Apart from being the title of a movie I’ll probably never see, “paranormal activity” seems to be the phrase du jour right now. It’s the phrase people use when they want to tell ghost stories, but also want to sound all sciency and stuff. It ranks right up there with another currently popular phrase, “unexplained phenomena.”
Ghosts seem to be very popular right now. After all, we are almost at the culmination of the three-month run up to Halloween. However, there seems to be even more to it. Shows like Ghost Hunters and its myriad clones have made the subject quite popular. Destination Truth now even features cast members from the various Ghost Hunter series, and seems to deal with hauntings more than anything else.
Not to be outdone, the Discovery Channel has come out with it’s own clone – Ghostlab. In the two episodes that have aired the group has investigated two of the locations visited by Ghost Hunters. And, guess what? They found them to be haunted! The leaps of logic and pseudo-science are really, really getting hard to stomach.
When Ghost Hunters first started its seemed that they were more apt to disprove hauntings than to declare a place to be haunted. First you would have some homeowner who, upon hearing a noise under the house, doesn’t say, “Oooh, my pipes are banging, so I probably need a plumber,” but instead says, “Oooh, I hear weird noises under the house so I must have ghosts!” Then it was fun to watch Jason and Grant (who purportedly started out as Roto-Rooter plumbers) tell these folks that they, in fact, don’t have ghosts. They seemed more incredulous that there was nothing going on, and were more willing to believe that they had ghosts. Add to that the on-going soap opera between the show’s stars, and it was entertaining.
However, the producers soon found that NOT finding ghosts doesn’t have the appeal as FINDING them. So, it’s rare these days that the TAPS team goes into a location and doesn’t declare it haunted. The soap opera element of Ghost Hunters seems to be gone, as various cast members have stormed off or been booted off, and the remaining group seems to getting very predictable. If a promo clip shows Steve Gonzales jumping and screaming in reaction to something, you can be sure it’s just a spider he encountered. Booooriinnnng! To make matters worse, TAPS is now being accused of faking their evidence, and some of those arguments are very compelling…
The whole genera seems to have degenerated into incredible leaps of logic and people running from their own shadows. The word “science” can only be used in the loosest possible sense Having shiny technology doesn’t help if you don’t really have an understanding of it’s function, and make assumptions without experimental proof as to what it can detect.
And this is really unfortunate. The genera has/had potential. Tales about ghosts and hauntings are more cultural than scientific, and a chance to explore these tales can give us insight about our own society. Sure, add in some true investigative elements, but at least try to make it legitimate. But, I guess I have to keep in mind that these shows are just that – TV Shows, whose sole purpose is to sell advertisements and provide entertainment. Therefore, science and legitimacy will always come in second to what appeals to the masses.