The Cowardly Lion had it right: I do believe in spooks.

Remember me?

Remember me?

I was watching the latest episode of Being Human last night – one of those nice Monday evening rituals my fiancée and I have – when I was struck by something during a commercial break.  No, not how much better the original BBC version is over the Syfy remake, and no I don’t want to hear any arguments about it one way or the other (I’ve watched the British iteration of the show, and I still like the American one better); I saw a commercial for Ghost Hunters, which has been running since 2004 on Syfy, back when it was still just known as the Sci-Fi Channel.

Won't be the same without you, buddy.

Won't be the same without you, buddy.

I’ve been watching that show since the beginning.  I just happened to catch the pilot during the first season eight years ago, and I was hooked to the point of setting up my parents’ DVR to record it so I’d have something to watch whenever I visited them.  Nearly a decade later I’m still watching the show, but this year is different – one of the main forces behind the show and co-founder of The Atlantic Paranormal Society, Grant Wilson, is no longer going to be involved anymore, as he’s leaving for personal reasons.

To me, not being able to see Grant any more after the next few weeks of Ghost Hunters, especially after seeing him pretty much non-stop for the past eight years, is going to be like losing a friend.  Sure, I’ve never met the guy and I never will, but that doesn’t mean I won’t miss seeing him on the show.

Of course, openly admitting that I’ve been a loyal Ghost Hunters viewer opens me up to all kinds of criticisms, but I’m not really bothered by that.  I was originally drawn to the show because of how TAPS purportedly uses investigative methods that are more scientific than a lot of paranormal investigators out there, though I was disappointed that none of them ran around with unlicensed particle accelerators strapped to their backs.  I’m not afraid to admit that I believe in the possibility of paranormal phenomena, especially since I think that there’s a scientific explanation for everything and that we just have to discover it.

A belief in the paranormal isn’t incompatible with a rational world-view, as long as you’re willing to take evidence at face value that proves – or disproves – those beliefs.  It’s part of secular humanism, which is what I would describe myself as believing in, if there was a gun to my head: while humanism does as a rule reject supernatural views of reality and instead seeks to establish an ethical way of living independent of religious thought, it also rejects dogmatic approaches, which leaves room for investigating our environment in order to gain a more perfect understanding of it (and before the hate mail starts, I respect your religious choice, so you respect the choice I’ve made over my own personal belief system.  Just because it doesn’t have its roots in a set of books thousands of years old doesn’t make it any less of a valid choice).

Here’s an example of what I mean by approaching the supernatural in a rational light: a lot of the time you’ll see shows like Ghost Hunters using electromagnetic field detectors while they’re investigating a site, as very high EM fields can sometimes lead to people with electromagnetic hypersensitivity to developing physiological changes that can lead them to feeling anxious and paranoid and even to experience hallucinations, which can then be interpreted as having paranormal experiences, especially if these hypersensitive people are exposed for long periods of time to high EM fields.

Other researchers feel that high EMF readings may also indicate the “presence of a spirit” nearby, especially if an EM reading suddenly jumps for no apparent reason and then subsides, especially in places where there are no live power lines.  Now I’m not a scientist, but I did always think that instead of a ghost being someone’s “spirit,” it could always be an imprint or an after-image left behind by someone who spent a lot of time or experienced strong emotions in a certain locale, kind of like an echo given off by the electromagnetic field of their own body.  I can see something like this causing what people call “residual hauntings,” though I’m more than a little skeptical of these hauntings lasting decades or even centuries after a person’s demise – what the hell could possibly be keeping that residual EM field cohesive for such a long period of time?  It seems incredibly unlikely, as the energy needed to accomplish something like that would be huge.

I just saw the ghost of my career.

I just saw the ghost of my career.

These are the kinds of things I would look into if I was running one of these paranormal investigation groups. If anything, TAPS needs to be more scientifically rigorous than they currently are, especially if they want to be taken more seriously by the scientific community.  I remember watching older episodes when they would bring in people who were supposedly “sensitive” or who would use dowsing rods and I just kind of rolled my eyes; thankfully they put an end to that and concentrate more on audio and video evidence, but they still have a ways to go.  It’s obvious that the show is more about entertainment than anything else at this point, and that’s fine.  I mean, who didn’t enjoy the hell out of watching the one episode where Meat Loaf was running around in the dark at an abandoned steel mill with a film crew at his back?  Bob might have bitch tits, but he’s got a set of brass balls to appear on that show.

Plus, I just love a good scare.  That’s why I’ve been following the Republican Presidential Primary race so closely.

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7 thoughts on “The Cowardly Lion had it right: I do believe in spooks.

  1. Heheh, OH Dave, you still know what I like. I fondly remember all the spooky goings on of my youth when I had larger testicles and a smaller (though still prevalent) gut.

    Anyway, all history Aside, I like the show and used to watch it constantly.

    But I think something dishonest is going on within that show.

    See, for many seasons the show was all about what IMHO must have been legitimate events, whether they were spooks or not is up to the viewer obviously, but in other words, at least the attempt to get evidence was honest.

    In one season however, something changed, all of the sudden Grant and whatsisname would always be alone together, and all the coolest stuff happened to them, and rarely was it ever on camera.

