Ghost Hunters 5.11: "Civil War Spirits"

Perception is everything, and right now, TAPS has a perception problem. I’ve mentioned it several times since the 2008 Halloween special, even if I’m unwilling to pronounce judgment on them based on apparent guilt. I keep mentioning it because each and every episode is now grounds for a public relations war.

Case in point: the supposed thermal hit in the previous episode set off another round of accusations that TAPS is committing fraud and faking their “evidence”. I’ve taken note of several people who have claimed that this was, for them, the final straw. I must also admit that I can’t imagine how that thermal footage could possibly be anything but a living human being, given the obvious heat signature of the figure. (And I’ve been on the record as highly skeptical whenever such figures appear on thermal hits, since the equipment only registers surface temperatures.)

What does that have to do with this episode? It’s simple. The past two episodes have reminded a number of fans, the ones on the fence after the Fort Delaware debacle, of all their fears and suspicions. Those fears don’t even have to be true for them to be reinforced by footage that seems the slightest bit ingenuous.

During the first case in this episode, I saw several instances where the team seemed like they were trying way too hard to sell the idea that they had caught something extraordinary. They’ve caught similar activity in the past, so the reactions of some of the investigators (particularly Grant) felt well out of proportion. It felt like they were, in fact, putting on a show.

Does that mean that it was all manufactured? Not necessarily. A couple of things could logically be at play. The production company could have requested that the team be more effusive about the “evidence” this time around, so it would play well in the final edit. And the editing was very poor and choppy for that case, which might have exacerbated the feeling that things did not feel genuine.

In better circumstances, however, this would have been easily overlooked. There wouldn’t so much scrutiny or suspicion. But TAPS is in the middle of a public relations war, and so this will be another case ripe for controversy. I’m waiting for the first time I read a post or article where someone suggests that Jason’s digital recorder was really a remote switch for the flashlight, because it’s inevitable.

Case #1: Thornbury Farm, PA

I’m not sure what to think of the flashlight incident, especially when there was a coincidental EVP of laughter at the same time. That’s usually the kind of thing that investigators want to see: more than one piece of data that corroborates the client’s report of activity. Similarly, there was the recorded AVP (Audible Voice Phenomenon) that matched the claims of the client almost to a tee.

Yet I’m still on the fence. It just didn’t seem to ring true. If anything, it seemed to be a bit too convenient and designed for presentation. That said, I feel like I’m being a bit unfair to the investigation as a whole, because I really don’t have any technical or substantial objections to what was presented.

Case #2: Lee-Fendell House, VA

This is another example of how the show format is becoming predictable. The second case never seems to have any substantial “evidence”, and that’s certainly true in this instance. The most interesting thing about the case is how Jason’s absence forced them to change up the team assignments. It was good to see, and it should happen a lot more often.

On the other hand, that had to be one of the worst examples of debunking I’ve ever seen. I’m all for finding logical explanations for reported phenomena and erring on the side of caution. But pointing out some bells on a wall that can sound like an old-style telephone is not the same as going through the process of showing how easily those bells could be set in motion.

This review is fairly negative, but I think that’s a true reflection of my growing frustration with the show. What used to be easily dismissed for the sake of entertainment is beginning to interfere with my enjoyment of the series. I’m beginning to wonder if this series, or perhaps just the current cast, has run its natural course.


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