Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is TAPS Inbred and stale?


(*Don't forget my short story contest ends July 3rd*)

(***Tomorrow, there should be 3 videos of me on the post--talking to ya'all***)

Not to say that TAPS is running around *hoaxing stuff cause I know for a fact if someone were to film me throughout the day, they could blend that film any way they want to make it look like I’m a freaking idiot (actually, probably no editing necessary). But, this does one thing for the public—makes them open their minds. Just because you’re fed something doesn’t make it the truth. There are many truths. Many explanations. Question authority. Use your own logic. Find a happy medium.

I know, I’ve probably mentioned it before but I used to run a self-help group. I gave lectures, workshops, wrote articles, and sponsored dozens of people through issues with anxiety, panic, phobias, and PTSD. I remember a little story that often amused me and made for a good transition to a necessary topic of discussion.

A woman makes a ham every Easter. Her husband and kids love it. She takes the ham, cuts to top half off, puts this yummy sauce on it and cooks it. They rave every time. One year, the husband has friends over. The guest says, “I must get your recipe.” Well, the woman gives it to her and the guest looks at the recipe card and tilts her head as if puzzled. “Why do you cut the top off the ham?” The hostess thinks a moment. “Well, that’s how my mother did it.” Later, it nags the woman to wonder why the ham had to have its top cut off. She called her mother and asked her. Her mother laughed. “Honey, I cut the top of the ham cause that’s the only way it’d fit in our dinky oven.” The woman had been carrying on a family tradition without questioning the logic.

And so I turn my attention to TAPS as an example. Very much like that woman above, the team is trained, they go out, they do as told, they think as told, they make assumptions as told. No one ever questions techniques, explanations or methodology. Should such a thing happen within the scientific world, we would truly be screwed. Chances are that we’d be typing school reports on typewriters, gazing at the moon and wondering what it was made of, and curling up to the radio programs for family entertainment. Luckily, some freaking rebels thought; “Why the hell can’t we type on a screen?” "Why the hell can’t we fly to the moon and check it out?” and “Why can’t I watch what I want when I want?”

Here’s the conversation I want to hear some time:
JASON: Okay, Steve, you and Tango take the east wing. Me and Grant’ll take the west wing.
STEVE: You know, it might be good if we mix it up. Maybe I could go with Grant and you could go with Tango?
JASON: (blinks, mouth open, shakes his head) Did-I-just-hear-you question my authority?
STEVE: No. It’s just that, well, maybe you’re better at getting stuff to happen when you’re with Tango. Maybe Grant and I are a good team? We don’t know. We’ve never done it.
JASON: (Eyes bulging) Well, go the freakin’ hell down the east wing with Grant. We don’t need you. I have Tango here. Right kid?”
TANGO: (swallows tightly, Adam's apple bobbing,and nods)

The men disperse in a new formation—and, possibly something new occurs?

If you want to impress me, guys, how about mixing it up? How about letting the guys question the efficacy of the equipment? Try new techniques? Maybe set up some EMF shielding? How about just not walking around with a recorder in your blasted hand to create all kinds of noise from wind to footsteps to fingers creaking against the metal? Why not send one dude in the building alone?

I know, we’re all tired of the same old/same old. We know the routine: The guys pretend to do plumbing (seriously, guys...don't you own an inn somewhere?) Kris calls them with a spiffy new case. They set off with their team, walk around the joint, get the little talking to by the owner, set up the equipment, and split off into girls and boys and men. They do a KII session. They do an EVP session. Yada, yada, yada.

Admittedly, television show aside, if this is their technique for every hunt – it’s amazing they learn anything new. Oh, wait, they haven’t… They still have the same explanations for the types of ghosts, the reason they’re trapped, and even sometimes helpful demonologists who will help release them. With the exception of adding the KII meter after the Manson murder episode that got everyone atwitter for the device, they haven’t done anything new. They tried the Geiger counter at St. Augustine and put that puppy to bed.

They need a huge team and they need to shift them around so that they have different people all the time, different matches. Some people have chemistry for stuff to happen, some don’t. And, if you put the same people together forever you get "Kris and Amy syndrome"(yawn)….

Bring in new inventors, new devices, tackle the whole damn thing differently each time. Truly, guys, this inbreeding and stagnation is the death of the series, yeah, but more importantly without new blood, new ideas, and lots of questioning of the “old” ways, we’d still be using a Ouija and some medium throwing up cheesecloth to prove the afterlife.

