In the world of paranormal investigators, Steve DiSchiavi is unique. He isn’t going into haunted locations with infra-red cameras or spirit voice boxes. The tools of his trade are his sharp mind and dusty old books from libraries and archives. He’s never seen a ghost, and he isn’t interested in seeing ghost. But he knows fear, and he has a special way with dealing with frightened people. Instead, Steve DiShiavi’s job is to help the living by finding out the often-sordid past of their haunted properties. He knows every person and every house he sees.
A retired New York City homicide detective, Steve DiSchiavi uses his talents as an investigator to put together the puzzle pieces of the haunted past on Travel Channel’s The Dead Files. Along with co-investigator Amy Allen, a powerful psychic who can talk with the dead, Steve has been helping home and business owners come to grips with the unknown entities that go bump in the night for six seasons. While Amy walks through the buildings facing the dead, Steve conducts the interviews with the victims of the haunting about their experiences, and follows up with historians, law officials and archivists while digging through historical documents, manuscripts, archives and libraries in order to piece together the often brutal and terrifying past. The results lead to Steve and Amy coming together and discovering how their information matches up. The results are always astonishing. Amy and Steve are two investigators using different methods and techniques, but with one result – helping their clients find some sort of peace.
A tough guy with a heart of gold, Steve DiSchiavi is the public’s guide through the mysteries on The Dead Files. With over thirty years on the mean streets of New York, Steve has seen a lot of gruesome stuff and dealt with a lot of hysterical people, preparing him for such an unusual job he has on The Dead Files. Asking all the right questions, Steve has a calculating mind and a compassionate way with people. He is able to get people to tell their stories, without fear of judgment, and can guide them to the answers that they need in order to deal with the things that they fear.
Last year I interviewed Steve’s partner Amy Allen, which proved to be one of PCA’s most popular interviews to date. As a follow up to that interview, I was happy to be able to get Steve DiSchiavi, on the telephone to talk to him about his unique place in the world of paranormal investigations and about what he does, and how his life has been changed by The Dead Files. A very different kind of interview by a very different kind of investigator, Steve proved to be talkative and friendly, but as tough as the New York streets that he came from. Steve has seen a lot of scary things and a lot of death, and as a result one thing that doesn’t scare him is ghosts.
Sam Tweedle: Steve, it never comes up in the show. What is your stance on the supernatural? Do you believe in it? What’s your take?
Steve DiShiarvi: I’ve always been an open-minded skeptic. I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts and all the other stuff that people say, but I’m a believer in Amy’s abilities. One hundred percent. It’s almost contradictory when you think about it. I’m not necessarily a believer in the paranormal but I can’t deny her abilities.
Sam: You are a retired homicide detective. You must have seen some pretty scary stuff in your career.
Steve: Yeah. I’ve seen my share of gruesome. It’s funny, because when people ask me “Doesn’t it creep you out being in these buildings,” I’ve been through too much to let a little building with a story creep me out.
Sam: How did you get involved with Travel Channel and The Dead Files? What brought you on this strange journey?
Steve: It was [through] the producer of the show, Jim Casey. I had been on a documentary for ABC News called NYPD 24/7. I was the featured detective in the first episode. It won an Emmy and was seen worldwide. Jim Casey saw it and reached out to me and asked if I was interested in doing television. That’s how it all happened.
Sam: When Jim told you that it was going to be a paranormal investigation series was it a surprise to you?
Steve: Yeah. We did pilots of just me doing investigative stuff, and the networks didn’t like me because I was “too New York.” So, Jim approached the Travel Channel with this Dead Files thing. I didn’t even want to do the pilot. I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t want to do it because it involved the paranormal. But I did the pilot and I met Amy, along with three or four other psychics that Jim had brought on board, and I was not impressed with any of them except Amy. So I said to Jim “If this show goes, and it’s this concept, I’ll do it if it’s with Amy Allen. I won’t do it with the other people you brought in.”
Sam: What was it about Amy which made you want to work with her?
Steve: Well, we did a double homicide which was still unsolved in Denver, and I had spoken to one of the lieutenants that was there when the case was actually happening, and he gave me some information that the news didn’t know and was not on any kind of paperwork. Well Amy hit on a few of those things that really blew my mind. So I got it from another cop, which gave it some credibility to me, and I knew it wasn’t out there and she hit on it.
Sam: When Amy does her reveal at the end of the show, the camera operators give these fantastic close up of your face. You have such an expressive face, and you always seem astonished by what she is coming out with.
Steve: I can’t fake those looks on my face. I’m not an actor. I didn’t go to acting school. What you see is what you get. She really does blow me away sometimes. Week after week people ask “Steve, have you had an experience? Have you done this?” Well, the only experience I have every week is how Amy boggles my mind and how she amazes me with how she’s able to see this stuff.
Sam: So, when you go into the buildings to film your part, you’ve never experienced any paranormal phenomena?
Steve: Not a damn thing. I spend a lot of time in these locations with the clients and nothing.
Sam: I hear about people who talk about paranormal activity in their homes and, while I do believe, I am usually skeptical at first. Sometimes I think people are looking too hard for something. Does the Travel Channel screen the locations before you and Amy go to them?
Steve: It’s all done beforehand. The office looks at it. I look at it. It’s a team effort. Obviously when it comes to children being involved or violence, we try to hit on that right away. But it has to be approved by the Travel Channel before we go out there.
Sam: What are some of the stories, or who are some of the people, who really hit the hardest with you when you talked with them?
