What must fans of Syfy’s “Paranormal Witness” think of the New Mexico area? Not one, but two of this season’s episodes take place in El Paso and Juarez, including a show set to air Wednesday, Aug. 14, entitled “The Saint of Death,” in which “the grisly face of Santa Muerte, the patron saint of the criminal underworld, haunts an innocent man.”
Executive producer Mark Lewis is among those who noticed the correlation.
“At the ‘Paranormal Witness’ office, we are beginning to wonder if this is not some kind of paranormal vortex!” he said.
Each episode of the drama-documentary series features interviews with people who have witnessed frightening paranormal activities that cannot be explained away by natural causes or logic. Their firsthand stories are accompanied by realistic reenactments of their experiences, featuring look-alike actors on sets that look like where these incidents happened.
This week’s episode, airing on Syfy on Wednesday, August 14, at 8 p.m., explores a young man’s terror as he realizes his new apartment is haunted. The man, Chris, was having trouble in his marriage and wanted to move out of his home temporarily. He ended up renting a filthy apartment with blacked-out windows in a dangerous neighborhood in Juarez.
“I have to admit, it made me feel a little uneasy,” he recalled. “I felt a bad energy, but I didn’t have a choice. I still had to cover my wife’s rent, and there was only so much I could afford.”
Right away, strange sounds wake him up in the middle of the night, cabinet doors open, and objects are moved. Frightened, he asked a friend, Guillermo, to move into the spare room. He explained to him what had been happening, but Guillermo told Chris, “You are under a lot of stress with your family and you could just be seeing things.”
Then Guillermo begins to be affected also. The apartment door mysteriously opens in front of him one evening that he had left his keys at work.
“I felt a chill run through my body,” he reported when he discovers that moments after he left his wallet next to the front door, it appeared in a kitchen drawer full of knives.
“Viewers can expect a journey into this apartment that has a spirit that has been left there,” said the episode’s director, Carl Hindmarch, speaking by phone from London last week. “It’s a case of classic paranormal activity: objects moving and noises that cannot be explained. Guillermo is very skeptical, but then he sees the same shadows that Chris has seen.”
This episode is the first in three seasons of “Paranormal Witness” to depict a case that took place outside the United States. A film crew captured some of the exterior scenes of Juarez, but the dramatization segments of both “Dining with Death” and “Saint of Death” were filmed in Toronto.
“It was a challenge bringing Mexico to life in winter in Canada, where the temperature dropped to minus 12 degrees,” Hindmarch said.
Typically each episode takes about a week of filming and involves more than 100 people on set, from catering to the actors, who really do look like the actual people being interviewed. Hindmarch said that the style he used in this episode was heavily influenced by “Breaking Bad,” which also depicts our region’s ruthless drug war violence. He is very familiar with the series.
“‘Breaking Bad’ is a massive success in England,” he says.
Could El Paso and Juarez be unusually haunted? Hard to say.
“What is interesting is there are some really intriguing but very distinct cultural forces and belief systems in the area,” Lewis observed. “In the case of the two stories we have made there, as cultural or religious phenomena, they could not be more different. It is testimony to the cultural diversity of El Paso-Juarez that you can find so many stories in one place.”
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