How the Media Represents Hauntings and How it is Percieved by Viewers

Written by Debra Pickman (12/06)


After several television depictions of the haunting known as Sallie’s House, the latest being A Haunting on Discovery Channel, I have come to an understanding that television cannot truly give the public a complete and factual representation of complex stories.

With this in mind, I feel compelled to tell share what I have learned over the years. Although the set of this article uses the backdrop of the Sallie story, it really revolves much more so around the behind the scenes of television productions.

Unless you perhaps live in Hollywood or have had some level of involvement in the production of a movie or television spot, there is really no way of knowing what goes on behind the scenes. In fact, many have a pre-determined view of the process and participation of those involved.

Written from my experiences

This article is written solely from my own incite and interpretation of our situation, as well as our experiences and might possibly be way out in left field, but it is also How the Media Represents Hauntings 8spribkled with information that I have read concerning the experiences of others . So, please read on with an open mind so you can perhaps see things from a different point of view.

We have been approached numerous times by different media entities and its always been the same approach. Each time we have voiced our concern that the facts must be presented for us to feel comfortable in taking part. I have often gone as far as to cited the negligence I perceive, when other productions have been made.

Our goal, when allowing it to be depicted or told by others,

has always been about the facts of our story.

Each time we are assured that our story and the truth behind it will finally be told. Every time, however, the final production is altered from the path of truth we wanted to presented. I cannot count how many times we have been disappointed in what was ultimately represented to the public.

I now have two theories about this. The first being that the executives in charge of a given production, really have very little interest in factual information. I imagine they are simply looking for the exciting and frightening because they assume that is what the public wants. We all know that is what keeps them coming back, which in turn gives them the ratings, which keeps their show and ideas alive.

Getting the Ratings

Then there are those who must go out and find good stories for the executives. Their place in the production puts them in a position where they have to get material that will get ratings for their series or show to continue to flourish, and it may even be a balancing act to maintain their own job security.

In their search for material, they find people and stories like Tony’s and mine. They are responsible How the Media Represents Hauntings 3 for the correspondence and ultimately winning over the confidence of those the company wants to represent the experience of. Now, I’m not completely sure, but I would imagine that a great number of people approached, are simply elated with being on TV and having their story told. This of course works very well for the executives.

Feeling betrayed

These poor individuals try their best to play two roles (perhaps a role similar to a realtor); one representing the wishes of the executives and one communicating the wishes of those that the story is about. Inadvertently, and perhaps without their knowledge what they have communicated to the participants, are usurped by those in higher authority. This creates a feeling of animosity, and allows the participants to view them, and ultimately the production and those involved, in a bad light.

This is especially true for those of us who dwell on truth and factual representation rather than the circus type hype, propaganda and seemingly exploitation of facts. We allow ourselves to be swayed into thinking that our story will finally be told like it should be, because that is what we are told. When that it is not the case, we are left trying to explain why. We are left wondering why some points of interest are left out, skewed, or blatantly misleading.

Image Credit: Anggara Mahendra. The Good Script Ratio. Taksu Spa.

Image Credit: Anggara Mahendra.
The Good Script Ratio. Taksu Spa.


Up until very recent reflection on this, I have often felt that it was because no one cared about the true story

We had given hours upon hours of detailed interviews telling our story and about the many events, we have lived through concerning our haunting. One would think that would be enough for anyone to get the full picture of our experience. But what happens and where does that material go from there?

There are writers who review the taped interviews and try to write the script to tell the story. I imagine that it is would be difficult for them to follow the story from front to back, especially if it is told out of sequence, told through multiple interviews and individuals, or if people are referenced in different ways throughout the different interviews.

I pose this possibility because the staff from the most recent television depiction of our story contacted us several times in an attempt to clarify some information they were having difficulty with. With so much of this correspondence, we thought they had everything they would need to insure a great representation.

