By The Sisters Sardonic
One of the Sisters’ favorite shows came back to us recently and oh, how we have missed it. Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files premiered after a brief hiatus. This is the show that brought us one of our most freaked-out, what-was-that moments. They introduced us to what we lovingly and terrifyingly refer to as “the clothespin monster,” a bizarre bipedal creature that could not be identified. Look up the episode “Unwanted Visitors/Strange Sightings” and prepare to be freaked. If it doesn’t freak you out, well, FRIENDSHIP OVER. The Sisters had the opportunity to speak with Ben Hansen and Jael de Pardo, cast members, about some of the more extraordinary events on the show as well as their own personal experiences.
Q: Can you both talk about how you not only got started with the show, but also how you got started in your chosen fields and how it kind of led to that?
Ben Hansen: Yes. Do you want to go ahead first, Jael?
Jael de Pardo: Sure, well, I have a journalist’s background, which I think it – you know, provides a very strong background in this because both are quests for the truth. As a journalist, you gather evidence, you’re evaluating the credibility of a witness, you’re researching, and that’s some of the same skills that I’m using on Fact or Faked to evaluate the credibility of some of the supernatural phenomena, you know, and also like Ben was saying before with his FBI background, another additional element that’s particularly important as a journalist, I’m often interviewing people that have some kind of agenda. So you know, you have to have a fine antenna for when people are telling the truth or not. With years of experience with interviews, I can usually tell if somebody’s trying to pull something over on someone. So, I think that those skills can transfer really well to the paranormal. You know, you’re just trying to get to the bottom of something.
Ben Hansen: For me, why I chose my field. It goes back to – well, I don’t know. I’ve always been a curious kid. I was kind of a nerd growing up. I was the kid who got the microscope. I was the kid who, you know, got telescopes for his birthday and I was really interested in science, but more so, it was discovery. It was curiosity. I know that I didn’t want a job in business. I’m not good at business. And so as I got older, you know, this sounds kind of funny, and I’m not going to attribute it to all the X-Files, but I was in high school and that’s kind of when X-Files was popular and I thought, “Wow. What a cool job,” you know, and what really interested me was not only what they were doing for the government, but that they were looking at these really cool paranormal cases, and wow, I mean, if that job existed, I thought that would be the ultimate. So, when I left there I went to college. I started studying Criminology. I worked for several different agencies, both private and government, and all of them were based on research, interviewing, putting together evidence, coming to conclusions. In some cases, that ends up in arrest or a criminal prosecution. So, I really enjoyed that. When the opportunity came up to do something in television – there was a production company that produces our show, Base Productions — American Cowboy Productions, their subsidiary — they have a lot of experience in making excellent TV shows with CG especially, and they’re very fast paced and action oriented. At any rate, they loved the idea – when I heard that they were looking for something, I came together with a group of some of my friends, and we were already doing this. We were mostly doing ghost hunting. My kind of bailiwick is Ufology though, and I have been interested in this for almost 20 or so years. And, they really just didn’t have a concept developed was the thing.
So, we sat down with them and talked about you know, “Okay. This is my first time really in the entertainment world. What is lacking?” I started watching the other shows. I started researching and I thought what is not being done right now? What could we do a show about? And, it started to kind of get the ball rolling from there. I did have a couple of team members that – you know, that we added to the team. Some were kind of swapped out, and we brought Jael because of her journalism experience, because she already has proven success with a great TV show in Destination Truth, and Chi-Lan because of her photography, and, the rest – well, Bill – it was kind of like the Dynamic Duo, you know, because I had the investigation background, but Bill by far – he’s very well known in the paranormal community already. So, we brought the two of us together and the rest of the team, and it just kind of – wow. We meshed really quickly from the beginning.
Jael de Pardo: Yes. And, I’ll interject for a moment there and just bring up the Destination Truth thing. You know, Josh Gates and the Destination Truth team had hired me to go in as a journalist for one of their seasons and you know, it was really exciting and it definitely gave me a lot of experience with the supernatural, and so when Fact or Faked came along, and Ben Hanson and the rest of the team, it definitely just seemed like a natural fit.
