Ghost Hunters International 2.19: "Pirates of the Caribbean"

There are a lot of rumors flying around, so I've tried to dig into the various stories and get a sense of the facts. Unfortunately, as has always been the case with the Ghost Hunters franchise, Pilgrim Films and Syfy play things very close to vest. And the cast members, often caught in the middle, don't necessarily have all the answers (or the legal ability to provide them).

For those not aware by this point, this is supposedly Robb's final episode as leader of the GHI team. As of this point in the series, Brandy, Ashley, Dustin, and Robb are all out of the picture. Some by their own choice, others not so much. And one also gets the distinct feeling that some of those who openly state that they left of their own accord are putting a good face on a bad situation.

This is actually not that shocking a turn of events. Unlike "Ghost Hunters", which took an established team and transferred it into the reality TV world, with the organization's leaders as producers on the show, GHI was conceived and constructed by Pilgrim Films. Let's be clear on this: despite what was shown on-screen, Jason and Grant had nothing to do with the creation of GHI. It was clear when the show began that it was all about the production company wanting to expand the franchise. The same is true with "Ghost Hunters Academy".

Why does this matter? Well, for one thing, it means that they get to decide who is on the show and under what circumstances. Robb didn't get to decide who was in GHI; that was all Pilgrim Films. Those invited could accept or decline, and that's about it. At the end of the day, while Pilgrim Films can't directly control who shows up on "Ghost Hunters" (the key word being "directly", of course), they have absolute control over GHI.

This is why I always made a point of demonstrating how GHI was staying the course and exceeding expectations. For a while there, the team was stable and had a very strong sense of direction and chemistry. They were solid believers, but they were also trying to be more and more thorough and scientific. They were operating from a consistent set of principles, and they were more than willing to take criticism and defend their choices.

But let's be honest: GHI repeatedly set an example that TAPS and the GHA candidates couldn't match. None of the shenanigans from "Ghost Hunters" or GHA has ever been seen on GHI. And because of that, GHI has given critics and skeptics an easy point of comparison. More to the point, even early critics of GHI have become aware of that key difference.

From a business standpoint, GHI has also slipped in the ratings. The very thing that makes it more enjoyable to serious investigators (the lack of sensationalized "evidence" and consistency of approach) also makes it less popular to the casual audience. A lot of fans of the genre claim it's "boring".

So from that perspective, it makes sense that Pilgrim Films would want to make changes on GHI. Making a position on the team the prize for "winning" GHA is one step. Controlling the leadership and composition of the team directly is another. The drawback, of course, is the loss of the consistency of leadership, and thus a loss in the consistency of approach.

(As for the rumors that GHI is being cancelled, I don't see that happening. First of all, these decisions were all made months ago, and kept quiet until the episodes aired. Second, all of the materials related to soliciting candidates for the next round of GHA all make it very clear that a position on the GHI team is the prize. And from a Syfy perspective, if GHI had been canceled, it would have been announced by now. Things can change, but until I see something official to change my mind, I'm assuming the show is still going.)

One thing I should be very clear on: I am not, in any way, questioning the integrity of the investigators that will be team members of GHI going forward. My understanding is that Britt Griffith will be taking Robb's place as team leader for at least the next production cycle. I have yet to have any reason to question Britt's intentions. Joe Chin is solid enough, and I've liked Scott, Paul and Susan so far. I assume Barry will be staying, and I've enjoyed his technical ideas, even when I question the basis of his theories.

But we've also seen how the GHA candidates were being molded in the latest round of that contest, how they were pushed to use bad science and poor critical thinking skills, and how fame was emphasized. And we've seen how more and more of the locations are being chosen for their sensational connections to people like Hitler, Robin Hood, and even (in this case) the Pirates of the Caribbean. And I can't help but wonder if Pilgrim Films is going to start rigging the table, so to speak. Will Britt be the permanent new team leader, or is Pilgrim just putting him in charge until they find someone more amenable to their demands?

It comes down to this. With Robb as leader, and with a fairly consistent team at his back, I and many others never had a reason to question whether or not GHI was operating with sincerity and integrity. This new team is going to get the benefit of the doubt (at least from me), but that relative sense of trust is going to have to be re-earned. And with Pilgrim Films and Syfy pulling the strings more directly, there's a reason to be concerned. After all, there is direct evidence of Pilgrim Films altering footage in the past.

All that said, this was an interesting case. I like the fact that they showed the team having some fun together. And it was also nice to see them tie the last couple episodes into Susan's family background. I liked how they were incorporating the frequent use of the native language into the investigation.

The idea of projecting images to elicit a response is intriguing. It's very similar to the notion of playing music from a given era. I wouldn't personally do it unless the reported activity was connected to the images or music, but if one assumes that the activity is caused by the spirits of the dead, I understand why the method would be used.

The team did seem to capture noises of movement, but as a viewer, it was hard for me to take too seriously. It was an exposed site, there was storm activity during part of the investigation, and nothing was actually verified as having moved. There's a lot that could be considered circumstantial.

The EMF meters were a bit more interesting. Some may question the use of EMF meters in a lightning storm, but it's not at all clear whether or not this would cause false positives. Lightning is generally considered to be DC in nature, but it also can have properties not unlike a single-cycle of AC current. Even so, as simple experimentation can attest, most EMF meters don't react to the weather, even during strong thunderstorms.

With essentially no ambient EMF sources on-site, and little or no chance of the thunderstorm causing the EMF meters to spike, it's hard to know exactly what was causing the meters to react. One problem is that the tri-field meter has two different scales available for magnetic field detection. One is 0-100 mGauss, and the other is usually 0-3 mGauss. I didn't notice which scale was being used, but if it was the 0-3 mG scale, then the spikes weren't particularly high. With no means of identifying frequency, to rule out RF interference, it's difficult to assign any real significance.

I'm also not so sure about this EFP device. What I've read about it seems to indicate that it gives a quick and dirty visual representation of the amplitude of the sound captured by a recording device. This seems to be based on frequency. So I have to ask the question: what frequency is being used as the basis of the visual display? For the most part, this is claimed as "proprietary", which raises all the usual red flags. (Remember when Chris Fleming claimed that the K-II was specially calibrated to detect paranormal energy?)

As it happens, I do believe, based on experiments conducted in recent years, that genuine EVP does exist (though I make no assumptions on source), and that it is the result of an EMF at a frequency in the audible range. For this reason, it is not heard in real time, but recorded and heard on playback.

Assuming the frequency was properly selected, the EFP would be able to detect the rise in amplitude caused by an EVP, especially if it was well above the noise floor. Unfortunately, it would also react to any sound-generated signal in exactly the same way. So there's no way to be certain, unless an area is properly controlled and locked-down, to know if a spike on the device is really due to an EVP being recorded.

The EVPs that were captured were all fairly typical: buried in the background noise, barely audible, and therefore subject to interpretation. It's been a while since we've seen a truly impressive EVP out of the "Ghost Hunters" franchise. But then, I see that as realistic; great EVPs are far and few between.

Thus ends this summer run of GHI, and Robb's three-year tenure as its team leader. Of the original lineup, only Barry remains. I suppose we will find out if the show can retain its core identity as a result.


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