I Still Watch Ghost Hunters… So what?

For several years now there has been a bit of tension and controversy regarding paranormal investigation and the hit SyFy reality show, Ghost Hunters. The production team and crew follow The Atlantic Paranormal Society (T.A.P.S.), founded by Jason Hawes in 1990, on their paranormal journeys. The series kicked off its first season in 2004, but I probably didn’t start watching consistently until the second or third season. I’ve since caught up on all of the episodes I’ve missed, and I’m still a fan that watches religiously. In 2008 SyFy even produced a spin-off series, Ghost Hunters International. Many similar shows on various networks have come and gone, but both of these shows are still going strong. At this point it would be pretty hard to believe that anyone reading this blog wouldn’t at least know something about T.A.P.S. or Ghost Hunters.

So where does the controversy come in?

I’m convinced that most of the negativity toward T.A.P.S. among many in the paranormal is due to a kind of jealousy. Paranormal investigation and “ghost hunting” (a term I actually despise) existed years before the hit show, but it has helped to create what I’ve been calling “The Great Paranormal Craze” of the 2000s. This craze seems to be slowing down just a bit (or at least shifting more to things like bigfoot and aliens), but is still very much with us. At one time, a paranormal investigation team may have been hard to find, but now there are thousands of organized paranormal investigation or “ghost hunting” (probably a name more appropriate for most of them) groups out there. Many, or most of these groups were inspired to do what they do because of what they were now seeing on TV. For better or worse, these newbie groups that I’ll call the “Ghost Hunters Generation”, have been demanding a place to sit at the paranormal table, taking away much of the spotlight and attention from all of the veterans.

I have to be honest here. I’m a member of the Ghost Hunters generation of paranormal investigation. The show inspired me and my family to form our own group, Missouri Spirit Seekers (MOSS). While it would have been nice to be able to say that I got my start before the craze, it would simply be a lie. I know that many great investigators out there are ashamed to own up to it, or afraid to admit to how it all influenced them, but chances are they’ll be home on Wednesday nights watching the latest episode. Is there really that much wrong with it? 

In a way, I really can understand some of the jealousy from veteran groups. After all, what paranormal investigator doing all of this hard work for FREE wouldn’t be jealous of the people who get to be in the spotlight, quit their day job, and make a living doing it?? Although maybe “concern” would also be an appropriate word to use here. We all have to start somewhere, but clearly there are groups out there that have earned a reputation for being nothing more than thrill seekers and rednecks that jump in a truck with a few meters they bought online, possibly bundled together in a flashy package named a “Ghost Hunting Kit”… groups that don’t take the time to read current research, read books by the pioneers of the field and current knowledgeable authors… groups that go out and have their fun, trash the site, and then you never hear from them again. Yeah… Ghost Hunters has definitely had its side effects.  Don’t misunderstand me. There’s room for everyone. I was one of those newbies. We just need to do a better job of educating and training each other, and making sure we work on our image and how we present ourselves. Maybe we shouldn’t show up in overalls and hop out of the window of our Dukes of Hazard car. 

But possibly the biggest piece of the controversy involve the claims floating around the internet that T.A.P.S. has faked evidence and overly staged experiences. In a very popular post from earlier this year, one blogger and investigator claims that they’ve even left a script lying around after leaving a location… and it’s all for the cameras (the SyFy kind). You don’t have to search long to find videos and blogs from people going out of their way to expose T.A.P.S. as frauds. Do I believe it all? Absolutely not. Like I said… jealousy. But… no one should ever expect to find evidence of the paranormal at every single investigation, but when you have a TV show and ratings, I can certainly understand where there would be the pressure and the temptation to keep things exciting. I often wonder though… who runs the show in these investigations? The production crew? Or are they just along for the ride and Jason runs the whole show? 

Why I continue to watch… 

After getting started in the field it didn’t take long for me to realize that the experience of it all isn’t exactly as you see on TV. Sure, at first many of us modeled our groups after what we saw. We have “founders”, “tech. managers”, “specialists”, “command central”, etc. We hear “disembodied voices”, investigate “fear cages”, “debunk” what we can, and classify some experiences as “residual”, for example. Some of us even have “reveals”. And boy do we all have our official sounding acronyms. Ghost Hunters may have been our first textbook on the subject, but we’ve grown a lot since then with real experiences and research. Well, at least I have.