Sisters Sardonic: We have a favorite episode of Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files. It is the episode with the unwanted visitor sighting, the bizarre bipedal creature, in Fresno, California. Was that (investigation) as creepy as it seemed?
Jael de Pardo: It really was, and it’s funny that you would mention that one, because that’s actually my favorite from the first half of the season. That case still boggles me. I still – we left there and we still have not come to any sort of concrete conclusion as to what these creatures may have been. You know, it is definitely possible that these could’ve been some kind of indigenous creature that hasn’t been discovered yet in that area, because there were two sightings that we found out about while we were investigating that. So, it was really interesting you know, and it was creepy because when we did our night investigation, we definitely felt some kind of presence that was there with us, and Bill can attest to that as well. Larry was with us and it sort of felt like we were chasing something in the woods, but at the end of the night, it almost felt like it was chasing us. So, we left definitely quite spooked. And you know I’ve been a skeptic when it comes to aliens and UFOs, but that really turned my thinking in a different direction and opened me up to believing a bit more.
Sisters Sardonic: Ben, we’re kind of stoked that you mentioned the X-Files angle there. We were going to go that direction. As a former FBI agent, were there any cases that kind of made you say, “Wait a minute, what’s going on here? This is something a little bit out of the ordinary”?
Ben Hansen: Well, I often get asked that question a lot, and I get the questions what exactly did I do there, and how long, and how did I start and leave, and all those things and unfortunately, I signed a mountain of confidentiality paperwork and took oaths, right, because of the nature of the work. So, I really can’t even comment on the types of cases. If my name were on some report that had already been released to the public, that’s kind of a different story. But maybe what I could do is kind of – let’s see. How could I answer that question? In an official capacity, I suppose – let me say this. I’ve seen by far – there’s always strange things going on when you work for – in investigations. In the paranormal world, I’ve by far seen more in my private life that can’t be explained. You know, government agencies sometimes do get involved in the unknown. If you look in the ‘70s, you know, government was involved in investigating cattle mutilations and things of that nature. But, it’s been more of my focus outside of my work with the different agencies that I’ve seen things.
Sisters Sardonic: Are there any locations or investigations that either one of you would like to return to?
Ben Hansen: There’s plenty. I would like to go to all the cases I didn’t get to see. I mean, there’s – I would’ve love to have been at Fresno. I would’ve loved to go back to Arizona. I’ve got a lot of friends in Arizona. I would love to do a week or two of camping in some of these remote areas to capture what my team did on film you know. To have an actual anomalous light come streaking by and doing strange maneuvers, I would love to see that.
Jael de Pardo: As for me, I actually have one that we haven’t investigated that I’d like to investigate. There’s a place called the Winchester Mystery House in Northern California, and it was owned by the widow of a man that made the Winchester Rifle and supposedly, it’s inhabited by all the souls who were killed by the Winchester Rifles. So, I’m sometimes fascinated by the morbid, and I think I’d like to check that one out.
Sisters Sardonic: So, what can we look forward to this year: any new surprises, anything really unusual for the next new set of shows coming out?
Ben Hansen: I guess to sum it up: it’s bigger and better. We have a couple of cases that, a lot of times in the last six seasons – or I’m sorry – seasons – in the last six episodes, there are a lot of times where someone might tune in and it might be the very first time they’ve heard about this case. In this next run, there are a few cases in there that many, many more people have heard of, and so, it’s kind of a daunting task to tackle these. But, we’re not trying to tackle usually the whole case. A specific part of it, and try something that hasn’t been done yet. So, you’re going to see a bit of that. You’re going to see a little more kind of interaction between the team members. We’re really meshing now, so you’re starting to see our personalities come out a bit more, and we’re going to some really exciting locations. So I mean that’s what I think will be kind of the big draw for people in this next run.
