For more than a decade, Dave Schrader has explored and reported on paranormal phenomena through his radio shows Darkness Radio and Beyond the Darkness, as a fill-in host for Coast to Coast AM, and as a TV personality on Travel Channel’s Paranormal Challenge and Ghost Adventures.
Now with his new show The Holzer Files on Travel, Schrader reopens the cases of Hans Holzer, the so-called “father of the paranormal,” America’s first ghost hunter, and inspiration for Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis’ Ghostbusters. Aided by Holzer’s daughter Alexandra Holzer-Lawson, psychic-medium Cindy Kaza, and equipment tech Shane Pittman, Schrader digs into documents and case files that date back to the 1950s.
In the newest episode, “The Devil in Texas,” Schrader reveals how one of Holzer’s most tragic cases from half a century ago allegedly has an eerie similarity to a modern-day family terrorized by supposed unseen forces. The case, presented in Holzer’s book Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond, involved a family in Tyler, Texas. The mother suffered mental illness and left her husband and children to seek care. But while she was away, the father and son claimed to be tormented by strange phenomena.
“The father would sleep in the room with his son,” says Schrader. “They would turn off the light, and suddenly they would feel things pelting them. When they would turn the light on, the room would be filled with the carcasses of dead bugs. Filled.” Schrader adds that letters would appear in front of them. Letters would fill a room out of nowhere, with some that looked to be in the son’s handwriting, others in the mother’s handwriting (who was still quite far away).
According to Schrader, the boy believed he was possessed, “So they dealt with the infestation, the oppression, and then eventual possession.” Holzer, meanwhile, advised that by moving out of this house, the paranormal activity would end.
“It slowed down for a while and then unfortunately returned with a vengeance,” Schrader says. “And the young man ended up taking his own life.”
Schrader also states the case ended up troubling Holzer, because the investigator loved to help families in need, but he lost touch with the family, “and this one got away from him.” The case stuck with Schrader and when he had a woman in Missouri reach out to him via his radio show, he recalled Holzer’s investigation.
“She had very similar things going on in her life and she believed her kids were being attacked,” Schrader says. “So I brought it up to the producers, and said we should use what Hans knew—using the techniques and tactics—and take it on to this next level so maybe the story ends differently.”
To pursue the case, the show returns to the original Texas home and meets with the boy’s sister to gain her perspective. From there, they proceed to Missouri in what he calls a “powerful, poignant” investigation.
“We went there trying to figure out what are we up against,” explains Schrader. “Are we up against a woman and a demon? Are we up against multiple forces? We were trying to peel back the veneer of each one of these instances, and get to the root problem.” Without revealing too much about what they found, Schrader suggests the investigation ends up being more than something as “simple” as dark force—even though “all hell breaks loose” with electronic equipment failing and strange activity occurring.
“Are we dealing with dark forces, an exterior force, or something within us that has these kind of powers?” he asks. “I think this was an interesting marriage of self and supernatural… Sometimes the demons in our head are just as real as the supernatural kind, and we become our own worst enemy.”
Schrader says this case was emotional for his entire team because of the empathy he feels as a father, and encountering a mother who believes her children are threatened. Moreover, he says her life story is likewise tragic. The result is an episode where the show faces the “human side of what we deal with in the supernatural,” and one where the “darkness is not sensationalized.”
Summarizing the case, and the entire series, Schrader considers The Holzer Files to be about more than just the history and the ghosts; it’s also about “understanding the why” and bringing resolution to those who feel plagued by the paranormal.
Check out the clip above from “The Devil in Texas” where Schrader and crew walk through the original Tyler home and catch the full episode this Thursday at 10 pm on Travel Channel.