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Ghost TV Shows: Good for Paranormal Tourism, Bad for Paranormal Research

I have to get something off my chest. I’ve noticed a trend develop in some of the blogs I follow. Lately many of my fellow bloggers have been feeling as disgruntled, dissatisfied and disillusioned with the same thing I have: ghost TV shows.

CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION

Either in their own posts or in comments they’ve left on other blogs, I’ve seen such bloggers I respect and admire like Julie from Above the Norm, Autumnforest from Ghost Hunting Theories, Susan from Haunt Spots Tours, or Javier from GhostTheory say something I find myself stating more and more lately. It goes a little something like this, “At first I really liked Ghost Hunters, but anymore…”

The dot-dot-dot part is then filled in with what they’re noticing is lacking from this once must-see show.

Here’s how I see it:

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE ULTIMATE POSERS

Back in September I wrote an article called “The Ghost Hunters Effect: Oprah-esque Boon for Non-Profits.” I detailed how thanks to the popularity of ghost TV shows, in particular Ghost Hunters, all sorts of museums, state parks, historic sites, etc. are realizing revenue from offering ghost tours or hosting ghost hunts.

Ghost Hunters, with its everyman stars Jason and Grant at the helm, stormed on the scene and gave ghost enthusiasts genuine, down to earth people to cheer for. We liked their style. We liked their approach. They were instantly credible. They charmed us. So what if they debunked most everything? We didn’t mind spending an hour each week with them.

And, yes, they’ve unintentionally done a great job of getting people not only interested in paranormal investigations, but they’ve also motivated them to get up and off the couch to try it for themselves. Or at least to just get out and go see some of the places the GH team has been.

However, as good as they’ve been for paranormal tourism, they’ve been equally bad (if not worse) for paranormal research.Why?

Because of all the GH spin-offs (Ghost Hunters International and Ghost Hunters Academy) and myriad other ghost shows on TV now too (Ghost Adventures, Paranormal State, Ghost Lab, and Extreme Paranormal. The one exception to this list is Most Haunted, which has been on TV as long if not longer than Ghost Hunters.)

Now we have all these “ghost experts” who are really just posers. Even Jason and Grant. (Hey, it’s not personal. I like the guys, but I have to call it as I see it and they are most definitely posers. And don’t even get me started on the damage Ghost Hunters Academy is going to do. There is more than one way to investigate than the one GH knows how to do.)

The only thing “expert” about Jason and Grant, or Zak Bagans, Yvette Fielding, Ryan Buell, or any of the other stars of their shows, is that they’ve all turned their hobbies into jobs.

And their job? Being a reality star. None of them are real investigators. They only play one on TV.

“WHERE’S THE BEEF?”

Some will think I’m being a tad cruel, but come on. Where’s the actual research? Where’s the use of the scientific method? Where’s experimentation with different approaches? (To Ghost Lab’s credit, they do at least throw out hypotheses and try different techniques, even if they don’t produce results.)

But at the end of the day, regardless of the show, it’s the same story: none of the “experts” find any concrete evidence. They look good using the equipment and the editors do a good job of piecing together cliffhangers before commercials, but (borrowing from a famous ’80s line), “Where’s the beef?”

Nowhere, because it doesn’t exist.

It’s kind of like John Scott Lewinski pointed out in his TV Squad Article “Ghost Lab haunted by a dispiriting lack of spirits”:

If a show like Top Chef never found a meal, would you watch it? If Ice Road Truckers couldn’t find snow, would you pay attention?

Yet, every week, paranormal investigation shows like Ghost Hunters or Paranormal State hit the air and unveil the whole pile of absolute squat they found.

Or the Ghost TV article from Cracked.com, which posed two scenarios: (1) Find Ghosts with steps how to proceed, or (2) Find No Ghosts and create a TV show.

And I guess at the end of the day that’s what’s bugging me. I’d like to see there be a little more legitimacy and a little less kitsch.

Because for those of us who would like to see some real investigating these shows are only fueling the laughingstock fire, not furthering true research. And at the rate these shows are popping up everywhere, it won’t be long before being a ghost enthusiast goes from being cool back to being ridiculed.

