Emerging From the Shadows: Conversation with Dave Schrader of Paranormal Challenge and Darkness Radio

By , Editor

Dave Schrader is a grounded mainstay of the paranormal community. Via his respected paranormal talk show Darkness Radio, lectures and events, his book The Other Side: A Teen's Guide to Ghost Hunting and the Paranormal, and his role as head judge on Travel Channel's Paranormal Challenge, Schrader is a voice of intelligence, balance, and good humor in a world sometimes plagued by hyperbole, dogmatism, and self-importance.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Schrader recently on the topic of orbs, and this led to an amazing conversation on a wide range of topics including an inside peek at Paranormal Challenge, Darkness Radio, and his own beliefs in the afterlife and perspective on the paranormal.

Are you enjoying Paranormal Challenge?

I am, very much.

How did you become chief judge?

Blackmail and lots of soul promising ceremonies. Actually, all joking aside, I have been friends with the Ghost Adventures team since the beginning and we have mutual respect for each other, so when they had their live Halloween special a few years ago they asked me to be a part of it as an interactive host.

dave-schrader- GA live.jpgApparently [Paranormal Challenge creator/host] Zak Bagans and Travel Channel liked what they saw and thought I would be a good fit for the new show.  Zak has been a big supporter of my radio show, book, and lectures -- so have [his Ghost Adventures costars] Nick and Aaron -- and he was willing to take a shot on putting this old man on TV with him, which surprised me that he would allow my mature sexiness to outshine his.  ;)

What are your thoughts on the quality of the participating teams?

I have really enjoyed watching the teams do their thing, I have learned a lot from them that I plan on incorporating into my lectures and research, things to do and things NOT to do. They all bring something to the table, even the teams that are not as strong or organized.I think there are some good teams out there and as is obvious, some not-so-good teams, but all good people nonetheless.

Have they been more skilled or less than you anticipated?

It has been a nice mix. Some that I prejudge as being lame or unorganized really pull it together and do an amazing job once the investigation begins and some that come in looking like a military unit have totally fallen apart as soon as the lights go out and the hunt begins.
What is your favorite episode?

I actually have a hard time saying which was my favorite, if I was really pressed I would say, in order, 1. The USS Hornet (This one was a game changer for me, wait until you see what happens)  2. Waverly Hills  3. Rolling Hills  4. La Purisma  5. Linda Vista Hospital (with special guest Judge Dr. Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine) 6. The Grand Hotel in AZ, our season finale. I loved that one because I was surrounded by some of the best friends I have ever had, Zak, Billy, Chris Fleming and Patrick Burns. It was a great way to close the season.
Paranormal Challenge judges.jpgHas any individual investigator stood out above the others?

That is hard to say, I have really enjoyed watching a lot of the teams in action, even the bad ones, they entertain me to no end. I know that seems like a cop out but its true. I will always have a fondness for Daniel (call me!), " iLean," and the team of Paranormal Xpeditions. (Shame on all of you if you dont know why I mention them.)
Any one team?

I think a few teams were great and should have another chance to shine, Paranormal Xpeditions, Eerie Paranormal, Southern Arizona Ghost & Paranormal Society (SAGAPS), The Ghost Bros and the team G.A.L.S.
Are you satisfied that the format reveals the "best team"?

I am satisfied with the criteria we judge the teams on and disappointed when a great teams makes a simple mistake that costs them the win, especially when the winning team shouldn't be there. It's not a perfect science but we are always tweaking.
Dave Schrader Santa Claus.jpgAny tweaks you would like to see in the show?

Yes, MORE DAVE SCHRADER! That guy is great.

I read on the Darkness Radio site that your interest in the paranormal stems from a childhood visitation by your deceased grandmother. Please discuss that experience and what it meant to you.

I wish I could elaborate, I was very young and have no real memory, just the tales my family shares with me about that time of my life, but it must have impacted me as I have read and studied all things paranormal growing up. I think the visitation from my grandfather about 20 years ago was more profound as it answered more questions about death and heaven for me.

How long have you been doing Darkness Radio

We began the show back around 1812, not many listeners as radio hadn't been invented then but we have been honing the craft since then. Our actual first broadcast went out Jan 1, 2006 and all of our older archives can be heard on www.DarknessRadio.com then we switched to KTLK Radio and our newer archives are listed there. 
Darkness Radio banner.jpgWhat is the mission of the show?

Our mission has always been three fold: Enlighten, Educate and Entertain. I hope we have lived up to that.
What has been the most surprising moment on the show?

