Because I haven’t yet splurged for fancy cable (I have basic), my sister sent me the DVDs of the Sci-Fi Channel’s reality series, “Ghost Hunters,” for my birthday. She vowed I would love it. And as I’m generally in favor of loving things and hopeful that I will, I popped the DVDs in and parked myself on my mini trampoline (currently doing triple duty as a trampoline/coffee table/place to sprawl in my living room) to watch, and prepared to be wooed.
I must admit it wasn’t love at first sight. “Cheesy theme music,” I mused critically, from the first moment, as I’m also into musing critically. The production values seemed pretty low, too, and the guys involved were clearly unaccustomed to being on camera, and seemed self-conscious, if charming and earnest and self-deprecating in an ordinary-schlub way. But I kept watching, and little by little I grew very fond of everyone on their team, which is known as TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society). In case you don’t know the premise of the show, TAPS was founded by two guys, whom I shall call Jason and Grant (because those are their names), who work for Roto-Rooter in Rhode Island by day and investigate paranormal activity on their off hours. Both are pretty grounded family men and quite credible, and both have allegedly had paranormal experiences that launched them on this quest for answers and evidence. Using an array of cameras, thermal heat and EMF detectors, and voice recorders, they and a little team of volunteers (just about all who've had their own eerie experiences), from Wiccans to cops to paramedics to hairdressers, set out to either debunk or gather evidence of paranormal activity in various places they’re called to. And they seem to get a LOT of calls. The whole of New England is apparently haunted. So far they’ve gone to some very cool places.
Their work is fairly methodical and their approach professional, and they’re pretty thorough. Step one is interviewing the client, and step two is debunking/testing. For instance, through experimenting and testing they can often prove that, say, vibrations or air cross currents creating a vacuum within a house are causing a door to open by itself, and their plumbing experience often come in handy for identifying vents through which reputedly mysterious sounds or smells can get through. In one episode, they proved a rattling door was caused by a kitty cat who liked to sharpen its claws against the doorframe, and had never before been caught at it. But for every case they accept, they set up cameras throughout the premises for an evening, douse the lights, and walk through with their EMF detectors and thermal cameras looking for fluctuations in energy and temperature (which can be evidence of paranormal activity), and after a night’s worth of investigating an allegedly haunted place, they pore over evidence, often coming up with nothing very compelling. They in fact debunk about 80% of their cases, and are very reluctant to deliver a verdict of “yep, haunted,” if they don’t have something really compelling on a voice recorder or camera.
But when they do come up with something, it’s…holy cow.
For instance, I just watched the episode where the Coast Guard calls them to investigate an old, reputedly haunted lighthouse that they’re in charge of maintaining. A lot of Coast Guard members had unnerving experiences there and were increasingly reluctant to visit it. TAPS went through the lighthouse with their equipment, and followed a cold spot all the way up the spiral staircase (extreme, sudden drops of temperature are apparently signs of paranormal activity, as are unexplainable spikes in EMF's), where footsteps had often been heard when nobody else was there—the lighthouse keeper continuing to do his job after death?
And then the TAPS crew set up cameras in the areas of most reported paranormal activity(noises, etc.) in the lighthouse, including the attic, left them running, and as usual, the day after an investigation they watched hours and hours and hours of footage…yawning, scratching, seeing nothing at all for long, long stretches at a time.
And then, suddenly, in a shot of the lighthouse attic…you see a chair slide, casually, oh, about a foot across the floor.
All. By. Itself.
OK, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck.
The thing is, it’s such a little, seemingly mundane thing. It’s not a demon morphing from the floorboards, or something. The chair didn’t do backflips, or, like, talk, or anything. It just slid a foot or so. An absolutely unmistakable foot or so, as though someone pushed it. But it was absolutely a certainty that no living person was in that room at the time. Nothing pulled or pushed the chair. And the very mundane nature of the event somehow makes it that much more eerie. I mean, you can watch that footage of the chair over and over, and still your mind has a hard time reconciling what your eyes are taking in—because what they’re taking in appears to be a violation of the basic laws of physics as we know them. And for TAPS, this is profound evidence.
What moved that chair? Who knows? The Ghost Hunters don’t really try to draw conclusions, per se, though they have a vocabulary to describe various kinds of paranormal activity. All they’ll do is try to debunk as much anecdotal evidence as they can—they're very invested in being considered credible professionals in a field that suffers credibility problems—and capture evidence if possible.
Which they then show to their clients. Now, I think we can all assume that the Coast Guard isn’t, as a rule, staffed by sissies. But you see these big guys watch the video of that chair moving, and though they’re holding their bodies very still—they’re probably pretty disciplined guys, after all—they can’t stop their eyes from bugging out. Or their Adam’s apples from bobbing in hard swallows. Drug smugglers, rough seas, they can handle. But a chair sliding across the floor all by itself? They took it with good humor, relieved that they weren't nuts after all, but admitted they didn't really feel much more comfortable about maintaining the lighthouse. :)
Anyway, so far I've seen TAPS catch some pretty wild stuff, including video of an apparation in an old prison and a door (originally shut very tightly) opening by itself in a house in New Orleans—then closing. Twice. I have more episodes to watch, though. And most people who call TAPS are relieved to either learn that they’re not crazy (if the TAPS team has similar experiences in their house and can provide some sort of tangible evidence of paranormal activity) or that they’re not haunted—that it's just the kitty cat and their imaginations, or what have you.
Anyway, so, yeah, whatever you make of it, Ghost Hunters is fun. J Though now after I watch two or three episodes in a row, I have to turn all the lights on in the house, and leave them on for several hours before my nervous system and my imagination recovers fully.Which usually happens by bedtime. And so this is the birthday gift that keeps on giving...in my electric bill. LOL.
So Halloween is coming up...anybody out there have an eerie experience of their own? Anybody else been following Ghost Hunters?