Courtney Mroch
Courtney Mroch, otherwise known as HJ's Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism, is an author, traveler, and ghost enthusiast. When she's not writing, jaunting, or planning her next trip, it's a safe bet you'll find her in one of three places: on a tennis court somewhere, on a yoga mat somewhere, or watching a horror movie somewhere. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.
http://www.courtneymroch.com

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13 thoughts on “Ghost TV Shows: Good for Paranormal Tourism, Bad for Paranormal Research

  1. Fantastic post! I’ve considered writing about this subject from the point of view of an investigator who has pretty much given up larger studies and settling for house calls and my own secret private studies. It began several years ago when a “rigged team” (these are weekend ghost hunting warriors who know nothing and simply want to wear matching tee’s and go postal on ghosts) went and stayed at an historic hotel famous for ghosts in Phoenix. They were told not to run up and down the halls with their equipment–were bothering the high-paying customers! Then, they snuck into the basement where the well was that supposedly schoolboys drowned in when the place was a school long ago. That’s a huge no-no and they were told they couldn’t have access to it. It’s a very dangerous place. Well, after that, the hotel stopped ghost tours and said that ghost hunters were not welcome at all. We did manage to keep our room and stay within it to do our study, but it’s that kind of childishness that is turning owners of historic places off. I would advise anyone wanting to let a team into their place to check and see how long they’ve been together–if this is a new team or it has no website or other cases, don’t let them do it. You’re letting strangers run through your business or home and you know nothing about their character. I’m waiting for ghost hunting to go out of style again. It was much nicer in the old days when owners of old businesses in downtown main streets were folksy and fun and let you do a little survey while they excitedly watch your results. Now, I think they cringe when people start asking about the ghosts…

  2. Wonderful post, I couldn’t have said it better myself. When I first started watching Ghost Hunters during a marathon, I thought it was so cool. The first two shows I saw were “Bird Cage Theatre” and “St. Augustine Lighthouse” which had great results. Those shows roped me in. Lately, I haven’t even wanted to do recaps. Just not much to talk about. Jason and Grant don’t seem to be into it either. I haven’t did any ghost hunting myself, but I’m sure what Steve is teaching on GHA is different than most others conduct in their ghost hunts or not. I record that show now and decide whether or not to watch, but I do. Anyway, I really like what you and Autumn had to say and totally agree.

  3. I agree. My husband who works for Ultilites locally said that the Ghost Hunters are plumbers, so how can they be experts on paranormal investigating. There are real parapsycologists–trained in college, with degrees, working at certain universities.
    I admit to doing paranormal investigating, but I tell those in my group I am with that we are not experts and can not help those really in trouble–that’s for the real experts (priests, demologists, etc…)

    The only thing is when I do my ghost books at signings is tell people to check out those places i have websites and addresses for as they are museums, attractions, etc.. and to check out the history, etc..

  4. Holy cow, Pamela! You are one of the first people I’ve EVER heard say, “SWe investigate but if anything major goes down, we’re not qualified. Have to refer them elsewhere.” I love and applaud your honesty and integrity!  BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!

  5. To begin with basics; is there really such a thing as an expert paranormal investigator? There are indeed individuals and organisations that make money on the back of the paranormal, but there’s the point THEY ARE MAKING MONEY. It’s a little difficult to be scientific and subjective when you have to “produce the goods” on a regular basis. I like a spot of fishing, but I don’t expect to catch every time I throw a line into the water. If I did it would be called catching and not fishing. I think that’s what most television programmes are – lures to catch the unwary. They are the catchers and we are the greedy fish. I should know by my DVD collection – I have had a hook in my lip more than once!

  6. Here’s my Letter to the Editor: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the way you summed this up as well as your analogy. Marvelously clever. THANKS so much for stopping by to weigh in. 😉

  7. I read all your posts and found them very interesting. I am a writer and painter and this Summer I was hopping to make a tour visiting some of the most considered haunted places to gather some interesting material for my new book.

    From what I could understand from what you posted, is paranormal tourism only folclore to attract people to certain places? Or are there some true histories of hauntings and real places to visit?

    If anyone have some contacts you can provide me with I would much appreciate 🙂

  8. Hi Ana! You know, the more and more as I travel around to haunted places myself, the more and more I realize some places have legitimate history which might account for activity that is rumored/reported to be there, other just has history that’s lurid enough to entice people and they (the people who own and/or run the places) capitalize on that. Some of the biggest (as in most well-known) haunted places are actually more hype than anything. They just had good PR or whatever and became hits. Other places are less well known, but actually maybe more creepy/haunted…that’s the fun of traveling to discover which places have spirits that speak to your soul and which don’t. Good luck in your jaunts!

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