Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ghost Hunting Shows: Compare and Contrast



I wouldn’t be much of a ghost hunter or ghost hunting theories blogger if I didn’t talk about the entertainment world of ghost hunting (notice I don’t say the research world). Palemother asked if I’d reviewed some of the shows and I realized I’ve never really set them up against each other. I’m going to do it here. Haunt Jaunts did this brilliant post about the impending death of ghost hunting shows. When I’m done, hopefully you’ll know exactly what’s worth tuning into and what’s not.

Show lineup (as of this minute)

“Ghost Lab” Discovery Channel
“The Haunted” Animal Planet Channel
“Paranormal State” A&E channel
“Ghost Hunting” SyFy
“Ghost Hunters International” SyFy
“Ghost Academy” SyFy
“Ghost Intervention” TLC
“Ghost Adventures” Travel Channel
“Most Haunted” (British import) Travel Channel
“Psychic Kids: Paranormal Children” A&E channel

Jeez, I’m sure there’s more but, let’s just take them on one at a time:

“Ghost Lab” (Team rolls into town with decked out trailer and lots of theories)
Pros: They test theories (a huge plus for me since not many teams even probe theories), they have lots of equipment, they have my favorite guy narrating (Mike Rowe), they go to more obscure places, they consult professionals
Cons: Abrasive loud Texans tromping around, aggressive, angry, and way too much testosterone for true research. Bad techniques—walking around while holding the recorder to do EVP (hand, movements, wind sounds). Get horrible evidence and call EVPs class A when they’re B or worse. Think everything is proof.

Why should I watch this show?
You want to know about theories in the field of ghost hunting and ways a team could go about testing them.

“The Haunted” (Animal-related haunting documentary-style stories)
Pros: If you like a kind gentle ghost story told in a narrative documentary style and involving animals and kind-hearted people with strange but not terrifying occurrences, this is the ideal ghost show for a family to see together.
Cons: Do not expect this to be a true ghost hunting show. It serves no investigative purpose, but is a storytelling show.

Why should I watch this show?
You just want a creepy but not scary tale involving children and animals, families and homes.

“Paranormal State” (Penn State college students want to encounter the dead)
Pros: Very moody, well edited, and entertaining. It puts the spooky factor back in.
Cons: Scooby Doo on Adderall. It’s edited so well that everything lines up like breadcrumb clues—completely unbelievable. They incite families into tears and fears, bring in priests and psychics to convince them they’re being possessed, and then move on after a happy little prayer. This is the very worst of the old turn-of-the-century snake oil feeling ghost hunting.

Why should I watch this show? Purely for entertainment, moody dark music, creepy story telling, people emotionally on the edge, lots of hocus pocus ghost hunting techniques, this is the show.

“Ghost Hunting” (TAPS team hunted long before the show started)
Pros: They first introduced America to the concept of actual debunking and trying to capture phenomenon. They are likeable bunch, run into the usual problems of keeping a group together over time and travel, and have ethics about how to handle clients.
Cons: They don’t bring in professionals, rarely try new theories or equipment, do the same thing over and over and over again with the same pairings of team members in places that are usually over-studied by other groups.

Why should I see this show? If you want to have a chance at seeing the kind of phenomenon that makes a person say “I just encountered a ghost,” maybe you haven’t ever experienced anything paranormal, this is the show for you.

“Ghost Hunters International”
(Offshoot of “Ghost Hunters” that goes to other countries)
Pros: Same as “Ghost Hunters,” with the exception of some really cool places we haven’t seen before.
Cons: Same as “Ghost Hunters,” with the exception that their crew changes rapidly and so we don’t get a chance to get a feel for them. Hoping they keep Robb, Paul, and Barry. Everyone else? So-So.

Why should I see this show?
To see haunted places in the world we don’t usually get to see or hear about.

“Ghost Hunters Academy” (Offshoot of “Ghost Hunters” involving training college aged kids to become full-fledged hunters)
Pros: (Give me a minute, I’ll think of one…) I lied, I can’t think of one, even entertainment
Cons: It’s infantile and ridiculous. One pathetic girl said, “this is what I want to do with my life.” She wanted to make it her career. Does anyone make a career or ghost hunting? It’s without fees to clients, an expensive hobby, basically. The show is over, but I suspect they will run more youngsters through the hamster wheel next season to choke as much out of the GH brand as possible.

Why should I watch this show?
For Pete’s sake, do you devalue your life that much?


“Ghost Intervention” (new twist of psychics and case manager going to haunted homes and helping the people living there)
Pros: Talented counselors/psychics. Fairly good advice. This is also something that isn’t out there—how to help the people that live in homes with phenomenon (I won’t count “Paranormal State” because it’s the evangelical version of ghost hunting counseling).
Cons: I’m not thrilled by having psychics come in and read the place and talk to the homeowners. I find it impossible that they will ever go into a place and say “no ghosts” and people are very vulnerable to psychic’s advice. This is a good time for them to help them to cognitively reframe how they interpret phenomenon instead of giving them lush stories about the crippled man who wants to light them on fire or whatever other horrible “reads” they get on the place that will then haunt the family when they leave.