You took us into the promise of a new millenium with new techniques for hunting and then you stood in the doorway and let it whack you in the behind.

*I'm not totally sold on the concept of hoaxing, at least as far as these two are concerned, but I am certain that conditions can happen during filming in which something wasn't caught and they go back to recreate it. This might have been the case. It's just like those godawful editing bug-a-boos you find in movies where the actor's hair was curly and then straight in the same scene. I like these guys, I really do. I admire the hell out of them for cutting a path no one else had the cajones to do. I only wish they had not let the routine of television get in the way of the field they were trying so earnestly to change. The growth somehow got lost in the episodes...


  1. But... but... they're The Best, right? I mean, how can they be expected to learn anything new when they know everything already?
    They're the leaders in the field, the top dawgs of the paran..., I mean ghostie world. They're the only real pros out there, the onlt team with a truly scientificalized approach.
    Just ask them!
    Truth is, it's just TV. It's entertainment, it's giving the core audience what they want to see. They aren't out to learn anything, or prove anything, they're out to get ratings, keep the franchise going, and (gasp!) make money.

  2. I think, to some degree, they have confused themselves into thinking their investigative rut somehow approximates a Controlled, Repeatable Scientific Experiment where it would be expected that the exact same steps be performed to see if you get the same results.

    Right off the bat, the situations have so many uncontrolled variables and are unique in a way that CRSE is impossible. We have all considered the problem with "evidence" for paranormal researchers. Given that much of the evidence can be doubted even in the best of circumstances, the next step for them should be learning something.

    Besides that, they seem to let the TV dictate the investigative behavior. The script worked early as far as ratings and attention for such a show.

    Doing things differently would (hopefully) require much more thought and pre-investigation work rather than clocking in and doing the same Night Watchmen routine every investigation. Changing things up would also underscore the fact that there is much to learn and the GH routine seems to lean on the idea that they already know the perfect method for investigation. A dangerous line of thinking for a researcher/investigator.

    This isn't to say that their attempts at professional attitudes and a technique trending toward the scientific method are not laudable. However, I think they need to rethink why they investigate the way they do, how they can improve and when they are cutting off the top of the ham.

  3. BG;
    You know it is a real bitch. The minute they signed a contract with SyFy (SciFi back then), the concept of these guys in a trailer pissing away their kid's college money and plumbing toilets while trying to answer the bigger questions about the paranormal went down the drain, as well. The concept for a good paranormal show should involve thought provoking, open dialogue with the viewers in an ongoing discussion of what the frag (stole that from Grant) this phenomenon is. My concerns are--what methods really work or show efficacy? What provokes or what conditions provoke phenomenon? Does the human factor play a role in that someone can actually provoke phenomenon by their very brain workings and chemistry? How about the building? Geology? They seem to know precisely what a ghost is and how it works and yet they can't really capture one... They opened the door for people to look at this as something that does need controls and observation, but then they hit the snooze button to pump out shows instead of widening the field with new concepts. Inbreeding 101.

    You delight! I don't believe you've ever had so much to say. I will have to stimulate your brain more and your eyes less with fewer leg shots of me and more discussions about methodology. (wink) You are right on. I would love to have an all-night face-to-face discussion with you about these things. You really have a great train of thought... You also give away your intelligence and your knowledge--hmm... you have me intrigued. Line that up with some visuals I got of you during the psychic experiment and I am enthralled. I agree with you totally that they finally did what I had already been doing in the field, tried to bring some sanity to ghost hunting instead of woo-woo and parlour tricks (film above aside). It seems to have infected teams around the world as I explore to see if anyone has a different approach, but most taut TAPS-like studies and a few throw psychics in and then there's to the end like "Paranoid State." Since our equipment sucks at picking up phenomena, I say--hey, why don't we just see what provokes it the most... we can backtrack and figure out what the trigger is and then--voila! We can build a gun!

  4. I have been having more and more trouble sitting through a GH episode.

    I think they should use more magic coins, myself.....


  5. I have seen you post a few funny comments on Dr. Heckle's site, so I thought I would stop by for a visit. I'm intrigued. I have had a number of unexplainable experiences and even wrote about one - Shadows. I just love this stuff. Keep it coming.

