The world is in a paranormal reality show death grip. Flip through the channels. There’s a good chance you’ll run into one of an ass load of ghost searching, alien seeing, bigfoot humping pseudo-documentaries. Why? Because, as a species, we love seeing half-assed programs run by people with no formal scientific, technical, or basic high school grammatical training. Does this stop me from watching this shit? No. So what? I’m part of the problem. Fuck off.
I bet you’re going to say it all started with Ghost Hunters; spawning a dozen copies. I actually blame Ripley’s Believe It or Not. That was pretty much a bullshit freak show. Who wouldn’t try to pass off a monkey head sewn to a fish body as a mermaid? Jack Palance, that’s who. As the original host of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the viewer could tell, without a shadow of a doubt, that Palance didn’t give a shit one way or the other. His eerie, asthmatic “Believe or Not,” was his way of telling the audience to eat shit; he was getting paid either way.
After careful study (drinking and watching TV) and follow up research (drinking and surfing the web) I identified a few common rules that every one of these shows obeys. After that, I celebrated (more drinking).
Rule 1: Paranormal activity is light sensitive
I don’t recall the Ghostbusters ever turning out the lights. Then again, the movie came out when I was a fetus, so I might not remember everything. Somewhere along the line people got it in their noodles that the only way to seek and (rarely) find ghostly activity is to make the entire area shitacularly pitch black. Why? Are you afraid the ghosts will see you? Do spirits really comprehend the difference between night and day? Have there been no ghost sightings in daylight?
It sort of makes sense for Destination Truth, even though at least one of the cast is going to careen off a cliff at some point for lack of adequate lighting. But, when you’re searching around for Blood Feast Island Man you’ll want to shut the lights off. I guess. I don’t know. Does Blood Feast Island Man like the dark?
Rule 2: Did you hear/see that?
Worst offenders: Ghost Hunters franchise, Destination Truth
Every episode and I mean EVERY mother fucking episode, the question “Did you hear that?” or a variation thereof is uttered no less than a thousand times. Guess what the answer is? NO. No, no one heard that. No one is ever going to hear that. The audience doesn’t know what the shit you’re talking about. We hear jack shit.
People, I’ve strained to “hear that.” I’ve paused the DVR and listened to the same scene a dozen times. I NEVER hear what the hell they’re talking about. It’s not just that the sound of the what’s-it-fuck paranormal noise is too soft. Microphones can only pick so much up. It’s the bullshit post production that renders us deaf. That leads me to ….
Rule 3: Deafening background music
Is there a damn reason the mood music has to be so ungodly ear drum raping loud? Of course no one watching is ever really going to hear shit. The fucking volume of the music is turned to 11.
Rule 4: Use bullshit gadgets
It seems like anything can be bastardized into a ghost hunting tool. In the beginning, it was innocent enough; MP3 recorders used for EVPs, camcorders to capture mist on video, and such. Then, it all got weird. They started using custom built tools and misusing existing equipment to sense vibrations, speak to dead people, or… I don’t know, measure dick size.
The main issue is that there is no scientific evidence, whatsoever, that any of this shit does what it’s supposed to, let alone actually work. Take the Ghost Hunters’ K-II meter dealy. It’s supposed to measure the electromagnetic field of a given location. That’s great. So what? How in sphincter’s name is that really supposed to help? No one knows if EMF readings mean monkey spank. There they are, waving this blinking piece of crap around and having virtual orgasms because it lights up from time to time.
Rule 5: Manly fist bumps
Worst offender: Ghost Hunters
I’m not even going to pretend I understand the fist-bump to begin with. It’s like the lazy man’s high-five only gayer. Whatever the reason, it’s almost exclusively a guy thing. I guess that’s why Jay and Grant brush knuckles at the end of every cotton picking show.
Rule 6: Inexplicably hot cast members
Alright, so I’m only naming the ladies. That’s sort of not fair. Well, on the other side of the gender fence there’s…. um… dude, I got nothing. Sorry, there’s not much to choose from. Aside from the strange clique of people who want to bone or be boned by one or all of the male cast, I dare say not one of them is bangable. No. Josh Gates only works if you’re into lumbering Frankenstein-esq guys. Now, this makes total sense:
Rule 7: Fail to account for your environment
Here’s the thing; if you’re doing an investigation in the woods at night (Jersey Devil) or in an old, abandoned whoopee cushion factory, you probably should do a little research as to what creepy crawlies are already hanging around. Ghost Hunters does this off and on, but I think they do a better job at factoring this stuff in after the fact. Destination Truth, however, sucks on toast.
OK, Josh Gates and company are looking for some hairy fanged beast in the forest somewhere. Every mother-chucking moment they hear a noise or see something on the thermal camera they freak the fuck out. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhgggggggggggggggggggggggggggg!!!!
Rule 8: Painfully scripted dialogue
I’m not suggesting that the entire show is scripted. In order to time things right they surely have to make some sort of a loose list of cues. This would, especially, be true for the live Halloween shows. They don’t have the luxury of post production to edit the shit out of the footage. If Dave Tango walks into a wall, he walks into a wall and we’re all better for having seen it.
Rule 9: Misleading smash cuts before a commercial break
Worst offenders: Ghost Hunters franchise, Destination Truth, Most Haunted, Ghost Lab
A successful show wants to build the tension level just before a commercial break. It’s their way of making sure you either make that trip to the keg quickly or hit pause before you go to the can for a monumental dump. CSI, Fringe, Castle, and a butt-ton of other shows have made this into an art. The difference is that these shows have a full fledged script and reward you for hanging around.
Before every god damned commercial break on ALL of these ghost/mystical beast shows someone exclaims, “Oh my GOD!” or “What was that!?” Then the big time suspense music gets jacked up and we go right into a tampax commercial.
But, we constantly get duped. It’s all bullshit! It always ends up being something completely retarded. OMG WHAT WAS THAT??!! It was a mouse taking a shit. It was a spider web making Steve piss his pants. Any way you slice it, it’s complete and utter moose piss.
Rule 10: The investigation can only last a few hours
Worst offenders: Ghost Hunters franchise, Destination Truth, Most Haunted, Ghost… fuck it… all of them.
How, exactly, are you supposed to prove or disprove paranormal activity by devoting a whopping 12 hours to the investigation? Shit, the IRA peace process took decades to hammer out. Alright, so that looks like it’s going to shit, but imagine how much worse it would be if they crammed everything into six hours.
Spending a few hours in a “haunted” museum or the New Jersey Pine Barrens looking for the Jersey Devil isn’t going to do jack. Sure, they catch the odd piece of evidence here and there (something Ghost Hunters is a lot better at), but they just don’t devote enough time for a thorough investigation. I’m pretty sure the ghosts at the Winchester Mansion aren’t going to show up all at once just because Jay and Grant have a tight window.
All in all, these shows are doing pretty well, even though what they’re doing isn’t an exact science. Frankly, lots of it is just plain batshit nuts. Still, there’s more truth to these shows than anything on E!