The writer done; on to actually producing the visual portion

Here you have actors and directors who once again have their own vision of what is to be represented. One also has to take into consideration the budget of any given production, the period of which they have to work in, the level of experience the staff and crew have as well as the equipment available to them to represent certain aspects of the story.How the Media Represents Hauntings

It is here I believe that most concessions to the story are made, and to which no one truly realizes, how the changes affect the facts or representation of the story in whole. For example, in the most How the Media Represents Hauntings 4recent televised show, Tony’s two bothers were rolled into one how mediarepresents 1character, and the first scratches Tony received were in the house not outside.

I am sure that there are other concessions that are made for legal reason as well. For instance, Peter James was credited with multiple investigations to our house and bringing in teams of investigators to help. There was neither mention of the television show Sightings nor the fact that they had been the group who had been to the house multiple times.

It was misleading, to say the least because it was the television show that  brought in different individuals to give them more informed perspective of the paranormal aspect. This I am assuming was the result of legalities between the two shows.

In effect, these seemingly little changes misrepresent the facts

and leave many viewers confused

There are many we have shared our story with; co-workers, friends, family and

members of the paranormal community. It is frustrating when they come to us and say, “you didn’t say that happened”, or “I thought you said it was this”. It ultimately leaves us in a bad light, and often makes us look like liars. It is no wonder that there are so many tall tales and stories being told about this haunting.

Now you may ask at this point, why we have not we requested to be more involved in the production process or to view the final production before it airs. We have. The problem here is that the production teams do not want to be directed; they have always had that role and it’s surely a hard role to give up.

No one is comfortable giving up their power,

especially to those whom they don’t know.

I’m sure they would view us as outsiders who have no concept of what is entailed in the creative end of things and that we would slow down the creative process or otherwise be a cog in the smooth running system they are so used to working within. Not to mention the fact that we would have to take substantial time off work to be on location and additional expenses would ensue to meet our needs and put us up somewhere during this time.

The simple fact is that unless we have complete creative control and are integral in the production, the public will never have a true view from the perspective of our experiences. It will always be at the mercy of unmanageable factors; colored by the views, perception and interpretation of others, and rely on the staff ability, as well as budget and equipment restraints of the production entity.

How the Media Represents Hauntings 6

Artistic credit: by derekdavalos

Therefore, we have come to the resolved that factual representation or knowledge available to the public will be only be obtained in the few online forums that Tony, I and a few knowledgeable others frequent, our radio interviews and our own website and book written by ourselves.

The above will of course lead some to believe that we are trying to corner the market or are otherwise hording information for our gain. This is far from the truth because we have, on multiple occasions, tried to get the information out to those who want it via these other avenues at no gain to us. The results however have been disastrous to say the least.

Digital Art /

Contrary to the belief of some,

there have been no large monetary compensations 

In addition, while on the subject of gains, I would lastly like to dispel any concept that Tony and I, the owner of Sallie’s house or any other paranormal group have attained great things or monetary compensation being involved with this haunting. Nothing could be further from the truth. The owner cannot or will not rent the house and is encumbered with the continued expense of its upkeep.

How the Media Represents Hauntings 7Furthermore, Tony and I, being by nature private individuals, have been plastered all over the television almost monthly for the last 10 years. Although I have never really

mind strangers approaching me and asking questions, Tony finds this very difficult and it has ultimately become a disruption in our lives. Then there are those that approach us with such disbelief that we are often put on the defensive, and although it has never been our place to make anyone believe our story, we are often put on the spot to do just that.

With that said, it is our hope that people take the time to understand what it is like being in a position such as ours, or of those in the position of representing us and the stories of we and others share with them. I know of several individuals who have also been where we are, and their experiences are very similar; the media representation, whether intentional or not, always colors the truth. To say the least, it is discouraging and you would not believe how amazingly frustrating we are left feeling.


About Debra Pickman

After living in an extremely haunted location with my husband who was physically and mentally brutalized by an unseen force my husband and I became experienced investigators applying our knowledge to other locations. We continue to speak at events, conferences and on radio shows around the world. Contact me at

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