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Ghosts, Psychics and Bumps in the Night: A Guide to Paranormal TV Shows

by Marina Zogbi, posted Dec 16th 2009 5:19PM
Ryan Buell of Paranormal StateThere was a time when ghosts, apparitions and other paranormal entities led a quiet, under-the-radar sort of un-life. Now, thanks to the proliferation of reality or documentary-style TV shows devoted to the subject, the poor dead have nowhere to hide.

These days everybody wants to talk about their brush with the inexplicable, and it seems there are more paranormal investigators than actual ghosts stumbling around in the dark. How believable are these shows? Let's see.Ryan Buell of Paranormal StateThere was a time when ghosts, apparitions and other paranormal entities led a quiet, under-the-radar sort of un-life. Now, thanks to the proliferation of reality or documentary-style TV shows devoted to the subject, the poor dead have nowhere to hide.

These days everybody wants to talk about their brush with the inexplicable, and it seems there are more paranormal investigators than actual ghosts stumbling around in the dark. How believable are these shows? Let's see:

There have always been television specials detailing eerie goings-on (especially around Halloween), but 'Most Haunted,' a British program that still airs on the Travel Channel in the U.S., was one of the first investigative series to tackle the subject when it premiered in the early '00s. (An eight-episode 'Most Haunted USA' aired a year ago.) Featuring seances, psychics and spooky UK locations (nothing says "boo!" like a crumbling castle!), the show's bigger on drama than actual evidence. It does provide great vacation ideas, though.

'A Haunting' series: In 2002, the Discovery Channel ran two docu-dramas, 'A Haunting in Connecticut' (not to be confused with the recent film 'The Haunting in Connecticut,' which was based on it) and 'A Haunting in Georgia,' both of which scared the pants off of viewers every time they were shown. Thus began the 'A Haunting' series, which combined interviews with sincerely spooked home owners and reenactments featuring actors who looked nothing like them. The heavily atmospheric program, which originally aired 2005-07 and is still shown on the channel, often focused on children who see dead people (see also 'Psychic Kids: Children of the Paranormal') and a cavalcade of evil entities, including an actual horned demon. Though fascinating, it often strains credulity.

'Ghost Hunters': Maybe it was the overwrought dramatics of previous paranormal shows that made SyFy's 'Ghost Hunters' seem so refreshing when it premiered in 2004. A pair of no-nonsense Roto-rooter plumbers who know exactly what might cause things to go bump in the night (a leaky pipe, probably), Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) are all about the evidence. Armed with thermal cameras, EMF detectors and other gadgets, they stake out reportedly haunted locations and first try to debunk any paranormal activity.

In this relatively low-key reality show, it often seems like not much happens -- and in some episodes nothing paranormal does. So it's all the more unsettling when, say, a shrieking disembodied voice is picked up on a digital recorder. As the guys themselves would say, "What the frig?!" Wisecracking team members Steve Gonsalves and Dave Tango now have a spin-off, 'Ghost Hunters Academy,' wherein aspiring g-hunters are taught the ropes and sent packing if they don't make the grade. (There's also the globe-trotting spin-off 'Ghost Hunters International'). Probably the most convincing of the bunch.

A deleted scene from an earlier season of 'Ghost Hunters':


'Paranormal State': The two-year old A&E show is the brainchild of former Penn State student Ryan Buell (founder of the Paranormal Research Society), who leads his team of student-investigators into the homes of the haunted. The show's strength is its truly nightmarish situations -- an episode featuring a tortured young woman who required an exorcism (or a really good shrink?) was beyond disturbing. Plus 'PS' regular Chip Coffey, a melodramatic psychic who is constantly being menaced by unseen beings, is a hoot. Drawbacks: The young investigators seem somewhat gullible and evidence of hauntings is never explained thoroughly. Scary but questionable.

'Ghost Lab': Discovery recently jumped on the ghost-busting bandwagon with this show starring down-home Texas brothers Brad and Barry Klinge, founders of Everyday Paranormal (EP). The titular lab refers to the duo's mobile command center which houses all manner of high-tech ghost-bustin' equipment. The show, with its voice-over explanations and polished production, is a smoother version of 'Ghost Hunters,' and like the TAPS crew, the Klinges and their team are all about gathering evidence, though some feel that they're too quick to embrace it.

On a recent visit to Tombstone, Arizona, the guys visit the Bird Cage theater:



'Ghost Adventures': The Travel Channel series, which debuted in late 2008, stars the muscular Zak Bagans and crew as they perform all-night "lockdowns" on reportedly haunted locations here and abroad using night cameras and other equipment. Now in its third season, the show's slicker and more stagey than 'Ghost Hunters,' but covers a lot of the same ground, sometimes literally (surely any self-respecting ghosts at Pennsylvania's Eastern State Penitentiary have upped and moved to a less trafficked location by now). A bit on the sensationalistic side, the show doesn't try to be all that scientific.

'Celebrity Ghost Stories': The Biography channel is no stranger to the paranormal, what with its 'Ghostly Encounters,' 'Psychic Kids,' and 'Haunted History' shows. Its latest entry to the field, 'Celebrity Ghost Stories,' is a doc-style program featuring familiar faces telling their own spooky tales, along with eerie re-enactments. It makes for a compelling, often believable show (perhaps because actors know how to tell a convincing story). Joan Rivers, Gina Gershon, Ernie Hudson, David Carradine and Carrie Fisher are just some of the celebs who have shared their ghosts (if not their skeletons) with the public.

A 'Saturday Night Live' parody of 'Celebrity Ghost Stories':

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'The Haunted': The newest addition to the genre is Animal Planet's 'The Haunted,' which focuses on (yep) animals that are both haunters and hauntees: pets literally spooked by the unseen; spirits of critters who, like their human counterparts, suffered untimely deaths; and in at least one case, a canine member of a paranormal investigating team. The show features the usual "I never believed in ghosts until ..." interviews (with humans, that is) and various local ghost-hunting teams. It's a bit cursory evidence-wise, and not always convincing, but does have its chilling moments. You'll definitely see Princess in a whole new light the next time she starts barking at "nothing."

Obviously it's a crowded field, but there's always room for more, and some channels have yet to stake their claim ("America's Next Top Demon'? 'The Real House-ghosts of New Orleans'?) Or is enough enough? Tell us what you think.

The 'Ghost Hunters' and 'Ghost Hunters Academy' finales air tonight on SyFy.



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psychics

great guide keep up the good work!

http://www.thepsychicsociety.co.uk/

June 16 2010 at 1:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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