Jael de Pardo: Absolutely, Ben. I mean the – you know, the daunting task – considering that we are Fact or Faked, and then we’re tackling these cases that are really well known and that have been considered hard evidence that the paranormal is real. That it could be an alien or whatever the case is. In the community, it’s been considered as concrete evidence, and then we’re going in there and tackling it to see if it actually is true. So it is a daunting task, and so you’ll definitely see more of that; some very controversial cases and – as well as some great exotic, beautiful locations.
Ben Hansen: That’s true. And, we’ve talked about that before. I know that we can go into a little detail. We actually went to Australia. I lived there for a year, so I just loved going back, and loved that the assignment that we had was to look for a mermaid. So, we had a lot of fun. And you know, I guess you’ll just have to see what happens.
Q: There are some rumors that you (Jael) might be going and returning to Destination Truth. Can you confirm?
Jael de Pardo: Well, I’m actually really excited to say that I will be joining the team during the season that is in production right now. I’ve been invited to do a guest appearance for two episodes in Africa. So yes, Josh Gates has invited me to come and you know, use my journalism skills to help them out, and I’m really excited because I will be reunited with (Rex) who’s also back. It’s going to be great. I love the old team, and it’s definitely an honor to go back, so I’m very, very excited…it’s going to be a wild location. I’m sure being familiar with Destination Truth; we’re definitely going to go out on a limb, sometimes literally.
Q: And to that effect, do you have any differences or similarities to the team dynamics between the two shows?
Jael de Pardo: Well you know, I think when you’re traveling with a group and you know you’re in such proximity for such a long time, you definitely get to know each other really well. So at some point, everybody has their differences and you definitely disagree on certain things. But you definitely come together as a team and you realize that you have to back each other up, you know in every aspect. On Destination Truth, because we’re out in these really exotic places a lot of the times, and very foreign lands, and we have to abide by different kinds of protocol, it’s a different dynamic of why you’re looking for your co-worker’s back – you know, looking out for them. I think the differences between the two shows is that one is more of a hunt and one is more of a – I guess a process of elimination. And so, one causes a lively debate, which I would say Fact or Faked, and the other one is more like sometimes, “Run for your life!”
Ben Hansen: Which is more stressful to you?
Jael de Pardo: Well you know Ben, you and I have had that conversation that sometimes when you have to really think about things, it can be really exhausting just the mental (versus the physical) that we’ve talked about, right. So, they’re both tiring. You know, one is a little bit more physical and one is mental. So either way, I come home and I need to sleep for awhile.
Q: The next question I have for you is do you have a personal history that drives you to the paranormal?
Jael de Pardo: Well you know, chiming in on what Ben was saying before, I have a very curious personality. I have been a journalist for the past six years, and I’ve always been interested in a lot of different things, different areas of all sorts of things. So, my curiosity is what drives me. I’ve actually loved the SyFy Channel for a long, long time, and I have an affinity toward the paranormal and that kind of thing. So when I was invited to use my journalism skills on Destination Truth, I was all for it because I was able to take my skills and adapt them into something else that I found very interesting. Then, that gave me sort of the hard experience in that field that has allowed me to propel into what I’m doing now with Fact or Faked.
Q: When you kind of do the investigating and like the waiting in the dark and all that, did it scare you? Or, do you maybe sometimes scare yourself just because you’re kind of all alone waiting for something to happen?
Jael de Pardo: I think it’s a combination of both. Because, you go out to these countries and we start by finding our witnesses. And – so, we interview all these people who are telling you that straight – they believe this is true. “This is true. This is true. This is what happened to me. I heard the footsteps. I saw this. I saw that.” So you start to think about all this in your head, and then you wait until you know the sun goes down. You go to the location and it’s creepy, and then you lock yourself in a room and you’ve been hearing all this stuff all day. So absolutely, you know. Some of it I think it’s how far you let your mind wander, and then the other part of it is actually thinking, “Okay. Well, this place definitely has had some paranormal activity. There’s a possibility that something will happen to me right now,” and it’s definitely a challenge to sit in a room that way by yourself and do an EVP session and ask for something to come forth and talk to you. I mean, I think you can imagine it’s definitely scary. I’ve been scared a lot of times.
