Ghost Hunters 5.10: "I am Not Guilty"

As I mentioned in the review for the previous episode, it felt like the first batch of fifth season episodes back in the spring of 2009 had been designed to distance TAPS from the controversies of the Halloween 2008 debacle. Perhaps the team (or Pilgrim Films) is no longer worried about the effect of those fresh allegations of fraud, or they believe that enough time has passed, because these latest episodes have been full of controversy.

Some of it is, quite frankly, a bit ridiculous. A lot of attention has been paid to the bathroom plumbing scene from the beginning of the previous episode. Critics contend that this is the bathroom at the TAPS office, and that staging their supposed day jobs is proof positive that the entire production is a fraud.

This is just plain silly. While one can argue over the authenticity of the investigative footage, it’s never been a secret that most of the rest of the footage is staged for television purposes. It’s standard for any reality TV program. In many cases, the tours of the site are filmed after the investigation to ensure that the client highlights areas that will likely be shown in the final cut of the investigative footage. The drive-in rundowns are conducted once all the investigators arrive on the site separately, using vehicles provided to the production for that purpose. Even some conversations during an investigation are recreated so they can be captured on film, if they weren’t already.

More to the point of the current situation, of course Jason and Grant are only playing plumbers on TV at this point. It’s part of the promotional aspect of the show. Did anyone really think that those scenes were remotely authentic? When the show was just a 10-episode test season some years ago, they were still plumbers on the job. Pragmatically speaking, that had to change to adjust to the demands and realities of the production. Roto-Rooter, being a fairly intelligent company, would happily keep them in a particular role within the organization in exchange for a certain portrayal in the series. It’s tons of free publicity.

My larger point is that it should never be forgotten, by anyone on either side of the argument, that this is a television production, first and foremost. It can only be considered a reflection of reality to a certain, very specific degree. In fact, as many have said over the years, the presence of so many production personnel inevitably alters the conditions of an investigation, no matter what TAPS might do to adjust for that factor. For the same reasons, the “evidence” will always be questionable at best, as it is edited and packaged for entertainment. This nonsense about a bathroom scene is immaterial, because in the end, nothing shown on the series could ever be taken as proof positive of the paranormal.

Case #1: Samuel Mudd House, MD

I can just imagine what kind of reactions will come from the thermal footage in this episode. Let’s face it: the image looks remarkably like a man with a jacket over his head, running in front of the FLIR camera. Even Jason and Grant point out that it looks exactly like a live human being. Yet, they also say no one was there, because it would have been readily apparent. And they swear that they were alone (not counting the camera crew standing behind them).

Here’s the problem. It would be easy enough to point to the footage of them walking into the yard and note that there was no one visible in the IR footage. Just based on the apparent angles, they should have been visible if they were there. But there’s also no way to prove that the footage of them walking into the yard was filmed at the exact same time that the thermal image was caught. It could easily have been spliced into the segment by the editors after the fact. As I mentioned earlier, this is done all the time for continuity purposes, so comparing the production IR footage to the FLIR footage won’t resolve the matter.

Unfortunately, nothing will, so it all comes down to Jason and Grant’s word. And that’s where all these credibility questions once again come into play. The faithful will accept their word; the critics and naysayers won’t. And as always, I can’t help but suspect that Pilgrim Films is happy to maintain that middle ground, because the controversy helps the ratings.

The EVP was, in my opinion, very hard to make out, and while I would agree that they made the necessary disclaimers, it’s obvious where the client was going to take that interpretation and run with it.

I was also a bit annoyed with the fact that Jason and Grant had so many personal experiences with being touched and seemingly humid, charged spots in the air, yet they didn’t have any equipment to check and verify those changes. Where was the equipment? Say what you will about GHI, but I guarantee Barry would have whipped out a barometer and tri-field meter before you could blink.

Case #2: Edgewood Planation, VA

The EMF readings in this case were a bit more interesting. I’ve run into similar situations before, where an object or space has had an unexpectedly high reading (wooden chairs, tables, etc.). Unfortunately, using a K-II Meter to investigate such a thing is not wise. The manufacturer admits that the device is not calibrated (despite the claims of Chris Fleming and others that it is) and that the readings may not be indicative of the strength of an EMF field. In other words, a low-level field might set off all the lights, while a high-level field might barely register.

I’m also found it unfortunate that Jason and Grant didn’t make the meaning of Kris’ research more clear. It’s one thing to find a name in historical records; it’s another to link that with any confidence to sketchy reported activity. They had no actual “evidence”, after all! I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume this was a matter of client management. I’m not sure the client would have wanted to have her excitement tempered.

So far, the latest segment of the season seems to be delving back into areas that I’ve never enjoyed. I think they’ve become far too reliant on a few select pieces of equipment, and it shows. They seemed to be on the right track earlier in the season, so I’m not sure why they would take such a disappointing step backwards.


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