American actor, Rob Lowe, filmed a paranormal TV show with his sons Matthew and John-Owen. I sat down to watch the first episode and here’s what I learned…
Lowe explains during the first episode that he loves watching paranormal reality shows but can’t be sure if they’re faked or not and so he decided to go explore for himself. I can understand this decision because it’s exactly the same one I made when I first became an active ghost hunter in 2005.
In the first episode, Rob, Matthew and John Owen are joined by “Shaman Jon”, the nickname given to Jon Rasmussen (who is on hand to “help manifest the spirits”) at Preston Castle in Ione, California. The building (which is as stunning as it is foreboding) used to be a reformatory which opened in 1894 and housed troubled boys aged 8+. It is said to be haunted by the many spirits of people who died or were killed there.
The first thing that became really apparent to me during this show was how different it is compared to over ghost hunting television shows. Today, ghost hunting shows feel the need to beef up the action and the result is clearly-staged “evidence” of ghosts. The presenters think they are action heroes as they bumble around in the dark wearing military-style clothing while acting tough and confronting and challenging the spirits of the dead. With Lowe, there is no “come at me, ghost bro” nonsense, no fishing wire tricks to be seen and it was actually refreshing to see.
This did mean the show has a slower pace but I appreciated it, though I think this is probably why I’ve seen so many ghost hunter hobbyists saying they didn’t like the show – because they’re used to the whole over-acted, horror film-esqe style of presentation delivered by shows such as Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Lockdown, and Most Haunted and they like to mimic it which makes them feel badass, even though they’re not. They’re not badass at all.
The most troubling aspect of The Lowe Files, though, was the misuse of equipment which is presented as scientific when it isn’t. Included in their arsenal are EMF meters of various kinds (some with external lighting, K2 meters etc.), an Ovilus device (which “communicates” with ghosts), Dictaphones, and thermometers.
Rob Lowe seems open to the idea that ghosts are real but he doesn’t really know one way or another and his sons both seem pretty skeptical, with John-Owen pointing out in one scene that the Ovilus saying the word ‘Pie’ as they enter the kitchen is a coincidence and that they need to be careful not to clutch at straws. In another instance, the Ovilus says ‘beat’ in an area of the kitchen where a woman is said to have been murdered – Shaman Jon and Rob become excited by this only for John-Owen to say “but she wasn’t beaten to death, she was strangled.”
During the show, the EMF meters with lights on the outside indicate a fluctuation in levels present in the kitchen but we are not informed of the specific reading throughout, so as far as we know it could just be a couple of units which may not be significant. There are no base recordings presented, either, so really these allegedly anomalous recordings cannot be interpreted accurately.
Elsewhere in the building, John-Owen and Shaman Jon are speaking to the ghosts when a ball in the middle of the room begins to move. We’re told the floor is flat but we’re not shown this. The simple use of a spirit-level (*sad trombone noise*) would have illustrated this. At another moment during their stay at the location, we’re told the temperature has dropped by 3 degrees, but we’re not told the timescale of this change so, again, it’s not clear if this is significant or not. It is quite normal for the temperature to drop as night falls, after all.
So, while not at all scientific, what became really obvious to me is that The Lowe files is genuinely the only programme I have watched in this genre which is anything close to what an actual ghost hunt is like. Lowe and his sons seem to be genuinely curious about the subjects they’re exploring and I enjoyed watching it. In future episodes, Lowe and co. will investigate Bigfoot, alien abductions, remote viewing, the wood ape, the psychology of fear and other subjects which Lowe finds interesting. Rob Lea over at The Skeptic’s Boot blog wrote that this range of investigative subjects ‘insults seasoned investigators who concentrate on one area of study for years’, but as a paranormal researcher who has investigated reports of everything ranging from ghosts, lake monsters and big cats, to fairies and psychic powers I disagree that such an approach is an insult. The Lowe Files could improve by reducing the reliance on pseudo-scientific methodologies, but as an analysis of the modern culture which surrounds the investigation of paranormal and supernatural beliefs and subjects, I think it takes an interesting approach.
What we skeptics need to remember is that people genuinely believe these ideas, people go into the woods and whoop at Bigfoot and think Bigfoot whoops back at them. People use MEL meters to find ghosts, and believe that they’ve been abducted by aliens and that there is evidence of this. I see The Lowe Files as almost a travel documentary of these fringe beliefs and the communities of people who surround them and, through immersion into them. Lowe and sons are providing some interesting insight that other paranormal TV shows fail to deliver and I’ll be watching the next show.