Ghost Hunters 5.24: "American Legion"

The fifth season of “Ghost Hunters” is wrapping up, and it has been quite a ride. After a tentative start to the season in the wake of the Halloween 2008 controversies, the mid-season run raised several new debates, and the recent fall stretch challenged the perception and integrity of TAPS and the show on several fronts.

While I have been critical myself, I must note that the ratings are still holding strong, especially compared to the non-franchise programming on the Syfy Network. That means the show, and the franchise as a whole, still has plenty of life. The controversies, if anything, fan the flames and keep the show at the forefront. The ratings make it clear that believers and skeptics alike are firmly entrenched and still watching the show, so even the fresh controversies have little impact.

While I still have my criticisms of the series and franchise (mostly stemming from production approach), I have noticed that the typical debates now have an interesting new element: the introduction of a glut of new shows built around paranormal investigation. This fall has seen a powerful resurgence from “Ghost Adventures” and the introduction of “Ghost Lab”. (There are others, but I’m only referring to the ones that have some semblance of credibility. And yes, “Paranormal State”, I’m intentionally leaving you off the list.)

What does this have to do with “’Ghost Hunters”, or even this episode? I think it’s how I find myself responding to the show as a whole. These other shows have elements, both positive and negative, that inform my perception of “Ghost Hunters”. Perhaps not as much as other factors, but certainly in terms of the production choices and what I find still works after all this time.

“Ghost Adventures” has an energy and production approach that often makes “Ghost Hunters” look staid and plodding in comparison. The decision to focus on one location per hour is a good one, and the format allows for a more organic consideration of the “evidence”. Beyond that, the lack of a production crew gives the investigation a more realistic feel. It’s simply the most engaging show in the genre right now.

At the same time, “Ghost Adventures” makes no claim that they are trying to help a client. They are there to investigate for their own purposes, and that allows for the format. This also allows for a more aggressive approach, which can seem harsh at times. And then there is the tendency of the team to interpret nearly everything as paranormal (including dust and natural sounds) and to buy into every new gimmicky gadget on the market, regardless of how ridiculous it might be (like the Ovilus and its brethren).

“Ghost Lab”, on the other hand, feels like an intentional blend of the “Ghost Hunters” format with the “Ghost Adventures” attitude. This is another team that claims to use scientific analysis to prove claims of the paranormal, like TAPS, while demonstrating an utter lack of technical prowess or scientific methodology. That said, the use of equipment arrays and real-time data review are both useful ideas that should be explored by more investigators.

The Everyday Paranormal team also has a lot of energy, but they don’t seem as engaging as the “Ghost Adventures” crew. Frankly, I find the Klinge brothers annoying, to the point where I can only watch half an episode at a time. The team jumps to conclusions on a regular basis, and they clearly have no idea how to use the equipment that they have at their disposal. They come up with interesting hypotheses and try to test them, but their design of experiment is often flawed, undermining the supposed strength of their “evidence”.

So, again, what does this have to do with “Ghost Hunters”? I find that every time I come back to the show, it’s like falling into that well-worn reclining chair, sitting back with that book with the broken spine that’s been on the shelf for years, and still gets read every year despite the fact that the plot holes get more and more obvious with each new revisit. In other words, “Ghost Hunters” has become comfortable and reliable.

I can acknowledge that “Ghost Adventures” has a lot more flash and excitement, but sometimes the intensity is a bit much. “Ghost Lab” has a lot of the same flaws, but the personalities aren’t familiar and approachable. At this point, for believer and skeptic alike, we’re used to the portrayal of Jason, Grant, and the rest of TAPS. We know the format and what to expect, episode after episode. As much as I would love to see some things changed and improved, I must also admit that I like coming back to the show because so many of the things that drew me to the show in the first place are still there.

One side point: if we ever needed evidence to support the idea that the production company is the one pushing for Steve and Tango to clown around as comic relief, I think we just got it. I can’t see Dustin and Britt spontaneously deciding to do some of those things, especially when they looked so awkward trying to make it seem natural. Not that I think Steve and Tango are above the antics, but those moments felt completely staged.

Case #1: American Legion Post, Willow Grove, PA

Amy mentioned on Twitter that this was one of the best investigations she’s ever been on, and I can see why. This is one of those rare occasions when the experiences and “evidence” are spread around, instead of concentrating on Jason and Grant. That helps to convince me that there was something happening, paranormal or not.

I’m not sure what to think of that apparent shadow. I’ve seen things like that before; it’s the same reason why I’m on the fence about the St. Augustine Lighthouse footage, despite the attempts of many to debunk it. If “evidence” on the show matches something I’ve encountered, I’m a lot more likely to accept it as potentially real. Whatever it was, it was semi-transparent, so it wasn’t an actual shadow or a person, in my opinion. I’d be hard-pressed to draw conclusions on that without further investigation.

Jason and Grant were right to suggest that the client have an electrician check the lights. That’s practical advice for anyone who seems to have lights coming on and off without warning. That apparent EVP, on the other hand, was awfully unusual. It didn’t sound like one of the investigators, and it also didn’t sound anything like a typical RF capture. I’ll be interested to hear some of the theories about that recording.

Case #2: Old State House, CT

This case was a lot like the kind of investigations I’ve encountered in recent years. They appear to be pretty quiet and uneventful during the course of the investigation, but upon review of the data, there are anomalies that defy simple explanation. (At least, in circumstances where editing and post-production aren’t a factor.)

I sympathize with the team and their reaction to the many annoying sounds from outside, and how the acoustics played against a solid investigation. Under the circumstances, it’s surprising that they got anything at all. I thought that was a pretty good representation of a common pitfall of investigating in the middle of a city.

The “door handle” sound and the “sigh” were both interesting, based on the context. I noticed that the “door handle” sound, from beginning to end, registered as louder on the waveform profile than the background noise. The cut-off on either side was very clean as well. So there are some unusual attributes to that waveform that merit close examination. In terms of the “sigh”, it’s relatively loud and completely out of context with the activities at the time, which is just plain odd.


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