Monday, January 18, 2010

Are Ghost Hunting Shows Ruining Belief?

It isn’t just the rumors spreading about tyrant ghost hunters, shifty producers, and faking of proof, but the complete barrage of new shows hitting the cable channels that are bringing viewers close to mental exhaustion and even worse…apathy.

When “Ghost Hunters” show premiered, I’d been hunting a few years and was thrilled that someone else was out there not only using similar techniques, but was going to make everyone see what ghost hunting these days is really like compared to the old-fashioned methods of the spiritualist movement.

The first few seasons were admittedly a total thrill. I was seeing locations I hadn’t hunted in, seeing similar results to things I’d experienced, and everyone around me was saying, “I don’t think I could do that, it’s so scary!”

The average person can go a whole lifetime without one paranormal occurrence and for him to turn on the TV and watch a show where he heard and saw explainable and unexplainable things, he is living vicariously and understanding what drives us hunters to sit there all night long while cold, uncomfortable, and then sent home to review hours and hours of footage until even more bleary eyed.

“Psychic Kids: Paranormal Children”
“Ghost Hunters”
“Ghost Hunters International”
“Ghost Hunters Academy”
"Ghost Adventures
“Paranormal State”
“Paranormal Cops” (BTW, showing tonight the first time after “Paranormal State” on A&E)
“Ghost Lab”
“Ghost Chicks”
“Paranormal Intervention”
(Not to mention all the shows that died even more quickly and whose names do not stick out in any of our minds for obvious reasons)

Is this gluttony of new shows overwhelming us? Making us doubt the findings? Doubt true hauntings exist? I’ve heard several people say that the shows are the same thing over and over; people walking around talking to the walls, stopping to listen to sounds of the building, and then desperately trying to eek EVPs out of garbled background sounds with what does not resemble language in the least. With a yawn and sigh, they’re turning their channels.

It’s not as if they’re not trying to draw us in. They’ve resorted to priests and holy water, gadgets and taunting, experts and psychologists, psychics and reality show competitions. They’ve attempted attractive young women, bulky steroid-fed males, middle-aged Texans and just about every blue-collar worker.

I think the only thing left is a geriatric paranormal show where the hunters are looking for their recently deceased friends from the nursing home.

I’d like to propose some new fresh alternatives. No, not a show about a family with 10 kids that bakes cakes in the daytime and hunts at night. (I’ll leave that to the miserable TLC channel).

Here’s my choices:

Bigfoot Hunters: A team of men in cami’s, trekking into the woods, setting up a surveillance parameter (think “Predator” movie), lighting a bonfire, sitting there at night listening to the sounds and watching the shadows. Aren’t all people a little uncomfortable with the concept of the dark woods and a thin nylon tent between you and who knows what? Afraid of the hoot of owls? The plink of an acorn dropping on the forest floor? These are all the things that made “Blair Witch Project” wildly popular.

Haunted House: This is a reality show take on ghost hunting shows. A haunted location set up with cameras everywhere. People stay in this B&B setting and asked to join the hunt. They are regular people with no training. They stay for a week and then another team comes in. Each evening, the owners of the location sit before a fireplace and tell the group a tale of one of the ghosts that haunts the place. The people are then sent out to try and find the ghost with instruments and equipment. They sleep by day, hunt by night, each time a different story they must test out after the scary fireside tale. This has two benefits; regular people doing it instead of professionals and the team changes all the time and they aren’t hunting just one night like most shows—but for a period of time where something could actually be found.

UFO Hot Spots: When I was planning up a UFO sighting trip with others, I realized there’s a lot of great hot spots around the country and if you watch the UFO news through MUFON and others, you’ll see that they crop up in areas for a while and then move on to other locations. What if you assembled a group of perhaps a dozen or more members that head it out to the newest hot spot, sitting in a circle facing outward with cameras, each handling different quadrants of the sky in places where UFOs are frequently sighted?

I’d love to hear your concepts for replacements shows. I know ya’all and I expect some awesome ideas.


  1. I would watch people bungle around in the woods at night :)

    Whatever people hunt, I just wish someone would stay at the same location for an extended period of time (in the range of months). With constant surveillance.