Steve: There’s a lot. A lot of people have personal life issues that hit home with me too which I can relate to them. My mother dying, my father passing away, and stuff like that. We had an episode in Brown Summit which had a child who had special needs and had forty or fifty surgeries and, as a parent, it just broke my heart. It takes a lot for me to hit a bone because I’ve become so callous. I’m so scarred and jaded by everything I’ve seen on the streets that it’s hard to get emotional about things, but this is a bit of a different venue for me. I’m not dealing with the street scum but people’s personal tragedies. There was a woman in Williamsport who was actually raped by an entity and Amy was able to see that that was going on. Nobody believed this woman, but I was able to reassure her that I believed her and would help her, and we did.
Sam: The most entertaining thing about The Dead Files to me, and probably why I tune in, is the stories behind the story. I want to know a little bit about your process in discovering the background of these stories. When you come into a city do you have any clues, or do you go in with a clean slate?
Steve: No. I need a little bit of history on the location. I have to have everything lined up before I go in there. I can’t just walk in super cold. But what I have lined up depends on what I’m going to hear from the client. The client may put me in a direction that I may not be thinking of that I need to hit on specifically. I may have a vague notion of the area in that there were Indian wars, or the building is a hundred years old, or that there were fifteen owners. What part of that will become important to my investigation, I won’t know until I start talking to people. So, if I’m talking to a historian about one thing, it may lead me to an author or a cop or a genealogist. So, I have to have all those people lined up before I get out there, which can be a little tough to do. I can’t walk in cold.
Sam: It’s a lot of book work, and I see you doing interviews, going through books and old documents. Was that a lot different as your work as a homicide detective?
Steve: No. It’s different because it’s different type of research. The type of research I would have done would be with phone records and e-mails between a possible perpetrator and a victim. Stuff like that. Its research at a different level. I’m still looking for a needle in a haystack, but it’s about knowing what’s important and what is not. That’s what brings my experience to the show and to what we do because I’m able to figure it out. Everybody can do research. A college student can do research. To figure out what’s important and what you need to question on is another job that you need.
Sam: By being on television, and being known by the public, has your life changed very much?
Steve: My life hasn’t really changed. I’m me. I’m still Stevie D from the neighborhood. I’m a regular guy. I meet fans all the time and I love my fans. I adore the fans of our show. I always stop to do photos with them, and I chat with them. I’m a regular guy. Some people say “You’re crazy? What if you mean some whack job?” Well, I spent twenty-three years on the streets of New York as a detective. You don’t think I can handle a whack job? I don’t worry about it like if I’m George Clooney. If anybody does something, I’ll be able to handle it. I’ve been in three shootings. I’ve been involved in more life and death situations than I can count, and a fan isn’t going to scare me.
Sam: And obviously the dead isn’t going to scare you either.
Steve: When it comes to the paranormal, I believe that people are physically abused and stuff like that, but it’s never happened to me, and I’ve never witnessed it. To be honest with you, I worry more about the living. I don’t worry about the dead.
Sam: What can you tell us about the upcoming season of Dead Files?
Steve: For me it’s nothing really different. Its more on Amy`s end. For me its basic stuff. All the research. There are some pretty wild stories this year. It’s amazing what history teaches us and what’s happened in the past. Amy has seen a lot of stuff and encountered things that she’s never encountered before. She’s had a lot of walks where she says it’s been very intense. Out of thirteen walks that we did, about ten of them were pretty bad for her.
Sam: Is she doing alright?
Steve: Yeah. She’s okay, but she’s seeing things that she’s never seen before. Pretty rare. The more seasons we do the more intense and colorful the episodes are becoming. The moment we do one and we say it’s the best episode ever; we do another investigation and say “Oh my god. This was the best one.”
Sam: So, things are intensifying.
Steve: Yeah, and I think it’s because more people are willing to reach out to us to tell their story no matter how bizarre they may sound. Ghost hunting crews go in there and see what’s happening and get their own experiences. We don’t really do that. We go in there for a job with a client.
Sam: It must be an interesting way to travel all over the United States.
Steve: Yeah. I`ve been all over the world, but I never got a chance to see my own country. I`m very happy to say I’ve seen forty seven of the fifty states now. It’s really great to travel and meet fans. At home nobody recognizes me because I’m just a face on the street, but in the smaller towns I get recognized a lot.
Sam: Do you follow through with the people you encounter on the show after you film the episodes?
Steve: I still keep in touch with a lot of the clients on a personal level. I talk to them on the phone and stuff like that. Actually, in January I was down in Florida and went by Ybor City and stopped by the Don Vicente Inn which we visited in the first season. I said hello to them, we took some photos, chit chatted, had a few laughs. I always keep in touch with the clients I want to keep in touch with.
Sam: Well, a lot of the mail I receive from the interview I did with Amy is from people who are reaching out and looking for help and they think I am connected with the show. How can these people reach you?
Steve: All they need to do is to go to Travel Channel’s website for The Dead Files and submit to us there. We get so many submissions. They number in the thousands. I’m on my Facebook for hours a day sometimes just trying to answer everyone and tell them to go to the website. It’s heart breaking because these people are really desperate for help.
Ever since we did our interview with Amy Allen last year, PCA has received numerous e-mails and messages for Amy and Steve for help with their paranormal problems. Unfortunately PCA is not affiliated with Travel Channel or The Dead Files, but as Steve DiSchiavi said, the best way to contact them is through the show’s web-site at http://www.travelchannel.com/tv-shows/the-dead-files. There is a section on the site which will allow you to submit your problem to the producers who will be able to forward your messages to Steve and Amy. With a little luck, Steve and Amy may end up on your doorstep to give you the answers you need.
POP CULTURE NOTE: Thanks to Stephanie DePietro from Travel Channel for arranging the opportunity to talk with Steve DiSchiavi. I really appreciate the continuous opportunities you’ve brought to us Stephanie. For more information on Travel Channel and its programs visit their web-site at http://www.travelchannel.com/.