    In one episode Clothes hangers fly out of a closet over one of their shoulders, and from the angles it really looks suspicious like one of them tossed them. It’s hard to BS a BS’er… know what i mean? Not that everything I experienced or was part of was BS mind you… but ah, thats a convo for another time.

    Anyway, since that started the trend has only continued and gotten worse.

    I think Syfy told them – “look, enough with the spooky EVP’s and thumps and crap. Get us, or make for us, something good, or your slipping ratings will mean we air more episodes of Stargate, or one of the hundreds of Lou Diamond Phillips movies (or ironically more stargate universe) and we all know nobody wants that!”

    So I think they fake stuff now, not everything, but some of it. The minute I think that and see no end to the trend that indicates that, the minute I lose respect for them.

    Similarly, as a part Time Nerd (I do wear glasses these days you know), I take exception to some of the stuff that other paranormal groups affiliated with them work with is stuff like ORBS and RODS which are easily explained artifacts caused by either lighting making dust glow, or filming flying insects with the right frame rate.

    To be fair I think they have broken ties with the local groups (either due to success or legal reasons) but still.

    Bottom line, every single bit of evidence they find can be easily faked, especially in the newer seasons. The stuff in the older seasons, while still plausibly fake, holds some, unexplainable air of truth to it.

    The one episode where they are in a lighthouse and you can see the shadow (SHADOW!) move at the top was pretty convincing. Or the one with the Shadow that runs at the camera and back away in the Prison.

    But again, it’s still entertaining, I mean if your like me and enjoy watching a show for an hour or whatever just to see if that bump in the night is just the cat, or really a spook.

    For me, who’s house was haunted till we got a dog, it’s fun to see other people freak out to stuff that used to happen all the time (stuff flying out of cabinets, pictures flying off walls, doors and walls sounding like they are being slapped when no one is is awake to do it… ).

    Thankfully my house never said “GET OUT.” or i’d probably revert to old school dan and sit in my living room in the middle of a pentagram with a necronomicon a bible and a Mr rogers Mix tape playing on the stereo.

    • PS if you read all that, please understand I need help, I always write too much… I just wrote a chapter in a story I’m working on, and while I need to take a break from that I find my fingers won’t stop… HELP.

    • I wouldn’t fuck with that Mister Rogers stuff, man – that is pure fucking evil. Nobody should be that calm. He must have had a whole closet filled with cardigan sweaters made from human skin or something.

      You know it’s funny you mention the lighthouse episode, where they see the shadow messing with them up on the spiral staircase. Absolutely hands-down one of my favorites, and I’m sad that the show has kind of moved away from that kind of stuff and more into a kind of cookie-cutter presentation. I liked the earlier episodes a bit more as well because there was more personal information about the investigators, and I liked the interplay between them. I can understand wanting to keep your personal lives and your professional lives separate, but the whole thing has sort of become much too polished and slick.

      While I certainly hope they’re not faking evidence, there’s always the possibility of it. I mean it’s one thing to say you’re the only people in the house, but unless you’ve got the cameraman with both investigators in frame all the time, with their hands in plain view… well you can’t really say that it’s a show about scientific accuracy any more. It’s about 85% pure entertainment at this point.

      • Yup, I think that sums up my extravagantly long post: “It’s about 85% pure entertainment at this point.”

        Thanks for the writing encouragement, I plan on sending you something soon about what I’m writing in fact, I feel like reading your blogs is helping alleviate my 10 years long writers block.

        No kidding, last time I wrote anything beyond the first paragraph of a story was ten years.

        I think my problem lies in my tendency to over analyze things, I write good political commentary and analysis for this reason (if you can stomach to read it all the way anyway), but when writing fiction I find myself constantly second guessing the logic of not just my plot, but the details of the back story of characters, and rules for how new concepts work, like if was doing a vampire story, I had to explain why vampires are effected by silver, in detail and often end up deciding it’s too impossible to suspend my own disbelief, which cripples my creativity.

        It is a weird, debilitating obsession. You have a writing education I think right? Is there a clinical term for that kind of problem or tips on how to overcome it?

        This current story is somehow not running into those problems, either I’m having a breakthrough, or I’m doomed to smack into the rocks any second.

        I should probably try and keep it down to short story length to be easier to sell, but I am not sure I can do that, maybe I can alter it to be a series of short stories. The cool thing with the concept is that there is room in the setting and plot to have an almost World War Z style anthology thing going on if I wanted too… Anyway, I’m doing it again… *smacks hands*

        Anyway Looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Writing is just like working out – you’re developing a muscle. However, just like at the gym, you sometimes need to pay attention so you don’t develop bad habits that take a while to unlearn.

    The best thing to really do is constantly read and write, and then find some poor schmuck willing to look over your stuff with the ruthless precision of a surgeon excising cancer cells. A good friend and colleague of mine who’s not only a published author in his own right but also has an MFA in Creative Writing (versus my MA in English Literature, which has less of a focus on the technicality of writing than an MFA does), has been volunteering his services as an editor, and it’s made a huge difference in the quality of my own writing.

    So if you want someone to take a look at your stuff, feel free to send it along sometime! Just expect back a metric ass-ton of notes on it.

  3. Pingback: I’m not trying to be a dick, but I think you’re all just a little fucking crazy. « Amateur Professional

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