Why should I watch this show?
To see psychics at work

“Ghost Adventures”
(3 buddies with their own cameras, lock down in places and taunt the dead)
Pros: (sigh) They do find some obscure less known places. The idea of no filming crew is a fair one—less people to be creating phenomenon.
Cons: They are the 3-Stooges of ghost hunting. If you don’t mind 3 guys who seem like they were bullied in school and now take it out on the unseen where they can be plenty “brave” and not get hurt (I don’t count little scratches), then this might be the show for you. Their techniques don’t illicit any good proof and they are so uneducated about the ghost world that their leader invited an incubus to come and get him (male ghost looking for sex)

Why should I watch this show?
Purely for entertainment. It is hilariously funny and I just find it one of my guilty pleasures. I don’t expect it to be a ghost hunting show. It’s more like watching frat boys daring each other to stay in an abandoned building.

“Most Haunted” (British show involving a huge team of crew and people and psychics)
Pros: Beautiful Great Britain locations, lots of castles and historic sites.
Cons: It’s just so ridiculous. The psychics they use are ridiculous. The dramatics about every single creaky sound (they’re in 500-year-old buildings, for Pete’s sake), and the tons of people tromping around. There is absolutely no ghost hunting value here.

Why should I watch this show?
If you want to see old English places and hear people weave a scary story and watch a hostess constantly gasping at every sound, this is your show.

“Psychic Kids: Paranormal Children” (show for helping psychic kids understand their skills and their families learn to live with them)
Pros: A nice concept. Psychic kids really have no way to deal with their being different than to just push it down. They do involve counseling and opportunities to take what might be a scary skill and turn it into something they have control over.
Cons: I get the sort of icky feeling this is really about taking advantage of the process for entertainment purposes and putting the children sometimes in very emotional situations like having to find clues to a person’s missing loved one. A giant responsibility to one so young and inexperienced.

Why should I watch this show?
This show is a good way to see the different forms of psychics that are out there, how they interpret what they read, how it comes to them, and the emotional aspects of what it’s like to be a teen and psychic and feeling outcast.

16 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for doing this! I very much agree about "Ghost Lab" and just made the comment (last night, actually) about how loud and obnoxious they are. I will check out these other shows, too.

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  2. Excellent run through of the various shows.

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  3. I find your reviews very interesting and informative, especially for a person like me who scarcely watches TV.

    You not only explain the Pros and Cons, but you also give the reason for your recommandation to watch that particular show.

    You do things thoroughly.

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  4. Glad ya'all liked having it laid out. I realized a lot of people I know immediately ask me about the ghost shows, assuming that it's my field so I must know which one is worth watching. I figured I'd translate that into something comprehensive. Duta, you're not missing much at all by not watching TV. For me, it more often than not becomes a background noise while I'm busy doing my chores.

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  5. Hey Autumn, thanks for sharing this blog with us. Have a great festive season. Juz

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  6. Thanks Juz;
    Have a local holiday drink for me. I'll be having super spiked homemade egg nog tonight at the family get together. It's a favorite here.

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  7. EXCELLENT POST, AUTUMNFOREST! (And I'm not just saying that because you mentioned and linked to one of my articles and called it brilliant. THANKS for that, btw!) Even before that you had me sold. When you said "entertainment" and notice how you didn't call them research hooked me. BRAVO! And I liked all your synopsis, followed by who would like it and why. I imagine this was a lot of work and you made it look easy. VERY, VERY, VERY WELL DONE! Now I'm off to Twitter it. ;)

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  8. We are thinking somewhat alike. I did a recap of all the paranormal shows of 2009 and you did a detailed review of some of them. I do like the way you think.....thumbs up!
    ~Above the Norm~

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  9. This made me remember a show that was on a few (3?) years back. That I thought was pretty good. Life made me forget till this post of yours.

    It was a psychics version of "American Idol". I can't remember the name of it but they ran a group of psychics through their paces and would eliminate one each week.
    Do you remember it? It was all done with obscure but verifiable crime scenes and other such known items. I wish they would bring back something like it again.

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  10. Hi Autumn - thanks for leaving that nice comment on my blog last week. I just wanted to wish you a good holiday season and tell you how much I like your blog as well.

    Please keep up the good posting as we enter 2010. These great posts are what keep me coming over here from my blog roll. And finally, have a safe but FUN holiday season. That's the plan for me at least.

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  11. Hey Geof;
    It's great to find such wonderful blogging people out there like yourself. I started the blog as a way to work out theories in my own mind and get my ideas straight on the subject. I hoped a few people would be in sync with how I was seeing it. I was shocked to see how many people like yourself enjoy the subjects. You definitely make me feel less like an oddball. I'm one of the only girls I know who likes this stuff. The others scream at scary movies. Oh brother! So, I come on here and find ya'all and your super wonderful blogs to read and we're all getting our support and our inspiration. Hope you have a super holiday season, safe and warm.

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  12. Just wanted to drop in and wish you a merry christmas...

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  13. Merry x-mas, I will keep on following these interesting articles

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  14. Great reviews! I was the ghost hunting shows on the off chance they might catch something paranormal. I've given up on them actually trying to find the whys of this phenomenom.
    And I do enjoy shows like "a haunting" and "the haunted", also, "celebrity ghosts", I guess I really enjoy the ghost storytelling shows. I actually enjoy watching "physic kids" too. I've not heard of "Ghost Intervention", I'll look for it.
    I've completely stopped watching Most Haunted and Ghost Hunters Academy, complete waste of time.

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  15. Sandra;
    As soon as our geomagnetic storms start up again, I'll warn everyone it's time to watch the ghost shows again, but that may be quite some time. Last year and this year, it's not even worth them trying! I adore ghost storytelling too. Have a super holiday!

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    ReplyDelete

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