    I would also like them to ditch the post production background noise. I can't take a show seriously that invites me to hear faint sounds while simultaneously adding to the aural clutter.

  2. Pangs;
    I'm totally with you. Those are two complaints that everyone I talk to brings up;

    TAPS goes in for one evening and then report "doesn't look haunted" and then that fantastic episode in the St. Augustine lighthouse, they stretched their necks, cocked their ears and listened to voices up above only to have those stupid goofy sounds they use confusing us as to whether we're hearing it or their squirrely sounds. I readily admit that it often takes a location a long time to get used to you and you used to it. Actually living there a while like a family does--things present themselves finally.

  3. And a steady camera-man wouldn't hurt either.

  4. Juz;
    Do you have to take ginger pills before watching those shows? Hee hee. They are really queasy and jumpy.

  5. It's weird (that wavelength thing again) that you posted this. I just had THE best conversation with Chris Hambright, producer Of "Believers," about a lot of this same thing on Saturday night. I'll be posting our interview either today or tomorrow. He was VERY sensitive to the fact that ghost hunting shows may be one of the hardest forms of TV around. Because, ghost hunting isn't all that exciting for the most part. It's a lot of watching and waiting. HOURS of watching and waiting. It only gets exciting when something happens. And if nothing does??? Well...people watch TV to be entertained. See the dilemma? And funny about the camera comment...he even discussed the technical problems with cameras and getting good footage. Not just of evidence, but of the investigators hunting. There's a whole science to that alone. But Ghost Hunters certainly set a precedent. And people have seen successful precedents, so...copy cat shows followed. Oh, and something "Believers" does that's different, but along the lines of something you suggested, is they bring in regular Joes to investigate with the team for ever episode. Also, they don't try to force a "believe this is haunted?" thing on anyone. They let the guest investigators draw their own conclusions. And many of the guests are skeptics.

    You know me, I really like your suggestion about investigating the same place over time. I've said that again and again and again that they should have a haunted place and have THAT be the focus of the show, and then bring in people to investigate over the course of a season. But your spin on having different people every week checking in to like a haunted B&B someplace...pretty neat. I'd watch that!

  6. Hey Courtney;
    I'll be over at HauntJaunts pronto to see the post when it's up. I can't wait to hear what he said. I was thinking about places like Iron Island Museum and Trans-Allegheny and others...if they just put up a camera monitoring system (like they have in secure locations) and then let teams come in and hunt and be willing to sign a release if their hunt went well and could be televised...wicked! Thinking purely in a voyeuristic and American profit-making way, the owners of the location would get cash from the show and tons of teams wanting to hunt to get on the show and they'd have some interesting and weird method hunters to evaluate. It's sort of a win/win and it changes it up. Maybe one week a woo-woo team with psychics and a Ouija board descend upon the building and then another week a high-tech team...With constant monitoring, they could piece together the neat things different groups did and we'd get a show with substance instead of an hour of Kris or Steve talking to the walls and nothing but the house creaking happening.

  7. You forgot "Ghost Adventures"!!!

    Your haunted house idea sounds a lot like "Scariest Places on Earth".

    I've heard of and watched every show on your list here, except "Paranormal Intervention" and maybe "Ghost Chicks" but even that I may have caught once.

    Even though many of these shows seem the same there are subtle differences. I really enjoy the the science vs. spiritual divergences each show takes, especially since I'm not a very religious person and the use of religion in some of them are what gets boring to me. I mean why not try a religion other than Christianity and see if it works the same, or even something not religious at all, like working with sigils? There is a BIG difference between being spiritual and being religious and I think a lot of people get the two confused.

    I like how "Ghost Hunters" are very down to earth and won't dismiss the idea of logical explanations while never excusing the possibility of the paranormal, and "Ghost Lab" leans more toward the realm of science and it's enjoyable to see the use of educated professionals being interviewed on the show. "Paranormal State" is the one that gets tiring to me at times since they take each case like it's an absolute that ghosts or demons are involved. What I do like is their use of psychics and ones that are actually believable like Chip Coffey (who is definitely my favorite psychic). I absolutely hate the Sylvia Brown and John Edward crackpots out there.

