Sunday, August 3, 2008

Ghost Fandom

You know what else I like? Ghost-entertainment schlock.

I like ghost stories, and haunted hikes, and Ouija boards. I like creepy movies, especially that whole based-on-a-true-story genre, wherein 'based on' usually means, as far as I can tell, that someone associated with the film heard of an incident that led them to write a really creepy fictional work. I like the poorly-lit ghost hunt television shows, the ones where various groups of people wander around in the dark screaming at cobwebs and flickering lightbulbs.
Shot with the ubiquitous paranormal night vision camera -- which means you can't actually see anything -- the episode shows the investigative team wandering about in the woods at 3 a.m.[1]
I mean, c'mon, how could I not love Girly Ghost Hunters? It has cute young people, scenes so dark I can't see anything, and, as far as I can tell, nothing ever happens, but there's a lot of shrieking. It's like they filmed a series of sleepovers. And they drive around in a Winnebago.

Something I like way, way less than entertaining ghost schlock? Half-assed scepticism. I don't want anyone to convert to a belief in ghosts; I just wish adult people would stop acting like edgy twelve-year-old atheists showing off their newfound cynicism. Seriously, watching adults trot out the 'anyone who believes this stuff must be stupid' argument bores me. Be as sceptical as you want, but, you know: chill. Unless you're the fraud squad or Harry Houdini or a character from the classic Scooby Doo eps.,* chances are you're just poking the bereaved (or, even less productively, the genuine crazies) while you fail to entertain or enlighten the rest of us, however much you claim to be helping the ignorant. Seriously, we know already that belief, proof, and entertainment are different categories. No, honestly, we do. And we heard you the first time.

Besides, if all the sceptics were as bright as they want us to pat them on the back for being, they'd move on to other questions: what purpose do these beliefs serve? Why do people believe this stuff? Wait, do people even believe this stuff, or is it a kind of shared social activity, a gleeful willing suspension of disbelief?

Because my own scepticism jacks right through the freaking roof when I see people lazily equating watching these shows, or joining paranormal groups, with actual belief.
Following the airing of television shows like “Ghost Whisperer,” “Medium,” “Paranormal State,” and “Ghost Hunters,” many Americans have been organizing their own ghost hunting groups. As reported in a recent article on, ratings for “Ghost Hunters” have doubled in the last four years, as have memberships to local chapters of paranormal investigation clubs. ...1. Are ghost investigation programs making believers out of viewers, or have the believers always been there?[2]
I'm not even convinced everyone sitting in their church-or-temple believes what they say they believe; I sure as hell don't automatically think everyone on a ghost hunt is serious.

*Actually, if you think you're a fraud investigator, Harry Houdini, or someone off Scooby Doo?** Consult a trusted medical professional.

** Helpful hint: one of them is dead, one is a cartoon, and quite honestly I doubt you're the other one either.

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