Ghost Hunters International 2.15: "Sweeney Todd"

For whatever reason, I wasn't aware that Karl and Susan, the "Ghost Hunters Academy" Round 1 "winners", were only going to be on this show for one investigation. I wonder if they knew that as well. Frankly, I've noticed that the candidates from Round 1 of that competition have been treated pretty badly by Pilgrim Films. Then again, given how they were treated in the production of that show, I shouldn't be surprised.

The net result for GHI is positive, in my opinion. It means the adjustment from the previous status quo to the new team should be a bit more smooth. It also makes sense of the emphasis on the legendary location during the mid-season premiere, since it was a special event used to highlight the GHA folks. Hopefully that sort of gimmick won't be the norm during this run.

For me, this was all about getting used to the new team dynamic and enjoying some of the differences between the staid and predictable TAPS practices and the more professional GHI crew. As always, I like how they switch up partners on a regular basis, and how they use their equipment. Where TAPS has been steadily decreasing the amount of equipment they use throughout an investigation, especially in the sixth season, GHI has a habit of blanketing a location with handhelds and monitoring equipment.

Speaking of equipment, I posted an article on my blog discussion the light meter used in the previous episode and exploring alternative options. In essence, it is the old debate over the value of qualitative vs. quantitative data. The meter used during the investigation was fine if the goal is simply to get a sign of a relative change in illumination, where the actual value and measurement of change is not considered important. But for research purposes, something like a datalogging instrument, allowing for concurrent measurement of environmental conditions is the better choice.

I bring this up because it lies at the heart of what I've been saying about the standard EMF meters since my detailed breakdown of them in the review for episode 1.7 of "Ghost Hunters Academy". I may go back and break that out into an article on its own, because the same caveats and limitations apply to how the meters are used by GHI.

To their credit, it wasn't the specific value (say, 0.8 vs. 8.0) that was deemed significant. It was the unusual step change and fluctuation. And I was pleased to see that Robb made a point to say that it wasn't enough information to declare that something paranormal was taking place. It was another qualitative observation that, as I've said before, makes sense to note as a first-order determination of potential anomalous events.

That said, I stick by my criticism of the use of such meters without additional instrumentation to measure frequency. In short, how do they know that it wasn't a momentary fluctuation in the power grid (notoriously problematic in certain parts of England) or a stray RF signal? I imagine this is why Robb made a point to say it wasn't necessarily paranormal. Yet this is precisely why, in my team's recent investigations, we've moved away from drawing any conclusions based on standard tri-field EMF meters, preferring a handheld oscilloscope with a sensor that measures both amplitude and frequency.

Case #1: Margam Castle, Wales

It's been about 23 years since I've been to Wales, but the memories are still vivid. I didn't visit this particular location, but I did see my share of magnificent old structures and ruins. This episode brought back a lot of those impressions, so I was thankful for that!

I'm sure there will be plenty of debate over the "evidence" in this case, particularly the personal experiences. I can't wait for the inevitable claims of bad acting, to go along with the commentary on how people wear their hats, investigators' "annoying" voices, and all the other ridiculous topics that pass as legit criticism of the team in many circles.

I will say that I found it interesting that Scott stopped dead in the middle of his sentence, with what I felt was a genuine reaction, and immediately checked to see where Barry was at the time. Skeptics will rightfully note that Barry was not on camera, and there was more than enough time for him to shuffle away to where he was standing once he was on-screen. But as GHI has never played such games in the past, I will continue to give them the benefit of the doubt.

As for some of the reports of shadows and so forth, it's hard to take them at face value when the location was relatively "open" and partially exposed to the outdoors, without seeing the location first-hand and knowing what would or would not be a potential explanation. While it did appear to match the client's reports, I'm always wary of outdoor investigations due to the contamination issue.

Similarly, while the other EVPs were interesting (if buried in the background noise), the "get out" recording sounded too much like wind over the microphone to me for definitive analysis. I was also on the fence regarding the light that was captured. The reported activity was that it was seen by witnesses and shot around like a comet with a tail, but this light just blinked on, remaining on for several minutes, and then disappeared. So it's not quite the same thing, and the static nature of it is a bit odd. (And I can't remember: did they say the light appeared when people were in the room? Because then I would wonder why it wasn't visible.)

Case #2: Ostrich Inn, England

I'm not sure what to think of this particular case. On the one hand, it was the familiar second half of an episode, in which the investigation is mostly debunking or lacking in intriguing situations. (Familiar to GH fans, at any rate; GHI usually avoids such predictability.) But then there was that bizarre sighting of the "ghost foot", which was completely unexpected!

As a viewer, I'm not sure what that was all about. It certainly looked to me like the duvet was so folded and tussled that it could have given the impression of a human foot being on the bed, at least upon a first, quick glance at it. In the dark, with eyes constantly adjusting and so forth, I think it would be easy enough to make that mistake. (And unlike some, I know the difference between honest mistakes and intentional deception.)

Whatever the case, the team clearly believed that the sighting was genuine. And I also have to point out that this is another instance in which reputation and sincerity are a major factor. If this had been TAPS, given the events of recent years, I would have dismissed it outright, given the lack of tangible proof. But GHI has played it straight, so even if I don't see any reason for the audience to accept that it was paranormal, I have no reason to think this was staged or intentionally played up out of proportion.

Most importantly, they just threw it out there as an odd occurrence, and didn't use it as a pretext for declaring the site "haunted". Instead, I thought they shifted into a textbook example of client management. I get the feeling Robb and the gang didn't really think much was going on, besides the odd sighting, but that they wanted to make sure the client felt respected. It's one of those aspects of the field that is too easily overlooked.

All in all, this was a serviceable episode. While it allowed the audience to let the new status quo settle in, the coverage of the two sites felt a bit rushed in the final edit. But then, it's no secret that I prefer the one case per episode format!


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