    I can't wait for "Paranormal Cops" to come on tonight. I love to see law enforcement and spooky shit collide since it's so X-Files and I have a feeling something like that is gonna happen one day when I'm working alone. I actually had an idea for a book just like that and now it became a show! Grrrr.... Well, hell. I may still write it one day as everyone's experiences are different.

    As for whether people's beliefs are swayed one way or the other by watching these shows, it doesn't really matter. I think people that are that wishy-washy have either already made up their minds on not believing or are opening themselves up to an experience and just waiting. But some of us don't have to make up our minds. They've already been made up for us by the absolutely unexplainable experienced first hand and we're the ones that will continue to watch these shows with much fervor.

  8. Hey Grim;
    I'm totally with ya. Oh yeah, and thanks for the reminder about GA--Jeez, how could I forget my guys??? I'll edit that. I'm hoping Paranormal Cops at least are not bossy and obnoxious (like some shows, you know the ones). "Paranoid State" (my name for it) is beginning to look like Ryan's 700 Club. It's bordering on mental disorder, really. I think the guy needs some serious head work. Even his team looks a bit scare of him. What he does to clients is horrid--I can't imagine going in and stirring up a fearful pot of stew and then leaving with a prayer and some holy water sprinkled. Oh brother! It's the worst kind of madness. Enough said on that subject (well enough for the comment section--I could write a whole post or two on that show). Yeah, other faiths should be represented but some don't believe in ghosts and others think you shouldn't talk to the dead. Anyone who's lost a valued love one knows you never stop talking to them. In fact, admittedly in cemeteries where a family has just visited and spoken to their missed relative, you get some of the craziest phenomenon. Whether or not ghosts are actual spirits of the dead or an invisible life form or an interdimensional being or some kind of physics law we don't know about, I prefer my hunters to go in without any preconceived notions. When GH talks about "he's trapped here and can't leave" or "he's attached to an object" I wonder--what guide book did they get this info about ghosts from because no one handed that one out to me unless you're talking about the rules set down during the turn-of-the-century ectoplasm orgy of the Victorian era spiritualist movement. Grim--you gotta give me some of your writings to read some time.

  9. I am getting a bit tired of all the ghost hunting shows. They are not offering anything different and exciting. I do like your ideas especially the Bigfoot Hunters show because I love watching them trying to find any evidence of this elusive beast. This is why Destination Truth is and will always be an exciting show to watch. It offers different locations, types of investigations and Josh Gates, its fun and a bit crazy host.

  10. Julie;
    You're totally right. With the right host, it makes everything better. Josh is my idol in that department. I just adore him. He says the very things we're always thinking but too afraid to say because we might look like "ugly Americans." Bless his heart! I don't make a big effort to watch them anymore. I'll give the new season of GH a try just because they're the originals. I love GA because, well, I like a good laugh. But, the rest are pretty (snooze). Oh, I like GHI because of the locations. Foreign countries to mix it up--they have more history than us--they have to be haunted! I'm waiting for Josh to go hunt BF in the NW of America and I'll be super happy. He did so good with Yeti, it seems silly he hasn't gone to the NW yet-what the heck???

  11. Maybe I just haven't watched these shows enough or haven't given them a fair shake but I really don't care for these shows. Nothing remarkable ever happens and if I based my belief purely on shows I wouldn't believe in ghosts at all.

  12. Jessica;
    Great point! These shows for some folks who haven't experienced the "what was that?" moments were very exciting and transformative. They lived their ghost experience vicariously. For those who have experienced such incidents, it can be frustrating. It doesn't exactly cross over to film. It has to be seen and felt in the body. It's like cooking shows. Sure, it's fun to watch people cook yummy things and then eat them while we watch, but we have no idea what it smells or tastes like or how satisfying or delicious it is. Over and over again these shows have proven that you rarely capture on film what you see with your eyes. It's a frustrating business. I would tell people impressed by the shows to try and get some time to hunt with a local group and get the opportunity to experience it first hand.