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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, March 03, 2024
Callie Kollenbroich

Syfy offers go-to terrors and thrills

It was the dead of night. I found myself cowering beneath a canopy of blankets in the center of a dark room, illuminated only by the flickers of a television set that served to feed my growing paranoia. I was alone; or was I?

Let me explain. Last week, I journeyed back to my parents’ house, which I am convinced is invariably haunted—two people had died there before we moved in and things seem to go “bump” in the night.

Despite its checkered past, I was in desperate need of some R&R—television is best watched via cable you did not have to pay for, in close proximity to a fully-stocked pantry whose contents you did not have to pay for either.

With a belly full of snacks, I claimed my throne on the couch and entered into an internal debate about what to watch. Don’t get me wrong—I love quality television. Not only are shows like “True Detective” and “House of Cards” visually pleasing, they exercise the mind.

However, you might find yourself in the midst of a midterm hurricane, realizing that your weary brain might not have the mental capacity to process anything more than some frivolous camp layered on top of a few low-budget special effects. It’s times like these I often turn to Syfy, a romp of a cable channel and promoter of all things pseudoscientific. It’s fun, it’s thrilling and, best of all, it’s easy entertainment.

I was already on edge but, being the masochist I am, I decided it was an excellent time for an impromptu sci-fi marathon—alone, in the basement, with all the lights off. It was only fitting that “Paranormal Witness,” a Syfy original series about encounters with all things spooky, was first on the docket.

The episode in progress was a tale of alien crafts and military conspiracies, and it was exactly the sort of thing I had been hoping for—mildly thrilling and conducive to laughter. For example, after hearing a blood curdling shrill, two military men walked toward a giant pyramidal aircraft. Upon arrival, the man was so in awe of its majesty that he began to weep.

I don’t know about you but if I encountered an alien spacecraft, I would be crying for wildly different reasons. Similarly, the witness says he suspected it was radioactive and then proceeded to brush his hands along its metallic surfaces, a stroke of genius if I ever saw one. Sure, I was having fun with the series’ hijinks, but they had lulled me into a false sense of security that was about to shatter.

After a brief commercial break, the screen revealed a man dressed in religious attire and I knew it was safe to assume that an exorcism was about to ensue. This episode was just as hilarious as the last, complete with shoddy acting and campy effects, that is, until strange things began to happen.

While a woman was experiencing a demonic fit onscreen, the volume on my TV suddenly cut out and I could hear the violent thump of my heart. The sudden lack of audio could have been explained by two things—either I accidently hit mute while readjusting my blanket cocoon or the television was possessed by a demonic spirit. Either way, I was beginning to feel tense.

Last on the agenda was the most thrilling of all and it was beginning to feel a little too close to home. A family moves into a new house and is welcomed by a series of poltergeist activities that grow more malevolent with each passing week. Sound familiar?

A few minutes in, I was struck by an unnatural frigidness and the hair on the back of neck stood on end. The sudden change in temperature could have been explained by one of two things—either my body was reacting to my mother’s insistence on setting the heat at a polar 65 degrees, or a ghostly being had entered the vicinity. Either way, I decided I’d had enough thrills for one evening. I turned off the television and headed upstairs to spend time with beings I could visibly see.

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If you’re in the mood for some cheap thrills and hilarious camp, “Paranormal Witness”—and Syfy in general—is a fitting television experience. Just make sure to watch it with the lights on.

Got any ghosts mooching off your cable service? Send your stories to Callie at ckollenbroic@wisc.edu.

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