"Ghost Hunters" returns after taking a break for a disastrous run of "Ghost Hunters Academy" and a frustrating run of "Ghost Hunters International". The GHA episodes were particularly bad in terms of how they reflected on TAPS and the flagship of the franchise. Many of the technical shortcomings of the team were laid bare on GHA, even more so than usual, and it made Jason, Steve, and Tango look hypocritical in many instances.
The changes in the lineup on "Ghost Hunters International" only served to remind me (and many other fans and critics) of the questionable aspects of the franchise, particularly the attitude of Pilgrim Films towards the team members who don't enjoy a producer's credit. As always, part of the criticism of TAPS and the various members of the extended GH franchise family is the fact that they choose, year after year, to agree to the contract terms that they acknowledge are often disingenuous towards the cast, clients, and public.
As a result, I wasn't looking forward to the return of "Ghost Hunters" all that much. I already mentioned, during the spring run of episodes, that I was experiencing a bit of franchise fatigue. Part of that was my involvement in the field, and how often I've found myself (and my colleagues) dealing with the problems and challenges created by the popularity of these shows. It's hard enough to live up to unrealistic expectations, but it's even more annoying when you also have to "deprogram" clients who have bought into the bad science and specious conclusions rife in the paranormal investigation genre.
So I was a bit surprised when I got to the end of the episode and discovered that I was actually left with a fairly positive impression. Other than one glaring instance, I couldn't really complain. I was quite entertained. I thought the reactions and actions were all understandable under the circumstances.
I will acknowledge, for the more skeptical readers out there, that the vast majority of the "evidence" was based on personal experiences, and therefore should have been dismissed. There were a couple of interesting audio examples that go a step beyond that, of course, but it was all very subjective. The caveat I want to put on that is the synchronicity between the reported activity and what the TAPS team experienced. The case may have fallen well short of physical or tangible evidence, but in terms of validating the client's stories, it worked.
This was partly facilitated by the fact that the activity was more specific than the typical public/historical location. Efforts could be focused on investigating specific, detailed claims. And that list was relatively short, so the teams could spend more time in key locations, rather than waste time casting a wide net. Just from my own experience, I can attest to how that helps the logistical and tactical elements of an investigation of a large site.
(One could argue that the apparent validation of the client's claims had more to do with good research and scripting. However, as I have said before, I believe that the majority of the team members are sincerely trying to investigate. Even Jason and Grant, despite some obvious attempts to play up mundane events as paranormal in origin, are still going through the motions. So for now, I will continue to grant the selective benefit of the doubt.)
My favorite moment had to be when Kris was doing her little interview, and then the camera just lingers, and you see her starting to get more and more uncomfortable as Amy and a crew member start talking in the background. Nothing was seen on camera, of course, but those few seconds of silence were wonderfully unnerving. And it doesn't hurt that it was very similar to something that happened during one of my recent investigations, where something odd was happening right behind one of our female investigators. Her reaction was exactly the same!
Part of my contentment with the episode is that the "evidence" combined in interesting ways. It's one thing to see shadows and chase after them, especially when there is no tangible proof that there was anything to see. It's another when each of the main areas where that activity was experienced also had apparent audible voices recorded when a team member was present. It makes sense of the conclusions eventually reached.
As for the audio itself, I was less impressed. The apparent "Amy" recording was another instance of something buried in the noise, and I thought it was a stretch to assume it was "Amy" in the first place. I heard something a lot close to "Hailey", but definitely something with a heavy "h" sound at the beginning. In room 585, the noise that Amy heard and they caught on the recording sounded less like a whimper than some sort of animal noise. That could very well explain the sounds coming from the roof or attic space, too.
As far as the rest of the technology goes, I don't have much of a problem with the laser grid, other than some concerns that if it's visible to the naked eye, it could affect night vision and cause lots of false positives. I really liked the datalogging setup they had on the laptop, though I wish they could have given a more thorough overview of what it is measuring. If anything impressive is ever going to be found on this show, it's more than likely going to be buried in that data, not caught on audio or video.
Of course, there always seems to be something, and in this case, it's an old foe: the infamous flashlight test. I'm sorry, Grant: no, it does not work, and this episode clearly illustrates why. Much is made of how the flashlight came on and turned off on cue, but if one watches and pays attention, it's obvious that this is just confirmation bias. Amy asks for the flashlight to turn on repeatedly, and then later, requests again and again for it to be turned off. Since the light will naturally cycle on and off (as scientifically explained in many previous reviews), sooner or later it will appear to do so "on command".
It's just another one of those "causation vs. correlation" items. The fact that the request seemingly comes in conjunction with the action of the flashlight is not in and of itself meaningful. Further experimentation is needed to prove out that the request is the cause of the effect with the flashlight. Since there are plenty of instances (just in this on-screen footage) of requests with no effect, it doesn't even meet the correlation test, let alone begin to prove causation!
But even with that frustration (especially how they framed it to the client and perpetuated the error), I thought this was one of the best episodes of the show in quite some time. I was thoroughly entertained. Perhaps it was lowered expectations, but whatever the reason, it worked for me!