Paranormal TV and Why Investigators Often Hate It

After a two-day investigation, my team gathered outside of the “haunted” building and had one of those conversations that meandered from what just happened, to where we are going next, to who has been there before, to “hey, did you see that episode of” followed by lots of groans. In the world of paranormal investigation, paranormal television is high on the “shit list” for many paranormal investigators. This may seem odd when you consider how many of us became interested in the field by watching such shows. So why is it that people who have been investigating for years have a strong negative reaction to most paranormal television shows?

First of all, very little of what you see on these shows can be considered the reality of investigation. Granted, producers are trying to shove an entire investigation into a 45 minute time slot and the investigation that they are showing likely occurred over multiple days. This means that what you see is cherry picked interesting moments and not the long sessions of team members sitting in a room talking to themselves. Occasionally, shows  will give you a hint at the amount of time and effort that goes into an investigation but those clips are very brief and often included because someone did something funny that can be capitalized on to make the audience like the “character”. 

Wait, did I say “character”? That brings me to my next point, all of these shows have a storyline that is often established before the team arrives on site. How is that possible when the investigation hasn’t even begun? Well, this comes from writers who have access to information and claims of the location. The writers are able to formulate a story for the cast to try to find while on site. This can lead to the team following very low quality evidence in an effort to support that story while better evidence gets left on the cutting room floor.  This also explains the exaggerated reactions you sometimes see when the team gets “evidence” that correlates with that story. 

This brings me to my next point, you don’t always get a reaction from the phenomena that is claimed to be present. Evidence is actually very rare and we get excited if we collect one or two good EVPs in a two day investigation. A shadow figure or objects being moved is even more rare and will make a paranormal team’s top 10 “best investigation” list for the rest of their career. I’m always fascinated by tv investigators that go into a location, start a recorder, ask a few questions, and suddenly have amazing Class A EVP’s directly responding to the questions. This is not reality. Remember that the team is usually on site for several days and there is a lot of boring stuff left on the cutting room floor. I am not going to say that they are faking their EVP’s because they often feature some of the most “haunted” locations and they spend more time on site then most day-to-day investigators. 

So why does all of this matter? Ultimately, these things affect the new investigators that come into the field and potential residential clients. There are a lot of misconceptions about what we do and how an investigation is run. Investigations are long with a lot of sitting around quietly in the dark with nothing happening. There is a lot of environmental measurement that occurs that you RARELY see on tv and there is substantial amounts of time spent debunking claims. In addition, evidence review does not happen immediately with the client getting results the next morning. Honestly, your regular paranormal team is filled with people with day jobs, families, and other commitments. We do investigations in our free time and at no cost to the client. We do not have a team of people available to review all of our DVR and individual devices so we each have to sloth through our own evidence review. For residential cases, I try to keep this within 2 weeks and it can take months to finish review for large general research investigations. 

In the end, I hope you are able to use your own best judgment to recognize when something you see on tv is or is not realistic. Please do not expect your regular paranormal team to look, sound, or act like the people on tv. Oh, and don’t expect us to yell “demon” every couple of minutes. 

Until next time, Happy Hunting!

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