Haunting Evidence is an American documentary television series following the travels of a psychic profiler, a medium, and a paranormal investigator. The trio travels the United States investigating "cold case" homicide and missing persons cases. The premise of the series was that this "team of unconventional investigators" could shed new light on unsolved crimes.
The series began production in October 2005 and premiered on Court TV (now truTV) in mid-June 2006, with a run of nine episodes. Season 2 began on June 20, 2007. There were two episodes in the third season. The series was cancelled after a total of 22 episodes were shown. The final cast was psychic profiler Carla Baron, medium John J. Oliver, and paranormal investigator Patrick Burns.
- Season 1
- "Mystery on the Appalachian Trail" (Julianne Williams & Laura Winans) (December 21, 2005)
- "Mystery in the Ashes" (Tara Baker) (December 21, 2005)
- "Forgotten Fiancée" (Amanda Tusing) (June 14, 2006)
- "The Missing D.A." (Ray Gricar) (June 21, 2006)
- "Hidden Truth" (Timothy Stone) (July 5, 2006)
- "Missing Teacher" (Tara Grinstead) (July 19, 2006)
- "Mystery in the Desert" (Katie Sepich) (July 26, 2006)
- "Abduction at Comins Pond" (Molly Bish) (August 2, 2006)
- "Lady of the Dunes" (August 9, 2006)
- Season 2
- "Missing in Paradise" (Natalee Holloway) (June 20, 2007)
- "Women of Calder Field" (June 27, 2007)
- "Long Journey Home" (July 4, 2007)
- "Buried Secrets" (James Lacouture) (July 11, 2007)
- "Dupont Circle Mystery" (Joyce Chiang & Chandra Levy) (July 18, 2007)
- "The Ruins at Land's End" (July 25, 2007)
- "Five Hundred Miles Away" (Judith Smith) (August 1, 2007)
- "Deep in the Desert" (August 8, 2007)
- "Wiregrass Murders" (August 15, 2007)
- "North Carolina Burning" (August 22, 2007)
- "Haunted in Villisca" (August 29, 2007)
- Season 3
None of the cases investigated by the show were solved because of the show. Two cases were later closed by police work:
- Episode 107, "Mystery in the Desert", Season 1: the perpetrator of the crime, Gabriel Avila, was linked to Katie Sepich via DNA evidence, in December 2006.
- Episode 205, "Dupont Circle Mystery", Season 2: Chandra Levy's killer, Ingmar Guandique, was found guilty of the crime in 2010.
Managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, Ben Radford writes that shows like Haunting Evidence prey on vulnerable and desperate families hoping to find evidence. Reality shows like this are not entertainment, yet are presented as such. "The only 'success' was in producing another television show lending credibility to psychics who have once again clearly and demonstrably failed to give useful information".
In a 2008 follow-up of his previous article, Radford states that he had hoped he would be able to report back that the Haunting Evidence team had successfully solved many crimes, but that was not the case. Of the nine cases featured, zero were solved by the team. The one case solved, Katie Sepich was solved "by science, not psychics". DNA was matched to the killer who later confessed, the police give no credit to Haunting Evidence. The Tara Baker family profiled on the first season shared with Radford that [psychics and the producers] "feed on the emotions of people in real tragedies", and called Baron 'a real fruit loop'". Oliver claimed the police have the DNA evidence already. The team also presented a sketch of the murderer and stated that she knew her killer. Tara Baker's murder as of 2011 remains unsolved.
Investigation of Carla Baron's claims
The Independent Investigative Group IIG looked into 14 cases where Carla Baron claimed to have assisted detectives, including JonBenét Ramsey, Elizabeth Smart and Nicole Brown Simpson. In all 14 cases the IIG contacted the police (or in the case of Nicole Simpson, they received an email from Denise Brown) all mostly saying the same things, "we have never heard of this person" or "the information provided (by Baron) did not produce any new leads in the investigation". IIG's conclusion is that she has never provided any help in any investigation, and her claims stating such are unsubstantiated. The IIG feels that because humans are basically compassionate we have invented forensic science as well as Amber Alert and websites such as NCMEC to really help support victims of crimes. Psychic detectives like Carla Baron might claim compassion but are essentially paid agents with book sales, TV shows, lectures and private readings. Why are they needed when they cannot show one single case of evidence proving they have been helpful?
