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True Story?? - Living With the Dead, James Van Praagh
Posted: 15 January 2009 08:27 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I would really appreciate any help in sorting out what parts (if any) of the mini series Living with the Dead, which proclaims itself to be the true life story of psychic James Van Praagh, are actually true.

There is no shortage of information and examples of Van Praagh getting caught out making false readings and using well known cold and warm reading techniques online, but I haven’t been able to find any articles that examine this movie. Since my online research skills usually get me plenty of information to satisfy my latest curiosity it is really frustrating me that very specific and highly dubious claims made out in Living With The Dead don’t appear to have been added to reasons Van Praagh should be considered completely bogus. It is difficult to fathom how someone would make a movie like this and claim it as being true while thinking that they would be able to get away with it.

The movie involves a very complex murder plot where a young boy who was accidentally killed is found 30 years later buried in a forest but there is a circle of other boys around him who the cops say were buried alive. Turns out that the guy who killed the first boy accidentally shooting him while hunting felt so guilty about it that he sent his mother flowers every year and put her dead son’s name on the card. When he gets sick he confesses to a priest and asks what he can do to resolve the sin and the priest tells him to confess, so he goes to the mother and tells her. She then decides to abduct boys the age her son was when he died and bury them to be his friends because she really blames herself for her son’s death because he had a deformed leg from her drinking when she was pregnant and he wouldn’t have been out in the forest alone had the other kids not made fun of him and he was always so lonely. It really does just go on and on, but that is it in a nutshell. The cops catch her, she confesses and although the movie ends soon after you imagine that it would have been a very long court case and some serious consequences.

Surely a woman who killed seven boys in this most grotesque way would have made headlines and gotten her into one of the literally hundreds of true crime and serial killer books I have read? At the very least there would have to be some records somewhere, apparently the movie took place during the nineties. I know that there are plenty of people able to suspend their disbelief to accept psychics but I have never seen one that tells stories which should be so blatantly easy to disprove if there is no truth to them whatsoever.

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Posted: 15 January 2009 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I haven’t yet found any specific skeptical critiques of this miniseries, but here’s an article by Michael Shermer that discusses Praagh and his (then) upcoming show for those that might be interested and have never heard of him.  Keep in mind that this is a miniseries and therefore doesn’t have to have even a tiny foundation in reality.

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Heaven must be really boring, if you think about it logically.
All the angels must be snoring.  Who could stand perfection for eternity?

Not me. - George Hrab

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Posted: 15 January 2009 07:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thank you, that is a good article.

At the risk of asking a silly question I don’t really understand what this means..

Charybdis - 15 January 2009 04:12 PM

Keep in mind that this is a miniseries and therefore doesn’t have to have even a tiny foundation in reality.

Of course I know that there are plenty of movies that get by claiming to be true when they aren’t, but there is nothing that seems to stop this whether they are a mini series or not. It does claim many times over on the cover to be true and is apparently based on his book of the same name (I haven’t read it) Can’t seem to find any critiques of the book either.

My best friend and I love delving into the bizarre, so maybe we could rent the movie again and fast forward to identifying bits to do a critique. Definitely couldn’t sit through it again.

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Posted: 16 January 2009 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I don’t see that he wrote a book by the name of ‘Living With the Dead’, just the miniseries.  But even if he did they’re both just packs of lies.  It’s odd that he hasn’t been critiqued more online considering how big a name he is.  I would have thought Skeptic or The Skeptical Enquirer magazines would have published more in-depth articles about him, but perhaps they just haven’t been made available online yet.

You can go to Randi.org or skeptic.com and do a search for Praagh to find lots of articles that discuss him, though.

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Heaven must be really boring, if you think about it logically.
All the angels must be snoring.  Who could stand perfection for eternity?

Not me. - George Hrab

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Posted: 16 January 2009 07:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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An interesing mistake is included in his Wikipedia entry

Critics of Van Praagh accuse him of using the mentalism technique of cold reading to simulate psychic powers.[4][5] They point to several incidents in which Van Praagh’s claims have been wrong, such as when he suggested to the parents of the abducted Shawn Hornbeck that the boy’s body might be found in a railroad car.[6] Hornbeck was found alive four years later, having been abducted but not killed, and the kidnapper was not a railroad plant worker as Van Praagh had suggested.[7] Van Praagh has responded by asserting that his messages are often vague and hard to interpret and sometimes he mistakes their meaning, often re-interpreting them after the fact to fit new information.

Shame that there isn’t a source listed for him admitting that he re-interprets AFTER the fact.

The messages that he ‘received’ in the movie were utterly ridiculous, bizarrely cryptic. Of course it makes no sense why ghosts would have the ability to communicate why they wouldn’t be straight forward. I guess once you’ve gotten to the point of looking for answers from dead people simple logic is on permanent vacation.

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