A lot has happened since the last batch of GHI episodes. For one thing, there has been another round of "Ghost Hunters Academy", which only served to expose more of the questionable choices and technical flaws of the TAPS team in the process. There was also a Pilgrim Films-mandated cast shakeup, coinciding with another unexpected change in the lineup.
After many years with TAPS and GHI, Dustin Pari has chosen to retire from the televised paranormal investigation world. By his own words, he plans to focus more on his family and building a Christian ministry in his area. Anyone familiar with Dustin recognizes that this is completely in keeping with his choices and statements in the past, and his faith has always been a large part of his take on the paranormal. I believe him when he says this had nothing to do with issues surrounding the franchise or fellow cast members; his working relationship with Barry Fitzgerald continues to be a strong one, for example.
Incidentally, Dustin and his frank expression of faith over the years has been a fundamental part in my interpretation that the majority of the cast members, especially on the GHI end, are uninvolved or unaware of any fabrication, direct or indirect, that might be taking place on "Ghost Hunters". I still believe that the majority of that activity, to whatever degree it may exist, is confined to Jason and Grant.
GHI has been impressive for its ability to adjust to frequent cast changes with a consistency that puts the original series to shame. I've never had the feeling that anything questionable was being done to sensationalize GHI cases. Granted, there are still the usual technical debates and quibbles over "evidence", but that's always going to be the case. Viewers and GHI members see the experience from radically different perspectives.
At the same time, it's been a while since the team has encountered a cast change of this magnitude. Pilgrim Films essentially shoved Karl Pfieffer and Susan Slaughter, the "winners" of Round 1 of "Ghost Hunters Academy", right down the throats of the GHI team. To their credit, they've taken it with unusual grace, at least in public. I know it would have pissed me off to no end to have that choice taken out of my hands.
This is somewhat mitigated by Robb's replacement for Dustin: a former colleague from his original Florida crew named Scott Tepperman. This effectively expands the team from six to eight investigators, which could make things interesting. On the whole, it should be beneficial; many of the GHI locations are ridiculously large, and adequate coverage/site control has always been a challenge. But it also means that the editing is going to have to be selective to give everyone fair representation.
But in this case, the team is walking into a situation involving a questionable legendary haunt (Robin Hood, of all things) while adjusting to a major team change. I was frankly expecting disaster to strike. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the team managed to come together and investigate. Once again, this is a testimony to the inherent strength of the core team; Robb and Barry maintain a strong team unity.
Ironically, I think I'm going to have a harder time adjusting to Scott and his more aggressive attitude than Karl or Susan, who were more subdued in their approach. Maybe Scott is just a bit too familiar a personality, given his New York origins! Susan did exhibit some of her "empathic" skills that she mentioned in overly dramatic style during Round 1 of GHA, but it was a lot less annoying in this situation. If anything, she was doing a good job of documenting the details of her personal experience. (It doesn't hurt that I'm a sucker for goth/emo girls!)
Speaking of the superficial, I've noticed that both Brandy and Ashley have gotten a bit of a makeover since the last whirlwind worldwide tour. In particular, I was stunned by Ashley's change from blonde to chestnut. Frankly, I thought she was a lot more attractive, and she was already a beautiful girl. For her part, Brandy seems to have adjusted her makeup to the high-definition standards; last time around, it seemed a bit overdone.
As I mentioned, this was a location that was, at best, questionable in its claims. The string of "ifs" and "could bes" during Brandy's introduction was more than enough of a reminder that this was going to be an odd start to this part of the season. And Martin, the tour guide, seemed to add to that impression, along with the many shots of that Robin Hood statue.
I've been harsh in my criticism of misuse of technical equipment during the latest run of GHA, so when I say I don't trust the EMF meters being used in this episode, I refer readers back to my review for episode 1.7 of GHA for a very long write-up of their technical limitations. In essence, without a measure of the frequency, to exclude man-made 60-cycle and RF noise, the amplitude is effectively meaningless. (And minor changes of around 0.1 mGauss are well within the error of the measurement.)
So when one meter is used, I can't trust the results. However, I will admit that there is more value when several such meters are used to cover an area. It may not give any quantitative information, as the amplitude is still a composite of everything in the detectable range, but it does allow for a qualitative observation of locality. An array of meters, combined with a comprehensive baseline to identify the man-made sources of EMF within the space, can give a high-level indication of where something unusual is happening. (The idea being that an RF signal or power grid surge would, more than likely, trip off multiple meters, not just one.)
I can't speak to how many meters they had arrayed in the room when Robb felt the chill and the potential EVP was recorded, but I did like the more comprehensive approach. As for the EVP itself, it wasn't particularly impressive. All of the EVPs were buried in the background noise, as seen in the graphical representation, and that means it could have easily been pattern recognition. At least one of the ones supposed to be "yes" could have been simple movement captured at the right time. Without the full context of the original recordings, it's hard to accept these as truly notable.
I'm not familiar with the light-meter that the team was using, and I couldn't get a clear shot of the make/model information to find the specs online. Whatever the case, this is another instance where I want to know more before judging the results. It seemed interesting, but how does that instrument work? What does it measure, and what is the nature of the output? Without that understanding of the instrument, my natural agnostic bent prevents me from accepting this as paranormal activity at first glance.
I was a bit more intrigued by the series of full spectrum photos. It's always good to see a progression of before, during, and after when an apparent event taking place. Just based on what was shown, it doesn't look like typical lens flare or the usual light anomalies. Much like the light-meter, though, I don't really know how that "full spectrum" camera works. There's the actual high-price version on the market, and then there's the questionable mod-version that Andy Coppock and others have touted. Regardless, until I know more, I can only say that it's the kind of anomaly that would also have caught my attention and warranted further investigation.
All in all, it wasn't too bad of a return to the airwaves, and many of the challenges were resolved without too much disruption. It's good to have the best team of the "Ghost Hunters" franchise back in action!