In March 2003, Svelana Aronov's body was found in New York's Upper East River. Family and friends consulted Carla Baron by email who stated that Svelana was fleeing an "obsessed kidnapper" and jumped into the freezing waters to escape. Police at the 19th Precinct could not confirm Barons statement that she had a "lengthy conversation with a detective." A friend that reached out to Baron and other psychic detectives said they (psychics) only yielded "aggravation". Close friends and family members now say they "distrust Baron who they say "provided no useful insights and demanded media attention from the start." The New York medical examiner now says that it was probably suicide.
In 2004 Carla Baron was approached by Susan Tusing, the mother of slain murder victim Amanda Tusing, who had been found murdered in June 2000. Baron gave detectives the first name of the killer. Detective Jack McCann said that "we talked to the name and came up with several other people (with the same name) and nothing came up."
In April 13, 2011, 20 year-old nursing student Holly Bobo went missing from her home in Darden, Tennessee. Carla Baron was initially contacted by a friend of the family and Baron claims to have offered her services for free but the family refused to consult with her. On Baron's personal website she states that one condition she imposed on the family is that she is to be the only psychic officially working the case. When the family rejected her offer for help Baron stated "(the family) chose not to seek her information on Holly's death on the advice of the police, who, Baron believes, were "terrified to hear what I might have to say" about the abduction. The response to this from Baron's website, “This, my friends, is yet another “control” tactic deployed by the infinite ‘powers-that-be’ within gov’t jurisdiction to let all of us (a.k.a., the ‘public’) know –Who’s really running the show. Let’s not let anyone steal their proverbial thunder, shall we?". Skeptic investigator Ben Radford, writing for Discovery News, said that the police and the family probably decided not to seek Baron's help because psychic detectives have a "zero track record of success". While some psychics may be well-intended they do waste the police's time. Radford concluded that "Despite the efforts of dozens of psychics over two months, Bobo remains missing, the case remains unsolved." A new search was started for Bobo after a dog found what appeared to be her purse near her home, upon closer examination, Bobo's Mother says it is not her daughters purse.
The JREF has issued the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge to James Van Praagh, Allison DuBois, Sylvia Browne, Carla Baron, John Edward, and others if they can prove their abilities in controlled experiments." through ABC News, Time.com and AOL News. Ben Radford with CSICOP quotes Magician James Randi who challenges "James Van Praagh and Allison DuBois [whom] have turned the huckster art of ‘cold reading' into a multi-million-dollar industry, preying on families' deepest fears and regrets,” he says in a statement announcing the challenge. “They should be embarrassed by the transparent performances.”
- Ben Radford (2011-06-07). "Holly Bobo Still Missing: Rumors, Psychics Hurt Search". Discovery News. Retrieved 2011-07-09.
- "Gabriel Avila", America's Most Wanted, retrieved August 16, 2011
- "Life without parole sought for Levy killer". UPI. February 9, 2011.
- Radford, Ben (September–October 2006). "New Psychic Detective (Un)Reality Series: Haunting Evidence". Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 30 (5): 9–11.
- Radford, Ben (January–February 2008). "Haunting Evidence Follow-Up: TV Psychic Detectives Fail Again". Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 32 (1): 7–8.
- Hammer, Owen, Carla Baron, Psychic Detective?, retrieved June 9, 2011
- Hart, Brian (September–October 2006). Carla Baron, Psychic Detective? Not Quite= Skeptical Inquirer 30 (5). Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. p. 5.
- "Sometimes Cops Look For Psychic 'Help' Yet That 'Help' In Missing-Persons Cases Often Raises False Hope". Newsday.com. 2008-06-23. Retrieved 2011-07-01.
- "Amanda Tusing Murder Anniversary". KAIT8 ABC. 2004-06-14. Retrieved 2011-09-06.
- "10 years since Amanda Tusing's murder, no arrests". TodaysTHV. 2010-09-22. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- "Holly Bobo, A Prominent Psychic, & a Mother’s Primal Fear". Carla Barton. 2011-05-11. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- "Renewed search under way for Holly Bobo after missing Tennessee student's purse found". Fox News. April 18, 2013. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
- Grothe, D.J. (October 10, 2011). "What Is James Van Praagh Hiding From?". Huff Post. Retrieved 2011-10-10.
- "Calling All Psychics: Prove Your Worth for $1 Million". TIME. August 24, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-10.
- "Psychics Challenged, Offered $1 Million to Prove Powers". ABC News. August 27, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-10.
- "A Message to James Van Praagh". JREF. September 7, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-10.