Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Death of Ghost Hunting Shows?

I know, I know…we haven’t been able to shake all the reality shows about the fine citizens of New Jersey and we’re talking about the death of ghost hunting shows? But, all these TV trends fade away over time. How many 70s shows focused on a woman with magical powers? How many 80s shows sported a growth-stunted African American child-man? How many 90s shows dealt with newly-divorced inept fathers?

Have ghost huntings shows played out their time here already? It doesn’t seem as if they have anything new to offer. “Ghost Hunters” really started the whole thing by demystifying what it’s like to sit in a creaky old house and wait for proof of interaction. Then, “Ghost Adventures” decided that like a rowdy roaming frat party, they’d bust in and taunt the ghosts. “Ghost Lab” thought they might throw around some theories and see if any of them stick, while using the same techniques TAPS and “Ghost Adventures” used but with a huge bank of equipment to make it look more important. How about some of the short-lived ones? There was one with mediums who came into the house, one with cops who looked for ghosts, one with a really frightened and terrorized team, one with college students, one that went international, and even talk of one with a bunch of “chicks” hunting ghosts.

You can dress a pig it in a dress, but it’s still a pig

I believe that the greater majority of ghost shows probably have a few years to play out with one or two one-season wonders hitting the TV screen because some channels were just slow to get on the bandwagon.

The death of “Ghost Hunters” will likely be a combination of things; the first being members dropping out because of the strain on their time and family lives (the turnover on "Ghost Hunters International" is worse than your local McDonalds). J&G will likely go down with the sinking ship like all good captains because they have an inn in New England to pay off and a crap-load of kids between them. The show has become very, as I call it “inbred” with no new ideas, no new techniques, no experts--ever (because apparently they know everything). It’s just the same old “walk around, talk, walk around, talk” J&G go together, the girls go together, blah blah blah. Same questions “Can you give us a sign of your presence?” (I could probably start a drinking game for just that one line). We spend all our time with the cameras on the guys as they cock their heads and listen to things and then explain what they heard, thereby destroying any further recordings they might get of sounds…

“Ghost Adventures” I think could have a fairly good haul. You know, I don’t take a damn thing they do seriously or any “evidence” they gather, but they had the right idea—use the right characters and people will keep coming back. This is the pack of douche bags in school that likely got punched in the stomach a few times and ridiculed and are now out to dominate and intimidate in a place where surely they won’t get punched out. They finally get to live out their bully sides and take it out on old houses. (I guess that’s better than old or frail people). This is purely entertainment, but they were young enough and hip enough to know to tow the online rope and stay up to date on Twitter and FB and other sites where they could get people excited about their project and feel like they’re partying with the big boys.

“Ghost Lab” conversely will die an early death for the very reason that GA works; personalities. These guys are abrasive, dominating, know-it-all but not so bright, and their very manner annoys so much, it’s impossible to watch the show. I had hopes for a team investigating and testing theories, but it seriously shouldn’t have been done by ham-fisted good ole' boys and should have been done with these special people with educations called--scientists.

What’s the future of ghost hunting shows? More than likely reality TV will assimilate them into the collective borg and they will become those godawful “dating show” scenarios with bimbos and empty-headed no-neck muscle guys going into scary places.

I know a few directions they could go that would make sense for both the field, research, and entertainment, but I’ll keep those under my vest for now.

They may not completely disappear, like those shows where the father is stupid and clueless and the kids outsmart him, but hopefully they will evolve and not remain a case of same old/same old as they have been in recent years. Evolution means survival and that's critical for this genre. It will take some open-minded talent to find the way to do this.

I’m not giving up hope just yet. The patient can be revived, we just have to apply the paddles and hit it with about 300 joules and that should do the trick. It just takes one smart producer to make it happen.


  1. I was watching GH last night (last night was Wednesday, right?) and they were placing a child's toy in the camera shot so they could get potential movement on camera (while also trying to get a window or some such in view) and I looked at the child's toy half in, half out of the camera's field of view and shook my head. COME ON, GUYS! At that moment, I admitted that these cats would never achieve whatever ideal I set out for this type of show. Whatever joy I still add ebbed away in that moment. I knew exactly what would happen at the climax of the show and that it would sadden and anger me.

