10 Criminal Cases Cracked Open by Paranormal Research

Gruesome murders and unexplained disappearances litter the archives of The Dead Files. We've rounded up our favorites available for streaming now.

June 08, 2020
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Photo By: Photographer: Morgan D. Estill

Violent Ends

A peaceful, quiet death. That's what we hope for, right? We hope to leave this world surrounded by loved ones with a final, parting glimpse before departing into the beyond. But what happens when people are robbed of that conclusion? For nearly a decade, retired NYPD detective Steve DiSchiavi and paranormal researcher Amy Allan, hosts of The Dead Files, have teamed up to find out.

Together, they've reexamined hundreds of cases of sudden death — some of which have had endings so terrible that the souls of those involved may have never left this world. According to DiSchiavi, these are the locations of some of their most chilling encounters.

Struthers, Ohio — Season 5, Episode 8

The headless body of an unknown male was found inside of a burlap bag at a Pennsylvania train yard in 1940. The body, hidden inside of a boxcar and obscured by a swarm of flies, had been sliced into pieces. The discovery would begin a search that revealed two more bodies in other, bloody box cars, launching a 80-year-old mystery. Though circumstantial evidence points to a Cleveland serial killer, little evidence has been produced and the victim’s heads have never been found.

It’s up to DiSchiavi and Allan to decipher the scant clues and lingering spiritual residue at the train’s only stop along the posthumous journey of the victims — the hamlet of Struthers, Ohio.

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Vilisca, Iowa — Season 3, Episode 4

The quiet town of Vilisca, Iowa became home to one of America's most horrific murder mysteries in June of 1912, when eight people are bludgeoned to death with an axe in the middle of the night. The murderer was never found or convicted; however, DiSchiavi places blame on shoddy police work and local beliefs of the era.

"We found similar criminal acts were occurring everywhere that this traveling preacher went," DiSchiavi explains. "Everywhere he went, there seemed to be a murder, but nobody wanted to believe that a preacher was capable of doing this." Ultimately, DiSchiavi and Allan disagreed on the most likely culprit, but you’ll have to catch the episode to find out how.

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Radford, Virginia — Season 3, Episode 9

In 1980, Radford University freshman Gina Renee Hall met a charming, 20-something man at a Blacksburg, Virginia bar. There, Stephen Epperly convinced Hall to leave with him. The two were allegedly bound for a nearby lake house. However, Hall was soon spotted leaving a nearby hotel — the last place she would ever be seen alive.

Nearly four decades later, DiSchiavi and Allan trek to the hills of Virginia to solve the mystery of Hall’s disappearance in a crime that ultimately saw Epperly convicted without a body.

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Deadwood, South Dakota — Season 3, Episode 11

The Fairmont hotel was originally home to a Gold Rush-era brothel that flourished in the late 1800s. And in a town where men outnumbered women 40 to one, passions often ran high. At least three deaths have been linked to the sex trade on the grounds of the historic hotel, which The Dead Files calls home as they investigate these crimes, in addition to the shooting death of a disgraced Deadwood police officer in the 1940s.

That death marked the end of legal prostitution in Deadwood, but according to DiSchiavi — an admitted skeptic — the city’s checkered history may have left a supernatural scar on its present.

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Buffalo, Wyoming — Season 2, Episode 20

The saga of the Occidental Hotel revolves around the 101-year-old murder of Fred Waegele, a former owner of the establishment. In 1919, the hotelier-turned-accused-rapist was slowly poisoned by his son’s new bride, who disguised toxic strychnine caplets as rheumatism medication. His victim and killer, the young Marian Waegele, later wrote a confession letter to authorities before lethally poising herself as well.

That kind of trauma has left its mark on the remote town of Buffalo, a lasting impression that DiSchiavi dubs a “real-life made-for-TV movie.”

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Oregon, Illinois — Season 5, Episode 5

The crime that captivated a former Oregon, Illinois mayor for parts of three decades lures DiSchiavi and Allan to the northwest corner of the Land of Lincoln. Their goal? Shed new light on the 1948 murder of pair of lovebirds that left a cryptic trail of clues linking an off-duty sheriff’s deputy, a menacing duo of stalkers, late night gunshots and a lover’s lane on the outskirts of town.

Four days after heading out for a date, the bodies of Stanley Skridla and Mary Jane Reed were found in separate area ditches. With a handful of suspects still alive, The Dead Files team investigates from a haunted restaurant at the heart of it all.

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Seattle, Washington — Season 2, Episode 9

A former saloon, hotel and card room, The Merchant Cafe in downtown Seattle burned to the ground in 1889, taking with it the souls of men and women said to still linger at its tables. Though the business was rebuilt a year later, a trifecta of nearby lynchings — involving two murderers and an innocent man — would turn the Merchant Cafe into a hotspot of paranormal activity that persists to this day.

Here, Allan communes with the spirits of the Merchant’s former occupants, while DiSchiavi gets to the bottom of the gruesome hangings.

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Marana, Arizona — Season 12, Episode 13

In 1957, the bodies of Louise and Freelin Huff were found beneath a bridge spanning the Santa Cruz River in rural Arizona. The murdered couple was riddled with bullet holes and — bizarrely — arranged in the shape of a cross. Hours earlier, a ranch had reported witnessing their murder. It was a scene that saw a disgruntled worker drive a pickup truck onto the Huff’s front lawn before ruthlessly gunning down both husband and wife.

In this episode, DiShiavi talks to local law enforcement to dissect the crime and decipher a motive for the killing of a seemingly innocent couple, a motive whose true origins could date back to World War II Japan.

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Montego Bay, Jamaica — Season 5, Episode 1

The team investigates a legend dating back nearly 200 years when they visit the grounds of Rose Hall Plantation near Montego Bay It is on these grounds that the restless spirit of Annie Palmer, “The White Witch of Rose Hall,” is said to wander. Nearby, locals still spin the mythical tale of Palmer, an alleged practitioner of dark magic rumored to have killed three separate husbands on the property.

However, after first-hand investigation, DiSchiavi and Allan begin to unravel which parts of the age old Caribbean legend are and are not true.

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Santa Fe, New Mexico — Season 1, Episode 19

The Penitentiary of New Mexico outside of Santa Fe saw one of the most grizzly prison riots of the 20th century when 33 inmates were killed in February of 1980. “I talked to one of the guys that was in jail for murder that was there,” recalls DiSchiavi. “It was absolutely brutal. There was so much blood from them killing everybody that he said there was a river of red running going through the hallways. They cut guys' heads off. They were running around with heads on broomsticks.”

According to DiSchiavi, the resulting decades have seen so many hauntings that area law enforcement has instituted training for the supernatural at their academy. Many former guards still refuse to return to the now deactivated cell block where the riot took place for fear of the paranormal.

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