I cannot remember the last time I sat down to watch a paranormal investigation-based TV show. Over the years, I lost all interest in seeing people lit by low-light infrared cameras jumping at bangs, supposed voices, and shadows.
What began as provocative television has been reduced to — as noted by Stan and the boys on “South Park” as — “the most retarded show(s) on television.”
I could understand that.
These shows are all carbon-copies of each other, and contain the same stock elements: a jerky über-male leads, by near intimidation, a team of cowering investigators through various haunted locations. Over the course of the program, those involved experience something perceived as “paranormal” — or what a critically-thinking person might call “normal.”
But like an aging Mafia don, they keep… pulling.. me… back.. in! Through the magic that is Netflix Instant, I found myself giving the genre a second chance, via the Travel Channel’s oh-so-cleverly-named “Ghost Adventures.”
The show follows the… um… adventures… of host/leader Zac Bagans and his crew, Nick Groff and Aaron Goodwin. In each episode, the fellas lock themselves up in a haunted location overnight without a film crew — the three of them are alone. They don’t investigate typical haunted houses, nor are they “there to help” like on “Ghost Hunters.” Rather, they go to the scariest and most dangerous locations available: prisons, mental wards, “satanic” sites, etc. The idea is to “antagonize” the ghosts into appearing, usually by Zac challenging ghosts to a fight.
Yes, you read that right.
Let’s just say that if Ed Hardy sponsored a paranormal television show it would be “Ghost Adventures.” It’s pretty douche-y: a salute to hair-gel and ripped muscles with enough “bros” and “dudes” to give “Jersey Shore” a run for its money. At its worse, “Ghost Adventures” resembles a drunken frat party where ego and testosterone inspire ragingly hilarious dude-offs between the boys and whatever “evil prisoner spirit” with which they’re trying to make contact.
Typical line from the show: “What?!? What?!? You want to touch something?!? You touched a girl and scared a girl! Touch me now! C’mon! You’re so tough, touch me now! What’s the matter? To afraid to touch me? Coward! You’re a coward!”
This tactic has drawn considerable ire from investigators who claim that “it goes against good taste of paranormal investigation” or that it is “too dangerous.” These paragons of the paranormal claim such antics lower the credibility of legitimate investigation. That being said, I have heard from a mutual acquaintance that the “Ghost Adventures” guys are actually pleasant dudes to share a beer with.
Bottom line: if you’re turning to paranormal TV in search of “credibility” then you are on a fool’s errand, my friends.
I’m not complaining. This one-hour show is my new obsession and I actually look forward to watching it. Although the team jumps to mind-numbingly idiotic conclusions with their “findings” — and Zac now appears to get possessed every other episode — I’m drawn to one aspect. The show dedicates half of its airtime to giving viewers the backstory of each location. Through personal interviews with those who experienced disturbances as well as any folks present for the site’s original function (ex-prisoners, psych patients, doctors, orphan children, etc.), “Ghost Adventures” puts the spotlight where it should be on the history of the paranormal location. Frathouse hi-jinks aside, it’s is a nice to have some objective context.
But then it’s off to nutsville as the team locks themselves in for the night. And that’s exactly where I find myself tuning out. I’ll start making some food, reading a book, surfing the internets, or anything else that divides my attention. I’ll look up when Zac bucks at a ghost, or when Nick asks it to “use his energy to make itself known” — whatever that means — or when timorous Aaron (the Bluto of the group) goes slack-jawed with fear as sounds start filing up the room. I’ll glance at the mysterious “orbs” that enter the back of their heads, and hang in for the typical ending where Aaron turns off the last camera with a “phew!” of exhaustion and relief.
I’m happy that the show honors the locales and pays tribute to the people who played vital roles beyond just the witnesses and investigators. “Ghost Adventures” amplifies the history of the haunting — something that is sadly skipped by most paranormal programs. The documentary portion totally trumps the subsequent fist-pumping man-fest. But for those first first thirty minutes, “Ghost Adventures” has credibility than any other show of its kind.
Next time you’re in Atlanta, gentlemen, the beers are on me. Pound em, bros.