  2. Pangs;
    Yeah, I'm totally with ya! I feel sometimes like these guys are the walking dead, going through the motions of being living, but it's only mimickry. It's so routine for even them that they're just trudging through the house and stopping and listening. They sort of forget that there's viewers. This is one of the great downfalls of the GH type shows on the networks right now--they have to try to entertain while doing something that is extremely boring. I don't know if you've ever watched professional poker on the Travel Channel but what idiot came up with that? I think I'd rather watch someone flossing for a half hour. Ghost hunting isn't exciting, except those couple seconds when something happens. We need more shows that involve the evolution of ghost hunting--update us on tools being tried, talk to serious experts in related fields, come up with new ways to create controlled situations. You want to impress me, put the freaking stroller out in the view of the camera fully, leave the room, be gone for a while (those floorboards will make the entire floorboard move if you're walking around up there) and let me see it move on its own. Remember the folding chair in the lighthouse that moved? You put one of those canvas fold up chairs out, sit on it, get up and leave, and it starts to refold itself and that makes it move. Does it all the time. Magic, ain't it?

  3. Most of the shows that came after (and all the newest shows) failed fairly miserably at finding personalities that would serve a TV audience well.

    GH, GHI and GA all have something in the way of personalities (GA probably being the most vibrant, if not the most well received). GH has done little to enliven themselves and get out of the formulaic shows they churn out. GHI at least adds new and interesting locations. GA has its own peculiarities that wear thin.

  4. I stopped watching long ago (unless a friend is a guest). 'Most Haunted' is by far the worst...but all seek production value. A real paranormal investigation would simply be too boring for television....been there.

  5. Hey Pangs;
    Yes, I do believe the only way to maintain such a boring thing to film is to have good personalities that you care about and want to follow. There's been few that get my attention, as I must admit that my field is flooded with a lot of people who are teetering on nerd-dom so they're doing something boring and there's not all the animated. Jesus, look at Kris Williams--has there ever been someone with a flatter affect and less substance inside? Yikes!

    I hear ya. I admit that last night was the first GH I sat through the whole freakin season. The season before was such a snoozefest. I have my own theories on why there hasn't been a lot of ghostly activity and why the first few seasons were active, all having to do with geomagnetic activity, but man oh man, you have to change it up every week and do new and interesting things--new equipment, a new mad scientist on the team, someone being interviewed who is an expert... I don't know, but their personalities really can't carry an hour-long show.

  6. Great post...I have to agree with everything you are saying. Their investigations are boring and even more boring to write. The stroller moving was cool but....I will just say, I don't save these shows anymore to watch later...just not interested. I still enjoy the frat boy antics of the GA boys...they are not boring, just funny.

  7. Julie;
    I love Zak Baggy Pants and the Scooby Douche Team. They're awesome. I think it's good to just make light of things now and then and they do it for me and inspire new issues of my LAUGH series. I'm holding out hope on a new ghost show that gives us weekly thrills and challenges. I think it's lurking in the shadows.

  8. Like everything else, it'll die off eventually. MonsterQuest already died - yeah, it was frustrating that they very rarely ever found anything, but, unfortunately, that's reality.

    GA is the only one I really watch. GHI once in a while. GH always makes me fall asleep.

    Yeah, what would be ideal would be one that discusses and comes up with theories - rather than one where we're expected to just take these things for granted.

    And just for once, honestly, I'd like to see some exploration of other things. It always annoyed me, the use of the word 'paranormal' as if it specifically describes ghosts - anything 'not normal' is, by definition, paranormal.

    Always, though, no matter what, there'll be people who can't take it seriously. The community at large will always call into doubt anything turned up on a reality show.

  9. Hey Andrew, I'm with ya there! I personally love everything in the world of paranormal. This is Ghost Hunting Theories, but I talk a lot about Bigfoot, PSI and UFOs and all kinds of other weird stuff that we haven't explained yet. I think a lot of it ties together too. I really believe humans aren't so much creating it, as being catalysts for it. We're just poor in our senses compared to other creatures and honestly we have a harder time finding these things or recognizing them. I love more than anything to come up with theories and a marriage with experts and inventors and scientists would all help to come up with more efficacious ways to prove this stuff and maybe figure out how it works. The haunted formula I worked on last summer I'm refining this summer (nothing else to do when it's 110 degrees outside all summer long), and I hope to find more commonalities in hauntings. I want to branch out in the BF world too and explore some commonalities there. I think this is how we figure out when and where to run into this stuff more consistently. I think I have a pretty well refined idea of how to find a perfect haunting on a perfect night, but I need a lot more field testing. The shows are a snooze, but people that watch them are too freakin smart to be happy with hours upon hours of tromping around sites (that's the ugly part of ghost hunting). They want to know more about evidence review and experts and maybe some plans going into the haunting to capture things. You gotta treat each haunting like a special case, no across the board same techniques every time. You have to adapt. Oh, I could rattle on about what's needed. Now I gotta go out there and see someone does it right for the public!

  10. I have a confession to make. I never really got the appeal of these shows. Nothing ever seems to happen. The locations are interesting, but the action is very slow.