The response from many amazing guests telling us we are the best interview they have ever done. I also love how many people tell me that the part they love best is while listening they think up a question and within minutes I seem to ask it on air. I pride myself on trying to be the voice of the listening audience.
Darkness caricature.jpgThe most memorable?

I really enjoyed the two interviews we had with Dan Aykroyd about UFO's and ghosts. I also interviewed a lady that claims to have actually "dated" the physical incarnation of Satan. They met through an ad in the Penny Saver, (glad to see that the economy is even hitting the Prince of Darkness hard) and he was apparently a great dancer, just not a good mate. (For the record, that was 100% a real story of a guest we interviewed)

What are your thoughts on the "paranormal community"?

I think that it is one of the nastiest, backstabbing, destructive and whiny communities in the world. So many people fighting over territories, investigation techniques, etc. With that said, I have met some of the most amazing people in the world and love the teams that are focused on furthering the research and can play nicely with other groups and organizations for the betterment of the field.
Are you surprised by the rise in the visibility of the paranormal in the media?

No, I am surprised it took so long to become mainstream. I think after the horrific attacks on our country in 2001 many people have been on a quest for answers as to WHY things happen and WHAT comes next. I don't think they found the answers in the church or in organized religion so they are looking outside the normal. This has been very cyclical, every few decades intereest in spirituality takes a major jump. I think as we approach 2012 people are opening up more to possibilities and there is a shift coming.
Have the TV shows spurred increased public interest or the other way around?

I think the shows have set the way for the new BOOM in the field. There is good and bad in it, brought many of us out of the paranormal closet and made it okay to talk about in mixed company without so much eyebrow raising and rolling of eyes. I think it has also started a wave of very inept people doing work that is best suited to real researchers and not weekend warriors out for a quick thrill ride.
Who do you think are the top 5 "movers and shakers" in the paranormal community, and why?

I am a huge fan of authors and researcher/investigators Jeff Belanger of www.GhostVillage.com, Joshua P. Warren of www.SpeakingofStrange.com; Bill Chappell of www.DigitalDowsing.com and Gary Galka of www.Pro-Measure.com for their innovation in the field of research and implementation of new equipment to gather usable data; Dr. Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine at www.Skeptic.com for being an open minded and intelligent breath of fresh air in the field of research. He is a great resource and very knowledgeable and a polite advocate for skepticism. Dr. Andrew Nichols of the American Institute of Parapsychology www.parapsychologylab.com for his work and knowledge in everything paranormal; and Mark and Debby Constantino of www.Spirits-Speak.com for their work in the field of Electronic Voice Phenomena, their passion is contagious.

There are many more but those are among my favorites. I also give credit where credit is due and look to TAPS, Ghost Adventures and investigators like Chris Fleming of www.UnknownMag.com for always taking things to a new level.

Dave Shrader 2.jpgWhat are "ghosts"?

They are crazy sheet wearing beasties... Duh!  I dont think there will ever be a REAL answer to that question. I have changed my views many times over the past seven years and continue to do so as I read and investigate more of the research in the field.

I think we may be dealing more with Angelics taking the form of loved ones to pass on messages, making it more relatable to the people they are imparting information too, I think much of it is energy that is displaced and misunderstood and in the rare instance of actual intelligent-style haunting I think it may have more to do with alternate or parallel universes, bleed throughs of time and space.
Many researchers associate paranormal activity with various forms of energy - do you think we will make strides in identifying and describing these forms of energy?

I think energy is the key now if we could only figure out how to tune into that energy 100% and hone equipment capable of bridging those chasms and making it possible to make two-way communication or to harness the energy to understand it more.
Does paranormal activity have a religious component for you?

I am not sure. I guess if we talk life after death, there has to be some religious component. I grew up Christian and have a strong faith, however I continue in the quest to understand the many mysteries of life. I think that when I face the BIG MAN at the end I can hold my head up and say I embraced life and enjoyed the journey of discovery and tell him, WELL DONE! JOURNEY WAS WELL WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION! The juice was well worth the squeeze.

Paranormal Challenge airs Friday nights at 9 on Travel Channel. Darkness Radio airs weeknights at 11C on KTLK, St. Louis Park, MN, and on-demand online. Schrader and Jeff Bellanger will be leading an investigation of the Lizzie Borden house in Fall River, MA on August 26 and 27, 2011.

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Eric Olsen is a career media professional and serial entrepreneur who has written influentially on a vast array of topics for periodicals, books, TV, radio, and the Internet. Olsen founded and published award winning online magazine Blogcritics.org and oversaw creation of the original content organization…

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