On Destination Truth as well, we have to contend with nature. You know, the jungle and going out to places in like the Amazon and you know, running around in the middle of the night when it’s pitch black at 2:00 am with a flashlight and trying to find some – a creature. So I definitely think it’s a little bit of both, but I will also say that having done it now, it’s like being put through some sort of boot camp. Because, I definitely feel like I’m not as afraid of certain things as I used to be.
Q: Do you guys ever try to prank each other though, to scare you when you’re like that? Or is it more business and you don’t want to?
Jael de Pardo: Luckily with the Fact or Faked team, I haven’t had to deal with that yet, but…
Ben Hansen: We’ve been easy on you. We have. We have been easy.
Jael de Pardo: Yes, you guys have been easy on me. But, there are definitely some behind the scenes moments where the guys will start to get you know, silly and they’ll try to do some pranks. I definitely got a little bit of that on Destination Truth. Because you know by the time it’s 5:00 am, everybody’s starting to get a little punchy and silly, and then all of the sudden you know we’ll have a couple jokes going around, and they’ll always take the easiest target, and they always thought it was me, and they were like, “Oh, Jael’s going to get really scared, so we’re going to try and spook her out.” But they learned their lesson. I have to tell you, they have – they learned their lesson. I’m not that girl.
Q: The one last quick question I wanted to ask Jael is: can you talk about (when) you dressed as a mermaid and then you swam on the (show)?
Jael de Pardo: Sure thing. Well, one of our cases is investigating a mermaid sighting, and of course as you’ve seen with our show, we have to replicate what this footage – this original footage is. So, for one of our experiments, they put me in a mermaid suit and we’re out you know at the Great Barrier Reef in Cannes, Australia, and they made me jump into the ocean with the suit on. Of course, the whole production crew was freaking me out the night before, because it was a suit that was made to fit me and it had a mono-fin at the bottom. And they’re like, “Oh, well your legs are going to be strapped together. You’re just going to sink to the bottom. It’s going to be really hard. Just – you know, you might just sink, so we’ll have a life preserver.” I’m like, “You guys, this is the Great Barrier Reef, and it’s going to be really deep. We’re – you know, maybe 40, 50 feet, and I – what? Are you kidding me? You’re just going to throw me in the ocean with my legs strapped together? What’s going to happen?”
Ben Hansen: You were willing to take that risk, though.
Jael de Pardo: Yes. Thank you, Ben.
Ben Hansen: You know, for this segment.
Jael de Pardo: So of course you know, my heart is palpitating, because I have to put on this thing that sort of feels very restricting. It’s – like imagine having your legs tied together and then being thrown into this deep ocean. Nonetheless, they’re telling me, “Oh, there’s sharks in here,” and this and that. And I’m like, “Well, I’m going to swim away?” But luckily, I’m a really strong swimmer and it didn’t turn out as bad as I had anticipated. And, I’ll leave it at that.
Ben Hansen: She did a really good job.
Jael de Pardo: Yes. I – luckily, I’m very experienced in the water. I’m a certified scuba diver and I love being in the ocean, so I was able to buoy myself up to the top and I was able to do the swim that – you know, that we needed. But, I’m not going to go too far into it, because I want you to see it, and it’s – I’ll just say it’s a beautiful episode and I think you guys will enjoy the backdrop.
Ben Hansen: It is very beautiful, and Jael as a mermaid…I think the male viewers will really appreciate that, I guess.
Q: Have you had a specific case or…even one of the current shows, episodes, or shows you’ve been on before that sort of was your favorite or ones you enjoyed the most or stuck with you for some reason, things that you’ve actually witnessed or you’ve had the chance of being involved with and participating with?