  11. Jessica;
    I was a few years into it when GH started on TV and I admit that I felt an enormous relief. I thought I was the only one running around trying to first disprove a haunting before finally using the "H" word. I was an extremely avid watcher the first 3 seasons just to watch them go to places I haven't been to or to see how they handle the situations I've been in. I wondered if they had any new tools or attitudes about it. We differ in our "belief" system about what constitutes a haunting and the concept of demons and evil and such, but I still was glad to see others complaining about the same things I went through. I think it was really just misery loves company. I didn't at the time know a lot of people who had paranormal experiences and I felt so alone looking for answers, so it was a great connection. Over time, however, it presents itself as just as boring as a real study is--tedious, frustrating, and sometimes just a big snooze. So, yeah, unless someone does something new and different out there, it is same-old/same-old.

  12. I think that we will all know when the ghost shows are over, when we start to see them "jump the shark." That will be the begining of the end. I expect that it will be something like the "bikini/lingerie" ghost hunt or a heart patient going through a haunted location.

  13. Barry;
    You made me laugh so hard. I had an idea for a YouTube spoof of ghost hunting in which my friends and I would do a Pajama Ghost Hunt. Just to shake it up and make it silly. Crazy you said that! Yeah, I think GHI hasn't a chance--they can't hold members with a darn; Brian-adios, Donna-adios, I heard Justin is leaving, and they've lost most of the gal stragglers they've had. Don't know if it's all the travel or the personalities on the team they have issues with, but that is a revolving door. The shark jump for GH has been their godawful spinoff Academy. It takes away the only two pathetically interesting personalities; Steve and Tango. They fill it in, but it's kind of like the other Darren Stevens--we know better.

  14. I do think Ghost Hunters is getting a little stale. I guess their idea of change is developing a new spin-off. I tried to watch Ghost Adventures but it's just too much for me. I turn to Josh Gates for the crazy. I actually did watch the entire season of Ghost Lab. I guess I was willing to deal with the absurdity because I'm originally from Texas and grew up around "Good ole boys".

    Also don't forget about all the ghost hunting shows for kids/teens: Ghost Trackers, Mystery Hunters, Truth or Scare, etc. Not many of those are on anymore either.

  15. Andrea;
    I really thought the ones dealing with kids were just wrong. Not that kids can't be into ghost stuff, but I know a lot of adults who freak out on ghost hunts and unless you have some kind of maturity to handle it, the concept of the supernatural is a lot like religion--it's a huge concept filled with a lot of magic and hocus pocus and the unknown, so you have to be careful with bringing kids into it. I love Josh--he's my fav! Yup, GH is stale. They could have revived themselves if they just broke free from simply doing a study every single week, same people, same thing, same tools, blah, blah, blah. I wouldn't mind them have an episode that's about the behind the scenes--how do they research a place? How do they filter out cases to decide which ones to take? What's that tech guy in the basement they had doing with his gadget making? He showed up once or twice and disappeared...

  16. I don't watch the ghost hunter shows anymore. As you said, it is the same old same old over and over again. I was with GhostHunters from the first episode, but after about 2 yrs, I lost interest. As for the Ghost Adventure show, I never could stomach that one. And by the time the others had come out, I was bored with the whole thing.

    And hey, just for the record, New Jersey is not a big state, and in it there is one very small area which would be considered a suburb of NYC - this area is where they find all those big haired obnoxious bimbos for the reality shows. This is also the area that everyone sees on TV as representative of NJ - the turnpike, the factories... ugh, so ugly. The rest of our state, though crowded in a few areas, does not look like that. And, we have LOTS AND LOTS of haunted houses....

  17. I've never seen Ghost Adventures or Ghost Lab. I've seen several episodes of GH and GHI over the years, but I've never been able to get that interested in either one. Destination Truth has the best formula for a television show about paranormal investigations. The investigations may not be that thorough, but you get an entertaining show about a team of investigators conducting an investigation. Destination Truth is almost like a real life Indiana Jones show. It's an entertaining adventure that includes a paranormal investigation. I think it would be better if they focused on one location per episode thoug, instead of going to two locations in a single episode. I think Josh could keep an investigation in a single location entertaining for an entire episode. I'd like to see more daytime research too. DT researches more than just ghosts, so when they are looking for monsters, it would seem to me they could conduct an investigation during the day just as well as the night.

  18. Jeff;
    Yup! I agree! I adore Josh and he has a perfect formula for a show. I think the way they travel -- taking like 8 modes of transportation--ends up taking all their daytime. I was so disappointed when they went to the mining towns in Chile with the graveyards and bones that they didn't stay an entire week. I do wish they just did one thing per episode. It would save them a lot of dough too because they wouldn't be traveling as much. I will be doing a spoof very soon on my LAUGH series that is purely a Destination Truth episode so you will appreciate that. If things go well, I hope to put it up on Sunday (fingers crossed). They go in search of Santa!