I’ve watched many major cable channels make a turn away from real, documentary-style programming towards the supernatural and the weird over the last several years. The History Channel once was dominated by World War II and Vietnam documentaries, to the point that it was often referred to as “The Hitler Channel.” Now, it seems to be almost entirely broadcasting weird reality shows like “Pawn Stars,” “Ax Men,” “American Pickers,” and “Swamp People,” begging many questions – what do those shows have to do with history, and why do so many Americans seem enthralled by the shenanigans of often angry working class dudes with unconventional jobs? I work as a meat cutter, if I want to see some dumb ass screaming at another at work, that’s common enough. It’s not what I want to view in my off time.
Most of the other more serious channels are following that trend, too. They’re all turning their backs on the types of shows they once aired in favor of the more popular reality shows, which we all know are pretty much fake, so that’s really strange. If one of these cable channels does broadcast programs about real events like WWII, you can almost bet it’s going to be “The Secret Nazi UFO Connection” or a show about the supernatural. Why? Because that stuff is more interesting to the average boob tube viewer than history or reality. The real reality, not the scripted stuff.
And I understand the appeal. I’ve watched plenty of those shows over the years. I’m into weird stuff, I’ve studied the paranormal and the occult. I’m down with Bigfoot and the Mothman, those things are fun.
But there are a few shows that I really can’t stand, and the ones that irritate me the most are the currently popular ghost hunting series.
“Ghost Adventures” seems to be the most popular, but there are a couple more. They all seem to have essentially the same basic format. A group of ghost hunters go to a reportedly haunted locale and proceed to do “tests” that prove otherworldly beings are present. On “Ghost Adventures,” this is also accomplished by the ridiculously-dressed leader Zac Bagans, who runs around like a drunk frat boy yelling and trying to goad restless spirits into proving they’re present.
Who knew that the only things a person needed to do to stir the departed into action was an Affliction t-shirt, a bad hair cut, and some gauges to measure electrical activity?
Oh yes, about that scientific approach they use (before all of the yelling starts). Since the vast majority of hauntings these clowns investigate are inside occupied buildings of one kind of another, it would seem that finding areas with electrical activity would be pretty common almost everywhere. Same thing about temperature fluctuations. Besides, at what point did people prove that any of that stuff indicates the presence of ghosts? It’s like a bunch of folks collectively decided to believe that we can measure paranormal activity with devices that were never intended for that purpose.
They also use sound recordings to capture the voices of spirits, although in nearly every example I’ve heard, it all sounds like total crap amid a sea of static.
As for all of the running around and loud taunting of spirits that occurs in every episode of a Ghost Adventures – what the fuck, guys? I’d like to believe that ghosts really do exist, and maybe they DO. I don’t know.
I do know that if I was a ghost and had any power in the material world at all, I’d love to snatch Zac Bagans and feed him to Satan’s demonic hoards, just because screaming dorks wearing bad fashions and over-gelled hairdos irritate me. Sadly, I have my doubts that the afterlife works in such ways.
Occasionally, these groups of ghost-annoyers bring along a psychic or two, who almost always proceed to cold read people that have witnessed ghost activity at the site. Again, maybe there are real psychics out there, but these cable spirit-hunters definitely seem to have a flair for the dramatic that borders on acting. Another show (whose name escapes me) consists of a group of college-aged kids, and they generally have an “occult expert” among their dopey ranks. This expert seems to dish out pseudo-Wiccan expertise and uses such brilliant techniques as using the cross to scare off malevolent spirits. Mind blowing.
In any case, I get the appeal of these shows. The production costs involved with following around a few overly dramatic clowns while they psych each other out and run around screaming in the dark HAVE to be about as low as they get, and people love these dumb shows.
And that’s fine, I think lots of silly stuff can be fun to watch from time to time. I just wonder how many viewers actually believe the stuff they’re watching is real. It’s appealing to see “proof” that ghosts are real, because that would verify that death is not the end, and that’s a very appealing idea for most people.