  6. Dan;
    Yeah, magical coins, perhaps a really flamboyant psychic and a little prayer session--hee hee

    Jeez, my commentary on Dr. Heckle sucked you right in, huh? Yeah, I love his site soooo much. It enables me to stay sharp and witty and every single day I get a huge laugh there. He is my hero for what he does. I'm intrigued by your experiences. This is the place for you, my friend. Use the search bar on the righthand side if you want to look up any particular subject. Also, on the righthand side, you'll find my LAUGH series and that is where the humor is archived. Thanks for hanging out here, buddy. Many laughs ahead.

  7. Very good discussion. I would like to second the comment on the logistics of filming a TV show. Sometimes in-the-moment shots are missed and the cameras have to reposition. Sometimes a window may have to be remain open because they're getting a reflection of the cameraman or the window may be initially closed because of audio problems with traffic outside. These "pick-up" shots may take place with quite a bit of time in between and continuity isn't always maintained. Unless you're actually there, it's quite impossible to break apart what happened from numerous hours of filming edited down to a few seconds. However, always keep questioning.. that's what an investigator, believer, or skeptic should all have in common.

  8. Thanks Ben. You are a font of knowledge and I do agree with what you're saying. I would never want to be judged on one bit of film of me... (and Gummerfan do not start laughing about my YouTube video I put up... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSc01laizfQ). There's investigating and then there's TV. It's never easy. Just look at the cooking shows--can't imagine what they go through to make that happen. The logistics, the nightvision shots, things not working right the first time...all a bloody nightmare, no doubt. Overall, the show should open discussion and provoke thinking on the subject which GH has not done for a very long time, but I look forward to "Fact or Faked" cause I know that show's gonna rock it the way it should be--making people open their minds and ask new questions.

  9. I never watch TAPS, but I love your ham story and the follow up. I just laughed myself silly with that ham story. Thanks for making a long work night a little shorter.

  10. Jessica;
    It's one of those sweet southern stories. It reminded me of my mama. She used to do that kind of stuff without question. I remember one time my father showed her how to open the breadbox cause she kept not lining it up right. He used his left hand and she always used her left hand to do it. One time, I went for the wonder bread and she said, "no Sherry! You must use your left hand." I remember not wanting to burst her bubble, so I used my left and smiled a lot...

  11. Very interesting post. I defenitely agree with the idea that you shouldn't just accept everything that you're fed in the media (especially on television). In response to your thoughts about the show becoming "stale", couldn't some (maybe not all, but some) of it be atributed to the fact that on the show they keep to a specific format? I know for a fact that they do mix up teams, although some of it never makes it into the episode. You have to keep in mind that the stuff you see on TV, is just a bit of what actually happens.

  12. See to me the true experts in the field are Ghost Adveturerers from the Travel Channel. Bar none. Love the post.

  13. Haha. I love bread and ham stories! I could talk for hours on this subject because now I'm that guy trying to change the TV shows from the other side... trying to make it something I'd like to watch. Averaging about 30 minutes of TV watching per month, I'm very selective and critical of TV shows, especially reality. The difficulty in doing something that hasn't been done before is in a way, both simple and challenging. It's funny how cast members fall into patterns in how they operate or what they say. That's a very astute observation because it's one of the best examples of how the reality of the show really shines through. One day I counted how many times I said "OK guys, let's do it!" I had to write down other ways of saying the same thing because I was driving myself crazy! With my luck, all the edits would be the times I didn't change it. This also proved to me that we're creatures of habit and in day-to-day life, I may not be as interesting as I thought I was:) I've actually become a better conversationalist because of it. At any rate, I want to make a call to all those in the paranormal field to propose new theories and methodologies and especially new technologies or cross-over technologies that haven't been used in a particular way before. It's time to up the ante and to get some fresh ideas going!

  14. Ben;
    For those of you, who don't know, is on the upcoming SyFy show "Fact or Faked." I am very excitedly awaiting the show and don't worry, Ben, it won't be for what you say or your expressions (although I'm sure are both fascinating), but because they will be performing a kind Mythbusters of ghost evidence, if you will. Outside-the-box thinking is what I've been trying to promote from the first. I don't take people's lines about what a ghost is, how it comes to be, and what rules it lives by. I interact with phenomena and come to my own conclusions over time. Eventually, hopefully, I will how it manages to manifest in our physical world if it is launched from "another." Until people drop all the old turn-of-the-century spiritualist's description of ghosts, we'll get nowhere. I am thrilled for you to be able to do what you're doing--my fingers itch to join in. It is a much needed addition to the field. You will be moving us forward with intelligence and ... questioning authority, bless your sweet little heart (and your sharp mind)