“Can you make a noise if you are here?” “The temperature is dropping and I do not feel well.” “Did someone just touch me?” These are all phrases that will be familiar to you if you have ever seen a ghost hunter show. Ghost hunting programs are a part of the reality television phenomenon and have been on the rise since the early 2000s. Now I will be completely honest, I fully believe in ghosts and I thoroughly enjoy these shows, but what surprises me about these investigations are the high ratings. Studies have shown that only 30% of the American Population actually believes in ghosts and a Pew research study in 2013 found that only 1 in 5 Americans claims to have ever seen or experienced a ghost or other supernatural presence.
So, why do these shows exist and why are they successful? There are several arguments that say these investigations capitalize on our fear of the paranormal and perhaps validate people’s ghostly experiences. Some of these shows are extremely creepy and can be disturbing to the point of being more thrilling than some of the trash movies that are labeled as horror. These programs are also a great place for amateur ghost hunters to learn about new tools to capture believeable and marketable footage.
In the same Pew research mentioned previously, there were also findings that suggest women and persons of ethnic backgrounds are more likely to believe in ghosts. Coming from a Mexican household I can see why more ethnic households embrace spirits. For example, The Day of the Dead Holiday is an entire day revolving around the idea that your deceased family members rise from their graves to enjoy a feast with their living relatives. So even strict Roman Catholic Mexicans believe in the paranormal for just one day, even if they attend mass within the next 24 hours.
With that said, I wanted to take a moment to offer my thoughts on three popular paranormal reality shows. Keep reading for my musings and recommendations!
First up is my personal favorite group of ghost investigators, the men of Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel. Fondly known as the angry, douchebags of the paranormal, the three men (now with two techs) investigate haunted locations from midnight to 6 a.m. Boasting tight muscle shirts and hipster goatees, their footage is captured in the complete darkness (debatable) and is entirely in the green shades of night vision from their cameras. They are known for shouting at ghosts since I guess being an asshole to spirits will provoke them into appearing, but I guess that’s up to the ‘experts.’ They sometimes overreact when getting an intelligent response and always leave the guy that is freaked out by himself. The show features reenactments that are often creepier than the footage they capture, but what they catch often sends chills down my spine. What I do appreciate though, is that it is an entertaining show and when they do seize some compelling evidence they tend to replay it at least three times so the viewer has a chance to experience it for themselves. This is a good one if you are into the paranormal or just enjoy being frightened.
Second to bat is the top rated ghost investigation show on this list, Syfy’s Ghost Hunters. I only have hate for this show, but for the sake of good journalism, I decided to give it another try. This show has not changed and is still as terrible as I initially thought. This series features a nine person team of ghost hunters that is more akin to a paranormal version of Jersey Shore than it is to compelling television. First of all, their footage is shown in black and white but they try to pass it off as night vision. However, it isn’t fooling anyone and any evidence they capture is shown very few times. Not only that, but they don’t stop talking! During the entire episode something would happen and then it would pan back to reaction interviews of them talking about what just happened! If I were a ghost I wouldn’t show myself either, where is the room for me to talk and express myself? My biggest problem is that they are the exact opposite of Ghost Adventures. When some creepy stuff goes down, they hardly react. Watching this again was painful, but I guess since it has been going on for 10 seasons it must have some appeal to someone.
A relatively new kid on the block, Ghost Stalkers (Discovering America Network) has quickly become a new favorite for me. John and Chad are the Walter White and Jesse Pinkman of ghost hunting and this show is fantastic. While Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures can be over (or under) the top and can really give doubt as to the legitimacy of their professions and ghosts in general, Ghost Stalkers brings a certain style to the table that really sells the existence of the afterlife. And if you can get over the almost silly idea that their investigation revolves around the idea of portals that provide a doorway between both worlds and the amateur footage, this show is very rewarding. Both Walter and Jesse…I mean John and Chad take turns being alone in the location by themselves and their reactions are surprisingly genuine, especially Chad’s. They don’t pretend to be tough guys or act like this is an everyday occurrence, they respond as most people would: By screaming and being genuinely afraid of the unknown.