A Treatise on Ghost Hunting Programs

So, if you guys have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I love a good ghost story. So it should come to no surprise that I watch the occasional ghost hunting show on television.

And I really like them, but at the same time, they seem ridiculously silly to me.

Here is a list of things that are ridiculous:

1) At night, in the dark.
Every ghost-hunting show I have ever seen does this. And I don’t know why. If you listen to the claims, most of the time activity happens during the day, or with the lights on, or whenever. I mean, aside from apparitions watching people sleep, nothing seems terribly time or dark dependent. If anything, if you believe that entities need energy to manifest, it seems like turning off the lights just makes it harder for everyone involved. Plus so many of these haunted places have claims of shadow people, and tell me that the dark doesn’t make EVERYTHING look like a shadow person.

2) “Did you hear that?”
Ghost hunters rely on EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) as a mainstay ghost-hunting tool. They will cart tape recorders (or, I guess, digital recorders these days) everywhere and ask questions, trying to find voices that can’t be heard normally. Yet, every time there’s the slightest creak, everyone stops what they’re doing and says something like “OMG what was that? Did you hear that?” I would think, if you’re trying to listen for disembodied voices and you think you heard something that might possibly have paranormal origins, the last thing you would want to do would be to ask stupid questions. Also, they do this ALL THE TIME.

Actually, a good description of ghost hunting shows probably would be “a bunch of people wandering around in the dark saying ‘What was that?’ every few minutes.”

Related – doing this while outside. For example, Ghost Hunters International did at least three jungle investigations this last season. When they’d do the “What was that?” thing, I would yell at the TV, “IT’S A FREAKING ANIMAL. YOU’RE IN THE MIDDLE OF A JUNGLE.” And one time they were hearing growls, and I would have been out of there so fast, but GHI? No. They will risk being eaten by panthers in the name of paranormal science.

3) Every place is haunted.
This is getting worse as time goes on. At first, half or so of the investigations would turn up nothing. It wasn’t great television, but it did lead some credence to the whole thing. Ghost Hunters is a good example of this. Nowadays, even if they don’t catch anything truly paranormal, they’ll rely on phantom footsteps and strange feelings to keep things interesting. (Or, if you’re less cynical than I am, you could claim that as they’ve gotten more famous they tend to stick to more definitively haunted places. Whatever floats your boat.)

4) The spirits mean you no harm.
This is a new one on the list, because I’ve just noticed it. The owners of whatever will be terrified and want to know if they need to worry about their family/staff/visitors being harmed by said entity. Most of the time, the ghost hunting team will find nothing. But I’ve seen some episodes where the team is scratched, or has rocks thrown at them, or something else that I would classify as “not cool,” and then when they go back to the owners, they tell them that everything is fine and no one will get hurt. Their definition of “hurt” is apparently not the same as my definition of hurt.

Don’t get me wrong – I really do enjoy the shows. And sometimes they’ll find something that just makes your skin crawl, and those are good days. And the rest of the time you can pretend like you’re watching a really bad horror movie and yell things at the screen.

How do you feel about ghost hunting shows, Squiders? Excellent entertainment? Realistic at all? What are your pet peeves?

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Isi on 2012/05/19 at 12:04 AM

    I used to watch ghost hunting shows all the time, so I’ve definitely noticed some of the same trends you’ve listed. I started out with Ghost Hunters, which at least tried to be scientific about it, more so than any others I’ve seen. What I’ve noticed most of all is how most shows tend to dramatize everything to make it interesting, and this often makes their findings less scientifically valid because they leave in a lot of human variables. Ghost Adventures does this a lot, because they’ll tell the spirits to use their energy to make noises, and this of course, aside from being potentially dangerous, results in a lot of weird feelings and whatnot, which can make for interesting TV, but it doesn’t make for hard indisputable evidence, since it’s always possible it’s a case of psyching yourself out and finding what you’re looking for because you’re looking for it.

    Something else they do is try to make out everything they find to be connected to the backstory of the location. They’ll word it sneakily so they’re not actually drawing those conclusions definitely, but it’s clear they want the viewers to think that, to make it seem like they’ve really tapped into the story of the place when really there’s no way to say for sure if the random EVP they heard was the voice of the victim, just because they heard a word that could be obliquely related to whatever happened. Again, good for TV, not so good for validity.

    Speaking of EVPs, EVPs. I’ve always thought of them as an auditory Rorschach test, since they’re rarely very clear so you could probably hear whatever you want to hear in them, and half the time I think they’re making up their interpretations of what’s being said based on whatever they could connect to the story of the place.

    Clearly I’ve thought way too hard about this subject.
    TL;DR: My psychology degree makes me judge their procedures based on science, not entertainment value.

    Reply

  2. […] you know, Squiders, I appreciate the odd ghost hunting show. Which is why I like Haunted Collector, because it does something […]

    Reply

  3. […] you know, Squiders, I appreciate the odd ghost hunting show. Which is why I like Haunted Collector, because it does something […]

    Reply

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