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.


  1. I watched Ghost Hunters when it first started and quickly realized it was nothing more than just entertainment. Skye

  2. Ghost Hunters was a step in the right direction, as far as people who are questioning whether a place is haunted and looking for other explanations. They have a long way to go, building up a team of actual scientists, to be impressive, but they occasionally capture something on audio or video that's compelling. I can always tell the kind of phenomenon that rings true that I've experienced because I get a chill when I see it or hear it and know it's dead on what I've experienced. Most often, the booted footsteps are a real common phenomenon and I experienced those almost every night of my childhood and hearing them again out of the context where I heard them as a kid is really cool and exciting. I don't know if I'll ever be really happy with the teams on TV. I just want real legitimate scientists who are experts in sound, video, physics, etc, to team together. Maybe some smart channel like Discovery'll figure that one out!

  3. Amen, sister!!! Paranormal State IS the Jerry Springer of ghost hunting shows. I keep trying to watch it (I LOVE Chip the Gay Psychic) but I'm sorry...not EVERYTHING is a demon. I'm pretty over this show even though I liked the idea of it in the beginning because I thought they really wanted to help people. After the Kentucky/I am Six crossover show, I've officially decided it was all BS. All that being said, ghost hunting IRL is much different than on tv. I give Jason and Grant the benefit of the doubt most of the time...sigh...

  4. Moxie; I give them the benefit of the doubt too. They sincerely have logic on their side and are practical hardworking guys. That's the right mix for leaders, but I'd sure like to see them quit acquiring lame folks and start actually bringing in the experts they have hiding in the background that help the team; scientists, FBI, inventors... In an ideal world, I'd help them find a better production company so there's no more cheesy sound effects and stupid music and better sound quality and then help them form a team that really would set the paranormal research field on its ear. They started something by using debunking and scientific instruments to try and weigh and measure phenomenon but I'd sure like them to become more educated and legit. I can dream...

  5. I love ghost busting shows, but I can't even watch Paranormal State. I've tried a few times...but their demonic stuff and association with the fraud Lorraine Warren is just too much for me to take. The garbage about having to do everything at 3:00 a.m. because it's the opposite of the time Christ died on the cross...give me a frikkin break! GH and GHI are probably the most fun to watch, although I do get a kick out of Ghost Adventures too, that guy Zak cracks me up :)

  6. I definitely agree about paranormal state-haha -Ryan the master seems to have his disciples right where he wants them-I think Pamela and you pretty much said it all-of course I have not seen that many episodes (just ones folks recorded along with other stuff they record cause I don't have cable) but I think it just takes a couple of viewings to get the general gist of that show-they all seem way out of their depth-best to you as always!!

  7. I think you have hit it on the head! All of the shows on TV have to have an element of drama to them to keep us watching. If we actually showed the public at large an entire investigation (client interviews, preliminaries, research, investigation, initial evidence analyzation, final evidence analyzation, presentation of evidence) most of them would give up on wanting to be "ghost hunters" because most of what we do is very boring. What is seen on TV is just the highlights of the actual investigations.

    Everyone's methods and protocols are a little different so I really do not like to bust on anyone even if I personally think they are going about things wrongly. They may feel the same about me.

    We come across phenomena that cannot even be explained with scientific methods. All you can do is shrug and shake your head sometimes. I do think it is detrimental to all involved to jump to any conclusions involving the classic "good and evil" approach to the unexplained. All you can do is present the evidence and let the clients form their own opinions and answer any questions they may have.

  8. I've only watched a few episodes and view it as pure entertainment. I am a fan of GH and GHI and appreciate the professional way they go about debunking stories of activity. They have been ghost hunting for a long time and I'm sure that they would even say that there is so much more for them to learn. I'm not a fan of the music that is edited in, it's to distracting. Oh well, I guess they need it for ghostly effects. That picture of Linda Blair in the Exorcist you posted, is creepy. Now that was a movie that scared the crap out of me! (not literally, lol)
    Like your new picture Autumn.

  9. Pamela;
    I totally agree with you. For me, at 10 pm, curled up on the sofa, Paranormal State'll do the job for a creepy atmosphere and mood, but definitely not for their supposed ghost hunting. I roll my eyes every time they take Lorraine off of ice and prop her up. She's given ghost hunting a real bad name. But, I have to admit, it's like Ghost Adventures, pure entertainment. I just watch Ghost Adventures for two reasons; 1. They do find new locations I haven't heard of. 2. I keep hoping Zak'll bump his head on a beam when he's running from the room and knock himself unconscious and for a time, it'll be silent.

    SVPS-Blackthorn; Sounds like we're on the same wavelength. I've had go to on investigations with folks who believe in the Lorraine Warren-is-the-authority mentality and I just go my own way and do things the way I see fit and let them get lost on their own. Admittedly, the clients Paranormal chooses are in severe emotional states and that's quite a contrast to the clients TAPS chooses. A lot can be said for filtering your cases, unless of course you want some drama for the cameras.

    I totally agree. If only GH could get the kind of sound we find on Paranormal State. When they do use background music, it's appropriate. When it should be silent--it's silent. I'll never forget the St. Augustine Lighthouse episode when they're straining to hear a conversation up the stairs and the soundtrack has that stupid like "twittery" sound in the background at the wrong time. Oh brother! It makes me so frustrated when I just want to hear what they're hearing. I was tired of my old picture I had up and decided to go with something more serious looking but I think it might be too sexy. I'll probably change it again when the mood hits me.

  10. I too watch all of the mentioned shows for entertainment. I like to see if they catch any new evidence. But what irks me is when they have a location where they do find something, i.e. evps or a figure on video and they don't continue investigating. For example, the GH episode at the St. Augustine Lighthouse, they caught the shadow person leaning over the railing and they heard voices. They catch this stuff and then leave. Why not stay and try to find out what all that was? Try to communication with the entity. Isn't the big question why do these things happen? Are these spirits here with us; are they on another plane. If the investigator are, this is what they do and have all the equipment, try to find out why these things happen, not just that they exist. I already believe that they exist, but I want to know why and how. Does anyone feel the same?

  11. On the second to the last sentence, I meant: ... If the investigators are already there and this is what they do...

    What's wrong with Lorraine Warren, I'm not familiar with her, I'm curious to know.

  12. Marbella, Lorraine Warren and her (late) husband, Ed, are famous for helping to perpetrate the fraudulent Amityville Horror story.

    They made their name by taking advantage of frightened people and duping them into believing that demons are after them (this is their M.O. for all cases, not just the AH).

    I really have a dislike for the Warrens. I personally believe in hauntings and other paranormal phenomena...but while there are con-artists like the Warrens out there, no one will ever take the field of paranormal research seriously.

    Just my 2 cents :)

  13. Pamela; Well said. I hate to have to put it out there like that because so many folks worship what the Warrens did. But what did they really do but parlour tricks?

  14. I have been able to reproduce a lot of the things TAPS has done in the field. They have a lot of good ideas on activities to do during. The first few years was far more interesting to me because it seemed more real. Now they have success at almost every place they investigate and are coincidently getting great things on camera, like the tug on Grants coat during the Halloween special.
    As for Paranormal State, I don't watch it at all. I watched the first few episodes, but that was enough for me. They make out like they are the only ones who can do an ivestigation. And I like the Jerry Springer comparison. Nice article!