The first couple of seasons were definitely a little more authentic, and in my opinion, more fun to watch. You’d see more of the behind the scenes activity, more of the investigating, not just the dramatic evidence and their reactions (“What the frig?!”). I don’t have proof that T.A.P.S. has or hasn’t faked or staged evidence for the cameras, but I want to believe it’s not true. I want to believe that when the crew or the cameras are absent, they take their work seriously. I want to believe that their analysis is more than just a couple of hours of sitting at a table with some headphones. I want to believe that they still help the desperate family in need on occasion. I get excited to come home from a long day and watch the personalities that I’ve become so familiar with. And yeah, I LOVE the good evidence and the great EVP! But when I watch now I’m not immediately sold on everything I see. I’ve picked up a few techniques and have learned to avoid some of the embarrassing ones. I take notes. 

Bottom line is… why do I watch Ghost Hunters? BECAUSE I LIKE IT… and it’s better than another cop show… 

This week’s all new episode for Season 8

For a lot of serious fans, this episode stood out as the first investigation without the longtime co-founder of the group, Grant Wilson. Before I watched I was curious to see if they would shake the usual pairs up and if any of their typical roles would change. Spoiler alert!! In general, it was a very exciting episode! They investigated the Old City Jail in Charleston, South Carolina. The jail is supposedly haunted by the spirit of the facility’s first female serial killer. Never before has an episode contained so much alleged physical contact from a spirit. A behind the scenes SyFy crew member continued to be scratched all over her body. Do I 100% believe it all? I’m not sure… but I couldn’t help thinking that it was a bit irresponsible to continue with the crew member as they seemed to encourage it to keep happening. Jason was even the victim of some scratches. Amy Bruni (who is pregnant) eventually decided to sit the rest of the investigation out due to feeling uncomfortable with the activity. And of course, the claims at this location were choking, scratching, rope burns, and bite marks, mostly reported by women. T.A.P.S. saw shadows, heard door slams, footsteps, and a disembodied voice. They captured a not very impressive EVP, but the big event and topic for the evening was all of the endless dramatic scratching. For a while I thought I was watching Ghost Adventures. I kept waiting for the demonologist to show up. 🙂

Here are some of the new and different things I noticed with this week’s episode. 

  • New graphics with lots of split screens (reminded me of Carrie).
  • New music and audio effects with a slightly different style.
  • Twitter handles displayed on screen during the interview sections.
  • A more relaxed “analysis” portion. They ditched the table and much of the equipment in favor of some more comfortable furniture. 
  • It appears Dave Tango may have moved into the tech. manager position. Jason and Steve Galves started the evening out paired together, hinting at Steve possibly taking the “Grant” role. 
  • Britt Griffith and Dave Tango were paired together. Is Britt now going to appear regularly? 
  • Amy Bruni and Adam Berry (who is apparently STILL “in training”) seem to be paired up again. 
  • A new shadow detector gadget.

 

DVR is already set for next week!

 

Peace!

 

About Patrick Keller

Patrick Keller is an educator, blogger, and the host of the Big Séance Podcast, which is a place for paranerds to have an open discussion on all things paranormal, but specifically topics like ghosts and hauntings, paranormal research, spirit communication, psychics and mediums, and life after death. He’s the founder of the now inactive Missouri Spirit Seekers and has spent a lot of time experimenting with spirit communication tools and techniques, such as EVP. Patrick also has a passion for spending hours at a time in cemeteries and loves cemetery photography. Visit BigSeance.com! View all posts by Patrick Keller

12 responses to “I Still Watch Ghost Hunters… So what?

  • Randall Keller

    I was up late – couldn’t sleep, trying to do some writing, when my phone beeped at me, breaking the silence with it’s usual notification. Patrick has something to say, I thought! Well, there is an hour’s time difference, so I guess he’s not up too late – better go see what’s up. So now, I have to confess two things.

    First, I also watch every episode. I watch as many “ghost hunter” shows as I can. I too hate the moniker “ghost hunter” but just like you, i LIKE THE SHOWS! And you never know when you just might learn something. I also haven’t the slightest idea whether tv shows fake or stage, but then I don’t watch them to exercise my need to police the world and point at someone else’s hypocrisy (not to mention my own, of course). They’re tv shows, right? They’re supposed to be entertaining. And frankly, I am entertained. I really hate the attitude some people in the field have when all of a sudden they have too much integrity to watch TAPS. “Blow it out your… Its Wednesday night – get off my phone, I have a show to watch.”

