Paranormal programming is a dynamic realm, but a pretty white one.
After the successes of industry changers like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, networks are looking for fresh paranormal television that explores the field in new ways. But those new ways rarely included a diverse cast of investigators. Until now.
|Barrera, photo by Jen Venegas|
Where few shows have explored the cultural impact of paranormal investigations beyond the anglo approach, From Beyond follows these three investigators into the Latino community in Los Angeles, Calif., to bridge the diversity gap and spread awareness about life on the other side. It also touches on spiritual topics such as seances - as shown in the embedded clip from this Sunday's episode - a subject not typically covered in paranormal reality-TV.
Barrera started his career as a medium at age 19 as a regular guest on two L.A. radio shows. His notoriety grew in celebrity circles among actors and singers after a number of well reviewed readings. He now hosts his own radio program, "Breakthroughs with AJ Barrera," leads lectures and workshops, gives personal readings, actively investigates the paranormal, is a columnist for Latina magazine and leads the team on From Beyond.
He spoke with ParanormalPopCulture.com’s Karl Pfeiffer about the new show, and life spent dealing with the afterlife (after the jump).
AJB: I actually started around sixth grade with a very skeptical attitude, practicing with a deck of Tarot cards to prove that psychics could not in fact connect to the other side. But I began to connect with the cards and my peers, picking out personal information and predicting events. Of course I doubted it. I thought maybe I'm just a pretty good guesser. I took it a little further in high school with one of my teachers, who was a medium herself. She's the one who discovered my abilities and took me under her wing. I didn't want to do this at all actually. I wanted to be a firefighter.
PPC: It's funny how life takes you in directions you sometimes never expect.
AJB: Absolutely. My passion has always been helping people, assisting people, if as a firefighter or police officer, veterinarian or doctor. I have an uncle who was a firefighter, an uncle who works in law enforcement, those in health care... I wanted to give that back and I'm doing that work now, healing people through messages and words.
PPC: And your two team members, Christian and Ramiro?
Paranormal State]. He's trained with great people. He's very passionate about his work, about documenting and capturing evidence. We're all able to bring something unique to the show with our different backgrounds. We've got a Catholic, a spiritualist and a skeptic.
PPC: What ways does your show bring something fresh to the table compared to other paranormal shows?
AJB: We're the first all Latino paranormal investigative television reality show that is going into Latino communities and actually sharing what's going on with ghost stories and hauntings. The other shows don't involve the homeowners. We do. It makes it more personal, they get to be involved with us as we document the paranormal in real time with real evidence. From Beyond delivers a great perspective on our culture and our background. We are able to deliver a great foundation in the Latino community. This show goes beyond, to help break down the paranormal, showing that it is something natural.
PPC: What kind of skepticism do you encounter in the Latino community? Is it more or less the same as the wider American attitude?
AJB: I think it goes both ways. People want to either know that there's something more in the unknown, or think it's b.s. I think people should be skeptical about everything. Even myself, when I'm doing readings for clients, I don't want to know any information about who to connect with or anything, so that the person can walk away from that experience and know that it was valid. I think with Latinos and their culture, they're afraid but they're asking. It doesn't matter what perspective you come from, it's what you're looking for, whether understanding religions or understanding spirituality.
PPC: We've had a progression of technical ghost shows to experienced-based shows, to story shows. Do you think your show is a needed next step, bringing that spiritual element back into it?
AJB: Absolutely. We bring the hardcore evidence, introducing our community to the devices and technology, EVP, ITC. We're educating. You don't have to be Latino to watch the show. It speaks for everyone. It's eye-opening in that maybe there is a possibility, maybe we can make that connection. We definitely bring a mixture of both spirituality and evidential information. Skepticism will always be an aspect. I'm not trying to shove a belief or religion down anyone's throat, I believe that people should accept it how they will accept it.
PPC: Is there something specific that you're trying to share with people? A message that you want to come out of this show?
AJB: Thank you for asking that. What I'm trying to deliver to people is that what we see and document is real time. We're not going back to the drawing board to analyze information, we're getting it right there. Also I want to get across awareness about the work and how spirituality comes across and how the enlightenment of this work is how you truly understand it, listening to the messages we're receiving through these devices on the show, within our community, within our home, with family members. People are realizing that maybe this was their loved one, here's evidence and a grounding that it is real. It's not about the medium, it's about the messages you get across to people, plain and simple.