Ben Hansen: Okay. Well for me, I’ve mentioned Ufology. Kind of really briefly, the way I got into it is that… I remember my parents took me to see ET when I was really young, and I think that was the first movie I ever saw in the theater, and then later, he took me to a drive in, it was Flight of The Navigator. It seems like all those memorable movies that my parents took me to had something to do with aliens or UFOs, and space really, really interested me. When I was – I think it was the year 2001 or 2002, I was on a cruise ship coming back from the Bahamas and I was watching a meteor shower at 2:00 am, and I actually did see a very strange object in the sky that was about the size and shape of a satellite, and the lady that I was with at the time pointed it out to me and said, “What’s that?” I was about to tell her it was a satellite because it was moving straight, and all of the sudden, it started doing S turns and doing little circles in the sky. It blew me away. It really did, because here it is 2:00 am and you’re kind of tired. If I had been there by myself, you’d really start second guessing like, “Well, am I seeing this? What’s going on?” Anyway, I went back – when we got back to land I made a report to the National UFO reporting center where – this is the first time I really came to know Peter Davenport who runs that database, and several months later, he called me back and wanted to know if I’d be interested in being interviewed by the BBC, who was doing a story on the Bermuda Triangle. Anyway, long story short, it was kind of the first time I going to involved in really looking in depth at this phenomena.
I’ve read books. I’ve read a lot of books about Roswell, about all these other things, and it really kind of launched forward a proactive interest in it, because at the same time I learned — as I’ve talked about before — that my grandfather was at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a Civil Engineer. So, for those who know Ufology, this is where supposedly wreckage from the Roswell crash was sent and some of the bodies. My grandpa always kept his oath and never revealed what he saw, but he did say as he was passing on – he died of cancer several years ago. He told my father we are not alone. Since then, my dad and I have kind of formed this partnership and it’s kind of this quest. How can we find out what our grandfather – what his father – knew? And with my own personal experiences and things, I definitely think there is something to this phenomenon. It’s great to be able to have a job where I get paid to travel the world investigating similar cases and talking to first hand witnesses. So to me, that’s kind of my sort of personal quest. Something that really gets me interested. That was the short answer. I call it the short (answer).
Q: Jael, what about you?
Jael de Pardo: Well, you were asking about cases that have stuck with us. As I was mentioning – I mentioned before, our Night Crawlers case in Fresno still boggles me. And, I feel like it’s one of those cases that we left and we’re just still at odds as to what these creatures may have been, and I still think about it. It definitely changed my way of thinking as to what kind of creatures could be out there that might be extraterrestrial, or I’m not really sure what they are. So that’s a case that if we had the chance, I would love to revisit, definitely because Bill and I had such strange experiences when we had our night investigation. Also, I think the case that Ben and I did in Indiana with the ghost cemetery, right Ben? That was an interesting case. We had some really strange experiences in the cemetery: of course a dark and spooky night. We definitely had the right setting for it in the middle of a haunted cemetery. Then also, I think this mermaid case, which hasn’t aired yet. Like I said before, sometimes you have to go to some really strange places to find answers, like the bottom of the ocean. And who knew? So, those are some of my favorites.
One thing I will say though is that somehow, I’ve ended up doing more UFO cases I feel. I don’t know, maybe this is just me. I haven’t really kept count, but I feel like I’ve done more UFO cases on Fact or Faked than ghost cases, so I’m hoping Ben — I hope you’re listening — that I get sent out on some fun ghost hunts in some kind of mansion or something like that. It definitely piques my interest.
Ben Hansen: We do like to mix it up and put people where they’re not maybe their main interest, because they have a different view on it as well. And, if you’re really, really involved in something, sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees, and it’s good to mix it up like that.
Jael de Pardo: That’s true, and I think some of those cases that you’ve done – the ghost cases, they had to do with some sort of photography that may have been toyed with, and so they wanted to take Chi-Lan, as our photography expert. But, hopefully we’ll switch that around on one of the next ones.
Well, Jael, as our favorite investigator on the show, we hope they send you on your choice of cases. If you need some reinforcements, we’ve got your back, girl.
About The Sisters Sardonic:
Amy Satterly is an educational professional and aspiring geek who only began to truly embrace her dork-dom later in life due to her misguided attempts at becoming an overachiever.
Linda Hawkins, on the other hand, has been painfully aware of her dork-dom from Day One. She spends most of her time waiting for her mutant powers to surface and putting together her application to Xavier’s School for the Gifted.