    The second thing I feel compelled to confess to? I liked this slightly new version of the show. You’re right, it’s not the same as 2004 (I discovered the show on episode 2), but it was getting tired. My need for being entertained needed something different. Last night’s episode gave me that, so I am happy once again.

    And finally (I know, this is number 3 – I lied) – “Right on!” All that stuff about paranormal groups (different than teams, you know) was on the money. This reply of mine is way too long, but I was compelled, and compulsion is a powerful thing, so forgive the excess, and “on to the next one.”

    PEACE TOO!

    • Patrick

      Oh no! Now I’m never going to publish one of these late at night again… because now I know it’s going to BEEP at people while they’re sleeping. 🙂 I really kind of liked the new refreshing changes as well. I guess I didn’t point that out.

      Oh, and you also have a blog post on this very topic, right? Throw it in here in a comment so people can check it out!

      Peace Peace Peace!

  • Brandie Sellers

    I like these types of shows, too. I like the Ghost Adventure show as well (i think that’s what it’s called?). I have to say, I kind of like that the ghost hunting craze has come about. It’s just another way of shifting our consciousness and allowing the “weird” stuff we believe in to be more acceptable and main stream. Think of The Spiritualist Movement back in the 1800’s. I suppose it’s kind of like that.

    • Patrick

      In the past, Ghost Adventures has really bugged me and I avoided it. After watching an episode to prepare for our Fort Chaffee Prison investigation, it started to grow on me. I’ve watched several episodes since then. And I very much concur with the shifting consciousness and new Spiritualist movement thing.

  • Diana

    I’ve heard some older respected investigators say they were on GHs and saw fakery. Maybe that’s why Grant booked.

  • Nostalgic Reviewer

    Try watching Ghost Adventures. I’ve watched Ghost Hunters International and little of T.A.P.S. I’d say Ghost Adventures is the best of the lot. They don’t require very complicated set ups. It’s just the three of them investigating on most of their episodes.

    • Patrick Keller

      I’m sorry I didn’t respond to you back in September. Guess what? I’ve been catching up on several of the old Ghost Adventures seasons, along with staying up to date with the new episodes. I think a lot of their old episodes are really childish, but the current episodes seem to be getting better.

  • NetherRealm

    For me, the Queen Mary episode was VERY controversial. It was arranged by a friend of mine who had lots of personal experiences as a tour guide, and knew of many others who did, including myself.
    Honestly, both “resident investigators and (cough-cough-gag) psychic” really blew it, and so did TAPS. TAPS didn’t get enough real history, and were told B340 was a real room when the ship sailed. It was a room built up by Disney back in 1989 for their cheezy Ghosts, Myths, and Legends Show. For the resident paranormal people to misinform TAPS led to the dismal ending of the episode where they said the ship wasn’t haunted.
    I have several of the resident spirits still visiting me, all the way up until yesterday. I’ve got over a hundred class A and B EVP from the Queen Mary. I’ve been shoved violently in front of a tour group when I worked there. Everyone saw the spirit who was doing it to me.
    Too bad Queen Mary management didn’t contact me to be part of the episode. Everyone would have gotten an eye full.
    I’ve been slightly soured by what little they get. Even the San Juan Capistrano Mission episode yielded personal experiences that they didn’t present to the docents. A friend’s 9 year old daughter got more EVP on a recent visit than TAPS did.
    I think it’s all about your mentality when you go into a location. Sometimes they express negativity, and have their anti-psychic attitude. That sours the spirits on wanting to approach them.
    I watch the show for the history, and the entertainment factor.
    I’m a Haunted Collector and Paranormal Witness fan.

    • Patrick Keller

      Nothing like coming back to reply two months later, huh? 🙂 My biggest issue with Ghost Hunters right now is that they still pretend that all of these businesses and locations need for T.A.P.S. to come to “check things out so they can put their employees at ease”… or… “Is our place haunted?”, as if they didn’t have producers scouring the country for places to investigate for the purpose of the show. So setup and staged. And the concept of investigating purely to tell someone if their home is haunted or not seems weird to me. Give them your evidence and let them make up their own minds. I still do enjoy watching T.A.P.S. investigate though. They were my first. 🙂

  • John

    This Salem ghost tour said that a few shows have filmed in Salem. Can you tell me which ones so I can try to find them on Youtube?

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