brother would add a healthy dose of skepticism to the show. The first thing I would do if any of these girls were my sister would be to object to Chip telling them they were "haunted."

What is even more laughable is Mr. Coffey telling these spirits how to behave, and even threatening them. We go from ostensibly investigating a paranormal phenomena to scenes of Chip in seance telling the spirits to comply to his wishes or else he will " with [them] severely." The scene is reminiscent of a similar one in Paranormal State, also produced by A&E, where Shelly Seighman tells an alleged evil spirit, "…I want you to know you will not push my son your way." Folks, the height of this chutzpah is absolutely laughable. By what authority do these folks assume they can control such an elusive and potentially powerful phenomena, one they are presumably investigating in the first place? The show is clearly not science, but entertainment, and I think everyone knows that. At least I hope they do.

In the final analysis, there are several confounding factors that make these experiments and anecdotal accounts unacceptable for a scientist, and Coffey co-opts the vulnerable children's experiences, establishing himself as an authority and rendering the show further devoid of any legitimate scientific value.


  1. Very interesting article, People are full of shit.
    Take everything you see, epecially on T.V. with a big grain of salt.

  2. cl


    Matt wrote,
    “People are full of shit.”
    I would add that there is a substantive body of evidence to support your thesis!

  3. Meghan Daigle


    I thought it was good, and so I did some research on Freddie Stuart.
    And it is true, he is real and he did die when he was 8 and all that. It was pretty scary, I love shows like that. And this one REALLY caught my attention. I don’t know why though?

  4. cl


    @ Meghan,
    Yeah, I’m inclined to believe the kids as well. The directorial aspects that tend to sensationalize the phenomenon, less so. That’s good to hear somebody fact checked the show, and it came out. You gonna watch Monday?

  5. Jon S


    As a Christian I accept that there could be legitimate ‘paranormal’ phenomena. I’m not familiar with any scientific evidence, but I do believe demons exist, and they could account for paranormal experiences. Jesus expelled his share of demons, and the Bible documents paranormal accounts (1 Samuel 28:7-25). I think we need to be real careful in this area because pursuit of the demonic realm can have a lot of harsh and unintended consequences. The Bible provides many warnings that should be understood.

  6. Paige Frederick


    I am a psysick to i am soooo scared i dont know what to do!!!!

  7. cl


    Ex, is that you??

  8. Greg Lang


    I have no idea if paranormal phenomena truly exists. I do not know if there are really good and bad spirits, or Angels and Demons. However, what I do know is that anything on TV is scripted and subject to the rules of television production. There is no possible way for a television to objectively present information to an audience due to the rules of television production. It seems that unless you are experiencing paranormal phenomena happening to yourself or someone else firsthand, you cannot truly say whether or not it exists.

  9. Faith Sentdal


    Hi..I’m the girl on Psychic Kids: Children of The Paranormal. I play with Freddie every day but Catharine is not haunting me anymore because Chip sent her away. Freddie sees me every day and we play together but he tells me about his mom that killed him when he was 8. My mom Alison is helping me type and I really am psychic.

  10. PR


    I personally have felt a demon, as it choked me. had dreams about what happened to my friends, one died in a car crash after i dreamed about it. It dose happen no matter the scornful gazes of those who would reason away every spiritual thing becouse of no scientific proof.
    Ive said my peace. Goodbye

  11. cl


    PR –
    I believe your experiences, and not saying that you have, don’t think my skepticism and distrust for A&E and Chip Coffee is synonymous with distrust of every spiritual thing. I also believe the children in the show, although some ‘kid psychics’ are undeniably on some ADD trip. While more the exception than the norm, I think refusal to believe something solely on account of a lack of scientific evidence can be the height of foolishness – especially when so heavily corroborated by anecdotal evidence – as spiritual and ‘psi’ phenomena are.
    Thanks for coming through..

  12. Colby


    i think i am a physick kid cuz everything i think is happening and it is really weird!! and i am really scared!!

  13. Jessica


    I just watched the show and i am speachless. I can relate to Faith and Jillian’s stories in some ways. Sometimes i get so scared and fear takes over. No one believes me, but watching the show has opened my eyes to no that i am not alone in the world. I am like Faith as i go through everything she did, but with not only one person but many that have died. I can relate to Jillian by i have dreams like seeing somewhere and i will draw it and then i will come across the place or person that i have drawn. My mum doesnt believe me and everyone thinks that i am doing it for attendtion but i have dreams that a certain person dies and they actually do! I get so scared sometimes that i dont know what to do.

