Ghost Hunters International 2.17: "The Devil's Wedding"

I love episodes like this. Don't get me wrong; I'm just as intrigued by the possibility of a really interesting piece of potential evidence as the next investigator. But I really love it when there's a good amount of logical debunking taking place, and this episode had two great examples of that. Quite frankly, it's more debunking than we've seen out of TAPS in recent years.

It's a skill that is, unfortunately, a bit lacking in the field these days. Not that it was ever a major part of the typical paranormal investigator's arsenal. Historically, why would a self-proclaimed demonologist, for instance, take such a critical look at what seems to be compelling evidence? The field is so chock full of assumption and tradition that it sometimes feels like one is taking a dull axe to a petrified tree when chopping away at the unsubstantiated.

One would think that there would be a growing awareness in the field of the need to analyze any "evidence" with a critical eye. In other words, the more impressive something seems, the more closely it needs to be examined. There's a huge difference between a genuine anomaly and genuine evidence of paranormal activity. Even context can be misleading.

I'm not going to be ridiculous and expect that every investigator is going to step back and assume that an exciting photograph, video, or audio recording might be a false positive. Anticipation will lead one to draw conclusions. But good investigators will line up the "evidence" and try to look at it objectively. They will get other opinions and, when necessary, solicit professional advice. Or, in the absence of definitive answers, admit that it is simply unexplained and leave it at that (at least, until more information is available).

I'm happy to say that the people I work have worked with in recent years have developed these skills. We regularly discuss how assumptions and subjective bias might play into interpretations, and do our best to explore other possibilities. Sometimes I may disagree with what a group I work with puts forward as potential evidence, but I respect that there is an ever-strengthening process of review.

At the same time, there are countless groups that I've run across (in the real world or online) where they seem to accept anything as evidence of a ghost or even demonic spirits. There is little or no evidence of debunking, and they take any questions about alternative explanations in a less than constructive fashion. If nothing else, it leaves one wondering what kind of message they are sending to their clients, who often have no basis for questioning the veracity of the "evidence" presented.

My point is that I liked a lot of the practical debunking taking place in this episode. Beyond the video and audio analysis tips that one could take away from it, there was also the in-field actions that were taken. Some of it probably seemed obvious to the more experienced investigators, or those already of a skeptical bend, but sometimes the obvious is not so obvious to the novice. (In my own field, I see incredibly intelligent and experienced people miss very simple things because they just never thought to look at a problem in certain ways.)

This comes to mind (in perhaps a more didactic manner that truly necessary) because I've noticed that other shows, like "Fact or Faked", claim to unleash all kinds of debunking skills on claims of paranormal evidence. Unfortunately, they fall short of that promise, and the paranormal investigative genre still lacks that "Mythbusters" analogue that is so needed. In the meantime, I'll applaud an episode of GHI that gets that job done.

Case #1: Fredricksten Fortress, Norway

The video of the face was played up a bit in the editing, but I thought Robb did a very good job of explaining how it was just a combination of the equipment malfunction and pattern recognition. I was also appreciative that Barry was able to identify the "screaming" as the sounds of local wildlife. Yes, the editors played that one to the hilt, but it was clearly an animal, regardless of how creepy the sound was.

I also liked the fact that the EMF meters were primarily used to determine sources of high EMF, which could then explain the reported sense of presence in that area. Paul and Brandy did a nice and efficient job of working out the various sources, which is a key part of any thorough investigation.

Case #2: The Old House, Estonia

I thought this case demonstrated rather well how natural building and resident activity can trick the senses, and when combined with somewhat questionable claims and legends, turn into the psychological for reports of paranormal experiences. It's encountered enough in this part of the US, where some buildings are a few hundred years old, so it has to be much more common in parts of the world where the stories trace back a thousand or more.


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