I’m feeling rather frustrated and annoyed and it’s all because of an advert I just saw on LivingTV.
It was for a program called ‘Paranormal Investigation: Live’ in which, the trailer says, two paranormal research teams – “one using spiritual methods & one science” will investigate one of England’s most haunted locations to see “what proof they can uncover” on “the most haunted night of the year”.
The above is what I could decipher from a commercial that contained many dramatic shots of the teams in question, scary looking horror story figures and lighting effects.
By the way, paranormal investigation and research has nothing to do with dramatic lighting, dark clothing and spooky looking figures. That’s just bullshit television production (but sadly you would get that impression looking at a cross sample of British paranormal research teams, their websites and investigation photos…) anyway, I digress.
There are several points I want to make about this upcoming show. Lets call them part psychic prediction, part me moaning and pointing out the obvious that many have probably missed.
1) Flawed methods
One of the teams will be using “spiritual methods” and the other “science”. I would imagine the spiritual methods will include séances, automatic writing, table tipping, dowsing, Ouija board, glass divination and the like.
The “science” may actually be them basing their time at the location around a scientific model of investigation. This is television though, so I doubt it. They’ll probably have some gadgets that they will claim show certain things that can be linked to ghosts being present. They’ll debunk a few things, “that was probably the wind”, “that was an illusion”, but they’ll still present it as using science, and by doing so will paint themselves as being experts and authoritative and knowledgeable. This means that when something happens that they cannot explain it’s more likely that viewers will more readily accept that the occurrence is paranormal “because they’re scientific and they’ve tried everything to explain it.”
Both of these methods of investigation will be wrong.
2) The cost of “balance”
If the “science” team do use a proper methodology then that will be great, but by introducing the “spiritualist methods team” into the equation the television show is presenting them as having equal footing and relevance.
I am very much against television shows that use woo ideas to balance out a situation or story to please the audience. Putting a scientist up against a homeopath for the case of balance is ridiculous, putting a dangerous anti-vaccination proponent against a doctor is awful, and so is putting (widely debunked and nonsensical) spiritualist methods on an equal footing with scientific methods of research as though both deserve the same respect and consideration.
3) Most haunted night. Give me a break.
Seriously, there is nothing spiritually significant about Halloween. Ghosts don’t get stronger on Halloween night, there is nothing to suggest this apart from folklore, superstition and religious mutterings. Nothing. So shut up about it already!
3) Most haunted location, my arse!
There are probably some strange and spooky stories attached to the location in question, but that doesn’t automatically mean it is haunted.
Too many people make the assumption that because something unexplained has happened it means that it is paranormal and thus they are haunted. There are so many leaps of logic in these assumptions that it hurts my head.
I hate to come across as being cynical, but these sorts of paranormal television shows always claim that the location they are visiting is one of the most haunted in the country, and there is no way that many locations can be classed as one of the most haunted in the country.
It would mean a phenomenal amount of locations have a hell of a lot of anomalous phenomena taking place. If they do, they’re certainly not reporting them all for proper examination, so their claims to be “the most haunted” is based purely on anecdotes and hearsay.
There is hardly ever any consideration into rational explanations that may have caused the odd occurrences at the locations in question.
No, instead, a handful of odd occurrences that haven’t been properly explored and have been labeled as ghosts (which isn’t really an explanation, if you think about it…) have captured the imagination of many.
The stories will have spread, people will have had their own similar experiences because they were influenced by what they have heard.
If you go looking for a ghost, it’s very likely you are going to encounter one, but it’s more likely it’s simply a product of your own mind and your expectations.
This is how a ghost story grows, this is how a building becomes “one of the country’s most haunted”, this is folklore in action.
4) Searching for proof and introducing biases.
The thing that bothers me the most about the trailer I saw was the claim that the two teams will be aiming to see “what proof they can uncover”.
This is the worst thing a paranormal researcher can do. Entering a location with the aim of proving there is a ghost or something as equally paranormal is a bad research method no matter if you use “spiritualist methods” or “science”.
Everything one does when searching for proof of the ghost/s will be biased because you’ve already reached a conclusion and will (often unknowingly) squish your findings so that they fit with that conclusion.
I predict that the two teams will both experience things that they cannot explain, they will try to rationalise them, but because they’ve already reached the conclusion that the place has ghosts there, they will come to the conclusion that the occurrences were paranormal in nature.
This in itself is a leap of logic because the idea that just because you cannot explain something makes it paranormal assumes that you know everything there is to know everything.
All in all, I very much doubt I will be watching this show because if I develop the need to watch a program with people pretending to investigate a supposed paranormally active location while getting scared I will pop on ‘Ghostwatch’ by Steven Volk. It’s more entertaining, there are bits that still scare me and it has the balls to admit that it’s not real.
It’s a shame the producers who keep churning out pathetic paranormal “reality” shows that are like a cheap re-enactment of ‘Ghostwatch’ wont do the same.
Before I close this blog post, I should point out that it is worth reading more about ‘Paranormal Investigation: Live’ over at badghosts.co.uk in this great article.
Bloody paranormal reality television shows…