Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Paranormal State of Panic
I don’t have a lot of expectations for ghost hunting shows since the advent of “Ghost Hunters.” It’s probably because, even though I think TAPS is a bit half hazard at doing real research to better the field, they’re pretty good at debunking and they certainly can filter their clients to get reasonable folks whose homes show promise of paranormal activity without having fractured emotional states.
While watching “Paranormal State” (purely for the entertainment and mood it provides) it dawned on me that of the ghost hunting shows, this is kind of the Jerry Springer version.
The team is compromised of a leader who pretty much tells the group what things are and what they should do. The humble followers nod their heads a lot and do his bidding, but this is really all about Ryan and his belief system and what he wants the paranormal world to be comprised of. None of the members seem to offer any knowledge or insight, except for the Pagan who has some knowledge of spirituality (other than Catholicism). I won’t even comment on his use of a priest or Lorraine Warren (part of the old turn-of-the-century ghost hunting methodology which includes nearly everything being demons). Including the emotional owners on their journey into entertainment, they're doing more harm than good.
Coincidences on this show abound to the point that it’s extremely hard to believe if the clients aren’t part of an attention-getting moment-on-tv scenario. Every clue lines up for them in those “aha” moments that are pure entertainment and mood and sometimes little shivers down the spine. The clients are often times emotional and distraught (almost always at their wits end) by the time the team comes. Magically, after a couple nights at their home, they leave them feeling hope after a prayer and some holy water.
It’s impossible to gauge whether the burying of coins on a property or the blessing of a home actually have any efficacy. The problem here is that all of this ritual involves emotionally upset clients and the truth is that if the mind decides to believe something, it works. If they tell the clients this prayer will clear their house, they suddenly feel relief. It’s impossible to weigh and measure these kind of hocus pocus methods.
I would be very concerned if folks think that “Paranormal State” is any indicator of where paranormal research is headed. This is like having your barber remove your teeth nowadays. It’s a step back to the old-fashioned methods of hunting and dealing with ghostly activity. It’s steeped in religious practice and “good” and “evil” concepts. It has the shy and often times humble fear of anything that may be a demon or capable of possession.
Over many decades of observing this phenomenon, I truly believe there is no such thing as good and evil, demons and possession as actuality. What there is, is the very human reactions to the unexplained. Depending on the state of mind of that person, they may experience stress in many ways. Depending on their belief system, they might become “possessed” which is not a genuine occupation by an evil demon, but it is the psychiatric outcome of that person’s belief system, stressors, and coping methods mixed with the attention of outsiders encouraging such reactions. Each person experiences the paranormal and stressors in different ways. Some folks become workaholics, others agoraphobics. This is very much like the Catholic’s sightings of the Virgin Mary on cardboard boxes and windowpanes. Because of their religious practices and their customs, that is their explanation for what is a naturally-occurring staining on a surface. The same holds true of those who are “haunted.” Depending on their background and mental state, they will experience it in a huge variety of ways.
If you don’t think folks handle hauntings differently, just look at the clients on “Ghost Hunting” versus the clients on “Paranormal State.” It is obvious the kinds of fragile and attention-seeking folks “Paranormal State” chooses for clients and the ones that TAPS screens extensively.
I don’t mind watching “Paranormal State” but I also know it’s purely entertainment. I don’t expect to leave with any real compelling proof of hauntings or evidence, but I do enjoy a half hour of moody music, narration, and a good deal of hysteria. So long as folks know that when they watch the show and don’t judge the field by Ryan’s methods, I’m very pleased to continue to help their ratings.
at 8:36 AM