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The NY Times Takes on Ghost TV Shows

Granted, I’ve been pretty harsh on ghost TV shows lately. (Ghost TV Shows: Good for Paranormal Tourism, Bad for Paranormal Research and A Few More Thoughts About Ghost TV Shows). But that’s because I’m passionate about the paranormal and think some of these shows are doing paranormal research an injustice. I think they could do better.

However, others think the whole thing is a mockery. As evidenced in such posts as TV Squad’s “Ghost Lab haunted by dispiriting lack of spirits”, or (as funny as it was)’s “Ghost TV.”

But now ghost TV shows have drawn the attention (and scorn) of a bigger market: the New York Times. (See “Consigning Reality Ghosts to TV”)

I took offense to this part of the article (in particular the last sentence):

Debunkers attack the shows for cooking their “evidence” and cynically exploiting the gullible, but that seems beside the point. Viewers are free to make up their own minds, as they always have been. The larger issue is why anyone would find these shows entertaining.

I’m one of those who find ghost TV shows entertaining. (Hey, some people have porn. TV shows are my guilty pleasure!)

However, the article’s author, Mike Hale, redeemed himself (with me at least) when he explained that while reality ghost shows reign on cable, even as small as they are, there are a segment of shows with supernatural premises, fictional as they may be, on network broadcast stations. (eg. “Medium,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “The Vampire Diaries,” etc.)

What this dichotomy suggests is a cultural divide, in which a nation’s resurgent interest in things it can’t see (or easily defend itself against) is expressed only in terms of fantasy in the polite society of the traditional networks, but can be taken seriously in the more populist environment of basic cable. In this context the ghost-hunting shows become part of a course catalog of what is, more than anything, educational programming. ~”Consigning Reality to Ghosts,” December 10, 2009~

He then goes on to analyze the type of viewer who would watch the ghost reality shows.

The viewer who is so inclined can spend the day in a certain band of the cable-television spectrum, switching from a paranormal show on A&E to a documentary about Hitler on the History Channel to a killer-asteroid report on Discovery to a talk show on Fox News, in a feedback loop that will reinforce any number of received notions about history, fate, conspiracy, the ruling caste and how the world is going to hell in a handbasket. ~”Consigning Reality to Ghosts,” December 10, 2009~

I liked what he said in the above paragraph. It’s true.

Most of us ghost enthusiasts who watch the ghost reality shows on cable also watch other shows that don’t necessarily fit with mainstream philosophy, and therefor wouldn’t pay the broadcast networks’ bills. (Because the mainstream consumers would tune out.)

We’re an inquisitive bunch and don’t have a “standard” view about history, politics, or religion –or even entertainment. (I know both Autumnforest at Ghost Hunting Theories and Julie at Above the Norm fit this bill. Both of them often write about shows they’ve seen on the History Channel, National Geographic, A&E, the Science Channel, Discovery, etc.)

I don’t see anything wrong with that. I even admire the way he crafted his words to say what he did. But was this last jab necessary?

…the teams themselves play the part of working-class heroes, from the plumbers of ‘Ghost Hunters’ to the burly Texas brothers of ‘Ghost Lab’ to the public-school students of ‘Paranormal State.’ They’ve created a new career — the paranormal investigator — that requires neither good looks nor any discernible skill beyond the ability to walk through an old building waving a flashlight.

At a time when people are so desperate for money and fame that they will pretend their child is in danger or crash a state dinner as if it were a school dance, perhaps we should admire someone who earns his 15 minutes by walking into an empty room and yelling, “It’s time to show the world who you are and what you’re made of!”

He isn’t hurting anything but the ghost’s feelings.

I don’t think so.

Alas, that’s the beauty of living in our country. We’re free to express our thoughts as we please. Even in these times of all things PC.

Hmmm…maybe I should start a Ghost Enthusiasts Pride parade?

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.

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5 thoughts on “The NY Times Takes on Ghost TV Shows

  1. Hee hee… I was thinking about this the other day. When I started ghost hunting in the early 2000’s seriously (I had dabbled before), there were no ghost hunting shows. I really had no idea what I was doing, but I had a camera, a recorder, a thermometer, and a heck of a lot of experiences that made me scratch my head in wonder. Honestly, there is no one that’s an “expert” in the field, only different levels of having figured out debunking and testing theories. No one ever says to huge televangelists–what is your expertise? What is your background? Generally, these aren’t well educated people, they simply know how to play people’s emotions and quote the Bible. There is no expertise in religion–that’s absurd. It’s equally absurd in the ghost hunting world. Yeah, there’s no “talent” quotient or school for studying such things because honestly–it’s not something with true guidelines. We’re literally figure it out as we go. Still, once it goes to the television, it becomes something not at all worthy of true research. We don’t go and film in labs while scientists solve diseases, nor should we study people going into spooky places waiting for more unexplainable experiences and coming up with theories. Admittedly, I enjoy watching ghost hunting shows because they’re going into places I often am not allowed to go or have never visited. It’s really living vicariously. For some folks, it’s about waiting for something to go “bump.” If you haven’t experienced the paranormal, you want to experience it. If you have experienced it, you want to experience it again. It’s a win/win for producers.

  2. I do agree with what you and Autumn are saying. I may get frustrated with some of the ghost hunting shows but I still watch them. They are definately entertaining to me. BTW, I am going to write a review of 2009 about the TV paranormal/ghost shows for this year. I will go into more detail on the shows that I have watched and just mention the other shows. I hope to get that done before the year is up. Mike is going to tackle the movies for which he is good at reviewing.

  3. Autumnforest, Beautifully put yet AGAIN! I think you hit the nail on the head for me why I’ve been struggling with the TV shows. I am “living vicariously.” I like the travel aspect. In some cases, I’ve been to some of the places but it’s fun to see these people visiting them after hours with their equipment. And having been one of those people to experience something…yep. It’ all about the chase and thrill of experiencing it again. But when they call themselves experts…I have a hard time. Or say they’re doing “hard research.” No. Call it what it is and I’m cool with that. Thanks for helping me understand why I was bent out of shape and feeling the need to write so much about this!

    And Julie…looking forward to your recap! That’s your specialty. I don’t have the patience to do that, but you make it look effortless!

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