Press your spaceface close to mine

Ratings Hunters

Posted by Sunday on May 3, 2008 at 5:49 pm in TV, Weird Science

If I have ever claimed to be a good scientist, I hereby rescind. I draw conclusions too early, I extrapolate and hypothesize without facts. I have a tendency to resort to Occam’s Razor as an explanation for everything from why brown jelly is coming out of my nose (sinus infection) to why space human space travel isn’t yet a viable reality (an alien race has made a complicated political pact with the government restricting our passage off planet).

On the other hand, I think it takes a mediocre scientist to acknowledge that they are not being a good scientist. And as a mediocre scientist, I have this to say:

I love TV, but it’s making for some seriously fucked up science.

Today I was sitting around, minding my own business, choking on some post-nasal brown jelly when I decided to watch a TV show called Ghost Hunters. It claimed to be about paranormal researchers whose exploits are captured on film. Great! Two of my favorite scary things, paranormal activity and documentary video.

Joke’s on me!

I’m naive, I know. It is true that I thought the show was going to be a delightful combination of science (EMF detectors!) and paranormal (Deanna Troi stand-ins!), where some flouncy, ringlet-haired older medium would declare that she felt some kind of disturbance in the force, and then Egon Spengler would approach and say “My electromagnetic bi-planar disambiguator is off the charts!” and then I’d feel the delighted chill that all godless heathens feel when we pretend like we believe in things beyond the apparent.

Instead what we have are a team of “investigators” who are part-time plumbers and I don’t know, car stereo installers or something. Which isn’t to say that these people can’t be paranormal investigators, only that I expected more than some dudes from the Brooklyn or whatever walking into buildings, listening to the local’s stories about a place and then turning out the lights and going, “Did you hear that?”

(I’m very distracted from writing right now because I can see and more importantly HEAR my single middle-aged female neighbor lip-synching and performing to Celine Dion, during which she walked over to her balcony and emptied her ashtray onto the flower bed.)

There are so many things wrong with Ghost Hunters I’m not certain where to start. Well, most importantly: it is just terrible, terrible science. I know, I know, terrible science in a paranormal investigation show? But gimme a break here – I’ve experienced paranormal or unexplainable events before, that doesn’t mean I don’t respect scientific method. It just means I don’t understand what happened. But even the set-up is bad: the crew of the show arrives at a location where locals tell them all the stories of paranormal activities they can think of. So now you have a group of people that are utterly predisposed to experience those exact events, undoubtedly to the exclusion of other possible events. Which is to say, if you tell someone there are voices heard in a bedroom, that person will then try to hear those voices. What if something else happens, like a vase moves or a cold spot forms? Chances are, the observer will not even recognize an event because it wasn’t what they were expecting. And the flip side, if nothing happens at all in that room, the observer will still most certainly be straining to make order of the white noise, order I have no doubt their brain will provide.

Additionally, the “investigators” seem, and please forgive me, but they they seem a little slow. In the brain region. In one of the shows a character is describing a bar as having once been a speakeasy, to which another adult, American man says “What’s that?”

For the most part, poor production choices are the greatest failure of the show. Tense, quiet moments are overloaded with sound effects. Scenes are shot and cut badly in order to create a sense of frenetic danger. It all goes to cement what one might suspect of the show: that what we’re actually watching is about 25 minutes worth of someone’s home video of a moody locale. Made into a one hour Sci-Fi Channel show.

But I don’t want a bunch of perfectly staid, buttondown disbelievers going in, either. I actually want to watch these freaked out people rooting around in an old hotel attic – I just want them to turn off the goddamn “Spooky Halloween Sounds” record played over the show and focus on the things that are really happening. How about you have a “guide,” or an agreed-upon middleman who arranges for the investigation and knows what has been happening. The person who knows that someone was hung to death in the bell tower. Then that “guide” takes the crew all through the building and has them check out all the rooms. That way, when no one notices anything interesting about the bell tower, we can say with a vague sense of conclusion “There’s nothing spooky going on in the bell tower.” Or, excitingly, “I felt weird in the bell tower,” “Hey, me too!” and then the guide can reveal: someone was hung to death in there! Wouldn’t that be fun pseudoscience? I think so.

Watch a few episodes of Ghost Hunter at, in the event you don’t have the Sci-Fi Channel.

The Atlantic Paranormal Society, the group that the TV show films. Take note of the “TAPS Mentality” page where they write, “ Remember, though we like to have fun, we understand the fear and the seriousness of your situation. We are after all, normal people. Heck, I don’t think we even watch Star Trek. ha ha ha.” Ha ha ha indeed, people who have a TV show on the Sci-Fi Channel.

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May 3rd, 2008 | TV, Weird Science

5 Responses to “Ratings Hunters”

  1. xadrian Says:

    Thanks for covering this. I see ads for it all the time, but I’m always leery of these shows. There’s not been a one that has satisfied my desire to see actual ghosts. All these shows are like the second unit on a Geraldo “discovery” special. Nothing important ever happens and we’re all left with that same feeling you get when you try to crack your bones and they don’t crack.

  2. subspace Says:

    You’re welcome, any time.

    I didn’t even really rant about one of the things that bothered me the most about the show: the investigators rely heavily on asking the spirits to knock on something, which means that any time someone asks “If you are here, knock once” and then there is a distant creaking, clunking, bonking, crackle or pop, they replay it 3 times at top volume and then show everyone’s reaction. It reminds me of parents playing peek-a-boo. Except not as fun.

  3. CmdrSue Says:

    I hate to tell you, but about 10 percent of my hits are from people looking for Ghost Hunters Fan Fiction. And I don’t even have any.

  4. subspace Says:

    Seriously? That’s hilarious! Honestly, I just laughed. Out loud.

  5. CmdrSue Says:

    The only search I get more hits for is Looney Tunes (George). Just looking at two pages of my current site meter I have Ghost Hunters at #20, 21, 23, 24, & 27 – so that is 4 of the most recent 40. It has pretty much stayed that way since the first time I mentioned them. As Soogle I have sympathy so I refer them to an actual Ghost Hunter fan fiction site.

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