CREEPY CORNER: Let's Talk About All Those Ghost Investigation TV Shows

What do you think about "reality" TV ghost shows?
Publish date:
September 28, 2016
television, creepy corner, Reality Tv, ghost

I'm going to be totally honest with you: I'm in the middle of moving right now. So I'm writing this Creepy Corner like a rat with a laptop, peeking out from the garbage pile the human formerly known as Louise called a home.

I'm a mess, my home is a mess, fingers crossed that this post isn't (too much) of a mess.

Honest statement number two: I'm moving to a place not-so-close-by. I'm not ready to say where/why yet, but know that this move is very bittersweet for me. OK, I'm just really sad. But I've come to terms with this temporary move, and I'm at peace with it. A big part of me is aching over this, but there's also a small (and growing) part of me that is thrilled that I get to do this.

Vague enough for y'all?

Whatever, those of you who have hung out with me on xoJane for long enough probably kinda-sorta have an idea what's going on.

Anyway, the point of ALL OF THIS weepy-creepy exposition is that I want to/need to try something new this week. I always want to make time for you Creeps, but with LIFE pounding at my door (like, literally, some dudes are going to knock on my door shortly and take a bunch of my stuff away), I have less time than usual to read up on/research creepy things.

So I thought I'd pose to you a question that I get asked all the time — in life, over emails, in comments, from my Uncle Ken: As a reasonably educated paranormal/supernatural enthusiast, what do you think of all those "ghost investigating" TV shows?

"Creepy Corner is all about the comments." I've said this, you've said this, we've ALL said this. My posts give structure to our community, but the comments are what bring life to the Corner. So this week I'm asking for your help to keep the Creepy Corner alive.

What do you think about "reality" TV ghost shows? (For the purposes of this post, I'm going to refer to ghost shows as reality TV — despite evidence that some have been faked.)

Do you love them? Hate them? Find them silly? Pointless? Do you think they have value? Do you find them exploitative? Do you find them educational? Have you ever participated in one? Or do you just see them as good ol' fashioned entertainment?

Of course, I can't let you get out of this post without telling you my Creepy Corner garbage rat thoughts.

My opinion on reality ghost shows has evolved over most of my life. As a kid and teenager, any and all ghost-related TV shows or specials held me rapt and terrified. Before ghost talk became relatively mainstream, shows like Unsolved Mysteries or those hour-long specials on the History Channel about "AMERICA'S HAUNTED RIVERBOATS" or what have you (I clearly remember a riverboat ghost special effect with a bleary, dramatic leap into the Mississippi) started my "spooky" education. While ghosts were never taboo in my house growing up, my mom's thoughts on the paranormal were much more visceral, emotional, while I was obsessed with facts, evidence (GHOST PHOTOS!), vocabulary.

So from those shows I learned how how facts and evidence figured into paranormal investigation (Unsolved Mysteries' EVP from the Queen Mary astounded me), I learned the vocabulary. I learned about history, I learned about both SCIENCE and "science," and I learned about beliefs that were far outside of my realm of "normal."

I even think that ghost TV shows planted the seeds of compassion and sympathy in young Louise's brain. I remember being very troubled when the "haunted people" were interviewed. Yes, I was afraid of the ghostly things they claimed, but sometimes I saw real fear or anguish in their eyes. Amid all the bizarre haunted house stories I read and relished, seeing people on TV who seemed to be genuinely frightened by the unexplained in their home gave humanity to my ghost stories.

I continued to adore my ghost shows well into the mid-2000s. Mr. Louise gave me the first few seasons of Ghost Hunters on DVD, and I'd stay up until 3 a.m. almost every night, not only spooked, but also memorizing terms, methods, and theories on hauntings. The idea of setting out to debunk a haunting instead of setting out to prove a haunting was brilliant to me.

I was delighted when more and more ghost shows started popping up on TV. When Mr. Louise and I finally stepped into the 21st century and got a DVR, I wasted no time in filling it with ghost show upon ghost show.

However, at some point, I noticed something changing. Watching my beloved ghost shows went from feeling like I was communing with my fellow believers around the world, learning from them, to cringing at what I can only describe as "scare tactic hijinks."

Somewhere along the way I feel like many shows got desperate. Instead of investigating reportedly haunted sites — the investigation being just as important as finding or not finding a ghost — teams of "ghost bros" or "ghost-motivated snake oil salesmen" would enact unsubstantiated reactions to...??? People would scream, posture, provoke. The whole idea of "ghost hunting" on TV started to feel so distasteful, disrespectful; the sense of curiosity that made some of those early ghost shows so appealing seemed obscured by ego. Many ghost shows started to feel opportunistic to me.

In all fairness, there are a couple of shows out there that I think have good intentions and execution, and I really do like that such shows often portray women as leaders and critical thinkers, not just decoration, but sadly I think the waters have been muddied.

The dark, violent, troubled past of a site like a plantation or prison would be exploited to "conjure" ghosts. Aggressive provocation that resembled bullying became more and more normal in "investigations." Whether you believe in ghosts or not, using a place's ugly past as a prop for "ghost hunting" struck me, and strikes me, as crossing a line.

I know that many investigators will say that provocation is a part of seeking out ghosts. I get that, and I accept that, but there is a respectful way to do it and there is a disrespectful, tone-deaf way to do it.

So I've taken a break from ghost shows for a while. I'll occasionally get a hankering to watch a whole bunch of old Ghost Hunters, Destination Truth, or Celebrity Ghost Stories (because it is HILARIOUS) episodes, or see what Amy Bruni or Katrina Weidman are up to, but I'm just not as devoted as I once was. I hope that that changes someday. I hold out hope!

And that was way longer than I expected it to be. Ugh. Back to packing.

What are your thoughts on paranormal investigation TV shows? What ghost shows do you love?