This week, I'm kicking off a death, grief, afterlife theme. We're hitting everything every day. Today, we begin with the ghost hunting shows and what they have helped and how they have hurt.
"Ghost Hunters" show came onto the scene around 2003/2004 with the promise of showing the population what it is to go and investigate the paranormal. For most viewers, the concept of poking around a dark building calling on ghosts was a chilling one and they eagerly watched to live vicariously. The reality of it as portrayed by keen editing and production guidelines, seemed rather glamorous:
The team sweeps in with their equipped van, assures the owners of the property they are in safe hands, and then spends a dark evening talking to the other side, reviewing some video and audio and voila! Proof of contact.
The beneficial outcome of having ghost hunting shows is that people like myself are no longer embarrassed to admit we seek answers. A "fringe" group is suddenly hip. Conversely, that is also the bad point about these shows - new teams popping up everywhere without rhyme or reason, flooding historic sites, making very bad decisions with desperate clients, and hoping to pose themselves to get their own shows. Many sites either now charge ridiculous amounts to allow investigations or do not allow anyone because of wild, loud, aggressive investigating teams.
Some very bad habits have been picked up by the examples on ghost shows including the concepts of taunting and walking around doing EVPs while holding a recorder, unscrewing a cap from a flashlight, and using nonsensical tools such as ghost boxes that basically are recreating the Ouija phenomena.
The realities of ghost hunting are not portrayed for hopeful investigators. I always tell people to look at these shows as pure entertainment. Each case has to be adapted to the situation. There is a great deal of interviewing and journalling necessary to understand if a case is even worth pursuing, and then there are horrendous logistics of setting up equipment, accounting for all members, report writing, enormous meticulous evidence review, following up with the client.... It is a serious time suck and can be quite exhausting when you investigate after a full day of work and try to listen to audio or look at video in your spare time for weeks afterwards.
The real benefit of ghost hunting shows, the ultimate reward, has been that it's no longer shameful to explore the paranormal and public sites and private homeowners are more likely to ask for assistance rather than feeling shame and hiding issues.
The detriments have been mass and include bad practices, flooding of the field of research, historic sites pimping out, bad science, imitation rather than innovation, and people desperately wanting their own shows. I have heard of teams using the clients' children as bait, manning monitors with pre-adolescents, charging to "get rid of the ghosts," and blessing/praying/performing seances and other spiritual practices in spite of the clients' beliefs.
I see that the ghost aspect of reality shows is finally winding down and I am thankful. I never thought the concept was a good one because ghost hunting is basically the most boring activity in all the world, hardly entertainment, other than people are in the dark trying to speak to the other side. There are plenty of other fields of paranormal research I suspect will be the next best thing such as ancient mysteries, cryptids and psychics. The market will flood with these shows and once again have the same weak points.
Ultimately, the exposure made the search for answers not a shameful activity, but like anything else that goes "viral," it becomes misunderstood and watered down, a caricature of itself.