  14. unknown


    this is weird say or become a muslim

  15. Shamy


    I to know what it is like to be psychic. I to am a psychic teenager. I can see, hear, feel, and speak to the dead. At first it was scary but now it isn’t, for me it is like seeing the living, it is just another part of my life. It can be annoying sometimes though. I have been looking for someone like me and now I have found some people that have the ability I have.
    Well talk to you all later or also said as ttyl

  16. Phoebe


    I also did some research and found a Fred Stewart (different spelling which is not uncommon)born the same time who married in 1902 his parents were the same as on the 1880 the mother Catherine maiden name is the same as the Sarah show in the census so she must have been the mother sister. Also I found no death certificate for him for 1886. Just my thought on it.
    • GI Individual Record FamilySearch™ International Genealogical Index v5.0
    North America
    Fred E. Stewart Pedigree
    Male Family
    Paxton, Ford, Illinois
    Father: Augustus S. Stewart Family
    Mother: Catherine Dolan
    Spouse: Grace Burtnett Family
    25 AUG 1902 Paxton, Ford, Illinois
    Extracted marriage record for locality listed in the record. The source records are usually arranged chronologically by the marriage date.
    Source Information:
    Batch No.: Dates: Source Call No.:
    M390897 1878 – 1927 1401877

  17. tamera regalado


    hey this is jillians mom and i just want to clarify that everything we have experianced is real and true we love chip for ever and will always be greatful for him he changed our lives and my beautiful daughter is very gifted hse has grown since then and has got alot of help for this and if you dont belive then you dont have to but for us we gained from this jillian gives readingings and still uses her gift for good she has done better in school and we have a better relationship my goal for taking her on the show wich by the way was my idea,was to get her help to know how to cope i incourage anybody to do this for thier child if they need it.she was heving sleeping problems and fighting with me and the show helped her and if you wonder yes she still sees and talks to jacob and others we did get rid of emily so for you skepticks we could care less if you belive we have been through it all for you fans thanks for watching a part of our history…..happy new year 2010…jillians mother tamera

  18. cl


    Hi Tamera, thanks for stopping by. First off, apologies for misspelling your name (fixed).
    I wasn’t sure if your comment was aimed at anyone in particular or just skeptics in general, but I might as well clarify my position anyway: I know things like those described in the show happen, and I’ve got no reason to disbelieve your story. My position as stated in the original post was,

    ..I side with the parents in their estimation that what is happening to their children represents an authentic phenomena, but I think the methods used by the producers to present such a controversial subject to the general public are subjective, counfounded and devoid of any substantive scientific value.

    As far as convincing skeptics, don’t worry about it – you can’t. I’m just glad to hear things are calmer around the house.
    Also, I don’t have anything against Chip and I’m sure he’s a great guy. You say he’s helped you; that’s all for the better it would seem. My complaint here isn’t that I disbelieve these phenomena; it’s that I think trying to boss spirits around is a moot point, and I wish the producers would approach the show with more science and less emotion – but we all know Hollywood productions usually require a certain formula.
    Happy New Year!

  19. Tamera


    no i wasnt aiming at you it was the skepticks we have herd alot of crap about the show..but the main thing here is my dauhgter got help and we are good friends with the other girls and if i may be a spokes person for them they are doing great…as well thanks for the positive feed back we need that happy new year to you too..for all you skepticks well thats youre fault!!!yes i agree about the hollywood thing lol thank u for caring Tamera

  20. I have the same thinks hapin to me i just hope it stops.

  21. Marcelo Waterkemper - BRAZIL


    I am Brazilian. I recently watched a documentary on tv. the theme was about a young psychic who maintained contact with Freddie Stuart. While watching I efetuei a recording with my phone. After finishing the documentary, I was watching the recording. was when I was surprised to see the recording made ​​two images of a white child. an image she was sitting on a tomb and appeared on another front with his head down. How not remembered seeing these images on TV, I decided to watch two more times by the same documentary tv subscription, but to my surprise no more the same images appeared. Would you inform me if there was such images only appeared in the documentary or recording I made in the cell. I forward the attached images. Thank you.

  22. cl


    Hi Marcelo.

    That’s an interesting story. Unfortunately I don’t have access to the original documentary anymore. If you want, I’ll post your images. Just let me know and I’ll send you an email.

  23. K M


    I am watching this show again….i feel that the emergence of so many that are able to see spirit and with each passing year it is becoming more and more common I wonder if the closer we come to the return of Jesus the veil is getting thinner and thinner making it possible for those with the ability to tap in to see and feel these things. I watched Dr. Oz do an EEG on Therese Caputo during a reading she is accessing parts of her brain during a reading that most people can’t access. That is scientific evidence of something unusual going on. There is something to all of this.

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