I finally had the chance to watch National Geographic’s American Paranormal “Haunted Prison” episode all the way through.
Loved it, because it showed real science and procedures. However, I also hated it…because it showed real science and procedures.
REASONS WHY I LOVED IT
- THEORIES – Oh my. What a novel concept. Using real scientists in different disciplines to look for ghosts –and from a radical perspective. Even though most of the scientists assembled for the project seemed to be skeptics and felt ghosts were science fiction, they conducted their tests on the assumption, “If ghosts were real, what are they made of?” in an effort to figure out how best to “capture” one.
- EXPERIMENTS – Until I saw it with my own eyes, I could hardly believe it. They were actually conducting experiments using control groups (like the strong suggestion group vs. the not given much suggestion group, a.k.a. the cognitive bias experiment) and controlled situations (i.e. the infrasound-generated experiment) for theory testing purposes. Hallelujah! Where have these guys been all my Haunt Jaunting life?
- NO INTERFERENCE – Hmm, just leaving the equipment to do its thing overnight? Sounds so foolish…I mean, where’s the people? EXACTLY! Talk about not having to worry about contaminated evidence. Loved this approach. Wish we saw more of it. (Although, it’s not practical for mainstream, pop culture-oriented ghost hunting shows. But in terms of documentaries following people trying to get at the truth? Wonderful!)
- PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT DOES INFLUENCE – Almost any ghost hunter will tell you that they seem to have their best investigations on “dark, stormy nights.” Many have hypothesized it’s because the rain serves as some sort of conductor and the lightning enhances the electromagnetic fields, all of which make it easier for ghosts to manifest. (Be it a bona fied apparition or Class A EVPs.) Also, the location matters. Many a ghost hunter also believes buildings made of stone or that are on or near certain rock types make for better haunted locations. The American Paranormal investigation shed some light on why that might be the case. In Eastern State’s case they explained how the 200 foot long stone corridors amplify infrasound. And people are sensitive to infrasound, maybe even more so than to EMF fields. (That’d be another good experiment they could conduct. The effects of one being more “potent” than the other, or perhaps what happens when they’re combined.) And if you’re predisposed to believing you’re in a haunted place, you form your interpretation of events on that belief.
REASONS WHY I HATED IT
- TOO LOGICAL – Say what? If you’ve read my unabashed criticisms of most ghost hunting TV shows, you could admonish me for saying something like this. How on earth could anyone be “too” logical. And isn’t that what I’d rather have? Maybe logical is the wrong word choice. Maybe it’s more that they were too skeptical and approached it from that angle too much. Almost to the point where I could accuse them of being biased and coming up with experiments (like the cognitive bias one) to prove it’s mind over matter where ghosts are involved. (Meaning, as they were quick to point out, what one experiences is very real to them and is their reality, but in fact it might not be actual reality.)
- NOT ENOUGH TIME – Gary alluded to this same concern when he left a comment on my other post about the show. He said “I was still disappointed in the fact that they just showed up for a one night gig, like a prostitute does…” I agree with him. (And just love the way he worded it!) Kudos to them for setting up the equipment (and then leaving it to do its thing), but for only one night? Kind of disappointing they weren’t more thorough on that front, considering what they did with the control groups and such. (However, in their defense, it appeared that counting those other control group experiments, all totaled they put in a few nights at the prison. I can’t help but wonder if their budget allowed for X amount of nights only due to the prices Eastern State charges.)
- EVIDENCE REVIEW – I’d also like to see third party evidence review. Or some kind of check and balance. While the investigators on American Paranormal did a bang up job, I have to agree with something else Gary said in his comment, specifically: “The evidence at the end appeared pushed through for example. They had the sound spike at 3:15 a.m. and a thermal hit at the same time, and just stated it was nothing more than rain. Well why would the sound meter ’spike’, shouldn’t it be continuous? The thermal hit shows a collaborating cooling, yet does rain really cool the roofing material that fast?” Unless the rain was only brief, but then they needed to elaborate on that. The viewer was left wondering the obvious (which Gary stated): Did it rain that night? If so,for how long? (I thought it was interesting it happened around 3 a.m. That’s why it’d be neat to have more than one night researched, to see if there’s something to the 3 a.m. theory which seems to manifest at so many allegedly haunted locations. Maybe on another show…)
- NO CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE – Even for all their theories, experiments, scientists, and equipment, they came up with zilch –either for or against ghosts. Also, they left it as “we may never be able to get an answer.” Why not? We have to keep trying!
I was left wanting more. The equipment and approach was by far the most sophisticated to be used yet.
And to answer Jeff’s comment on my SCARED! post, this is the kind of approach that would make a good basis for a show focused on a place rather than on a ghost hunting group. I hope NatGeo will make more of these!