Homicide detectives have to rely on factual and physical evidence in order to build a case, while psychics base their assumptions on instincts and gut reactions.
Seems like an impassable divide, right? Well, a new Travel Channel series, "The Dead Files," which debuts Sept. 23, hopes to find a happy medium by pitting a gruff retired homicide detective against an introverted parapsychologist from Denver who communicates with dead people.
On one side is Steve DiSchiavi, a hard-nosed detective who looks at physical evidence, and on the other is Amy Allan, a psychic communicator who has worked on 350 paranormal investigations and inspects the metaphysical clues.
The premiere episode features the duo attempting to uncover the murderous past hidden within the walls of a rural New York farmhouse, where a mother attempted to kill her family in the early 1900s.
DiSchiavi interviews locals who know about the woman who poisoned her three children and husband before killing herself. He talks to an expert on early 20th century poisons, while Allan walks through the house and lets the spirits speak to her and tell her what really happened in their own words.
After each conduct their own investigations, they meet up at the end to compare notes and see what the other has discovered.
As skeptical as he claims to be of Allan's methods, DiSchiavi says he's constantly shocked by how accurate Allan's info is even though she does not do any traditional research -- especially since he wasn't thrilled with the results from the two occasions he utilized psychics while working for the NYPD.
But his attitude has changed since he started working with Allan.
"After working with Amy and doing what I do, my attitude toward psychics has changed 180 degrees," he said. "Our two sides mesh well together."
They've filmed six episodes so far (including one in Cameron, N.C., in a house that is allegedly haunted by dolls that may be vessels for the dead.
Although DiSchiavi insists his investigations are by-the-book, 21 years on the force has given him some intuition.
"I don't claim to be a ghost hunter, but I can tell if someone is lying," he said.
He questions owners or tenants about what they've witnessed and what they know about a building's past. Then he branches out to local historians, police investigators and even past owners of the property.
Meanwhile, Allan claims to channel the dead, often reliving their deaths despite not knowing anything about the alleged haunted locations. She only enters the crime scenes after all photos and revealing objects have been removed.
Allan believes parapsychology has a place in criminal investigations, but hopes that the show demonstrates a proper protocol that can provide accurate, unbiased evidence to prove or disprove this thesis.
"That's why it's very important for me to not have prior knowledge," she said. "It just distracts. If someone knows where they're going, it has to be dismissed."
For DiSchiavi, it's a big change from the typical relationship that detectives have with their partners.
"We've had general conversations, but she's very animated about [us] not being together," he said. "This is the first time I've worked with a partner I never see."
Maybe that's a good thing, because while the topic of ghosts can be interesting, talking to them isn't easy, according to Allan.
"I ask them if there is anything to share and most just want to talk about their lives," she said. "That includes things that aren't essential to the story, but essential to them."
Allan, 38, said she has known about her paranormal abilities since she was 4 years old, but admits she has a "healthy disrespect" that keeps her honest -- and a little nervous.
"Every time we have the 'reveal' at the end, I am scared to death," she admitted. "So it's a surprise when I see how much I got right."
One person who has learned not to be surprised at being surprised is DiSchiavi, who said he admires Allan's abilities. So much so that were he back on the force, he said he wouldn't hesitate to use her in a case.
"I find what she does is fascinating," he said. "I do believe in Amy."
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