“What is your favorite paranormal show?” Admit it, you hate this question and this is often the first question anyone outside of the paranormal community will ask when they find out what you do in your spare time. I often see investigators roll their eyes and say “I don’t watch any of them.” I get that. Often paranormal tv highlights terrible processes and glosses over the long hours it takes to get to a cool (or even crappy) piece of evidence. Also, 95% of the shows skip over the fact that a lot of situations don’t produce any good evidence. I too am annoyed by the number of demons that are lurking in these locations and the amount of yelling at the dead that occurs. If I were a spirit, how would I react to these people? If I’m honest, I’d probably push someone down the stairs because I don’t really enjoy being yelled at or called a demon. Of course, this would reinforce their idea that I’m a demon and probably lead to more yelling. Maybe the greatest problem in the afterlife is that you just can’t win.
Anyway, the question then becomes if I dislike these shows so much, why watch?
How else am I going to know what the novice ghost hunter is learning? Most of us started out as viewers of shows like Most Haunted and Ghost Hunters. Our initial way of thinking about how investigations should be conducted is largely based on this early exposure to the paranormal. With the proliferation of paranormal television more and more people are being exposed to the field of paranormal investigation in this way. These people in turn show up to events, tours, and even apply to join teams with set ideas about equipment, expectations for experiences, and even ideas about how to investigate. As a member of the paranormal community, I find it necessary to be knowledgeable about what is being portrayed in the media and be able to discuss the reasons why or why not a certain piece of equipment or technique might work. Having watched a lot of these shows over the years, I can often identify a novice investigator’s favorite show by listening to the terminology they use, equipment they carry, and the way they act on an investigation.
In addition, television shows have access to new technology and new techniques that I have yet to experience in the field. Unlike these shows, I don’t have an equipment budget to get the latest and greatest so it’s interesting to see what is being developed and have an opportunity to do some research into these techniques. The larger the show, the more elaborate their techniques. Most paranormal groups will not have the opportunity to rent a string quartet to create an environment, hire cadaver dogs to search for 100 year old remains, or even spend a week devoted to one location. What I can do is think about how the average paranormal group would handle this in a typical situation and how you can log data for a location over time without constant access. Having thought through many of the things seen on television, I feel prepared to have an informed conversation with the novice investigator and answer questions. I feel a responsibility to the paranormal field to be aware of the good and bad information available. As we mentor new investigators and pilot new techniques, we must be aware of the environment in which all of this occurs.
It’s ok if you yell at the tv while you conduct this type of research. I actually find it quite cathartic to yell at a certain man who gets possessed often. Make a game of it (maybe not a drinking game, that could end badly) or plan time to chat with a fellow investigator while watching the show so you can share your thoughts and ideas. When your friends and loved ones ask why you are watching that terrible show again, smile and tell them it’s research.